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.
Re: LCD HDTV For Slide Shows
It’s very easy to use your personal computer to present digital photo “slide shows” on HDTVs. Connect a 15-pin VGA cable from the computer’s “monitor” connector to the HDTV’s “PC Input.” Make sure you’ve set the computer’s Display Properties setting to match your TV’s resolution (1920x1080 for full-HD 1080p sets; 1280x720 for 720p sets). Most computers made in the last 10 years can be set to these resolution values, including some laptops. (If your TV lacks a “PC Input,” buy a cheap computer video card with a DVI output connector, and use a DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect the computer to one of the TV’s HDMI inputs.) Then run one of the many free photo-viewing programs on the computer (they’re packaged free with most cameras, or can be downloaded on the Internet). The full-HD results can be spectacular—much better than trying to view the photos via a DVD player or a card reader connected directly to the TV.
San Diego, CA
In the July issue of Shutterbug my answer in Digital Help to Rich Zahren’s question about HD format slide show authoring elicited a good number of suggestions from readers like yourself. Your solution may be the easiest, cheapest to implement and the best way to present a slide show using large LCD HDTVs that are now so popular.
Here’s how I accommodated my setup: I have a spare Mac mini and a fairly new Toshiba Regza LCD HDTV. I ordered a DVI > HDMI cable from the Apple Store ($19.95/6 foot, $29.95/12 foot).
When the DVI > HDMI cable arrived, it took just minutes to connect the HDMI end to my LCD TV and the DVI to the Mac mini’s display output DVI socket. I referred to the TV’s user guide to find out how to set it up to display a digital computer input. With my Toshiba, the Picture Size setting should be on “Native” and Standard Picture mode; then I set the Input selector to the HDMI channel I had plugged into. I turned the Mac on and, eureka, I had a computer screen display image that looked entirely normal, but very much bigger than usual for me. The Mac mini on booting up recognized the display and set itself in System Preferences to a display resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
Note: Displaying a slide show using this setup with a desktop computer running an LCD HDTV was the subject of a blog I wrote on June 27th, and carried on the conversation with Vincent Andrunas at: http://blog.shutterbug.com/davidbrooks/.
Freeware Solutions For Too Bright Apple iMac Displays
You caution against using a current iMac because of “particularly severe problems of late, which is ‘prints too dark’ caused by a display that is too bright.” I purchased a 24” iMac for use with Photoshop and encountered just this problem. Neither the personnel at the Apple Store or from Epson, the manufacturer of my R1800 printer, were of any help. It took me quite a while to figure out that the problem wasn’t the printer or the driver, but that, as you say, the monitor was just too bright even at its dimmest setting. Searching the Internet, I found a free program called DarkAdapted available at: www.aquiladigital.us. It allows you to dim the monitor as well as adjust the gamma of the three color channels individually, making it possible to calibrate the monitor with whatever hardware/software product that you use. And since it can remember settings, I can turn DarkAdapted on before I start Photoshop and turn it off when I use the computer for anything else. No more dark prints.
Thank you for your e-mail about DarkAdapted. Since receiving your message I have looked into the freeware program you are using. It is very similar to another freeware program called Shades. In Shades documentation, however, the publisher does provide a warning proviso that when Shades is used the display calibration/profiling is affected. And, some users have confirmed that when using Shades color management functioning is affected.
From what is described in their documentation, both of these applications/utilities do make a gamma adjustment through the video “card” to achieve screen darkening. That would lead me to doubt if an accurate calibration and profile could be generated while either Shades or DarkAdapted is running because it is using the same video functions the calibration and profiling software engage to calibrate and profile, and that is to a standard predefined gamma aim point. The reason I have my doubts about the compatibility of either of these methods is because color values are matched exactly only at one defined gamma.
If you are using Photoshop and its color management is engaged so Photoshop is using either the sRGB or the Adobe RGB (1998) workspace profile, the use of DarkAdapted or Shades will set the display to a gamma different from what the workspace profile requires, which is gamma 2.2; ideally, the display should be calibrated to 2.2 gamma.
But if it works for you and you are satisfied, of course I cannot argue with that.
Q. I have been using a CRT monitor for a while. Anything I should know about CRT monitors in particular? I set the brightness scale to 25 percent and the Kelvin to 6500, both to no avail.
A. It is very likely that the phosphors in your CRT are so decayed it is beyond being calibrated and profiled accurately to do digital photography successfully. I have one CRT that still works fairly well, but only because it has not been used for about four years and had little use before it was put in dark storage. Most CRT monitors still in use today are as good as dead. Usually the settings for calibrating a CRT need to be contrast at 100 percent, and usually brightness somewhat less.
Scanned Film A Viable Choice Over A Digital Camera?
