Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography

This department will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have 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 this department. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

The Limits Of Enlargement By Interpolation
Q. I recently purchased Version 2.5 of Genuine Fractals. I was quite impressed with what it did with a 3-megapixel (9MB) image when I enlarged it to 13x19". I was just wondering what your impression of this software was. Are there specific limitations you feel the software has?
G. Hupp, Jr.

A. Yes, Genuine Fractals does a good job. But, the limit is that it cannot add any information that is lacking in the low-resolution original. No one notices that because they never see a comparison between the Genuine Fractals image and one made of the same scene captured at a high resolution. If you did, then Genuine Fractals would not look so good. There is a lot of difference in how much image information is in a 9MB image file and a 60MB image file.

Color Correction & Color Management Applies To Digital Camera Images, Too
Q. I am hopeful you can provide me with an answer to my digital question. Problem: My pictures look very flat. Details: I have a Canon D30. I have shot outdoors, indoors, in studio with strobes, everything. I edit on Photoshop 6.0 (mostly to crop or to lighten using image/adjust/levels). I submit file to for prints. I request matte finish/border. The pictures look very flat, no contrast, no exciting color. Is this a common problem? Is there a setting on my camera that I have incorrectly set? I have tried printing with Adorama and it was slightly better. What do you think?
Meaghan Capobianco

A. There could be a number of reasons why you are not obtaining the contrast and saturation in your prints. First of all, if the image on your computer's screen in Photoshop looks the way you would like a print to appear, then it is likely what you are seeing on screen does not accurately represent what is in the image file in terms of contrast and saturation. This could be due to working with a computer that is not set up to support color management, and would be indicative of a monitor that is not calibrated or profiled. This problem could be contributed further if your Photoshop setup in Preferences does not enable color management.

Also, in addition to adjusting for image overall brightness in levels, the white and black limits of the gamut must be set so the image information fills the gamut. Then assuming you are working with a calibrated and profiled monitor and color management is correctly enabled in Photoshop, you should be able to adjust contrast using the Photoshop Curves dialog tool, and color saturation using Photoshop Hue/Saturation dialog tool.

Scanning Panoramic Format Film
Q. I recently purchased an Epson 2450 flat-bed scanner to specifically scan my 6x17 panoramic transparencies. However, the scanner only comes with film holders for 35mm, 4x5, 120, and 6x9 film formats. I knew this when I purchased the scanner, but believed I could come up with a design of my own to hold the 6x17s. So far I have been unsuccessful. I have made several scans of the 6x17 chromes, but I have to lay them directly on the scanner glass. I am afraid I will either damage my chromes or the scanner glass no matter how careful I am. Do you have any solutions for this problem?
Gil Stebbins

A. Most scanners do not provide film holders for unusual sizes like 6x12 and 6x17cm film. I have many images that I have scanned from 6x12cm film images. I have made my own frame-type film holders to do this out of either thick, stiff plastic or compressed, heavy card stock. The thickness of this material should be as close as possible to the thickness of the Epson film holder where it supports the film above the scanner's glass scan surface. I have found materials that work quite well in office supply stores by selecting things like dividers for file cabinets and covers for reports and adapting them to my use. When I have found the material that will do the job, preferably in black, I then use an Exacto knife and steel ruler to cut the outer and inner perimeters of the frame. To mount a film image on the frame I use repositionable Scotch tape at the edges of the film to hold it securely to the frame I ave made.

Consistent Printer Performance
Q. I read your article "Toward The Perfect Print" in the April 2003 Shutterbug. I appreciate your insight on this subject and I'd like to request a copy of your test image. I will be making my own, but would like to get started with yours. By the way, I wish my printer were "incredibly consistent." It's an Epson 820 and when it's good, it's very good and when it's bad, it's really bad, even from the same computer and same image. I suspect the problem is the semiarid climate here in Colorado causing nozzles and print heads to dry out and clog. Lots of cleaning and test prints are required to maintain things in a consistent state. Short of building a humidor for my printer, do you know of any fixes to this problem?
Mills Ripley

A. We have a similarly dry climate here in California much of the year. Two things will help: 1) Never leave your printer turned on when not actually in use--this will keep air from getting at the print head and reduce any drying out. 2) Avoid letting your printer sit even turned off for extended periods of time (days). If a printer is used every day it is less likely to perform inconsistently. A copy of the print test image is attached to this e-mail reply.

