Friday, May 16, 2008

Hints for Digital Manipulation by Jane Freear-Wyld

Apologies if I’m teaching Grandma how to suck eggs…..

Having chatted to delegates after I’d presented my paper several said they’d like a few general tips and hints, so here goes.

1] Always have your digital camera on the highest setting when taking photos, even though you won’t get as many photos on a memory card. You can always reduce the resolution [number of pixels per inch] on a photo, but you can’t increase it without drastically reducing the actual size of your image.

Taking photos at your camera’s highest resolution should mean you could send an image to a magazine, or have it printed in a catalogue, at a high resolution – usually around 375dpi [pixels per inch]. But you can also reduce the resolution to 72dpi if you want to e-mail it, or add it to a website. If you’re doing this it’s a good idea to reduce the actual size of an image, making the longest side 10 – 15cms. Don’t forget to make sure the proportions of your image stay the same – the box you’ll need to tick varies from program to program. On my Paint Shop Pro program the instruction is Maintain aspect ratio, and on Adobe Photoshop 4 it’s simply Proportions.

However, if you want to alter the proportions of an image you now know you don’t need to tick this box, and you simply type in the width and height measurements you want.

2]. Save your photo as a tif or tiff, [tagged image file or tagged image file format], before you start manipulating – these are both the same format, so don’t panic! Your camera will probably save your photos as jpegs, and at 72dpi.

It’s really important you save your photos as tiffs before you begin manipulating because every time you save a jpeg file it loses some of its ‘quality’. However, this doesn’t happen to a tiff image. You’ll probably have noticed the size of you image is quite large, maybe as much as 80 cms on the longest side. At this stage don’t worry about the image size.

3] Every time you manipulate an image save it. Open a folder and give it a title, then save all your manipulations into this folder. I’ve found the best way is to number each manipulation file, then add the name of the effect I’ve used, eg: 1 Photo; 2 Sharpen; 3 Coloured foil; etc. I always save the actual image as ‘number 1’. Sometimes I might crop the image - this just means cutting a section, or slice, of it which looks interesting. I would also number and save the crop too.

4] When you’ve finished manipulating, print all the images out on a small scale, perhaps 5 or 6 cms on the longest side. I then stick them into a sketchbook in manipulation order, and label each manipulation with its individual file name and the series with the folder name - this means I can then easily find a particular image file. I also add written comments/notes if feel I want to.

I find it’s much easier to look through hard copies of the manipulations rather than having to open all the individual files on the computer. It’s often useful to look through the manipulations in the order you did them, and sometimes I’ll go back to one manipulation and try new manipulations from that image.

5] You don’t have to make computer manipulation complicated! I rarely use layers, I just use the effects most of the time. Knowing how to use layers can be useful, but it really isn’t essential. All the manipulations included in my presentation were done just using the effects I have on the two programs I use.

If you get the chance to go on a photo manipulation course do it if you want to, but don’t forget you don’t have to because you can use simple effects and still get stunning results.

6] Printing out - make sure you size your image before you press that print button! I also have my printer set so that I always get a Print Preview before it prints, which saves an awful lot of expensive photo paper.

Paint Shop Pro makes sizing an image really straightforward. I simply press File, then Page Setup from the drop-down menu and a window appears showing me a print preview. I can alter the Orientation of the image to Portrait or Landscape; the Size of the paper I’ll use; and whether I want the image to Fit to page [fill the paper the image is to be printed on] or reduce the size; and Position the image onto the paper in either the Centre on page or any other place.

Adobe Photoshop 4 isn’t quite so user friendly. I have to press Size, then Photo Size and alter the width and height of the image I want to print. Then I go to File, and press Page Setup for the Orientation and Size of the paper.

7] You’ll then need to set your printer Properties. You can usually access this from Page Setup, or Printer, depending on the program you’re using. You’ll get lots of options but don’t panic about it as you can ignore most of them.

Paper/Quality lets you set the Size of paper you’re printing on, and the Type of paper – eg plain, photo, thin card, etc, etc. You can alter the Print quality to Fast [lowest quality and uses least ink], Normal [standard] or Best [highest quality, uses most ink]. If you’re using photo paper Best is always used. If you want a good quality print on general printing paper use Best, although the quality of your general printing paper is important – poor quality paper will still give you a poor quality print even when using Best. I now buy white paper of about 100g/m² for general use. The make of paper varies as I buy whichever brand is on special offer at the store.

The Basics menu will let you set the Orientation of your paper if you haven’t already done so, the Number of copies you want and Print preview.

The Colour menu will also let you print in Black and white or Sepia if that’s your choice.

8] Archiving your images and manipulations. Because your photos and manipulations are of a high resolution this means they can use up lots of memory if you’re saving them either on your hard drive, or on a memory stick so archiving them is the best solution.

I regularly burn my original photographs and folders of manipulations onto CDs, which are then stored in a ring binder folder. However, a word of warning as I recently decided I had so many CDs which were only half full that I would reduce the number of CDs by re-burning everything onto fewer CDs. Unfortunately, somewhere, along the line I ‘lost’ a really important image. Well, to be honest I know exactly where it is, but being in Coventry’s huge household rubbish incinerator wasn’t really that helpful……

Happy manipulating!

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