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.

Once Again, The Perenial Windows Vs. Mac Question
Q. I have a question concerning your suggestions. Why is the Apple better for photo imaging? I've noticed that most pros use this brand but never really understood why. Thanks.

A. In the 1980s Apple was first used professionally for desktop publishing and thereby established the platform as the one used by professionals for all aspects of reproduction and communication, including graphic arts, design, publishing, and of course photography. So it is the most important and serious segment of the Apple customer base, and therefore Apple develops their products to be sure that all kinds of graphics, publishing, design, and photography users are well served. For photographers, one of the chief advantages is a highly developed color management system called ColorSync, which is now utilized by 80 percent of the publishing industry.

Minimizing Grain In Print Scans
Q. I'm trying to copy/improve some 8x10 black and white prints that I made 66 years ago. They can use some sharpening but that tends to emphasize grain. Can you suggest scanning and sharpening parameters that might be appropriate? I know there are blurring/sharpening tricks--perhaps more sophisticated than I need or can master.
It's not fair to ask you for lessons, but if there are short answers to point me in the right direction--or maybe a source of this info--I'd be very appreciative.
Roland Reisley

A. What I would suggest, using Photoshop, is to first reduce some of the graininess by selecting from the "Noise" filters the Despeckle filter. You can apply this filter more than once depending on how much fine detail is in the image and how much the Despeckle filter softens that fine detail. Then to sharpen the subject's edges in the image I would suggest using the Unsharp Mask sharpening filter with careful adjustment of its three sliders to keep the Amount low, under 50, and increase the pixel Radius count to 3.0 or higher. Then if grain starts to become apparent you can try increasing the Threshold value to find a balance between sharpening the edges and not so much the grain.
I cannot be more specific about settings largely because both the Despeckle filter and the Unsharp Mask filter vary in their effects depending on each different picture's content and the size/resolution of the image. It is a trial-and-error process, and usually what the result in a print will be differs from what you see on screen. So I would suggest practicing on a copy of your image file to protect that original file's integrity, and make a test print to evaluate the result.

Printing With Third-Party Papers
Q. Are there any other than Epson papers that you would recommend for my 2200? I see a lot of other brands advertised, but seem to recall your having recommended staying with the Epson papers. What can you tell me about the Lyson Cave Paint bulk-feed system? I have just seen an ad from Calumet for one for the 2200. Does the 2200 as factory configured do a good job with black and white, or would a dedicated printer with Cone Editions inks and drivers be a better choice?
Dave Hannah

A. It does not matter what papers you want to use to print with the 2200. It can't hurt the printer, just be careful with thick ones to use the manual paper feed. However, you do need to have custom profiles for any non-Epson paper if you want correct color. This means either having the profiles supplied by the paper manufacturer, customized by a service bureau, or investing in a spectrometer and software to make your own profiles, such as what is available most affordably from ColorVision.
A continuous flow ink supply system does provide some economy. However, the cost of a good system demands that you will be doing a lot of printing to be able to pay for it. However, do not use any inks other than Epson's with the 2200. You are not likely to obtain the same print performance, nor may your printer be warranted by Epson if it is damaged by third-party inks. Finally, in an extensive test of quad black inks for Shutterbug using a new Epson printer, I found little if any advantage in print quality over the 2200 with considerably less reliability and no cost savings worth mentioning.
If using alternative inks and papers is really the kind of thing you want to pursue I'd suggest saving your pennies and going "professional" with the Epson Pro 7600 printer.

Raw Digital Camera Mode Change From 16 To 8 Bit
Q. I read your article in the August 2003 issue of Shutterbug, and now have the raw plug-in. I have two questions on the plug-in: When do you change the mode to 8 bits, and when do you change to TIFF files? I have an Epson 2200 printer and I am not sure if it will print in 16 bit, plus many of the Photoshop functions don't work in 16 bit.
Bill Thompson

A. The standard computer bit depth for color images is 24-bit RGB. Capture devices have greater bit depth, which provides room to adjust the characteristics of the image. Some loss of some data occurs as part of the adjustment, so when the image is translated to 24-bit RGB for use in printing, the information fills the gamut so all of the values in the image are fully represented. If you take a raw, unadjusted 24-bit image and color correct it, and then open the Histogram in Photoshop, you will find there are usually lots of vertical white lines. This represents parts of the file space with the data dropped out.
The Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in works like scanner software. It opens the full bit depth image file and you can fully adjust and color correct the values of the image to your perceptual requirements. When you click OK (and choose the 24-bit output option) the finished image is opened as a 24-bit image in Photoshop's work space. You also have the option with the Camera Raw plug-in of outputting at 48-bit mode if you want to save it as an archive file on which you can make further or different adjustments later. But to use the file for printing or most other output, the mode must be reduced from 16 to 8 bits per RGB channel.

