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As  you can imagine, we see a LOT of pictures here.  I've decided to post a few ideas that everyone can use to get better pictures.

 

I'll put this in the form of a FAQ ("Frequently Asked Questions") as I think it will prove a more useful format.  If you have a question that you don't see covered here, please feel free to e-mail it to me and I'll post the answer here.

 

In almost all cases where people have camera-related problems ...it's an RTFM problem, which is shorthand for "Read the Flippin' Manual".  This is a term I first learned from a tech-support guy when I couldn't figure out a problem with one of my PC's.

 

 
     
 

Q:

A lot of my pictures are blurry, why is this happening?

 

Q:

My pictures are too dark (or too light), why?
  Q:

Why should I transfer my old Camcorder or VHS tapes to DVD ?

  Q:

Do you have an ICC profile for you printer?

  Q:

When choosing a digital camera, what should I look for?

  Q:

What's a "Color Space" ?

  Q:

Should I print my digital images at home or at a photo lab?

     
   

Send us your question here:      

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 

Q:

A lot of my pictures are blurry, why is this happening?

     
 

A:

 A VERY common problem.  There are several culprits for this, but the most common is haste.  You may not be giving the camera a chance to focus the image before you snap the picture.

If you have an auto focus camera (film or digital) make sure that you depress the shutter button about halfway down.  This actually does two things; the camera determines the proper exposure settings, then sets the focus.  Most cameras will give you either a beep a little light will come on, or both.  This is your indication that the camera is ready to take a properly exposed and focused picture.  You then press the button all the way down to actually snap the picture. 

In almost all consumer cameras there is a focus spot (that little circle you see in the view finder) which is where your main subject should be positioned since this is where the camera will focus.  With digital cameras the focus area is generally in the center of the LCD screen where you preview your picture.  Some high-end consumer digital cameras will scan the entire picture area and then focus on the object closest to the camera.

A final note on focus.  All cameras (lenses actually) have a minimum focus distance.  Meaning that if an object is closer than the minimum focus distance, it will be blurry.  Check your users manual to find out what this distance is for your particular camera.

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Q:

My pictures are too dark (or too light), why?
     
  A: The SECOND most common problem!  Once again there are several potential culprits.  In many cases it's for the same reason as with blurry pictures ...haste.  Read that FAQ first.

The next most probable cause is forgetting to use a flash.  Generally speaking, I suggest setting your flash to fire with every picture, indoors or out, day or night.  The upside is that the flash will fill in any shadows; e.g., when taking a sunset picture with someone in the foreground you won't end up with a beautiful sunset with only a black silhouette of your subject in the foreground.

It's VERY important that your subject be within the effective range of your flash (this distance can be found in you user manual).  Most point-n-shoot cameras with a built-in flash (this applies to all cameras: film, digital, and disposables) have an effective flash range of 10 to 15 feet.

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  Q:

Why should I transfer my old Camcorder or VHS tapes to DVD ?

     
  A:

The most significant reasons are:

  1. Quality.  DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) has the capability, with MPEG-2 encoding, of delivering higher video quality and color fidelity than magnetic tape.  DVD digital audio quality in most cases far surpasses that of regular Audio CDs

  2. Interactivity.  Unlike magnetic tapes. DVDs can include an on-screen menu where viewers can easily maneuver through various navigation points in the film and instantly access titles or chapters.

  3. Durability.  DVDs do not wear from use, they are resistant to heat and they are not susceptible to magnetic fields.  Their expected longevity is anywhere from 40 to 250 years, unlike videotapes which generally last only from 10 to 30 years, with visible degradation beginning after only 5 years.

  4. Affordability.  Pricing for basic transfer services is just $29.99 for up to 2 hours of video which can come for one or more source tapes.  The addition of chapters and chapter menus can be done with pricing starting at $59.99 (includes the basic transfer service).

