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.

Enlarging Digital Camera Images
Q. I bought the July 2003 issue and I found it insightful. I have Paint Shop Pro 7 and I was hoping that you may have a tip for enlarging a photo with decent quality to the size of a painting that you would hang on the wall. I have a Minolta DiMAGE D7i to work with and I should get some good shots as TIFF files. I do have an idea on how to do it, but I'm not sure. I was thinking that I could open the image in Paint Shop Pro then crop the picture in four to six even sections then re-size them within the limits of the program. Am I on the right track?
Rob H.

A. I am not entirely clear on your thinking. In part, you did not indicate what kind of printer you have. If you are suggesting making prints on 8.5x11" paper of sections of an image and then putting them together to make a single large print, I doubt that would work very well. Even if you applied a very large, precise effort, it is doubtful it would look like anything other than a patchwork.
I believe the Minolta DiMAGE D7i captures at a maximum size of 2560x1920 pixels. If you set the image resolution in your software (Paint Shop Pro) to 180dpi, which is about the lowest you can use to achieve good print quality, the image dimensions would be 10.6x14.2". To make the print image size bigger and retain the image resolution requires the use of your application's interpolation to resample the image. I would not recommend using this to increase the size any more than 50 percent without a visible loss in image quality.
However, there is a software solution many have used successfully to enlarge digital camera images quite substantially and retain very effective image quality. It is called Genuine Fractals ( It is a Photoshop plug-in however, and would require purchasing and installing Adobe Photoshop Elements at minimum.
If you want to make large prints from image files you have made with your camera and do not want to purchase a large format printer to do it yourself, there are numerous digital print services which can take your file and produce a large print to your size specifications, probably using Genuine Fractals, and at a reasonable cost. Check out Shutterbug's special ad section for Lab Services.

New To Photography
Q. I recently purchased a Nikon Coolpix 4300. I am extremely satisfied with the camera. My problem is Adobe's Elements 2.0. Actually, I think that I am the problem. What do you feel is the best way to become familiar with this software? I have tried to contact a local user's group but haven't received any response. I am open to any and all suggestions.
John Dooley

A. Adobe's Photoshop Elements has the most built-in and company-sponsored support of just about any software sold. If you have not explored all of the Help and Tutorials installed with Elements, as well as Hints and Recipes included in Elements, you can obtain further and copious information on how to use Photoshop and Elements from the Adobe website at the two following URLs: main.html and photoshopel.html.
I would be pleased to be more specific myself if you ask a specific question about how to do this or that. In other words, what specifically do you want to do, and what specifically is it that you don't know how to accomplish with Elements?

Reader Tip On Scanning And Printing Black And White
Q. I have been working in Photoshop since Version 3.0 and through a lot of trial and error have come up with a few tips for making black and white ink jet prints without having a dedicated printer or having to change ink sets.
First of all, I scan everything as an RGB file then I desaturate the file. You get more digital information and a greater bit depth than scanning the image as gray scale. Then, I manipulate the desaturated image in any number of ways. But my favorite way is to go to Image Adjust Selective Color. In the "colors" drop-down menu (you will see a red square showing) bring up the color range that can be adjusted. At the bottom of the color choices, you will see white, gray, and black squares. Select a tone and judiciously adjust the sliders, adding or subtracting the value for each one--don't overdo it. Blacks will get "chunky" looking and whites will lose their punch, or blow out all together. But, you can really fine-tune an image this way. You can also use the channel mixer method by clicking the monochrome box and adjusting the RGB sliders. I usually do about 60 percent red, 25 percent green, and 15 percent blue...trying to make the numbers equal 100 percent.
When I was printing in the darkroom, I always selenium toned my prints, not only for its archival properties, but I liked the slight tone that the process imparted on my prints. You can do the same thing in Photoshop.
Go to Image Adjust Color Balance. Play with the cyan and blue sliders to create a cool tone or, play with the yellow and red sliders to create a warm tone. You can use the duotone or tritone method with the Pantone colors if you like, in the Image Adjust Hue/Saturation slider to take some of the color intensity out. A little goes a long way! Plus or minus 2 or 3 percent for each value can be plenty. If you give your color printer (I use an Epson 820) some color information to print, the whole monochrome printing process becomes less frustrating and the images have the appearance of a selenium-toned print.
Gil Frazee

