Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

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This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have in getting into and using digital cameras, scanning, and using digital photographic images with a computer and different kinds of software. All questions sent to me will be answered with the most appropriate information I can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in the column. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: fotografx@compuserve.com or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. What do galleries really want and what are they ready to accept? I think most classic galleries are still very conservative and just want paper. The effort to look at the pictures is minimal, you can better imagine the final presentation, there is no machine required (computer or projection equipment still has the image of being complicated and "cold"), you can look at the pictures under any lighting conditions, spill coffee on them (this, by the way, is why they want laser copies). What is your opinion? Also, what can I do to make them accept new ways of presentation? I think it might help if I could create a CD that is easily readable on all kinds of computers (be it PC or Mac, no matter what operating system), a CD that loads automatically, does not install anything on their machines, contains its own viewer, so it is not dependent on what is installed. However, I think it is essential to find something that is as easy to handle as paper, something that presents the photographs in a non-technical style--not thousands of arrows and strange icons around the picture that are ugly and distract the viewer, but a straightforward presentation that simulates the way you would see the photographs in a modern gallery, where you can walk around. Again, what is your opinion ?
Dietrich Lasch

A. I would query the galleries to which you want to send material. I would then produce the "copies" in the manner they prefer, and if it is digital, great. However, my guess is most still prefer slides for this purpose.
I was just on a trip where I visited several galleries. Most had computers, but from what I observed they were used primarily for business-type applications. And, although most probably had CD drives, I would doubt whether the systems were set up for the kind of accurate graphic display that would assure any kind of quality representation of the images on a CD.
Over the years I've become acquainted with quite a few curators and gallery owners. Based on that experience, it would be my advice to conform to their expectations and not to attempt to re-educate them or get them to accept new technology changes. Unless you are already established with a gallery and you are making the gallery a lot of money, the gallery owner is not likely to pay much attention. In fact by not conforming to their expectations of receiving a portfolio in standard traditional format, you might just assure yourself it will not get more than indifferent if any attention. You, as a prospective and hopeful client, are pretty much at their mercy if you expect them to be favorably inclined toward your work.

Q. I have just purchased a Nikon 900S and am really confused about what I gained by getting a digital camera that does 1280x960 pixels vs. the cheaper 640x480 cameras. My confusion resulted when I made my first attempt to print a picture. Yea gads--the 1280x960 image needed a paper size of 17.8x13.3"!
I figured out this is the result of the low dpi count (72) of the Nikon's 1260x960 image. By the time I re-sampled the image to a paper size of 10x7.5", the image was now only 720x540 pixels. If I resized to 640x480 pixels, I still have a large paper image size of 8.9x6.7", of course all with what seems to me to be a "lousy" dpi count of only 72.
I have scanned photos for years, and usually use 600dpi when scanning--with 600dpi and a pixel size of 1280x960, I have something that really prints out nicely.
I realize that I have gained something with 1280x960 pixels vs. 640x480, even at 72dpi, when my objective is to view the images on a computer CRT (display). But, it seems that anything beyond 640x480 pixels at 72dpi is simply a waste for purposes of making paper images. Am I missing something here? Thanks in advance.
Wally Roberts

A. What you are missing is that when you resize, you must also turn off the "re-sample" function. Then when the paper size is reduced to your printable size, the pixel dimensions remain unchanged, which will result in a higher dpi count. Apparently you have not realized that the 72dpi count times the pixel dimensions resulted in the very large paper size of 17.8x13.3" you quoted. When you resized by means of re-sampling the image at the original dpi, you threw away a significant part of the information the camera had captured. If you just change the paper size without re-sampling, the dpi count is multiplied. If you do it that way, without re-sampling, I would estimate roughly, the dpi would go up to about 120 or 130, high enough to make a decent quality 8x10" image print.

Q. Can I move the tools and command areas of Photoshop to a dedicated second monitor?
Russell Brown
North Richland Hills, TX

A. The dedicated second monitor to which you refer is based on the fact that Windows 98 supports more than one monitor, with each running from its own graphics card. So, besides having another monitor, you also need another graphics card and a free PCI slot in which to install it. This feature, however, is not universally supported, as some graphics cards are not compatible with the feature. Some of those that are, are listed by Microsoft, otherwise you would have to inquire of the graphics card manufacturer.
Second, the addition of a second monitor just extends the screen desktop. Thus the two views are not independent of each other. In other words, if the application, like Photoshop, is in full screen mode, both monitors are "covered," so essentially you can arrange tear-off floating dialogs so they appear in the second monitor's space. This does not apply however to the menu bar at the top of the screen.
The primary advantage which Microsoft envisioned was to be able to have two different application windows open, one on each screen. So, you may also be able to setup so an image window is displayed on one screen and the primary application window on another. This would depend on whether the application involved allows an image window to be moved outside the application space onto the desktop. This is less than ideal, probably from a photographer's perspective, as it would be ideal if the main screen in which one would be retouching, for instance, was full screen and not in a Window. What I am suggesting is that what is supported is not the "ideal" most of us would like. That will probably come as applications are programmed to take advantage of the multiple monitor feature. At this date I have not seen any Windows applications that are.