  5. Compatibility.  There are 5  types (formats) of DVD's.  We use only premium quality DVD-R (pronounced "dash R" not "minus R").  This is the most compatible type of recordable DVD available at about 90% compatibility with existing DVD drives and players.  These discs are not re-writable which insures that, once created, they cannot not be modified or erased.

  Have old 8MM or 16MM  movie film?   Click here...

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  Q:

Do you have an ICC profile for you printer?

     
  A:

Yes, for users of advanced image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop we provide ICC profiles for both the MAC and PC platforms.  These are not generic profiles but custom,  enhanced accuracy profiles updated for us periodically by a professional profiling service.  These profiles should help match the images you see on your screen, and the prints we produce.

Proper use of these profiles assumes that your monitor is reasonably well calibrated.

If you've like more information on ICC profiles, check out the International Color Consortium website.

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ICC Profile for PC and Mac OSX based systems available here.

bulletICC Profile for Mac OS9 systems available here.

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  Q:

When choosing a digital camera, what should I look for?

     
  A:

This is a tough one.  The answer is based of what kind of photographs you usually take. 

If you just want a camera that will let you take casual snapshots (analogous to a point-n-shoot film camera), then I'd suggest considering a so-called "Shirt Pocket" camera; e.g. the Sony DSC-T200 or the Canon PowerShot SD1000.  Expect to pay $150USD ~ $250USD.

If you want more capabilities such as a more powerful zoom lens function and higher optical qualities then consider "Hand Held" cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix P50 or Canon PowerShot G9.  Expect to pay $300USD ~ $400USD.

If you are looking for the maximum in flexibility and control over the photos you take, consider the "Digital Single Lens Reflex" (DSLR) cameras; they are also referred to as "Prosumer" cameras which is a hybrid of Professional and consumer-level features and benefits.. 

These cameras allow for interchangeable lenses, and allow you to compose your shots by viewing thru the lens itself.  DSLR's typically provide very high-quality optical systems (the key element of ANY camera!), with an extensive array of available lenses, add-on flash units, lens filters, etc. 

If you currently own a film SLR with an collection of lenses and accessories, you should first look at a DSLR from the same manufacturer.  Your SLR gear will, in most cases, be usable with that manufacturers DSLR.  Examples of this category of cameras are the Canon EOS 1000D (Rebel XS / Kiss F) and the AMAZING Nikon D300.  These cameras typically come with a 50MM lens.  Expect to pay $1,000USD ~ $2,000USD.

If your a Pro (or just want to see what the Pro's use!) check out these fine examples; Canon EOS-1D Mark III or the Nikon D3.  Expect to pay $4,000USD to $8,000USD.

Notes ....

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Most people, even if they know nothing about digital cameras, have at least heard about "megapixels".  Without getting into a technical discussion, it is sufficient here to say that a 5 megapixel camera will allow you to make high-quality enlargements of up to 12" X 18". So long as you have your camera set to the highest image quality settings it will support!

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When evaluating the zoom capabilities of a particular camera ...IGNORE the "digital" zoom portion of the cameras specs; ONLY consider the "optical" zoom. In fact, I'd suggest that you disable the "digital" zoom function if your camera allows you to (read the manual).

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Digital cameras will have a small capacity memory card included (typically with 16MB ~ 32MB's  ...assume 1 picture per MB).  While your still in the store pick up an additional memory card.  I recommend either a 512MB ~ 1.0GB size card.  Remember that these cards are re-usable, so transfer the images to permanent storage (a CD, or if you have a large number of images ...a DVD!). 

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When your in the market for a camera, first visit some local stores that allow you to actually handle the camera so you can get a real good "look and feel".  Note the price and model numbers of two or three cameras your interested in.   Then go to Digital Photography Review and see if a "Full Review" is available.  If there is one, it will provide excellent and objective "real-world" information for you.  They also provide current on-line pricing only from reputable vendors.  You can use this price to compare to the store you visited.  Look at the total price (i.e., price plus sales tax and shipping/handling charges), and go with the better deal. 

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  Q:

What's a "Color Space" ?

