Q&A For Digital Photography
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
OK, But Not An iMac
Q. My CRT monitor is about dead, so I’m considering a switch from my Vista PC to a 21.5” iMac desktop. My photo-editing program is Picture Window Pro. Your thoughts, advice about a Dell U2410 for my PC or the iMac?
A. Of all the products Apple makes the iMac is the worst with problems for photographers; it’s a great computer for college students and well-to-do housewives. I am currently writing a report for Shutterbug on the best inexpensive computer for photography enthusiasts, the new Apple Mac mini, the $799 model. Check the Apple Store website for specs. I bought one for myself and my tests have been especially encouraging, and it’s just about as fast as my Mac Pro that cost over $3000 new two to three years ago.
I run Parallels software (cheap) on it which allows installing Windows XP Pro SP3 and Windows 7, so it will run old PC programs like your Picture Window Pro. As you may know, I have a Dell UltraSharp U2410, which runs great on another older Mac mini in my lab, but will also run on most Windows PCs.
Scanning And Preserving Old Photographs
Q. I have been blessed with a carton of old black-and-white prints, in all sizes and shapes, going back to around 1910 or so. Also, some old color prints in various conditions. In experimenting with modern editing equipment and software, I had some half-decent results. I also found that through the scanning process I have been able to increase even some small prints to acceptable size; of course, removing dust from prints during scanning usually ends up as an editing task.
My goal is to scan the prints into my computer so they can be placed on Gold CDs for preservation and maybe DVDs for the family. I presently have an old Epson 4990 scanner. I use Epson and SilverFast SE software, and am experimenting with VueScan (also bought a book on it). I know that SilverFast 8 should be out shortly. My question: what scanner would you recommend for doing old black-and-white and color prints and that might provide a dust removal feature? From reading your articles and reviews, it appears that the Canon CanoScan 9000F might be a reasonable choice.
Richard E. Domblaser
A. I don’t know of any way other than compressed air to clean the surface of a print, and even with air pressure you need to be careful. Otherwise it is, as you said, an editing job. With a newer scanner, and the Canon CanoScan 9000F is currently the best nonprofessional model available, the software can be used to do some of the removal of dirt from the image. However, manual editing remains essential to restoration, and to do it right often requires a deep understanding of the art involved.
I have been scanning old film images for a while now, and I keep learning from practice how to get better results and now can actually improve considerably on what is in the original. That just comes from practice and dedication. Just keep working at it and learning from what you do and it will get better.
Q. I am in need of a new monitor and have followed your comments about the NEC MultiSync P221W 22” LCD display with SpectraView II. You have paired this display with X-Rite. I am not a tech wiz and wish to know what exactly is X-Rite? I looked online at B&H Photo and found several products by that company. Which one are you speaking of and what does it do? I am an amateur photographer and have always had problems getting my photos to print out as the colors I see on my screen. I use Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 most of the time to edit.
A. First off, X-Rite is the world’s leading color management company. X-Rite produces the hardware and colorimeter that NEC sells as part of the SpectraView II LCD display packages. I reported on the NEC MultiSync P221W-BK-SV 22” LCD system some time ago, as it was then the only affordable model supporting contemporary pro-graphics display technology. I am no longer enthusiastic about this product as better, larger 24” LCD displays are available, like the Dell UltraSharp U2410 I more recently reported on in Shutterbug.
Unfortunately, a lot of people see the recommendation of the NEC P221W and then look it up on Amazon.com and see that the display without software and a colorimeter is less than $400, and then think they would have something good for their photography. Not so, it takes another $100 for the SpectraView software, and about another $200 for a colorimeter that will work with SpectraView and the P221W. I understand that having a display that is correctly adjusted, calibrated, and profiled is essential to achieving prints that match what you see on screen. It can be done and a lot of Shutterbug readers have gotten there, but not all easily, and usually not at bargain basement prices. I am always, as long as I am still kicking, available to help readers of Shutterbug get to where they want to be with a digital darkroom, editing their photos on a computer and getting prints that match LCD screen images. It is not magic, just using the technology we have correctly and effectively. Anyone can do it.
Automatic Photo Organization?
Q. I am having trouble loading my newly scanned slides to Photoshop Elements 9. I am using a custom PC with Windows 7. SilverFast DCPro is my imaging software through a Plustek OpticFilm scanner. I am viewing on my new Dell U2410 monitor. I have learned to scan and am happy with my results.
