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.
To aid us in making Digital Help as helpful as possible, please be specific in your query and include components, including software, that you use. David says, “Make me guess the problem and I might guess wrong.”—Editor
The Problems With All Plastics In Photography
Regarding Karen Greene’s question, “Storing and Cleaning CDs and DVDs” (December, 2010, issue), as a coin collector, I may be able to fill in David’s response. I would bet my bottom dollar that the Memorex plastic envelopes are made of clear, soft, and flexible PVC (vinyl). The PVC has all those nice properties thanks to a chemical plasticizer. Years ago, until the coin collecting community got wiser, this same material was used as coin and currency holders to protect valuable collectibles. Unfortunately, collectors found the plasticizer, over time, leaches out of the PVC as an aggressive, persistent (almost impossible to remove) slime that coats whatever it comes in contact with. Worse, it actually dissolves and combines with copper—present in virtually all alloyed US coins—to become an ugly green goo covering a now-valueless coin. I hope you see where I’m going: Memorex should’ve known better!
Of course, Karen’s problem may be caused by something else, but I doubt it. I’m sure many photographers have discovered slime on prints safely stored in nice, clear album pages. In some cases where the slime hasn’t begun to destroy a coin’s surface, it can be “safely” removed (coin collectors are adverse to any cleaning of valuable coins). “Koinsolv” is one product that does it well, but I don’t know whether it would have bad effects on the CD/DVD materials. Some common chemicals—acetone, that’s not too hazardous, is one that comes to mind (use in a well-ventilated area)—can remove some or all the slime, but again, it may also damage the CD/DVD. However, since Karen’s CDs/DVDs are essentially toast as is, experiments may be warranted.
Of bigger concern is that Karen had to ask (beginning coin collectors might have to ask because they don’t take the time to read hobby-related magazines or basic books), and David didn’t guess PVC might be the culprit. As a long-time Shutterbug reader, I do not recall ever reading any article warning against using any PVC products to protect equipment or photos. Given my earlier description, just think of discovering slime coating your camera or lens simply because you used the wrong stuff to protect them while in storage or on a shelf waiting to be used…
Michael J. Spadoni
Rail Road Flat, CA
I have written frequently that the best long-time storage facility is a gold-gold CD-R disc, and the best way to safely store CD-R discs is in hard plastic jewel cases that keep the surface of the disc free from contact with the jewel case.
You are correct about PVC, but what you say applies to all plastics to some degree, though more so to the soft, pliable varieties than to hard plastic. But sadly, just because a company makes a product and sells it for storage seems to be enough for some buyers to believe in it rather than be skeptical about it. However, there is a large archival storage products business with selections that are tested to be safe. Unfortunately, archival products are not as cheap as plastic—good fiber-based paper is more costly than RC paper, for instance.
Do You Need To Upgrade?
Q. I am an advanced amateur and currently use Elements 6. I am considering an upgrade to Elements 9 or Lightroom. However, I believe that Lightroom doesn’t have many of the tools that I use (spot healing brush, dodge and burn, sharpening tool for selective sharpening, etc.). I don’t have any use for much of the Photoshop CS5 graphics capabilities. My sense is that the Raw processor in Lightroom is the same as in Elements and the cataloging capabilities are similar. My questions are: 1) What would I gain by moving to Lightroom over Elements 9? 2) If I upgrade to Lightroom, what photo-editing/retouching functions would lead me to also upgrade to Photoshop CS5?
New York, NY
A. You are essentially correct in your assumptions. I personally do not use either Lightroom or Aperture, although I have both installed; the reason is I don’t want to waste time with a database organizing images, I just want to work with the images. I don’t need any help with organization. Camera Raw for Elements is basically the same processor, but Lightroom and Photoshop CS5 have more adjustment tools, some of which are seldom required or needed by most photographers.
Elements 9 will add some tool refinements over Elements 6. The main thing it does not do is support 16-bit images. But you can get a comparable application if you use a PC. Corel’s PaintShop Photo Pro X3 (www.corel.com) has full 16-bit image file support and all that Elements lacks.
The cost of both will be less than Lightroom. For anyone doing production work for publishing Photoshop CS5 may be needed, however it is overkill for most others unless you are very serious and can handle the steep learning curve, but it’s not easy.
If, for example, you do portrait retouching take a look at Portrait Professional at: www.portraitprofessional.com. It’s currently just $49.50 and may serve your purposes.
