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: editorial@shutterbug.com or goofotografx@gmail.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

No Need To Change?
Q. I complete entry-level post-editing of my digital images using Photoshop Elements 10 on a Sony VAIO E Series (about $700 at Best Buy a couple of years ago). I have a chance to upgrade and am writing for your thoughts about what laptops to look at in the $800 to $1000 range. My concern is the screen’s capabilities to accurately present the JPEG and Raw images I view. A better screen for my imaging is my goal. I’d rather stay with the PC format. What are your thoughts on brands and models in my price range?
C. J. Haan
via e-mail

A. Among PC makers Sony is the only one that also makes a very successful line of cameras, so it may be the best brand for a computer as well, and one to stay with. However, for digital photography image editing, the big drawback is that a laptop is moved to varying light conditions for use, so what you see on screen is varied by the effect of the environment. Many of my readers resolve this problem by adding a desktop LCD display to connect to their laptop when they use it for image editing. But pro-quality graphics desktop displays add a lot to the total cost. The least expensive is the Dell UltraSharp U2410, a 24” LCD display that has a list price of $599, but often sells for less. But there is another added cost if you want good, consistent image quality that results in good prints, and that is color management, which involves measuring the screen performance and adjusting, calibrating, and profiling your display; that’s another $200. Consistently good quality digital photography only comes at a price and the old saying that you get what you pay for applies here as well.

Name Change
Q. Thanks for your recommendation of the Mac mini. I now would like to color calibrate my Mac mini, Epson printer, and Dell U2410 monitor using an existing Datacolor Spyder2/PrintFIX PRO 1.x system that I possess. Unfortunately, Mac OS X 10.7 will not accept the aforementioned spectrocolorimeter system, nor can I find any upgrades to the Spyder2.
Any suggestions?
Kadosa Halasi
via e-mail

A. Since the Spyder2 intro the company name has been changed from ColorVision to Datacolor. And you will find there is a current SpyderPRINT version that I presume will install in Apple OS X 10.7. Just go to the following URL where the SpyderPRINT is explained in detail, and note that there is a tab about upgrades: http://spyder.datacolor.com/portfolio-view/spyderprint/. Even at the new price for SpyderPRINT it is less than X-Rite’s ColorMunki Photo, which is also a very good option for display and printer profiling that works with Apple OS X 10.7.

Print Sales Online
Q. I’m an experienced amateur photographer, and while I cannot leave my primary job, I’m exploring the possibility of doing some photography work for hire on the side. I’m talking about maybe one or two small events or a few engagement photo sessions per month. I want to clarify though; I want to do this as professionally as possible. I’m not out to make a quick buck and the quality of my work and professional image is very important to me.
I am looking for any suggestions you may have as to what lab I should use to offer print sales online. It seems that a lot of the other photographers I’ve spoken with use Zenfolio, and I know Shutterbug has their own as well. These days it seems like everyone does! I’m also an experienced web designer and am fully capable of designing and maintaining my own website. So, I just want something basic. I don’t need an entire website created for me, or all the bells and whistles. I don’t care if I can sell my images on coasters or BBQ aprons, I don’t need watermarks, and I don’t need a ton of server space or bandwidth. All I want to offer are prints. I see no reason to pay for lots of other services that I don’t need. All I want is to link my own site (using my own domain) into another site where my customers can order prints that I’ve recently uploaded, preferably without a monthly or annual fee. When they’re already taking a percentage of the print sales, it seems ridiculous to me to pay them out of my own pocket as well for the privilege of letting them sell my images. Does any kind of basic service like I’m looking for exist?
Greg Bennett
via e-mail

A. I do have a website I use to inform people of what is in my eBook on a CD, as well as how to order and pay for it, and I also have a blog site. Both of them are on Google.com; they are free and the design and construction is easy. You can even put ads into your Google site and earn a few pennies from them.
I don’t use professional labs for printing, but I haven’t sold any prints for years. Usually when I did prints for clients I made the prints myself in my own lab; for the short time I did not have my lab running, I was always disappointed in what service labs produced. I’ve always felt that the important value to doing a photographic product is in what you do yourself, not in what some third-party hired person can do. I always found that route made my photography less than what it could be. If I can’t do it myself, to me it’s not worth doing at all.
Sorry I can’t provide any encouragement and information (we read the same ads probably) as what you describe doing is something I choose to avoid. To me photography is an art craft and is only as good and valuable as the person who made it.
Another option that is popular with some professional photographers is to provide the client with printable image files edited from the shoot, and let the client choose and hire a print service. Of course, providing a list of printer services you could recommend would be advisable.

Good Performance From A Small Package
Q. I just read with great interest your comments on the Mac mini. It would be interesting to know how much you think I would have to spend after adding all the extra parts I would need. And is 8GB of RAM enough? Working with large images, Adobe says the more the better.
Dave Valvo
via e-mail

A. Sorry, but you did not say exactly what and how many parts you need to add, nor did you say how large your images are so that 8GB of RAM is not enough. In other words, your question is not specific, so my answer has to be somewhat general, too.
I ran the Mac mini I reported on with two displays, an external hard drive for backup, and a DVD-RW disc drive, as well as a Wacom tablet and a standard mouse, an Epson R1900 printer, and both a Plustek 35mm scanner as well as an Epson V500 flat-bed. In addition, the Mac mini is connected to four more Macs via its AirPort Wi-Fi network, as well as a stereo amplifier to play music in my iTunes library. It does everything my Mac Pro can, just a wee bit slower, but the Mac Pro cost over three times as much a couple of years ago. For its size, features, and cost, the Mac mini provides a lot of usefulness, and takes up very little space.

I am pleased to announce the latest 4.3 Edition to my eBook Digital Darkroom Resource CD. The CD now contains 33 chapters totaling 399 pages in Adobe Acrobat .PDF format, providing easy-to-read text and large high-quality illustration. The CD is available for $20 plus $5 shipping and handling (US Mail if available). Ordering is as simple as sending a check or money order for $25 made out to me, David B. Brooks, and mailed to PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.