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 @csi.com
or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
Q. I am a 65-year-old
man. My wife's kids gave her a Gateway Microsoft 98 computer for
her birthday. Neither one of us know much about computers. The main
use I would like it for would be to print photos.
I have had experience with black and white developing and enlarging,
but not professional quality. I would like to use the computer for enlarging
up to 8x10", and to make several pictures on one page with written
information (for genealogy and such) to give to family, in black and
white and color. I would also like to make a few changes such as being
able to lighten or darken the pictures and light shadow areas.
I am writing to ask if you can give me some ideas about a basic scanner,
printer, and software to accomplish this, but one that wouldn't
cost me a fortune to buy. They would have to do pictures and printed
material. I am thinking of something in the $600 or under range for
both scanner and printer if that is possible, but I have no idea what
would work the best and thought you might give me some ideas.
If you think it is too involved for my limited experience, let me know
and I will forget about it.
I will be grateful for any help you might give me. Thanks very much.
You are one of a rapidly growing part of America's amateur photographers
who are getting into using computers and want to use them as a "digital
darkroom." In the last year or two a significant number of hardware
and software companies have begun to offer a great range of choice that
makes photographic activity with a computer easy and affordable. So,
I will not list all that is available, but just what I think is probably
best for your particular situation and what you might want to afford.
First of all, my recommendations are going to assume that you already
have photographic prints of the images you want to put into this computer
photo album. The option of scanning 35mm film originals to make 8x10
prints of a single image would take the cost beyond the $600 figure
you stated is your budget.
Fortunately most of the software you will need in addition to what is
already a part of the bundle supplied with your Gateway computer is
included with the scanner and printer I'll recommend, with one
minor exception. The scanner I would recommend is the one I reviewed
in a recent issue of Shutterbug, the Epson Perfection 636. The printer
to match to that scanner for photo quality output is the Epson Stylus
Photo 700, which will soon be replaced by the Epson Stylus Photo 750.
If you buy the 700 model while still available, I'm sure a little
sharp shopping will get you a very favorable price on it. The 750 prints
a bit faster and the quality is slightly sharper and smoother, plus
it has a USB connection port.
The "album" software I think you might like is NewSoft's
Album, which is offered through the Presto PageManager software which
is bundled with Epson products. I believe the price is cheaper buying
it as an add-on through the offer included with the Epson software bundle.
These products, hardware and software, are easy to install and use.
However, for a beginner it does demand an investment in the time it
takes to read all of the supplied documentation thoroughly.
Q. I bought the (Epson)
Perfection (636) with negative attachment and have found it to be a
great piece of equipment. Naturally, I have been using the light version
of SilverFast that came with the scanner and have been considering the
upgrade to 4.0.
When comparing the light version to 4.0, do you see enough advantages
to warrant purchasing the upgrade? If so, what would you consider the
major improvements? I hear from other photographers that there should
be no adjustment to the image with the scanner software, just do all
the adjustments in Photoshop. Hope you don't mind the questions,
I just don't want to overbuy.
The full version of LaserSoft SilverFast provides the tools to do very
refined color correction. I have found this has made it possible to
make scans of less than perfect originals that I would not otherwise
expect a decent image from, and adjust them on perceptual basis in the
SilverFast preview, resulting in a final scan with image attributes
far superior to the original.
Those who have told you that you should make your color correction adjustment
after your final scan, that's essentially a raw scan, are very
misled. With a scanner like yours, the CCD reads at 36-bit color depth
and converts that information down to 24 bits to transfer it to your
computer's application. If all of the adjustments are made that
are needed necessary to result in an ideal image directly from the scan,
no post-scan adjustment is needed.
The advantage is this: the adjustments are made in the preview to image
information that has 1/2 again as much detail and depth than what is
transferred to your computer, so you are essentially working with the
best of what is available, and what you specify by those adjustments
are transferred filling your computer's 24-bit color space. If
those same adjustments are made after a raw, unadjusted scan, you can
lose as much as a third of the data in the image file, and end up with
a much weaker image in comparison.
There is a simple way to check this. Do all of the adjustments in the
scan preview of an image and scan it. Then go back and make a raw, unadjusted
scan of the image. Next, make the adjustments after the scan in Photoshop
so the image looks the same as the first scan. Then with each image
open in Photoshop click on the Image menu heading and then drop down
and click on Histogram. I think you will find the Histogram display
will show solid black for the image corrected before scanning, and in
the histogram of the one adjusted in Photoshop after scanning there
will be vertical line spaces of white. These white spaces in the graph
indicate image information that has been lost.
There is one exception to this, and that is with some higher-end scanner
software you can transfer the full color depth up to 48 bits into Photoshop.
Then color correcting in Photoshop (in 48-bit Mode), you'll have
the same kind of result as doing the color correction previous to scanning.
Once the Mode is converted to the computer's standard 24-bit color
depth, the entire adjusted image will be intact and there will be no
loss of data. These days many professionals who are archiving their
images digitally store the raw 48 bit can data as a TIFF file so they
always retain all of the data from their scans.
Q. I am a subscriber
to your very good magazine. I have a Microtek scanner and the Adobe
System. I am an 84-year-old novice at this. Does Adobe (Photoshop) 5
have a book which I can look at before purchasing? I live in Spring
Hill, Florida. Would this book be available at a local store? Do you
have any suggestions? Your March (issue) had some fantastic articles
on digital. Thank you very much for any help that you offer.
are a considerable number of after-market books written and published
to supplement the user guide for Adobe Photoshop. Most, unfortunately,
are not addressed to the photographic use of Photoshop, but are targeted
at designers and artists. There is one exception which I have read and
found valuable. It is, Real World Photoshop 5 by Bruce Fraser. To my
knowledge this book is quite popular with photographers.
If your local bookstore does not stock this book, I'm sure they
would be pleased to order it. Whether the bookstore policy will allow
a special order on contingency that you will purchase it if acceptable
may be subject to a fee or deposit on the special order, or they may
be completely cooperative. I am glad that you are enjoying the digital
articles contributed to Shutterbug.
PS: Since I wrote the above in a letter to you, I had a meeting with
Adobe, and Photoshop's Marketing Manager was kind enough to recommend
a book new to me: Adobe Photoshop 5 For Photographers by Michael Evening;
published by Focal Press.