Photo sharpening tools

I just got an ad for a 50% discount on Photozoom Pro and wondered if it would help the horribly poor photos I have been given for a book I’m preparing. The remaining $99 seemed a bit steep for something I would use infrequently, but I wanted to investigate. Search engines being what they are, I checked it out and found a ‘shareware’ version for free…bad news, the features are all there except a watermark in the output which doesn’t fit my idea of shareware.

Anyway, I tried it and found that it is especially good at removing jpeg ‘artifacts’…the strange pixels around the edge of a transition when the compression is high and the resolution is low. In addition, it seemed to be able to expand a few pixels at low resolution into the diagonal edge of an object they were representing. I suppose the spline function is the key, although that goes beyond the math I can remember from 40 years ago.

There was another tool (I forget the name) based on ‘fractals’…something that never made it into my ancient math curriculum. It was about $200, I believe and didn’t seem to work as well. But while I was poking around the sale on Photozoom went off and I’m too cheap to spend $200 for that. 

What I already had in Photoshop Elements which was really useful for salvaging Leslie Stewart’s horribly low resolution photos that he wants in his next book was their ‘Smart Blur‘…a sort of relative to their ‘Unsharp Mask‘ tool. I had never tried it since it lurks under Filters…Blur…Smart Blur way at the bottom of the list. By playing with the settings I was able to get rid of the JPEG artifacts without totally destroying the picture. So my time spent wandering was not totally wasted.

Photography classes

[Here is the outline of a proposal submitted to the artisans group last night. I have not heard any official response, but individual comments have been favorable.]
The idea: Understanding that utilization of the studio is sparse, if the group approves, I would like to do a series of every-Monday-afternoon classes primarily relating to photography. The classes would run from 1 to 4 pm. Where appropriate classes would include ‘field trips’ around Montague as part of the class.
The logistics: There would be no prerequisites and each class would stand alone, so anyone could take any particular class that attracted their fancy, and it could draw folks who are here for only a week or two and are looking for activities. I envision it as a very personal small-group class where each person can have some individual attention. The format would be similar to what I have done for the Library Photography Club, drawing on the preparations for Seniors College classes and Community School. I would rather not require advance registration (unless an astounding number of folks show up…I am a firm believer in not solving a possible problem before it actually becomes a problem). My current thinking would be to charge $10 for a 3-hour class so it would be ‘profitable’ with as few as 2 or 3. I assume at least 10% would go to the collective kitty.
Equipment needs: I would want a sandwich board set up outside the building all week to attract passers-by to the coming class with more details on a sheet in the window. I would need the loan of the conference-room computer projector (but not a computer) and two folding tables and some chairs. I would prefer to run classes in the ‘kitchen’ of the studio which would be shielded from afternoon sun for better viewing of images. I have a screen which I can mount for the duration. A key would be handy if we were to go out for an hour in the middle some weeks. I would supply tea and snacks for a mid-point break out of the registration cost.
Topics: I can easily come up with different topics for successive weeks since I have PowerPoint presentations already prepared on many photography topics. Here is a list of possible topics:
  1. photo composition
  2. taking vacation/travel pictures
  3. close-up photography with YOUR camera
  4. photographing people…portraits, children
  5. learning features of yourdigital camera
  6. introduction to Photoshop and picture enhancement
  7. optimizing and repairing old photos
  8. mat cutting and framing
  9. introduction to self-publishing
If this is approved I would like to get advertising in place by next Monday, July 2nd, for weekly classes beginning as early as July 9th.

Windows 7 !@#$%^&*()

I needed to scan in some pictures for a lady doing a magazine article…and then do a bit of enhancing and retouching since they are historic B&W photos or limited quality. I decided it is finally time to connect my HP 2100C scanner to the new computer. Guess what? Windows 7 does not support it (or vice versa).

A search of the internet reveals that no one has found a new driver. My scanner works fine in Windows XP and I previously upgraded to Windows 7 Professional ($100) which allowed the free download of an emulator called a virtual XP machine. The process was not easy. Once in the virtual machine, I had to manually attach the scanner with a click to the USB menu item. Presto, the driver comes up (not sure if it is a feature of XP or if the driver came across when I set up the XP machine from the old computer). Now I am on familiar ground with the same screen I remember including the preview and the choice of color, B&W, grayscale, and custom. I can squeeze out 600 dpi, so the scan will hold just about everything to be found in the original.

The final problem is finding the resulting file! It got saved in the virtual area, I think. I then discovered I can pre-select the destination and choose a recognizable place on the C: drive. Then the scans go to a known place, making it easy to find them and open them in Photoshop. From there I can improve contrast and do some unsharp mask edge improvement. Finally, if the application justifies the effort, the clone stamp can be used to take out the dust specks and any tears or folds which have become dramatically more obvious with the contrast inprovement.

Would it be worthwhile to buy a new scanner to get compatibility? Not at this point, given the relatively few scans I usually do.

What colour space?



Lightning Source has stricter requirements for covers on colour interior books and Tom Rath has just completed a new colour edition of his KittenCat book. As I’ve recently mentioned, it was frustrating that the communication back to me of a problem was delayed by a good two weeks and even more frustrating to find that Photoshop Elements apparently will not produce the specifically required flavour of PDF file.

My guess is that the format requirement buries the insistence on the CMYK colour space common to printing rather than RGB which is the space commonly used on the web and on computer screens. CMYK relates to the way light is subtracted as it is absorbed on a piece of paper. C (Cyan) is a sort of light blue, M (Magenta) is a sort of reddish purple, Y (Yellow) is as you would expect and K (blacK) is the absorbing of everything (used in printing so they don’t have to try to mix the other three inks to get black). Even my inkjet printer has 4 ink cartridges…each with one of those colours. Another approach to ptinting is ‘spot colours’ where the printer makes print passes with specific ink colours for specific purposes (like a 2 or 3 colour flyer that does not need to reproduce full colour pictures). Even some of the fancier home ink-jet printers add extra colours like a light cyan to enable them to do a better job on skies and skin tones.  Anyway, the world of print is a very complicated one and ‘speaks’ CMYK. Continue reading What colour space?

Higher-speed glitz

My friend Carl agreed to test out my new improved pages. He has a “tablet” of some sort (non-iPad) as well as a hard-wired networked computer. The latter seems to behave just like my Dell Laptop but the tablet seemed to take forever to load. Perhaps the wireless-ness of the network connection was part of the problem, but my goal is to have the pages work well for anyone, regardless of the degree of state-of-the-art they represent. As I went back to the graphics (pictures) that I added at the top, I was going to reduce the JPEG quality to “low” to reduce the file size, but I discovered Photoshop has a choice to save pictures “for the web.” Continue reading Higher-speed glitz

Black&white photos

Most of my authors supply photographs to include in their books. Since I have grown familiar with Photoshop (elements 9 now), I enjoy optimizing them for inclusion. There are several things to consider:

  • 1. The resolution of the picture should be 300 dpi in the final size on the page. That is easily done by using the image size instruction, but it requires advance knowledge of the desired size on the page of the final layout. It doesn’t work to just drag a corner on the page because the pixels per inch changes as the size is changed. So the final resolution needs to be set at layout time. I usually leave the pictures at their original resolution until just before inserting in the book. Continue reading Black&white photos