Sharing photos

Thanks to Dan Kooiman for asking the question.

OK, so you have some old tin-types that you would like to share. I know that others have pictures that they would like to share as well so let’s step through it:

First, we need to get the file into electronic format. That means we need to have it scanned.

If you own a scanner or have a friend that does, use it since it will be the cheapest option (we’ll talk about resolution, etc. in a second.)
If you don’t have access to a scanner, local copy stores (e.g. Kinkos) will normally have a station where you can scan your photo and save it to a CD.

When you scan the photo, you want to have two versions of the image.

The first will be your archive version. This will be your scanned image (scan at 600 dpi or greater) with as many colors as possible (even for a black & white photo) This ensures a copy of the photo useful for any purpose. When you save this archive try NOT to save it as a JPG file. JPG always results in some loss of quality. Try and save in TIF, PNG or BMP format (listed in order of preference). Yes, this file will be quite large, but we’re not trying to save space on this file.
The second will be the web version. Here you want to make the image as small as possible with the least amount of detail loss. You will definitely want to save this copy in JPG format.
There are a lot of software options for editing photos. A list of great photo editing software would include:

Photoshop – $649 – http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/
Paint Shop Pro – 79.99 – http://www.corel.com
PhotoImpact – 89.99 – http://www.ulead.com/

Of course, I like free stuff. All of the above will work fine, but for the rest of this primer I will be referencing a piece of software called “The Gimp”. You can get it at: http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/stable.html (You will need to download and install the runtime environment first, then the application.) If you choose to use another photo editing software, you may need to translate commands/settings I am talking about.

For the purposes of this exercise I am going to work with a photo found at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/tiff/PIA00157.tif

It is 37 mb in size. The first thing I’m going to do is reduce the number of colors. In Gimp, you select Tools – Color Tools – Colorize and then move the hue and saturation sliders to zero.

Next we need to resize the picture. In Gimp you select Image then Scale Image. The size of the image is a matter of preference. The smallest screen resolution used normally is 640X480 (that’s 640 pixels across and 480 pixels up and down) Most people use a higher resolution these days. The actual resolution you use is a matter of preference and file size. For example:

Our test image saved in tif format was 38,698 kb at 4064×4064 resolution uncompressed.
The same image saved as a jpg was 4,555 kb at 4064×4064 at 85% quality
Resized as a jpg it was 149 kb at 800×800 at 85% quality
It went to a miniscule 36 kb when saved as a jpg at 4064×4064 at 85% quality.

A note about quality. You will normally only see this option when saving a file as a jpg. The lower the number, the lower the quality and the lower the file size. 85% seems to be a good compromise.

OK, that’s enough for now. In my next message I will address how to get the picture on to the Electric Foster!

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