Scanned slides show up in My Pictures and in Picasa 3, but when I to try to transfer them to Elements it is a one-at-a-time tedious chore. Each slide has to be transferred individually, then back to that silly little black spot on top of the Elements Organizer to open, find again, etc. When I try to batch upload more than three scans at a time the My Pictures program (?) starts copying—sometimes I get copies of copies of copies of the same slide. Then I must painfully, one by one, delete the copies. It’s probably something simple I’m missing but I would like help. I like the results when I do get things into the Elements Organizer and haven’t found a better or easier free program as a substitute.
A. Sorry you are having difficulties with image file organization. I don’t recommend any application that takes over automatically, like having your files transferred after scanning to My Pictures. I want full control. So, I put all files I create into folders I name logically in terms of subject and time. When there are enough images in a folder to fill a CD-R disc, about 700MB, I burn them to a CD-R. For each disc I make a Contact Sheet, which is available in Photoshop Elements, and then print it. I put the printed pages, in order, into a three-ring binder. Then I can find the image by file name and where it is stored on a CD-R disc. Essentially, I don’t rely on software or my computer to do my organization.
Shallow DOF And Viewfinder Images
Q. I have been using a manual focus Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an adapter; the combination works quite well. When I shoot with the Nikkor wide-open at f/1.2, which is most of the time, the out-of-focus elements on the digital image are much softer and more dispersed than they appear in the viewfinder. I am surprised at the large difference in what was perceived as to what I actually end up with. Is this common with very fast lenses, whether film or digital? Or could it just be the specific combination of this particular gear?
A. With a lens as fast as f/1.2 wide-open the depth of field is very shallow. The degree to which that will appear as soft in the background will depend “perceptually” on the size of the image. So in a small viewfinder image the softness will be less apparent compared to how it would be perceived in a large print. What we see is determined by the physics of optics and light, but what our mind perceives is relative to the conditions of perception.
Most people do not commonly distinguish between sight and perception, but in reality they are divided between what the eye sees that can be measured and what the brain perceives, which can’t.
Q. I recently started using Photoshop Elements 7. When I try to print a picture I get this message: “Some postscript specific settings (interpolation, calibration, encoding) will be ignored since you are printing to a non-postscript printer.” Also, I’m having trouble getting the printer to print out the picture to the full size of the paper, whether it is 4x6 or 81⁄2x11. Sometimes the print is cut off at the top and bottom but mostly it is cut off on the width. I’m using an HP Photosmart D7460 inkjet printer.
My question: what is a postscript printer and how is this message affecting the quality of my prints? Is that what’s causing my prints to come out not fully printed, especially on the width?
A. The message about PostScript printers comes from the printer driver. HP makes two types of printers—inkjets and what people call laser printers. The latter are PostScript technology printers. Laser PostScript printers are the kind you find in offices and businesses. The warning does not affect your inkjet print quality.
The reason that your images do not match paper dimensions is that the format size of the camera used to make the photos is different. This was most evident in the old film days with 35mm cameras, which had long narrow image formats, namely a 2:3 image format ratio, and that’s why snapshot print sizes are often 4x6”, to match the format shape of 35mm cameras.
When photographers had their own darkroom with an enlarger, the standard US paper sizes often did not match the format of their film camera, so they might have to crop off part of the image to make it fit standard paper sizes.
Color Space Choices
Q. I have a Canon PowerShot G11 and the files download in the sRGB color space and always at 180 ppi. This has been okay as some of the pictures are printed and many of them are posted to my website. The 180 ppi has always mystified me though. I have ordered a used EOS 20D and apparently have the choice between shooting between Adobe RGB and sRGB. All things considered, I would like to use the Adobe RGB because of the larger color gamut, but because many of the photos will be posted to my website, what is the better color space option?
A. There is a simple answer—you can always go down from Adobe RGB but you can’t go up from sRGB. So, if say you are shooting a field of sunflowers and you want to capture all the variations of color from yellow to orange in the flowers, Adobe RGB will capture it all, while with a 30 percent or even smaller color range, sRGB will not.
With a file in Adobe RGB color space that you want to use for the web, in Photoshop select “save for the web,” and then use Adobe ImageReady to reduce the size, define the JPEG compression, and switch the embedded profile from Adobe RGB to sRGB. Simple, it just takes seconds.
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