Two Scanners Better Than One?
Q. I am a professional photographer whose primary output is photos for photographic books about historical subjects. For my next book, I want to scan some of my existing 35mm and 21/4x21/4" transparencies. The maximum image size I use is 9x9". As you suggested in a recent article, I'm thinking about buying two scanners instead of one that does both sizes.

Because of articles I have read, the Epson Perfection 2450 scanner will probably be my choice for the medium format size, and either the Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf or the Pacific Image Prime Film 3600 Pro for the 35mm. There's plenty of information about how these perform for making prints, but I've seen nothing about how good they are for producing scans for the old-fashioned four-color printing process. In your opinion, would the output from these scanners be equal to the reproduction quality of color-separation negatives made from transparencies? Thanks for all the great info you provide in your articles.
Bill Moeller

A. The Epson Perfection 2450 Photo scanner has been replaced by the new Epson Perfection 3200 PHOTO and PRO. I have one of the PRO models and tested it for a report in this issue. This new scanner is just now becoming available through sources like B&H. Besides an 800dpi increase in resolution, this new 3200 PRO comes with a generous software bundle including the full LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 6.0 software I just reported on recently in Shutterbug. If you do not want to spend the money on the Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf, I would suggest considering the Canon or Minolta 35mm scanners at more affordable prices. As far as I know every published photo today is scanned and digitized for CMYK conversion to go to an offset press. The making and use of separation negatives on film was abandoned in the publishing industry some years ago.

Which Mac G4 Model For A Digital Darkroom
Q. I'm a new subscriber to Shutterbug and I really enjoy your Digital Help department. I want to start a small photo business. I'm looking to purchase a Mac G4 and would like to know which model computer and printer to buy. To start out with, what are your thoughts on the speed of machine (1.42GHz), size of memory, and their 23" flat screen? Is this too much machine or what I want to do? What software packages would you recommend?
Ron DelSordo

The lower cost dual 1.25 is faster than any of my G4s and I am never in need of any more speed and power. The only reason I can see for spending more for the faster 1.42GHz models is if you plan to process and edit video. I do not recommend any flat panel LCD monitor for digital photography work as they reproduce a color gamut as much as a 1/3 smaller than a good CRT. I personally use and recommend Sony CRT monitors. If you want the best it is the Sony Artisan 21" reference system with built-in calibration and profiling. Otherwise, the model I use and like best is the G520P. For those who are really budget restricted, I recently tested the Apple eMac, which has an all-in-one design with a 17" CRT and G4 processor, and starts at $999 for the complete computer with monitor. With any model computer you purchase buy it with at least 1GB of RAM.

Black And White Film Scanning
Q. I continue to read about the poor job that so many 35mm film scanners do with black and white negatives. I only shoot black and white negatives though. I am an amateur that needs a 35mm film scanner to meet this need. I want to be able to scan in everything from Agfa APX 25 to Kodak TMZ p3200. Which of the current 35mm film scanner/software packages (under $1000) is the best for this task? Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my question.
Wayne LaMothe

A. The "poor job" you referred to regarding the scanning of black and white has not been a physical fault of the scanners but due to the fact little development has been done until recently in scanner driver software that adequately supports black and white silver-based film scanning. That is why I wrote an article on black and white scanning that was published in Shutterbug some issues back. A more recent article reviewed the Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf and LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 6.0, which has very improved black and white film scanning support. Since that review was published I acquired a 4000tf with SilverFast 6.0 for my own use, which includes about 75 percent scanning black and white, and am quite satisfied with the performance. I believe you would be able to access both of the mentioned articles on our web site at