Q. As a film photographer, and lately not a very frequent one, I have difficulty coming up with even the right questions concerning digital photography. I recently unloaded a Mamiya RZ that was supposed to support digital photography but didn’t, unless I wanted to spend a small fortune on a digital back. For a brief day last month I owned a Nikon COOLPIX, but I quickly returned it. Somehow I could not envision it atop one of my three tripods. I still have a great 4x5 kit, but I miss my Nikon gear that I traded for the Mamiya. So, my question is this: suppose I have a Nikon N90 or F3 and one of those Plustek scanners that you like; how many megapixels will I have? If the answer depends on file formats or some element that I have omitted please feel free to alter the question. My prints are no larger than 16x20”.
A. The Plustek OpticFilm 7500i 35mm scanner scans at an optical resolution of 7200ppi, so a scan of an entire 35mm film frame will result in an image file of 77.7 megapixels. And, if an image on film is optimum in exposure and sharpness, sometimes I get a very good 16x24” print from a scan.
That answers your question, but it is very misleading because, being a scan of a film image, the information gathered contains a very high percentage of noise, the actual pattern of grain in the film image.
On the other hand, an image file made by a digital camera has essentially no noise, it is pure image information. The images I make with my Canon EOS 5D are 12.8 megapixels, which are enlarged by interpolation less than 50 percent to make a 12x18” image at 300dpi (19.4 megapixels) for printing. And like my 35mm film scans, I get an occasional good shot that makes a fine 16x24” print.
Raw Digital Camera File Conversion Software
Q. I have Photoshop CS and was looking at some raw software. In your opinion, would the benefits of going to the CS4 upgrade with the new tools be worth it or should I just get raw software to do the conversions? I’ve read that Elements 7 has a good raw converter and that’s about $70. Right now the upgrade to CS4 is around $200. Are there any other raw converters that you could recommend?
A. Currently there are a lot of choices available in digital camera raw file converters. Depending on which camera(s) you have, the camera company, like Canon or Nikon, provided software probably still does the most accurate conversion if you just want to save the image to a 48-bit TIFF file. And the conversion can usually be done using batch processing, so it can be relatively fast and efficient. But then you are faced with color correcting and editing each TIFF file manually in Photoshop or another editor. But, that provides a good potential result in image quality and control over the image characteristics.
For manual color correction control and ease of use (once learned) my personal choice is LaserSoft’s SilverFast DC, which is available in various levels of sophistication at a range of cost of course. So I would suggest at least exploring the information available on the LaserSoft website at: www.silverfast.com.
There are a lot of independent raw conversion software choices, so many I don’t even try to keep up with them all. But DxO and Bibble Labs are just a couple of the most popular. You can get info on almost all of them and their websites by running a Google search on “D-SLR Raw Converters,” and there is coverage of the subject on the Shutterbug website at: www.shutterbug.net/techniques/digital_darkroom/0304sb_raw/.
Color Calibration Concerns
Q. I have been reading your columns while researching film scanners as I have many 35mm negatives I wish to put in digital form. I have questions regarding the Plustek OpticFilm 7500i SE. I plan on purchasing an Epson R1900 printer and the X-Rite ColorMunki calibration system. I realize that the Plustek 7500i Ai has the enhanced SilverFast software that allows one to conduct color profiling. But if I owned the ColorMunki system, would I be able to purchase the 7500i SE and just calibrate using that instead of buying the more expensive Plustek 7500i Ai scanner?
Andrew “Drew” Fealy
A. First of all, the only film you identified for scanning is color negative. If that is the case, when the scan software is switched to color negative mode the input scanner profile function is disengaged and does not apply. In other words, if all you are going to scan is color negative film, there are no “profiles” for color negative film, only transparency or slide film. Color negative interpretation is accomplished by what is referred to as “film terms,” an information file that is specific to a particular C/N film emulsion that provides an interpretation of the information to match the characteristics of the film, and particularly the composition of the “orange” dye base. These interpretational information files are contained in the SilverFast software in the NegaFix scanning utility, see: www.silverfast.com/show/negafix/en.html. So having the IT-8 support that is included with SilverFast Ai would not be necessary.
I may be assuming too much reading between the lines, but I must guess you have not had a lot of experience scanning and printing digital photographs. So I would really question the choice of the ColorMunki, considering much of its cost and its main advantage is to profile printer output. That is really only an essential if you are printing with papers other than those the printer manufactures, or third-party papers which are not profiled for any of the popular printers. Most good-quality papers for inkjet printers are profiled by either the manufacturer or seller and the profiles can be downloaded and installed for free.
The one essential color management capability is monitor/display calibration and profiling if your aim is screen-to-print matching in both color and density. For this purpose the only sure recommendation I am currently making is the ColorEyes Display Pro from www.integrated-color.com.
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