Q. Five years ago as I was preparing to retire, I thought it would present an opportunity to digitally salvage images from deteriorating Ektachrome slides: the years when our children were growing up. Unfortunately it was economically prohibitive, and I pursued copying them on negative film. Obtaining improved color prints of these locally wasn't very feasible. One lab was willing to try a few negatives out of interest, with mixed results; a couple showed improvement, and another none after many tries. While I debated several options, I ignored all digital imaging articles until yours on the HP in the January 1998 Shutterbug; then the quest was on to determine what was needed for a system.
By October, I had a computer, monitor, printer, CD-RW, and a (economical) flat-bed scanner. I hit a brick wall on what film scanner to buy. An article in the September 1998 Popular Photography raised a question greater than any answers it provided and which you addressed in your recent coverage of the Canon CanoScan 2700: functionality with Kodachrome--very important to me. I want to salvage and color correct the fading Ektachrome slides, and with Kodachrome slides, black and white photos amid negatives, and old color negatives make individual photos, photo album pages, and slide show CDs. This does not require publication quality.
I will appreciate your assistance in my urgently needed completion of my system. Do you know if the Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart scanner will satisfactorily handle Kodachromes? If yes, would you have any comments beyond your article you would like to pass on?
Would you please list other slide scanners you know to be compatible with Kodachrome. A SCSI or USB connection to my PC is preferred as the parallel port is occupied. Does the software provide various resolution levels? What resolution level is recommended for a CD slide show, if resolution is adjustable? Is there a textbook or article you would recommend? (I've searched our library.)
Thank you very much for your time and knowledge. Any help you provide is going to be deeply appreciated. I look forward to your articles and wish you continuing success.
Gene Horvath

A. What you are describing in what your goals are, to archive your personal library of photographs on film from the past and put them into digital format, is something we share in common. I put most of my spare time into the same kind of pursuit, but with a difference: I use the tools I have on hand that I am testing and evaluating for reports in Shutterbug.

From that experience, limited to 35mm in respect of your questions, my considerations and concerns are also parallel as my 35mm includes Kodachrome, Ekta-chrome, as well as many other E-3, E-4, and E-6 films, color negatives, and black and white negatives. Kodachrome in particular puts some stress on the consideration of scanner dynamic range specifications because the film has an exceptionally high density range. If a scanner has a dynamic range several points over 3.0, that is not a problem. And if a scanner will capture all or most of what is in a Kodachrome it will probably do well with all other film images physically.

There are several excellent to very good 35mm scanners available in terms of their physical functioning, including the CanoScan 2700 F you mentioned, and I reported on in Shutterbug. However, when it comes to the software drivers and user interface associated with many of these 35mm scanners, then the choice becomes difficult because that is where you work and color correct, which affects final image quality as much or more than hardware. In addition, the conversion facilities to handle color negatives is a software function, and this varies between different brands. In other words, you should not choose just on the basis of physical specifications. The HP PhotoSmart when it was introduced provided an inexpensive way to scan 35mm and small prints. There are now better solutions in that price range--this area of technology is changing rapidly and products become obsolete quickly.

Currently the best scanner for individual use is Nikon's LS-2000 with the addition of LaserSoft's SilverFast 4.X software. I have reviewed the LS-2000 Super CoolScan and the just released SilverFast 4.X software. This software is the best yet, providing improved ease of use and very superior handling of color negative film images. Combined with the excellent physical specifications of the LS-2000, as well as Digital ICE to automatically cleanup dirty and damaged film images, and the multiple sampling option that reduces noise in dark areas of slide images, the Super CoolScan is well ahead of the competition.

The Nikon Super CoolScan 2 has a maximum physical resolution of 2700dpi, and is adjustable to lower levels as well as to higher dpi counts with SilverFast through software interpolation. My advice is to scan at maximum optical resolution to archive image files in a non-glossy format like TIFF. Then a copy of the file can be made and the resolution can be lowered for use in slide shows, in web pages, and to send via e-mail. The image resolution for a slide show will probably depend somewhat on the software you use to create the show. There are many options including many of the consumer photo software packages like MGI PhotoSuite II, as well as more dedicated programs like Sight & Sound. For viewing a slide show via a TV monitor, the default has been a size slightly less than 640x480 pixels. However, as computer monitors have increased in size and also screen resolution has increased, this old VGA 640x480 pixel standard produces a small image on these larger screens. This would indicate a higher resolution image would be appropriate, like 1024x768 pixels. But, for this to work with TV and older PC systems, the software used would have to support automatic size scaling. One solution is the FlashPix format which is supported by LivePix 2.0/SOHO and Microsoft in their PictureIt 99 software, which saves images in a form that allows scaling to the specifications of the system with which the image is accessed.

Regarding your question as to books on this subject, there are some that provide good information of a general nature on digital photography, like Bruce Fraser's Real World Photoshop, and Shutterbug's own Joe Farace has authored a book called Digital Imaging. However, to be specific in detail regarding the particular needs you have, I hope you have an Internet connection and are willing to surf the web for information. Companies like Adobe, even Microsoft and Apple, as well as Macromedia, Corel, MetaCreations, and Micrografx do maintain up-to-date files which can be downloaded providing pertinent current information on digital imaging, multimedia, and graphics computing.

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