Adobe Photoshop 6.0 provides a more extensive Open dialog
for Photo CD images than previous versions, and some occasional
users of the format may find it's all they really
Photos © 2000, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
While Kodak's Photo
CD process was originally announced in 1990, it wasn't until the
summer of 1992 that a photo lab in my area offered the service. The
original concept behind Photo CD was at once simple and complex. The
digitized images stored on a CD-ROM disc were easy to have made and
to use. You gave a roll of unprocessed film to your lab and they give
you back a disk full of digitized images along with your prints and
negatives. But this approach aimed at the consumer market, flopped.
The home imaging infrastructure we assume today wasn't present
and people were asked to buy a fairly expensive player to see their
images on TV. It was a format and service that was way before its time.
Luckily, pros caught on that this was a great way to digitize their
images and get a variety of resolution scans at one time. To understand
why pros took to Photo CDs--and still do--let's take a look at
how they work.
To produce a finished disc,
an operator at a Photo CD Transfer Station converts your film images
into digital form using a high-resolution film scanner, a computer,
image processing software, a disc writer, and a color thermal printer.
Each image is pre-scanned and displayed on a monitor, where they check
the orientation (portrait or landscape) of the image. Color and density
are adjusted and a final, high-resolution scan is made. On a Photo CD
Master disc, each 18MB file is compressed to 4.5MB using Kodak's
proprietary Photo YCC format and written to the disc. Five different
files at five different resolutions are actually written of the same
image using Kodak's ImagePac format, which provides images from
128x192 up to 2048x3072 resolutions.
The Windows version of the Photo CD Acquire Module looks
almost identical to the Macintosh version and has all of
the same functions and controls.
A Photo CD Master disc accepts
35mm negative and transparency film. The Pro Photo CD Master format can
be used to digitize film up to 4x5 sheet film while offering an optional
sixth resolution of 6144 x4096 pixels. The dynamic range for a Photo CD
scan, an important measure of image quality, is 2.8, while a Pro scan
At a time when film scanners
were much more expensive than they are now, Photo CD had immediate application
for serious amateur and professional photographers. Since the dynamic
range of the Photo CD Master disc closely matches that of color negative
film, I started creating more images on color negative stock for projects
I knew would be delivered in a digital form. Since a digitized image could
be easily converted into gray scale mode, color film became more popular
with photographers. Color negative film became the choice for photojournalists,
even if the image would ultimately be published in black and white.
Just Click Open
One of the simplest ways to acquire or capture the images stored on a
Photo CD disc is to use the Open dialog in your image-editing program.
Programs such as Adobe Photoshop have supported the format since it was
introduced, and the latest version provides the most comprehensive support
yet for the Photo CD format. Photoshop 6.0's Open dialog allows
you to select which resolution you want, what size, as well as what colorspace.
You can also specify the orientation of the image--portrait or landscape--saving
you the extra setup of having to rotate horizontal images to vertical,
previously the default in Photoshop. The Open dialog in Photoshop 5.5
and earlier versions is not as comprehensive as in Photoshop 6.0. Also,
be aware that not all programs will open Photo CD images. MGI's
PhotoSuite 4.0, among several others, will not open images from Photo
CD discs, but since the program does support Photoshop compatible plug-ins
you can use Kodak's Photo CD Acquire Module to capture images.
The first thing the author does with a Photo CD file is
sharpen it. You can use Photoshop's Unsharp Mask control
or the industrial strength and easier-to-use nik Sharpener
Whether you use nik Sharpener
Pro or Photoshop's built-in Un-sharp Mask filter, one thing's
for certain: Photo CD scans almost always need to be sharpened. When using
Unsharp Mask, a good rule of thumb is that the larger the file is, the
more sharpening you can apply. A 72MB Pro scan, for example, can easily
handle an "amount" as high as 200 percent, while smaller images can only
support a factor 30 percent before looking "oversharpened." Experiment
with different images to avoid oversharpening and be careful. Use Unsharp
Masking like salt--a little goes a long way.
Kodak Photo CD Acquire Module
While you can use your image-editing program's Open command, you
can also access images on Photo CD discs using Kodak's free Photo
CD Acquire Module plug-in. The advantage of using this approach is that
the plug-in lets you manipulate an image before it's actually opened.
For example, you can convert an image into black and white, crop, and
sharpen it. If the image is in color but you need it to be gray scale
to use in a newsletter, you can open it that way. When you select Photo
CD Acquire from your image-editing program's Import menu, a dialog
box opens and shows a thumbnail of the images that are available, allowing
you to choose the image you want to open at a specific resolution. The
minimum choice might be the Base (512x768) image but, if you have enough
memory in your computer, working with the larger 16Base (2048x3072) will
produce better quality results when output on an ink jet printer.
Once an image has been selected, a large preview window
allows you to crop, resize, and tweak the image using any
of SilverFast Ai Photo CD's controls, including the
ability to apply Unsharp Masking as the image is being imported
into your image-editing program.
