Digital Help
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 (, directly via e-mail to: or or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Choosing An LCD Display For Critical Editing
Q. I have been using a Sony SDM-S204 LCD display for several years now. It is a decent photo display but even with careful calibrating I have never been able to fully distinguish the first several tonal steps in the black end of the spectrum without seriously compromising the rest of the tonal spectrum. I have been anticipating a possible upgrade as it appears LCD technology continues to improve.
I was excited to see your review of the LaCie 320 displays in the March 2007 issue of Shutterbug. You are quite correct that it is virtually impossible to get a hands-on look at the good photo optimized displays and so I rely on credible reviewers like yourself to guide me.
The fact that you have chosen to use the LaCie for your personal use is a telling endorsement, but I was a bit thrown by your closing comment, "...the LaCie is not the most spectacular and impressive LCD that I have used..." What exactly does that mean? I truly wish you had qualified that comment in your review. What makes a display more spectacular and impressive but not, perhaps, as desirable as the LaCie? To me, $1350 is still a premium price for a display. I need to be confident my money is well spent. Is there an LCD display you consider "better" (for photographic work) than the LaCie?
You also failed to make even a passing comment on the optional colorimeter in terms of performance or value. I have a Spyder2 but would go with the LaCie if there were evidence that the combination worked better than using an independent device.
Paul J. Yarnall
Canandaigua, NY

I can appreciate your problems with the Sony LCD display as I did test and report on one of their best models about 3-4 years ago, and then compared it to a similar LaCie display at that time. The Sony fell somewhat short.
Unfortunately I don't have the room in the magazine to elaborate and qualify in detail everything I say. What I was referring to is that I have found more spectacular overall performance in the EIZO ColorEdge CE210W and CE240W LCD displays. The screen quality between the EIZO and LaCie is close to comparable, but the EIZO displays are controlled by their own software installed on the host computer that "talks" to the display directly through a USB connection. This provides more accurate adjustment, calibration, and profiling. However, the EIZO displays are HD wide format and to get the vertical display size I wanted, and got with the LaCie 320, I'd have to go for the larger and much more expensive EIZO CE240W, so I compromised the EIZO color management superiority for affordability. But after months of using the LaCie I am not at all dissatisfied and glad I made the compromise that I did.
I have a lot of vertical format photographs, so the HD wide format LCDs really do not work well for me, unless it is a much larger screen. For another photographer that may not be so much of an issue, so you might find the EIZO CE210W with a price comparable to the LaCie 320 a better choice.
The LaCie blue eye pro colorimeter is a repackaged GretagMacbeth Eye-One 2, and is not "matched" in any way to the LaCie 320 display. The Eye-One colorimeter may be a good instrument, but supported by the software that is provided with it, I found the calibration and profile results were significantly inferior for critical photographic work to the calibration and profile results I get with a ColorVision Spyder2PRO, which is actually a more affordable package at the stand-alone price of each.

Selecting And Dropping Out A Background Gets Easier
Q. I have been taking product photos for my client for use on their website. (All products to be silo'd with pen tool to provide clipping path.) They want 8-bit .PNG files with a clear matte background and no color. At first I was making the .PNG files from the "Save As" command in Photoshop. When the client's web person gave me the "matte color none" spec, I knew I had to use the "Save For Web" command. I sent them a bunch of files and the background was fine but the edges (products have a clipping path) of products are jagged. I think the file looks good at 100 percent, but at 200 percent and larger, it is very jagged. Is there a way to improve these edges? Or is that the quality one can expect from a .PNG file? (My JPEGs with clipping paths look good at larger viewing sizes.)
Alfred Daly

First of all, might I suggest downloading the new beta version of Photoshop CS3. (Editor's Note: As of publication the beta has expired, but reference to CS3 is still valid.) It has a new easy Selection tool and more importantly, a Refine Edge tool dialog that will make your doing the dropout easier. Then do the dropout at full resolution of the original, save as a plain TIFF file and then apply "Save For Web" to that file that does not have a clipping path, just the background dropped out to pure white. The product edges should not suffer from the jaggies.

Full Image Quality From A Digital Camera
Q. I'm a bit confused about whether I am getting the maximum return from my digital images. Normally I download my raw images from a Nikon D70 to a Mac, using iPhoto. Then I select a photo and export it to the desktop as "Original." There it appears as a .NEF image in Camera Raw, size 5.6MB, dimensions 3024x1998 pixels.
Alternatively, I can export it is as a TIFF image when it has a size of 34.6MB. If, via Photoshop, I go directly to the Nikon D70 card, which appears on the desktop, and open up an image in Preview, then save it as TIFF, I also have an image of 34.6MB on the desktop.
Is there an advantage to one or the other of these methods? Am I losing any quality by using one rather than the other?
David Baird

No, there is no difference as you describe. However, using Adobe's Photoshop and Camera Raw provides both tools to optimize the image, particularly adjusting the image gamut to fully utilize the file space gamut, and increase the image size, saving in 16-bit mode in TIFF or PSD file format. This path will better and more fully preserve the original data as captured by your camera's sensor.

Raw Image Capture Size And File Size Can Differ
Q. I have a Nikon D70s and just noticed that my image files (raw/NEF) aren't standard 6.1MB (or thereabouts) but appear to fluctuate from 4.+ to 6.+, depending on subject matter and lighting.
Could you explain that--have I somehow corrupted my card or is this normal, and if so, why? I guess I always thought a 6.1MB camera would capture at 6.1MB (or close).
Mark L. Musto

If in fact your camera is set to record in raw format then the files should contain the entire pixel count the processor supports and records. However, the size of .NEF files can vary, as these files are compressed by a proprietary Nikon process that reduces file size relative to image subject content. In other words, raw files that contain a lot of differing detail information may compress less than a scene that is half blank sky or other simple, uniform subject matter.
Once your raw files are converted and opened in an application like Photoshop check the pixel dimensions. I think you will find they are all the same if no editing to change image size, like cropping, has been done.