now is the best time to scan old negatives

Now is the best time to scan old negatives

Now Is The Best Time To Scan Old Negatives

Of the three types of old photo media that many of us have stashed away, negatives are the most often overlooked.  Prints and slides can be viewed relatively easily but because negatives are reversals and they’re so small, it can be hard to determine what’s on them. When you start organizing, they may be first to go in the trash. But you could be discarding good memories of you and your family from decades passed.

Prints are made from negatives so if you have a ton of old pictures, you also have, or had, a ton of old negatives. So why keep the intermediary when we have the finished product? Because where the prints fade and can be damaged, torn or lost during handling, negatives are usually kept in better shape because,

  • If they were originally developed correctly, negatives hold their color better, longer.
  • Photofinishers usually returned negatives to us in clear sleeves which, if they’re made of good quality material, are still protecting them today.
  • With no reason to handle them, negatives are commonly tucked a little deeper into our photo stashes, preserving them further.

Now is a good time to consider scanning any type of old photo media, but especially negatives. Why? Because the equipment that professionals use to scan them at high volume is becoming less mainstream, and more expensive to maintain. There are only two manufacturers still tooling out a handful of high-quality, high-volume film scanners and, as you can guess, they’re expensive to buy and operate. On the contrary, business owners are finding this niche falling further out of demand so it’s harder to justify the cost. Even established labs that already own the equipment have to weigh the costs of maintenance, space, and salaries to keep up legacy film services rather than directing those resources toward newer, more profitable services.

It’s not a doomsday scenario by any means. Store owners work hard to keep costs downs and we hope the recent renaissance in film shooters bolsters the market for processing equipment. But even in resurgence, the market is a fraction of its former self. The cost to scan each frame is likely to go in one direction only; up. If your local photo professional offers negative scanning, take them up on it. I guarantee your results will be positive!

Ideas for Displaying Your Mobile Photos

It’s easier than ever to publish your favorite photos direct from device or social media channel. Instead of choosing a traditional sized photo or paper print –  the real question now is WHAT MATERIAL to print my mobile images on. Wood, metal, fabric, fine art paper, canvas and acrylic are just a few of the options. There are dozens of awesome ways to print and display the mobile photos you love most.

Did you know?

A 1.4MB photo taken on the iPhone 6 can be enlarged into a 16″x20″ print (sometimes larger!) with amazing clarity and sharpness. Most mobile devices have stellar image quality, and because of that, you can do just about anything with the photos you take on your smartphone.

The point is that just about everything can be printed on or turned into an original photographic display. We have all kinds of creative ways to turn your ideas into reality.
Check out some options and let us know if we can help bring your photos to life!
Archive the Art Cave

Archive the Art Cave

Save the school year and your sanity!

Wednesday is the day my grade schoolers come home with a week’s worth of completed assignments. I hate Wednesdays. That’s not true; I love to see their work, talk about what they’ve been up to, and get a glimpse inside their school-brains. But after that I’m left with a stack of guilt. I can weed out the spelling tests and math homework but it’s tough deciding which stories and drawings to keep. The more I save, the less confident I am that I’ll ever really look back on all of them. This conundrum occurs weekly. By the end of the year, I have one large drawer-full and at least one unwieldy stack of each child’s projects. We refer to that section of the office as the Art Cave because they rarely see the light of day after entering. I can’t store these forever but I’m not about to throw them out. So how do I archive the art cave?

I don’t put them in scrapbooks if that’s what you’re thinking. I wouldn’t make it past page two. If you’re on that level, my hat’s off to you. I digitize them and, here’s the important part, store them in an organized, backed-up vault. If that sounds daunting, let me put in other words; I take pics of them with my iPhone. Here’s the process:

