Article © 2005-09 by Jenna Caplette, with tips from our staff at F-11 Photographic Supplies
You've captured some great digital images. Now what?
You’ve taken some gorgeous digital images during your explorations of Southwest Montana. Now what?
First, save the images from your camera to your hard drive. It’s best to use a card reader to download from your camera's memory card. If you have to use the camera itself, be sure the batteries are new or freshly charged, or use an AC adapter. Then, save your images to your computer's hard drive or other media – don’t put a card with edited images back into the camera.
To extend the life of the memory card you just popped back in to your camera, here are some basic tips:
Always turn the camera off before inserting or removing the card.
Never remove a card from the camera or turn the camera off while it’s accessing the images.
Never force a card into a slot.
Protect your card from dirt, static and moisture. There are some great, safe, storage devices available.
Use only your camera to delete images or to format the card after you’ve loaded images on to your computer.
About twenty percent of digital images that have been taken have been already lost because they weren’t properly saved, backed up and printed. Ideally, you should have three copies of every image you take. One on the computer hard drive where you can access it and use it; one on archival media stored in a dark, dry place and a third stored far enough away from your home so that in the event of a natural disaster, your images are still safe.
One of the easiest ways to take care of the off-site storage is to use an online service. Some companies charge a small fee for this service, or you can utilize a free photo sharing site like that offered by Bozeman's F-11 Photographic Supplies or Picasa to accomplish the same thing. Make sure you can upload files in their original size, that you can access them when you want to, and you can easily download them. Make sure that you keep your contact information up to date, as most services require you to log in from time to time so they know you still want to archive your images.
Choose your best images and have prints made. Don’t wait until you’ve had time to edit them. Let yourself enjoy sharing them while your memory of taking the shots is still fresh.
Before you load your images on to your computer, think through how you’ll organize them and set up a directory for sorting them by topic. Create a system for naming folders that makes sense to you and that will continue to make sense twenty folders down the line. So, for a visit to a friend’s ranch from this month, this year, you might name that: ranchvist0808. When you have a system like this, you’ll be able to find the images you want, one year, even five years down the line. Label your CD-R in the same way. Again, remember to always back up everything, including edited and unedited files. Don’t just store them on the hard-drive.
To recap these basics: take care of your memory card. Organize your image files on your computer. Download your images and immediately make back-ups on an archival quality CD-R and to an online photo sharing and archiving service.
Getting organized can be a challenging process. But, once you have a system you can work with, the task of downloading and editing images becomes far less daunting.
Stuff happens. When it does, having safe back ups, and printed images, makes all the difference.
Part 2: Understanding Digital Secrets to get Your Best Possible Images
Digital pictures are made up of pixels. A pixel is a picture element, a small square of one color. Millions of mega-pixels combine to make your image. The more pixels there are, the sharper the image appears. Your photo resolution relies on how many pixels are in your image.
The higher resolution you have, the better your image quality, so set your camera to the highest resolution possible. As you shoot images, those higher resolution files will take up more space on your camera’s memory card. A simple solution? Buy multiple cards. They’re not that expensive. When you change the resolution setting, your camera will let you know how many more shots you have available on a particular card.
If you take an image with a 2.16 megapixel camera, you’ll get clear, sharp 4x6 images. Go to blow those up to larger image sizes and you’ll begin to notice a change in the clarity of the image. Not sure what that means? Assume you captured an image with a resolution of 1200 x 1600. When you print that as a 4x6 image, you’ll have a clear, sharp photo at 300 pixels per inch (ppi). Enlarge it to 5x7 and your ppi drops to 240. By the time you’ve got an 8x10, the image's ppi will be 150. You need 300 ppi for good image quality.
Crop a photo, and the same issue confronts you. When you choose a small part of an image as your focus, and enlarge only the piece you’ve chosen, the pixel per inch count drops. If you think you’ll be cropping a photo, take it at the highest resolution your camera offers. All of which just strengthens the case for always shooting on the highest resolution possible and packing along an extra memory card. Or two.
Now that you’ve set your camera’s resolution, you need to choose which file formats you want your camera to work with. For most of us, the TIFF is a good option. It’s great for archiving images, or for images that you want to edit. With a TIFF, there’s no loss of detail when you save. If you won’t be manipulating your images, JPEG is handy because your files are compressed and take up less memory in the camera and your computer. The downside, however, is that because the images are compressed, they lose quality. If you do edit JPEGs, every time you save the image you’ll lose more of your image information. Consider beginning with a TIFF, and save all your original files as TIFFs before you start editing. Then, go ahead and edit and when you’re done, save the file as a JPEG. Because JPEGs are smaller files than TIFFs, they make a good choice for email, web work, and printing.
Advanced digital photographers will likely be working in RAW, where the image data comes directly off the camera and the user chooses the file format. Or, there’s PSD, a format specific to Adobe PhotoShop users.
When you’ve invested your time in editing your photographs, and you’re ready to print, give yourself the gift of a decent inkjet printer and good archival ink. Before you print, you’ll need to use specialized software that allows you to correct the color balance of both your printer and your computer monitor so they speak the same color language. A good choice is “Perfect-Pixs,” a simple and relatively inexpensive workflow calibration tool. Their 3-card kit includes a color patches card, along with a gray tone card and a white balance card.
Ready to go? Be sure you have lots of ink on hand, lots of choices, lots of time, and loads of patience.
Here’s how the cost of printing at home breaks down: for a 4x6 image your results rely on the printer itself, the paper you’ve invested in, and your patience. The final printed image costs between 27¢ and $1.50. That’s something to consider when the same image printed at a photographic store costs about 49 cents, with durable quality and professional color management. Buying prepaid print cards that give you bulk pricing discounts can drop your price to as little as 29¢ per print. What’s your time worth?)
A great solution? Edit your images at home. Submit them as JPEGs to online “kiosks” or save them to a CD-R and take them to your favorite photo store for printing. Always re-format your memory card in-camera, and instead of holing up in front of your computer, struggling to print the perfect print, get back out and take more photographs.