Q&A For Digital Photography
Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography, printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management, digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to David Brooks addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug website (www.shutterbug.com), directly via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
Curves, Which Way Is Correct?
Q. My question is in regard to your February 2009 column on Transfer Function. I am obviously missing something in that I thought by pulling the Curves arrow downward, the print info is darkened. So I’m thinking this goes counter to “lightening” the print. Please inform.
A. It depends on how the scales are set up to relate to each other. Whether it is arbitrary or functional is a question I can’t answer as I am not a programming engineer, so I don’t know. But whether the output of a curve lightens or darkens by a convex or concave curve can be a bit confusing. In the case of Photoshop Curves, it works one way for an RGB image and when applied to a grayscale image the same dialog curve window works the opposite way.
My 35mm Scanner Choice
Q. Two of your replies in the April 2009 issue of Shutterbug point me where I want to go, e.g., scanning old 35mm transparencies and negatives that are 10-35 years old, and when I’ve finished those to scan my Rollei medium format negatives from the last 10 years. I’m prepared to first buy a Plustek OpticFilm 7500i SE (or is the Ai better as it doesn’t seem much more expensive?). However, when I looked at the Plustek website and followed their link to one of the reviews, there was mention of the size of files generated, in the region of 385MB (per negative or transparency?). My idea is to store the scans on CDs written on my Apple PowerBook G4; my wife has a MacBook Pro that will write to DVDs which obviously have a much greater storage capacity, but prying her away from it may be a problem. How would you recommend storing the scans?
A. Regarding your concern about file size, if you scan a 24x36mm film frame at 7200ppi resolution you get a scan image of approximately 24x16” at 300ppi. To get anywhere close to the file size you mentioned the image would have to be in 48-bit mode, which is OK if you want to archive raw scan data files. I usually make scans smaller in size. Even though I consider myself a competent photographer, few of my 35mm images will really go to that large a print size and stand much scrutiny. So my practice is to color correct, adjust, and edit the image to a finished state and save in 24-bit mode, 8 bits per RGB channel. Sized for printing at 16x24” at 300ppi resolution in 24-bit mode, my finished files are just under 100MB each, so I get at least six or seven of the files on a CD. DVD-Rs are not available that are archival, but CD-Rs that are gold/gold will last. I have been scanning for at least 15 years and store all of the resulting image files on gold/gold CDs and have a CD case for their storage that many furniture makers offer for CD music collections.
If you have not done very much scanning and have not used LaserSoft’s SilverFast I would recommend starting with SilverFast SE, which is supplied with the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i SE. You can always upgrade to SilverFast Ai 6 if you find you need its features. I would suggest visiting the LaserSoft Imaging website at www.silverfast.com as there are all kinds of videos and documentation describing how it works and what it supports.
Apple’s Mac mini
Q. I spoke with a friend of mine at work who is an avid photographer and has been an Apple user for about 10 years or more. He, like many others, swears by Apple. He reminded me that if I got Microsoft Office for the Mac there would be absolutely no compatibility issues with moving files back and forth between the office and home, which is critical for me. For the one CAD program that I use (Visual Cad) I could certainly use it under Boot Camp or Parallels, I guess. That about clinches the deal for me. Would you not recommend the 24” iMac for a Mac newbie like me? It’s much more affordable than the Mac Pros.
A. I have four Macs, and three of them are Mac minis. I do much of my image work with the minis and they do fine, though the latest version would be even better, see: www.apple.com/macmini/features.html.
Get the faster one with the larger hard drive and faster chip, plus the maximum RAM, and the cost is so modest you can then afford a really good LCD display. The iMacs are causing the most serious and difficult problems with “prints too dark” because the display is so very bright, and there’s no way to reduce the brightness sufficiently that Apple provides. In my opinion a Mac Pro is overkill for most users, even many professional photographers.
Which Version Of Photoshop?