  1. Download the Google Photos app. You could rely on iCloud, but it’s not as easy to move and organize them afterward. Google Photos offloads pics from your camera roll into your Google account automatically.
  2. Set up a work table near a window, but not so close that you’re in direct light. Start snapping, making sure your lens is perpendicular to the document. Google’s photo scan app also works well for this but requires four extra clicks per piece to auto straighten and optimize. I ain’t got that kind of time.
  3. Once your batch is “scanned,” select them all and add to a new album. You can be finished here and they’ll always be accessible in Google Photos. I take it one step further. I download the album (select all, press Shft + D and they arrive in a .zip) and save it to my local photo archive, which is a Network Attached Storage device that contains a few redundant hard drives. In the past, I’ve uploaded it right back into my google drive, because I wasn’t sure about the future of Google Photos or confident that I’d be able to find the online albums later. Using my local hard drives instead feel less paranoid.
  4. Strut around the house for a few minutes. You’ve just tackled a major project in hopefully less than 15 minutes. The digitized versions are not only manageable but ready to be printed in a series of photobooks that you’ll proudly display on graduation day.

I still save a few of the actual projects, but after digitizing them, most can go away. Yes, in the garbage. I know it’s difficult. But I need that space to store the children who will be home all day long once school’s out.

Action Photography Tips & Tricks

Article © 2018 by Jenna Caplette, with the expert assistance of Kathy Eyster, a member of the instructional staff at Bozeman’s F-11 Photo & The Print Refinery™.

Here’s the deal with photographing action: if you don’t get it right, you can’t fix it later with Photoshop. Out of focus is out of focus. Use these practical tips to get great action photos even with a point and shoot camera from photo instructor and digital imaging guru Kathy Eyster.

Choose the “sports” mode or a similar setting that uses a fast shutter speed.

Shoot in “continuous” shooting or “burst” mode. You’ll get as many frames as your camera can take for as long as you hold the button down, increasing your odds of getting a great picture. Your flash usually won’t fire in these modes, so this may not stop action in low-light situations.

Photographing the action closest to you will give you the best shots.

Use a technique called “focus lock.” Imagine you’re at a race and you want to photograph your sister crossing the finish line. The finish line isn’t going to move. Set your camera up and frame the shot that you want to get using the finish line as your point of focus. Hold the shutter button halfway down and then shoot just as your sister crosses the line. This allows the camera to pre-focus
on the spot where the action will be giving you a crisp, clear image.

Anticipate the action and start shooting ahead of time.

Try a technique called “panning.” Follow your subject with your camera, keeping the subject in the same spot in the frame. Your subject should be traveling left or right or vice-versa, rather than moving toward you or away from you. When a cross-country skier glides by, focus on the skier and press the shutter in continuous shooting mode. The skier will be sharp and the background blurry, expressing speed.

A large part of action photography is timing, which requires observation and strategy. The more you know about the pattern of activity, the better your images will be. However, it’s difficult to both watch an event and photograph it. If you decide to photograph, prepare to take a lot of pictures. Pack a spare battery and an extra memory card so you don’t run out of power or space on your memory card before the event ends. You’ll take hundreds of pictures and you’ll get a few you like. Toss the bad images, celebrate the good ones. Print. Repeat.

Be sure to visit Eyster’s helpful website for more tips you can use every day: essentialdigitalcamera.com.

Macro Photography

Photography invites you to notice, to look, to see and to focus. When you photograph a flower, you see the fine details and make choices about which aspect of the flower to document. The stamen? The inside of the flower? The edge of a petal? Because your back yard or garden is a place where you have some ability to control and modify the environment, its ideal for practicing macro or extreme close-up photography. Think of it as making portraits of plants, single petals on a sunflower, the curve of bloom, the textures of a zucchini, the work of bees pollinating.

Many point-and-shoot cameras have a “flower” mode that sets the camera up for macro pictures. Designed to get as much in focus as possible, Flower mode helps you hold still for a sharp picture. It also sets an outdoor white balance, so the colors will be accurate for average sunlit conditions.

Macro photography can be done with cameras that have changeable lenses in several different ways. Many zoom lenses include some macro, but can leave you wishing for more. Dedicated macro lenses are for those who live for closeup photography and demand uncompromising quality. If you want to find out about this style of photography before committing to an expense like a new lens, consider adding a close-up filter or extension tube to a lens you already own. Each of these methods provide different benefits, so you may want to try more than one. Filters and tubes are budget friendly enough that you could do both and experiment.