Photo CD Accessory Software
Photo CD scans are rarely perfect and often need a little help to extract
their full quality. Extensis' Intellihance Pro 4.0 plug-in consolidates
all of your enhancement choices into a single dialog box that includes
presets for many scanning and digitizing methods, including Photo CD.
In addition to the obvious enhancements to brightness, contrast, and saturation,
image tweaking tools include a Clipped Pixel Display that shows which
pixels are too bright, too dark, or too saturated. A Dust & Scratch Re-moval
control finds dust specks and scratches and removes them without destroying
too much detail, which is often the case with similarly named tools.
Over time, digital imagers
can create and save their own presets which can apply up to 50 adjustment
steps at a time for specific projects or sets of images. Intellihance
Pro's PowerVariations feature has a multi-pane window where a single
image can be split or repeated across user-defined previews. With a maximum
of five rows and columns, up to 25 variations can be simultaneously viewed.
Image adjustments can be made and previewed and a test print made. The
plug-in contains paper and ink settings that will automatically adjust
images for output to specific devices. You can download a demo from Extensis'
web site at: www.extensis.com.
One of the easiest ways to enhance a Photo CD image is by
using Extensis' Intellihance Pro 4.0. This indispensable
plug-in includes preset settings for many digitizing methods,
including Photo CD. Here it's used to tweak a photograph
of a colorful painted VW Beetle that was originally made
with a Contax G2 and 90mm f/2.5 G-Sonnar lens. If you look
closely at the preset menu in the upper left-hand corner,
it says "Photo CD+." The plus means the default settings
were changed, in this case I changed the sharpness to "soft"
because Intellihance Pro invariable oversharpens Photo CD
The ultimate way to acquire an image from a Photo CD disc is with LaserSoft's
SilverFast Photo CD 5.0 plug-in. It allows you to acquire images from
Master or Pro Kodak Photo CD discs and enhance them using all of the powerful
tools and capabilities normally found in scanner plug-ins. SilverFast
Photo CD's controls can be dragged and moved to a second monitor,
permitting the image preview to be enlarged to the full size of your main
monitor. The plug-in's pre-scan feature allows you to rotate and
resize the image to a specific size and resolution before being acquired
If you're new to image
acquisition, SilverFast's ScanPilot automatically guides you through
the process of making individual image corrections. All operations are
done in real-time allowing you to immediately see the effect of any changes
you make and unwanted modifications can be undone on the fly. Photo CD
novices can use the plug-in's built-in presets and auto-adjust features,
while more experienced users can work with numerical input and monitor
exact values with SilverFast's built-in densitometer. SilverFast
Photo CD allows you to define and match input and output color spaces
using ICC (International Color Consortium) profiles and is compatible
with color management systems such as ColorSync for the Mac OS and ICM
for Windows 98 and 2000. You can download a demo from LaserSoft's
web site at: www.lasersoftint.com.
Prices for Photo CD scans vary based on whether you order standard or
Pro discs and by individual service providers. As with any lab service,
ask for recommendations and do your own tests. For the photographer who
doesn't own a scanner--or doesn't want to own a scanner--Kodak's
Photo CD pro-cess is an excellent way to digitize slides and negatives
for personal or professional use.
Kodak's Picture CD is a less expensive, somewhat lower
resolution alternative that's limited to 35mm and
Advanced Photo System color negative film and is made at
the time of processing. This is the interface of the Mac
OS version of the built-in software.
Kodak's Picture CD
Kodak's Picture CD is an auto-loading CD-ROM that incorporates your
digitized photographs along with image manipulation software which lets
you enhance those images. Each Picture CD holds photographs from a single
roll of color negative 35mm or Advanced Photo System film. Ordering this
service is as simple as checking a box on the film-processing envelope
provided by your local photofinisher. After processing, which can vary
from one hour to two days, depending on the retailer, you'll receive
prints along with a Picture CD and index print. The cost of a Picture
CD varies per retailer with prices in the $8.95 and $11.95 per roll range.
After inserting the CD-ROM
in a Windows computer, your digitized pictures appear on the monitor displayed
in a magazine-style format, using a table of contents. On a Macintosh
computer, you'll need to click the "StartMac" icon to see them.
The software on the Windows version of Kodak's Picture CD lets you
view and tweak images; with the less comprehensive Mac OS version you
can rotate your photographs as well as add text or captions. The software
lets you create full-screen slide shows using transition effects between
the images. You can print single or multiple pictures as well as print
a single image at different sizes and quantities. If you want to send
an image by e-mail you can copy one or more of your pictures onto your
hard drive, then attach those images to a message. You can find more information
about Picture CD at: www.kodak.com.
Adobe Systems Inc.
345 Park Ave.
San Jose, CA 95110
fax: (408) 537-4031
Eastman Kodak Company
343 State St.
Rochester, NY 14650
1800 SW First, Ste. 500
Portland, OR 97201
fax: (503) 274-0530
LaserSoft Imaging, Inc.
5350 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Ste. 201B
Longboat Key, FL 34228
fax: (941) 387-7574
6549 Mission Gorge Rd., Ste. 220
San Diego, CA 92120
fax: (619) 562-5583