Preparing your digital images
08 December 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
Showing my slides in Banff this year I was surprised to be told that mine had been some of the best images they’d shown digitally. This wasn’t to do with my skill as a photographer, or the subject matter, rather that I’d been slowly tweaking them over the years so that they matched the original. This short article aims to give you a quick and fast way to improve your digital images for print, slideshows and the web.
I’ve sat through many modern DV slideshows over the last few years, and I still find it incredible how poor ‘professional’ speakers images out, being dull, pixilated or washed out. It’s very quick and simple to adjust your digital images, and the time taken is well worth it in the end, often turning a mediocre shot into a real keeper.
You want to begin with the best image quality possible, meaning a good scan of a slide (or negative) or the highest possible file size. For digital slideshows file sizes can be tiny, less than 200 KB, so it’s not necessary to have 12 million pixel images. It’s the image that counts.
Most of my images are scanned using a Minolta Elite Scan 5400 and I tend to get images with a file size of 10mb, which allows me to crop small areas of the image, plus gives me the ability to sell images to magazines without rescanning (small images). All scanning is done with ICE turned on, as sorting out dirt and scratches wastes a great deal of time.
I split my images into their location (Patagonia 99, Yosemite 85 etc), and I will have the following folders inside each category:-
RAW: These are my raw scanned images. These are never changed.
PRINT: These are the full sized modified raw images.
SHOW: These are print images that have been reduced for slideshow.
WEB: These are show images that have been reduced further still for use on web sites.
By separating out all your images you greatly reduce you workload long term.
First open up your raw image. You should duplicate this image so as to safe guard the original. To do this: Image/duplicate save the image in your print folder. You can make a short cut for this action using the action button.
Next rotate or flip the image so it’s correct. The best way to do this is to make two ‘actions’. On my computer F4 is rotate CCW and F5 is flip horizontal.
Next adjust the Levels (ctrl+L). try just clicking the auto setting first, then play around with it by moving the central slider slightly leftwards, with the aim to make the image a little to light. If you want to revert to the original state press the Alt key and the cancel button will change to revert.
Next press Ctr+U to bring up Hue/saturation. Move the central ‘saturation’ slider right by +5 to +10. This will help to pop out the shots colours.
I would leave sharpening until I needed a print image as sharpening is best done as the output size. But I would now save the image (Ctrl +S).
Now make an action to reduce the image to the right proportions for a slideshow. Because my file size is really small at the end I go for a larger image six, and all images are 1200 pixels high (width is unimportant). This may seen large, but it gives more leeway with different and monitor sizes. To do this I create an action in the actions pallet with F6 being the key.
Once reduced I sharpen. Open filter/sharpen/unsharp mask and with amount set at 500%, radius at 0.2% and Threshold at 0%. This should give good results, and often for web or slideshows it’s maybe worth a little over sharpening. Again this is done by creating an action.
Now I save the slideshow image by pressing ALT+Shft+Ctrl+S. Make sure the image is saved as a JPEG on Maximum quality. Even the best image should come out at under 300kb, which will make it easier to upload to images galleries and speed up your slideshow.
I then press save and save into my SHOW folder.
For web shots I will modify my SHOW images, resize and save for the web, adjusting the quality to get the best image for the lowest size (try to keep web images under 50kb).
And that’s how you do it. I’m sure it’s not the best way, but for me it gets the best results in under 1 minute per image, any longer than that and it has to be really worth it (like converting colour images to B&W).
Lastly are digital images worse than slides. If you think the answer is yes - then get a girlfriend (woman don’t get so nerdy about such things). Digital always far greater creativity than slides, and when matched with great software (such as picturestoexe or final cut pro) you can produce amazing combinations of overlapping images.
If you want to see the potential for digital images and slideshows then I highly recommend buying John Beatty’s Wild, spirit in the landDVD which is the best show case I’ve seen of what you can achieve digitally (it dosn’t have any climbing in it, but it might be good after pub viewing…or shagging maybe!)