Now, select your image file size. Go big. Choose the largest file size in your camera’s menu and then select the highest quality—generally called “Fine.” This setting provides enough resolution to crop pictures and print enlargements. Memory cards for a digital cameras are larger capacity and cheaper now than ever, so don’t bother to “save space.” You can’t get a crisp print from an undersized file. For resizing and other fine tuning, you can edit your images in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Need help? Stop in and we’ll show you how to make changes to your settings, and check our class schedule for learning opportunities with like minded photographers.

Now that you’re ready to work with your camera, your next task is to consider shooting conditions. With macro photography you’ll quickly discover that the slightest breeze creates movement, blurring your subject. And, good lighting is essential.

The best natural light is often that of bright overcast skies, early morning, or evening. Otherwise, choose a breeze-free time of day and be prepared to modify the light to create the best photographs. Notice where your own shadow falls to prevent accidental shading.

Use bounce or diffused flash to light deep shadows and create sparkling highlights. Or, try light modifiers like reflectors and diffusers to catch and redirect sunlight to fill shadows. This kind of reflected light looks soft and natural. Consider a gold reflector to mimic sunset light and bring out warm colors.

In the harsh midday sun, placing a diffuser or a plain white umbrella above your subject softens and diffuses the light while preserving details in the highlights and shadows. An umbrella also can be useful to block the wind.

Macro photography is best accomplished from the stability of a tripod, whether you have a phone, a point-and-shoot or a camera with changeable lenses. Once you set up your camera, look carefully at the background and foreground of the picture for objects that compete for attention with your chosen subject. Sticks, rocks, grass and leaves that are out of focus and mostly invisible in your viewfinder can become glaringly apparent in a photograph. A single blade of grass or a dead weed can spoil an otherwise perfect picture.

Two essential macro photography skills are patience and intimacy. Patience while you wait for a playful breeze to pass. Patience to find or create the perfect lighting conditions. Patience to checking the details. Intimacy to be willing to see and experience photography in ways you have never done before.

Garage Sale Gold

Garage Sale Gold

It’s that time of year again! I can already smell the must. Yard sales are popping up around the neighborhood. I’m not much of a picker; I have plenty of my own old stuff already. But I can’t pass up a great old camera or photo trinket. I’ve probably made more bad buys than good but since even the non-working ones look good on my shelf, it’s a win-win. Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way that might help you avoid rummage sale remorse.

  1. Know what you’re looking for. Sure, we’d all love to find a priceless Leica and, let’s be honest, sell it for a handsome profit. But looking for a usable charmer or inspiring décor piece is just as much fun. Make sure your budget reflects your purpose. I’ve never been disappointed with a $10 camera, even if it’s a paperweight. But I’ve immediately regretting spending $50 on something that was probably worth it, only to realize that I’m never actually going to carry it around and shoot with it.
  2. Know what works. Stick to cameras that you’re at least somewhat familiar with so that you can test them. Even with no batteries, the film advance should be smooth and the shutter should fire in bulb mode. Better yet, keep some common batteries in your pocket. LR44, PX625 and CR2’s cover a pretty wide swath of old 35mm cameras. If you plan to shoot it, check the foam around the film door. It can deteriorate regardless of camera wear and if it lets light leak in, your shots are shot.
  3. Know the market. Search KEH.com to gauge a top-end selling price. That’s not what you should pay at a yard sale but, if you can confirm it works, it’ll give you an idea what a reputable dealer would charge for it after it’s all cleaned up. They try to buy them for half that value. Ebay is a better indicator of private seller values but it can be tough to find accurate examples depending on how rare your find is. Filter for completed and sold items to get some history.
  4. Know your weakness. If you’re a sucker for vintage cameras, then you’re a sucker. I have a soft spot for Yashica Electro 35s even though they’re not great cameras, not yet really vintage, and not particularly unique. But they look like they know what they’re doing and apparently, I like that. You know how they say people look like their dogs? I look like this camera.

And finally, know that you may not find much. In the context of most household sales, camera equipment usually claims coveted prices and even though sellers want to get rid of them, they tend to over-value. Negotiating is key and usually part of the fun. But walking away, especially from a stubborn seller, can be just as satisfying.