     
  A:

This simply describes the portion of the visible light spectrum (colors that can be seen with the human eye) that electronic devices such as digital cameras, computer screens or printers can reproduce.  All digital cameras can capture, at a minimum, the sRGB color space.  Prosumer and Pro level cameras typically offer the ability to capture a wider gamut of color such as AdobeRGB, Infrared and others.  The chart below indicates these color spaces within the visible light spectrum. 

This also illustrates the difference between traditional film and digital cameras since traditional film can capture virtually the entire light spectrum.  The number of megapixels has little, if any, effect on the color space a camera can capture.  In this regard, film is still the color champ!  For a really good article on the differences in image quality between Film and Digital click here...

 

There is also a GREAT article in PC World Magazine that will help you understand the whole "megapixel" thing.

 

 

Note: If you have image-editing software that supports color profiles (known as ICC Profiles), we have one available for our state-of-the-art digital print processor here...

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  Q:

Should I print my digital images at home or at a photo lab?

     
  A:

As is often the case the answer is... "it depends".

While you can produce beautiful images on a typical home inkjet printer, the resulting prints are no where near as durable as prints made at a photo lab.

There are three general types of at-home printers.  They vary in cost, complexity of operation and maintenance, and the durability of the prints produced.  This is a general discussion of these three types.

Almost all at-home inkjet printers use dye-based inks.  These dyes have a marked tendency to fade fairly rapidly, usually within 3 to 5 years,  and are water-soluble meaning that the colors can smear if the picture gets wet or are kept in a damp environment.  Being fairly slow, these printers are not well suited for producing a large number of prints quickly or that you want to last. 

These printers are very inexpensive with prices running the range from free (commonly bundled with the purchase of a PC, for example) to $100.  The inks on the other hand can be relatively expensive, it would appear that the printer manufacturers essentially give away printers with the expectation that you'll buy lots of ink cartridges.

The other type of inkjet printers are those that use pigment-based inks.  These "archival" printers produce long-lasting (on a par with prints from a photo lab) stable pictures of amazing quality. 

These printers can be prohibitively expensive to purchase (expect to pay $1,900USD ~ $4,700USD), and the inks can be 5 to 10 times more expensive than dye-based inks.  These printers also require a fairly advanced level of skill to operate and maintain. Replacing a single clogged print head can cost $500USD!

Recently we have seen the introduction of at-home photo printers based on the Thermal transfer/dye sublimation process ("dye-sub").  This process, while not new, promises to overcome some of the challenges of inkjet base printing. 

Dye-sub printers produce good to excellent photos that are also durable.  Industry claims put the longevity of these prints at 200 years or better!  Much longer than dye-based inkjets.  But these claims cannot yet be validated under real-world conditions. 

The nature of this process makes dye-sub prints especially susceptible to direct sunlight and heat.  So far these printers are limited to making 4"X6" prints with a glossy finish, although a few allow for a semi-gloss finish.  They are also very fast compared to the inkjets, and require minimal skills on the part of the consumer.  Expect to pay $100USD to $300USD for the printer and $25USD to $35USD for a pack of ink-ribbon and 100 sheets of 4"X6" paper.

Last, but not least, are photos produced by a photo lab

Photo labs such as ours employ the same process to produce digital prints and enlargements that we use to photos from film negatives.  It surprises many people to lean that this process does not involve inks of any type.

State-of-the-art photo processing equipment uses highly advanced lasers to expose an image (from a film negative or digital image) onto light-sensitive photographic paper.  The exposed paper then goes thrrough a chemical process to develop and then stabilize the image to produce true photographs.

This process produces prints that are of excellent quality and highly durable (70 to 100 years), and can be of practically any size and finish.  Large print orders can easily be accommodated (we can can produce over 1,000 4"x6" prints within an hour!), and you can order prints and enlargements on-line from the comfort of your home, office, or from your hotel room when on vacation.

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Digital Photo Graphix
31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

 949-858-7465

 

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