A. Thanks for your e-mail with included tips. I believe I pretty well covered much of what you described in a Shutterbug article published in the December 2001 issue titled, "Digital In Black And White--Ink Jet Printing Problems And Solutions." I also covered an advanced black and white scanning technique in a more recent article (September 2002 issue) titled, "B&W Negative Scanning--A Step By Step, Easy Way To Quality Images."
I think that scanning black and white film as color to produce an RGB file for processing in Photoshop may not be so much an advantage with many of the scanners that have come out recently. And, if cleaner data, which has any scan noise eliminated as the goal, another effective and possibly more efficient method with scanners and software that support it, is to use multi-sampling.
As for printing using all colors of ink available with a dye-ink printer, it is a practice I used myself for several years. However, many of those earlier prints have shifted in the color tone of the gray values due to the inherent instability of dye inks. So with more recent Epson printers like the Photo 960 I found I can obtain as good or better black and white quality printing with black ink only, even compared to prints made with a dedicated QuadBlack ink printer. And, because black dye inks are inherently more stable than a mix of CMY color inks, I have confidence the print tone will remain neutral and provide a longer print life.

Problems With Files On Digital Camera Storage Media
Q. On several occasions--perhaps four or five times--I have had a picture "corrupt." I first saw this with my Olympus E-10. Recently, I traded for a Canon EOS 10D, which is a great camera. But while shooting some extensive numbers of photos, the same thing has happened twice. The only difference is the EOS 10D gives me an error code on the LCD screen--indicating a failure with the image on the CompactFlash card. I had to take the card out and replace it with another card in order to shoot anymore. However, at a later time I was able to recover the other photos on the card, using it in my computer's card reader.
My question: What experience have you had with cards failing and resulting in a corrupted image? Are they suspect for further use, and must they be discarded? In my case, I re-formatted the card, but am not sure I can trust it now. Any input would be appreciated.
George S. Pearson

A. A CompactFlash card, like any other computer file storage device, is susceptible to a specific file writing failure. This can be caused either by the writing device making an error or by a portion of the storage card having a "segment" that is bad. In either case, you should not assume the CompactFlash card is bad or unreliable. If this error occurs try using the camera's controls to delete the file that has the error. That may clear the card so it will accept more files. If not, then taking the card out, recovering the other files, and formatting the card should restore it to proper functioning. I am assuming that formatting will identify any defects and structure the card so further writes are possible.
If the problem is more serious, such that you cannot access images stored on the card, try working with software utilities that are designed to recover digital camera images from storage devices. You may want to look into an application called PhotoRescue, which can be purchased online for $29 from photorescue, or if you have Lexar brand media you should consider Lexar's Image Rescue: index.html.

Paper Size Standard And Formats
Q. I have gone from taking birthday party snapshots to owning a professional camera and using Photoshop to now making my own prints. My question: Why are almost all of the print resources available in sizes that are not the same ratio as the 35mm negative? The only common print size, or paper, is the 4x6. The other sizes all require the original image to be cropped. An 8x10 should be an 8x12, a 16x20 should be a 16x24. Even the manufacturers of printing machines and paper, like Epson, do not make paper in the correct ratio size. Am I missing something here? I know I can print an 8x12 on an 11x14 paper but that wastes 38 percent of the print paper.
Tom Farrell

A. Yes, the "standard" paper sizes have been an issue 35mm photographers have complained about for as long as I can recall, and I've been using 35mm cameras for 50 years. In fact, some years ago one photo paper company did a trial marketing of paper in sizes which matched the 2:3 aspect ratio of 35mm. Those papers did not sell! But then, only in America do you have to have something to complain about. In Europe and Asia there are standard paper sizes that are much closer to the 2:3 aspect ratio of 35mm. And then, there has always been 5x7, which is close. Since digital and ink jet photo printers have become popular there is another set of standard paper sizes that are quite amenable to the 35mm image format ratio, including 11x17 and 13x19, the latter being the largest paper size that the 13" wide photo ink jets accommodate. I have personally chosen to make all of my 35mm scans to fill a 12x18" image size (at 300dpi), and that provides a nice 1/2" border on 13x19 paper. If you want a smaller 2:3 aspect paper size for ink jet printing you might look into what one of the larger paper suppliers has available at:

Grainy Photos From Subjects Shot In Fog
Q. Twice this has happened to me: I shot with Supra film in very foggy conditions and when I scanned the picture using a Nikon 4000 scanner, the picture was very grainy (other pictures on the roll shot under different conditions were not). The contact sheet I got from the local photo store was not grainy. I was wondering what this represents. My thought is that the foggy conditions affect the film in some way but that the professional scanner that the photo store owns does not register the grain and that it overrides the problem in some manner. Why would foggy conditions make an ISO 200 film look grainy? What capacity does the professional scanner have which mine does not? Thanks again for your help.
Judy Grose