Q. I am a retired semipro who does landscapes and some environmental portraits, almost all in black and white. I have a Mac G5 with 2.5GB of RAM and two hard drives. It is about 4 years old. I have Photoshop CS, CS2 on the machine, and Lightroom 2. I have a new copy of CS4 on the bookshelf.
The question: Will CS4 be a problem running on the Mac as it is a single processor? My uses are mostly to touch up blemishes in scanned images from large format negatives, some as big as 8x10, which I then convert to a digital negative for contact printing on silver chloride paper (AZO).
A. If your Mac is reasonably up-to-date in the version of the operating system you are using, you shouldn’t have any difficulty installing and running Adobe’s Photoshop CS4. And from my experience with CS4, the tools available for doing image retouching as well as black-and-white scan cleanup are very much improved over previous versions. All that an older, single processor Mac like yours may cause is that the functioning is a bit slower than I experience with a recent Mac Pro. There is relatively little processing involved in retouching functions compared to what is involved; the movement of data changes from video to RAM and back, so processor power is not a big factor.
Using The Epson Perfection V700 Scanner
Q. I have acquired an Epson V700 scanner with an eye to eventually closing my “wet” darkroom. This is my first entry into scanning. When the Epson Scan screen appears there are choices for Resolution, Document Size, Target Size, and Scale. I am uncertain as to the relationship between these. I can understand the Resolution variable, but am not sure how to set Document Size, Target Size, and Scale. I am using the scanner in Professional mode.
The project I have specifically in mind is to produce an 11x14” print from a 35mm frame (color negative or slide). I notice there is a pull-down menu under Target Size which lists various print sizes. Should I use this menu to tell the scanner I want to make an 11x14” print? How does Document Size fit in? And as to Resolution, the highest resolution allowable for 11x14” is 800dpi. If I set anything higher I get the following message: “Target size will be set to Original because the Scale value is out of range.” I do not understand Scale value.
One more thing—the scanner software included a copy of SilverFast SE 6. I did not install this because the Epson software seems to be quite complete as to cropping, color adjustments, etc. Would the SilverFast screens supersede the Epson screens? There is practically no documentation with the SilverFast application, so one is left pretty much on one’s own.
A. Epson provides LaserSoft’s SilverFast with some of their scanners for photographic scanning. The Epson Scan Utility is intended primarily as a utility for document scanning. LaserSoft’s SilverFast is a separate, stand-alone scanner driver for your scanner. If you need instruction and support as to how to use SilverFast there are numerous videos and support documents available on the LaserSoft website at: www.silverfast.com.
On The MIS B&W Printing Conversion For R800/R1800 Printers
Q. I have some questions concerning issues in your article about the Epson R1800 (February 2008 issue of Shutterbug). I understand the concept of replacing the Epson inks with the MIS inks, in particular the gloss cartridge which is used for coating glossy that
1) If you want to go back to printing a “normal” color print, do you have to replace the special
black-and-white ink cartridges from MIS with the original Epson black-and-white cartridges? If not, will you notice a difference in color prints using MIS inks?
2) Can you put the gloss optimizer back in if you decide to make a glossy print?
Thanks for the article because I am an R1800 owner who has given up on black and white because of the awful tinting in the standard setup.
A. 1) The only MIS inks that are used are black, and the color inks remain the same Epson color inks. To print color you simply use the Epson printer driver. The MIS black inks have little if any affect on the color printed and I found the printed color did not change and the profiles I used remained the same, providing the same kind of result. There may be some small change because of the MIS black inks but I could not see any of significance.
2) I never tried putting the gloss optimizer back in because it would waste ink and paper in prints to clear the print head. The reason I never tested it is I don’t ever print on plastic-coated paper, and don’t recommend it.
I understand giving up on black-and-white printing with an R1800. It was never made originally to support it, and the printers that do support black-and-white printing are much more expensive to buy and use. This MIS/Paul Roark solution with the R800/R1800 printers is a little extra trouble and some added cost but it works quite well if you print on good quality, natural fiber papers. But the printers are not made any longer so unfortunately it is a short-term solution.