Digital Camera Storage Cards
Q. I would like to ask two questions: 1) Will airport x-rays have any affect on digital cards? 2) Will different digital cards record images the same as film or is one card better than others? I have a Nikon 3500 camera and would like to buy a 1GB card.

A. With all of the changes in airport security it is hard to know what is being used for surveillance and what affect it may have. And, I have not flown in years (as I don't like to be tortured) so don't know if hand inspection is still an option. But if it is, I would see if you can avoid subjecting your camera and cards to the x-ray machine.
There are minor differences between brands of cards, but from the feedback I get any of the major name brands like Lexar should provide reliable performance. And, as long as the card functions reliably, no differences from one brand to another will affect image quality.

Recovering "Lost" Files
Q. I photographed a series of pictures and put the SmartMedia card into my HP Photosmart 100 printer to make prints for presentation. So far so good, but when I used my card reader to download the images the card was empty. I didn't do anything that I had never done before. Somewhere I heard that there is a program to restore images that have been erased from memory cards. Have you any knowledge of such a program? I think I may have saved myself by scanning the prints and putting the images into a file that way. I hope that the printer can use the CD to make prints good enough for publication. The images will be black and white to illustrate the articles in our newsletter.
I have had one heck of a time getting my printer to work from digital images. It is spoiled by the fact that I have been sending it silver prints for the last 10 years. I would hate to have to go back to that way of life.
Tom Cardin

A. Yes, I, too, have seen a mention there is software to recover files deleted from a memory card. But, I am afraid I don't have a specific reference to identify the name of the application or the publisher. What I would suggest is going on the web to and doing a search, possibly beginning with the search word "recovery."

New Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400
Q. Have you heard any rumblings about the new Minolta 5400dpi scanner? B&H has it on their website for $900 plus shipping (list $1100) but indicates it's out of stock. A couple of other sites have it for a little less with no indication of whether it's in or out of stock.
James Metchnek

A. You'll find my report on the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite on page 106 in this issue. As usual Minolta has produced a fine piece of equipment. A full resolution scan from it is well over 100MB in file size, and a raw scan at full bit depth well over 200MB per scan! Anyone contemplating this scanner should have a relatively new computer with gobs of RAM.

Camera Raw Plug-In Controversy
Q. I've been a Shutterbug subscriber for many, many years. Your "Digital Help" column was a great addition, and is first read when I get the magazine. While the information throughout Shutterbug is usually consistent and therefore considered reliable, the August, 2003, issue contained an anomaly. On page 98, David Brooks says in the Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in test report: "Compared to raw or TIFF file format storage, JPEG reduces the sensor capture's bit 8 bits per RGB channel, or 24 bit color." (Implies TIFF does not.) However, on page 150, Uwe Steinmueller says in "The Raw Deal": "...TIFF files only solve the lossy compression issue but are still converted to 8 bit inside the camera..." Both can't be correct (can they?). This is important to me as I'm just starting out in digital and want to be sure to capture the "best" images for manipulating and printing, when I'm not shooting for web display or snapshots.
Michael Spadoni

A. TIFF and raw are file format standards. The TIFF standard supports up to 48-bit depth image files, also supported by the Photoshop Save function as well as several other applications. Therefore it is entirely the discretion of a digital camera manufacturer whether they want to save in TIFF at a sensor's greater than 24-bit depth or not. There are over 400 models of digital cameras out there and I for one have not reviewed the specifications of every one, so how could I say none save in TIFF at the sensor's bit depth? The TIFF file format supports all bit depths so it is a possibility that one or more cameras do save in TIFF at the sensor's bit depth. But I would not say otherwise without reviewing the specifications of every digital camera in existence.
I believe you can fairly assume most consumer and some prosumer cameras limit output to 24-bit RGB. The further up the professional category you go, the more likely options which maximize output and the potential afforded by greater bit depth will be supported, particularly by those cameras which support tethered functioning driven by software on a computer.
From my reading and experience with digital cameras, the consumer and prosumer models are often lacking in detailed, in-depth published specifications. No need to confuse the public with facts.

Transparencies From Digital For Publication
Q. I own a Canon PowerShot A200, which has been getting a lot of use. I am anxiously awaiting its return from being repaired (still under warranty). I also own an HP Photosmart 7550 printer and a new Dell PC with Windows XP Home Edition.
In view of all this, here is my question: Is it possible for me to print my own transparencies to send with articles to various magazines for publication?
Kathy S.

A. Unless the original photograph was made on film (slide/transparency), and your original is digital, only a very few very antiquated publishers would prefer a transparency. For a decade now all of my work is accompanied by illustrations comprised of TIFF files in high resolution recorded on a CD-R disc.
If you have any doubts about how and in what format to submit photographs I would suggest you specifically query the publication to obtain their submission requirements.