Having lived and worked on the West Coast all of my life, I've had the opportunity to make a lot of photographs in the fog. What I have observed from that experience (with film) is that the low contrast of the image becomes increased, almost by exaggerated contrast, when full scale prints are made. Even when magnified, the grain is really not that different in size when compared to other images on the same stock of more normal subjects and conditions. It just gets more visually apparent in a print because the subject tones are smooth and you usually have to increase reproduction contrast to compensate for the flatness of the image caused by the fog.
The same process affect applies to scanning. If the range of film densities is short and you correct this by expanding the image gamut to fill the 256 levels of space to obtain a true black and a pure white, the differences between the grain elements is made more apparent. In other words, the grain is really not any bigger, it is just more obvious because the difference (contrast) between the grain elements is greater.
To compensate for this in scanning turn off or lower the amount of sharpening that is applied as part of scan. In fact you may even try an application of the Noise reduction filter in Photoshop called "Despeckle" after scanning. However, there are even better filters to reduce the noise of grain without softening image detail available in Corel's Photo-Paint and the Extensis brand Photoshop plug-in filters set called Intellihance Pro. These provide more control of the grain/noise reduction.

Choosing Save Options With Pro And Prosumer Digital Cameras
Q. I have a Canon D60 that I shoot mostly in JPEG mode. I have a website ( onto which I have been placing my photos. Since I am shooting mainly to make prints, I shoot in large mode, which yields an 18MB file size. When I want to save an image in Photoshop, I select File/SaveForWeb. Photoshop immediately advises that the file size is larger than is recommended for SaveForWeb. What do you recommend as far as shooting for both print output and web use. I think it is impractical to shoot at different resolutions, since some shots are once in a moment types.
G. Hupp. Jr.

A. My attitude is quite basic: never choose to do what you'll maybe regret later. I have one of new Canon EOS Digital Rebel cameras with the same chip size as your D60. I shoot everything in raw format at maximum resolution using Adobe RGB color space as the parameter setting. The file size as stored on a CompactFlash card is the same as it is for a high resolution, high quality JPEG! And then, I always have everything the sensor captured saved in raw format.
I'm now using Photoshop CS (8.0) Camera Raw to access the images. If I want to reduce the size and resolution and save in JPEG for web use, with the full image open in Photoshop after output from Camera Raw, I simply click on the ImageReady icon at the bottom of the Photoshop Toolbox, and the image is reopened in ImageReady. With its easy re-size and compression selection tools, I adjust the image size and select the amount of compression and then use the File menu SaveAs as a web optimized .JPG file.
I don't know what could be easier or quicker than using ImageReady. And by the way, I save all my raw files to a CD so I always have the "original" if needed to process them again with Camera Raw for making a large print or any other purpose.

Video Cards For The Best Photo Performance With PC Windows Computers
Q. I live in the UK and have visited the US twice to visit my sister, who married an American. On the last occasion, which I think was in 1998 or '99, I bought a copy of Shutterbug, which had a very interesting article on the best ways of setting up a computer for digital work. It made what seemed to me a very valid point regarding video cards, namely that a card optimized for 3D effects for game playing was going to be less satisfactory for photographic purposes than one optimized for 2D. The author went on to name one or perhaps two cards of this type that he thought would be the right choice.
I kept the article against the day when I would be able to replace my computer with a more powerful one, when I would make sure to have such a card fitted, especially as I have no interest at all in computer games. But now that that time has come, I can't find the article! (I daresay that even if I could, the recommended cards would no longer be available.)
So, can I ask your advice as to which currently available card(s)--not too high-end--would be your recommendation? Thank you for your help.
Glyn Duggan

A. I believe it was one of my articles to which you are referring. The same technical considerations are applicable to the current PC market. The video cards that are optimized for games, 3D, and animation are not necessarily those which will provide the best 2D image reproduction and support optimum Photoshop performance.
Although the main players in the video card business remain the same, the video card models you can choose from to obtain the best 2D and Photoshop performance are new and somewhat different than in '99. I believe at the moment the ATI Radeon 9000 series cards are a top pick among those that are affordable (but shy away from All-In-Wonder models). The closest competition to ATI remains Matrox and the Millennium model cards. Prices will vary on the basis of whether the processor is 64 or 128 bit, and the speed and quality of the ramdac chip, as well as support for dual monitors and compatibility with various motherboard design requirements and capabilities.
To obtain specifications and prices on a large selection of video cards, I would suggest visiting the site and type in the search box "video cards"--there are many pages of offerings with specification details and the retail US price range, which is not all that different from prices several years ago.