A 64-Bit Question
Q. I have a Mac mini, so do I have 64-bit? I use Snow Leopard and Photoshop CS4. The reason I’m asking is that I’m very interested in the recently released HDR software by Nik. I’ve been reading about problems customers are having with it crashing. It seems that it works with 64-bit, but not 32-bit. If I can answer the 64/32-bit question about my hardware/software, then I can pursue this with Nik.
As always, I appreciate your advice. I love my Mac mini—I had never heard of it until you recommended it
A. All current and recent Apple Macs are 64-bit, as is the Apple OS X operating system, which is Unix based—a true workstation operating system.
I cannot say whether Nik software is very well programmed for Apple Macs or not, but awhile ago I installed a copy of their software and it ran fine.
It’s Not You, It’s The Display
Q. There are several photo contests that I plan to compete in which provide for submissions either in print form or in JPEG form submitted via e-mail. Am I not correct in concluding that exposure and color balance of my images are totally at the mercy of whatever monitors and settings the judges will use to view the images? Under this belief I decided to submit the print version of the images, but am I being overly concerned about this? I know that many pros submit their images to their clients via e-mail or at least electronically. How come this issue of widely varying monitors is not a problem for them?
A. You are essentially correct about being at the mercy of the user at the receiving end. However, if images are to be e-mailed in .JPG format, the assumption that using an sRGB profile to prepare and embed to send the e-mailed images is a pretty good one, assuming the recipient will be using an adjusted home/office display. That would also assume the recipient is likely in an office environment that is brightly lit and the display is probably at default brightness and not adjusted to match paper white for printing.
Professionals submitting their work often save two files, Raw and JPEG, and the latter may be adjusted for Internet/office display, while the Raw file is processed often to a specific edit that is known, or it is assumed it will be sent to pre-publishing and converted to CMYK. In some cases clients want the photographer to assume that effort and expense and ask for images in CMYK, but that can be a troubling strategy. How do you know the requirements of the press? For most pros it is an advantage to know their clients, which of course comes from repeat business. If you’re just starting out it is a rough guessing game because you can’t assume your client knows what they are doing. So, it is always a good strategy to ask very specifically what the submission requirements are,
Q. I am a Shutterbug subscriber from Northern Ireland. Each month yours is the first article I go to and I have read with interest your answers on screen profiling and hope you can solve my problem.
I have recently moved to Windows 7 64-bit and when using my i1Display 2 the profile created has a magenta hue. Using the Advanced mode, the profile created the following reports: white point of 6500, gamma of 2.2, luminance of 91.4. I have run i1Diagnostics and all the tests it conducts are successful. I have Googled this problem and checked X-Rite’s help files but cannot find any answers. I have checked with another i1 user in my camera club and he is having the same problem.
A. If your X-Rite software was working correctly with a previous Windows version, then you have to ask if maybe Windows 7 is affecting the software. So maybe try another software. You can obtain a free trial version of ColorEyes Display Pro at: www.integrated-color.com. If that software, which can be used with the i1Display colorimeter, provides a neutral gray result, then you know the X-Rite does not run accurately under Windows 7. And if someone in your camera club has a Datacolor Spyder3 colorimeter you could borrow, try it with the ColorEyes Display Pro software.
Sorry, but all I can suggest is to try to eliminate the problem by eliminating some of the key ingredients and substituting others. And if your system will handle dual-boot with multiple operating systems, you could install Windows XP Pro 64 SP3 and see if that produces the same result. If it does there may be something in the LCD display or video card that is the cause. Frankly, I have not heard of any other reports of this problem, so I don’t have any other clues.
Q. I enjoyed your report in Shutterbug on the NEC SpectraView calibration software (February, 2010, issue). I agree that a luminance setting below 140 is usually necessary for printing, but I have also found that a setting of 160 or 170 is necessary if I am adjusting images for the web. At lower settings, people are always seeing my images as too bright on their (cheapo uncalibrated) monitors. I can tell folks all day long that the problem is their uncalibrated monitor, but it does no good, so I have switched to 160. Am I missing something? Files are all tagged sRGB in Photoshop.
A. A simple and basic principle of color management is that the brightness of the display has to match the brightness of the output media. In the case of making prints, the display has to match paper white, which is equivalent to a display white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2. If you are publishing to the Internet, your source output should be sRGB and a brightness that is the average of what home/office displays are adjusted to, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200.0 CD/m2. So if you are doing both, you need to have two separate setups for your display, one for printing and the other for Internet publishing, and with the latter it may not even be necessary to calibrate and profile the display, just set the display profile to sRGB, and use Internet safe colors.
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