Managing digital images on memory cards and files

Managing Digital Images on Memory Cards and Files

Article © 2018 by Jenna Caplette, with tips from the staff of
F-11 Photo & The Print Refinery™

You’ve captured some great digital images. Now what? Here are the next steps you should take:

First, save the images from your camera to your hard drive. Its best to use a card reader to download pictures from your camera’s memory card. If you have to use the camera itself, be sure the batteries are new, fully 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 options available.
• Use only the camera you are shooting with—not the computer or another camera—to format the card after you’ve successfully downloaded and saved the images to your computer. Do format instead of using delete all.

At least 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 a Cloud service. You can utilize a free photo sharing site like that offered by Bozeman’s F-11 Photo & The Print Refinery™ or something like Drop Box 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 your images.

Choose your best images and have prints made. Don’t wait until you’ve had time to come up with the perfect version. Let yourself enjoy sharing them while your memory of taking the shots is still fresh.

If you don’t use software that helps organize your images for you like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Photos, think through how you’ll look for them. Create a system for naming folders that makes sense to you and that will continue to make sense twenty folders—or twenty years down the line. For a visit to a friend’s ranch from this month, this year, you might name that “ranchvisit2018_02.” When you have a system like this, you’ll be able to find the images you are looking for. If you use discs, label them the same way. Remember to make incremental back ups of 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. If you use discs as part of your backup plan, make sure they are archival quality, not cheapies that will rot. M-disc is currently the most archival product made.

Getting organized can be a challenging process but once you have a system, the task of downloading and editing images becomes far less daunting.

Stuff happens. When it does, having proper back ups and printed images makes all the difference.

holiday shots worth saving

Share-worthy shots for the holidays

The pictures we take during the holidays can be a bit mundane. We snap a couple of the family around the dinner table and a few during gift opening. But do you share those pictures? Do you look at them later? This year, get guaranteed share-worthy shots. Aim to capture the making-of moments and the craziness leading up to the actual holiday events. With a keen eye, you’ll be sharing photos over Christmas dinner instead of snapping the same old grins.

Insider Tip: Stage the scene by laying out albums and prints from holidays past. Capture new photos of the smiles they bring. Boom. You just started a new tradition.

Common holiday photo fails and where to point your camera instead:

THE INFAMOUS FAMILY SHOT
FAIL: We all line up for the firing squad and painfully hold a pose long enough for 41 clicks where everyone’s eyes are open in exactly none of them. Babies cry. Your brother’s rude gestures go unnoticed… for now. No one ever sees the photo.

WIN: Same as before except you also prop your phone up in the corner, out of frame, to video the whole ordeal. Maybe in time lapse if your photo sessions tend to run a little long. You know your family; bloopers are guaranteed. And this one, everyone wants to see.

 

THE BIG DINNER
FAIL: Everyone sits down. Half of us already have mouths full of food when you stand up to snap a few shots of togetherness. Mom is still in the kitchen. You can’t see your sister behind the turkey. Three cousins hide under the table. No one ever sees the photo.

WIN: Head into the kitchen 30 minutes before and start snapping. Heartwarming? Possibly. Hell broken loose? Maybe. Blackmail material for Easter? Hopefully. Who knows what really goes on in there? Now you do!

 

THE DECOR
FAIL: The tree is up and the house it lit. You wait until dusk to get the perfect shot and… what? The lights are too bright and the sky is too dark. It looks like a glowing blob in a sea of black. Try again tomorrow? Not likely.

WIN: Don’t wait until the decorations are up. If dad’s putting lights on the roof, there’s a 100% chance of a golden photo opportunity. It might be corny, heartwarming, hilarious, or just good documentation for the medics. Either way, you’ll get something worth sharing. Back inside, you know what happens when mom unpacks the ornaments you made in grade school: She cries. First photograph it. Next hug. Later, share. Cry, hug, repeat.

 

The good stuff happens where no one’s looking. Shoot behind-the-scenes and you’ll have the shots worth sharing. Happy Holidays!