Panorama Photographs, Film Or Digital?
Q. The digital vs. film discussion poses a problem for me. I have the chance to buy a Widelux swing lens panoramic camera at a reasonable cost. It takes good-quality 35mm photos covering a 140Þ angle. But is it worth buying in view of the continuing advances in digital technique?
Could I get as good or better panoramic results by investing in a digital camera and stitching together digital photos? Or alternatively scanning in photos taken on a film camera and stitching those together? Thanks for your thoughts on this.
David Baird

A. Creating a successful panoramic photograph is in itself a complex and involved challenge, whether it is done with a specialized camera like the Widelux or whether a "normal" camera is used to make a series of exposures in a very controlled way. Which is more effective and the best choice, I think, is influenced by the kind of subjects a photographer chooses as scenes for panoramas. Then there is the question of whether a photographer is going to make panoramas frequently, which would justify specialized equipment, or just occasionally, which calls into question the investment in special cameras. You also need the means to print or scan the resulting film image. I'm sure those factors are things you have considered.
Software that is capable of stitching images together has been available for several years, and some of it is extremely effective. This attests to the fact that it is a viable and quality solution. Even the latest Adobe Photoshop CS includes specialized software to effectively stitch together a series of individual photo images, resulting in high quality panoramic photographs. And from what I have seen of the results done digitally by stitching images together, they can be very effective. Often they give no visual clue that the resultant panorama originated as a series of discrete individual exposures.
Personally, I would be inclined to go the all-digital route. But that inclination is because I have a great deal of experience in the digital darkroom and enjoy the work. A camera like the Widelux is a challenge to use effectively, so I think the choice must be influenced by personal considerations as much as it is by technical quality issues. Both methods, film and digital, are capable of good results.

The Mac Vs. PC Debate Continues
Q. I don't want to contribute more fuel to the fire of the Mac vs. PC debate but I have a question. You have been clear about the superiority of Mac color management, and you have stated that the Mac is more crash resistant than the PC. The photo/graphic/publishing industry is Mac oriented. My question is this: If the hardware and software cost for the Mac is significantly more ($1500-$2000) than a similar PC-based system, is the Mac worth the premium?
I was disappointed to learn that software upgrades from Adobe and others cannot cross platforms. So buying a new system (Mac for me) would require purchasing all new software to support it (Office Suite, Photoshop, Toast, and others). If I stick with my PC I can purchase the upgrades. Your advice is always on point and your answer to this question would be greatly appreciated.
Sandy Noble

A. First of all, your assumption a Mac costs more is incorrect. To obtain equal graphics performance and component quality (like the same video card) the same quality of RAM chips, etc., etc., the PC will cost you more. If you want to compare prices for equal quality and performance of a Mac G4 or G5 you have to select one of the PC workstations made specifically for graphics, and the price is usually higher than for a Mac.
The quality of the low-ball price leading box deals for brand PCs is not a true comparative--especially when you look inside those products. They are offered at those low prices because they have cheap, no-name dubious quality components inside, mostly made in China. Yes, there is a one-time hit for some software, like the full version of Photoshop and Microsoft Office. But for Shutterbug readers who are not professional photographers, I wonder why they would need or want applications that are at that level because they are very unlikely to ever use but a small part of the capabilities. In other words, they are paying for a lot of stuff they'll never have use for. On the other hand, Toast and many utilities are an included part in the Mac and the OS 10.3 operating system. The old adage, you get what you pay for, still applies.

Mac vs. PC, Part II
Q. In the December issue of Macworld the G5 dual processor was compared to other equal PCs. The article clearly stated that the PC outperformed the G5. This really put some doubt in my mind about purchasing the G5. If you read the article, could you please comment on it? I am using a PC now and really wanted to switch over to Apple buying the G5 with the dual processor.
Phil Merola

A. It has been a few years since processing speed has been a significant issue, even to someone like myself with years of full-time experience. Even an inexpensive eMac is more than fast enough working in Photoshop so I never have to wait for it, except maybe when processing 250MB 48-bit files, and then it is just a few seconds pause to apply a process like a Hue/Saturation adjustment, not even enough time to take a break.
The real issues involved in the choice between PC vs. Mac are quality issues, both in terms of hardware quality and in terms of color reproduction quality. In the hardware department comparing the top of the line Mac to today's typical PC is like comparing a 700 series BMW with a Toyota Camry--there is no comparison! Whether a car can go 150mph or 125mph is irrelevant in the real world of speed laws and traffic, but which provides a better driving experience is significant.
On the issue of reproduced color quality, it is a top, primary concern for Apple and they apply continuous, major R&D toward it. That is a major part of Apple's market and they dominate in the professional printing, publication, and photography areas. On the other hand, Microsoft abandoned any serious effort to compete in that market after 1998 when the last version ICM 2.0 of their color management engine for Windows was released. They have applied minimal development to color reproduction quality in the last five years, using the same old ICM 2.0 engine.
Horse races are no more significant to digital image computing than they are in politics or who is the most popular celebrity. Nothing of importance is accomplished by who is ahead in a meaningless race that has minimal or significant affect in the real world of individual graphics computing.