After taking pictures the next obvious step is to see the result. This is possible by making prints of Images.
When black-and-white photography was popular, enthusiasts of this hobby generally gave the exposed films to professional studios/laboratories, but sometimes they developed and printed them at home. This was so because photography, being a hobby, people enjoyed indulging in it and took pride in showing the results of their personal endeavors. With the advent of color photography, this hobby received a setback because, besides being much more elaborate and cumbersome, printing was more expensive and time consuming.
The photographic industry solved this dilemma to an extent by making small and easy-to-use kits to encourage color developing and printing by amateurs and enthusiasts. Very advanced amateurs even developed their own transparency films at their homes. But due to change in lifestyles, people could not find spare time for these activities. With the decline in the purchase of do-it-yourself kits, manufacturers stopped providing them. Consequently, today the usual practice is to select a good laboratory which can develop and print the film roll.
But with the advent of digital cameras, people are seeing the images directly on their word processors/computers and can obtain the printout directly from them. The final product can now be sent to friends and relatives anywhere in the world through the email. This paperless activity involves no hassles and is done with complete ease.
You are likely to want to print your photographs at some stage. In this article, we look at printers, ink cartridges and the other accessories you will need.
Most of us who take digital photographs will want to print them on to paper for display in albums or picture frames at some stage, In order to make the most of our images. Unless you are prepared to pay for someone else to provide image printing as a service – for example, a specialized photographic shop – sooner or later you are going to need to buy a printer and learn a little about the subject of printing. Broadly speaking, getting good prints of images is reliant on two things – the quality of the printer and the quality of the paper.
Printers come in many forms; dot matrix, inkjet, bubble jet and laser are the most common types. Dot matrix printers are really only suitable for simple text output – things like shop receipts are often produced in this manner, Laser printers produce the highest quality prints, but while the black and white Versions are practical for home use, color versions can be very expensive. The most suitable choice for producing high quality photographic prints in the home is the Inkjet printer, which uses a cartridge to drop ink directly onto the paper. Bubble jet printers, which are often cheaper, use special heating elements to prepare the ink. Portable printers that link straight to the camera are also available; these are known as photo printers.
No matter which type of printer you decide to use, to produce your image onto a sheet of photographic paper as a print it will need ink – and ink comes in the form of cartridge!
Inkjet printers use two cartridges to supply the ink – one for black and the other for color. Of the two the black is cheaper to purchase than the color cartridge. Most printers come with software that allows you to monitor the levels of ink. This can prove to be very useful because you get advanced warning that you need to get spare cartridges before they actually run out.
When a cartridge runs out, replacement is extremely straightforward on most printers. New cartridges are available from the original manufacturer, but can be rather expensive. Cheaper alternatives are often supplied by discount companies that specialize in undercutting the manufacturers. However, the old adage that “you only get what you pay for” is worth remembering. Certain generic brands do not last as long and are not of the same high quality ink as those of the manufacturer’s own-brand ink cartridges. This is fine for color printing onto normal copier paper, but very noticeable when printing images onto high quality photo paper. The color can vary and will cancel out all your hard work of retouching or enhancing the color resolution of your images. Some people keep their empty ink cartridges for refilling, either by a professional outfit or with a “Do it yourself” home refill kit.
Putting Print to Paper
Paper comes in many forms, but the two main variables are its finish and weight. The quality of paper suitable for printers is mainly dictated by the type of coating used – and its thickness.
Types of Paper
The paper used for domestic purposes, such as printing out letters, is typically 80gsm, with 100gsm being a thicker, but more expensive alternative. High quality paper is available for photographic purposes and generally comes in small packs of between 25 and 100 sheets, as opposed to packs of 500 sheets in the case of general purpose paper. Photographic paper generally has a glossy coating on one side. Load the paper into the printer so that this is the side which the print ends up on, as otherwise the quality of the print will be considerably degraded!
If you normally use general purpose paper, whenever you want to use special purpose media such as photo quality film, you must reset the printer properties to let it know that you are using something different; otherwise, your prints will look very mediocre.
Look out for “sustainable forest” labels, some of which state that the paper is “made entirely from pulp obtained from 100% farmed trees” or similar. This means you are buying an ecologically sound product. If paper is recycled, this will normally also be highlighted on the papers packaging. Look for the standard green recycling logo.
Special quality paper should be stored away from sunlight and extremes of temperature, and any prints you make should be kept in sealable bags to protect them from humidity, sunlight and temperature variations.
It can be confusing looking through all the different types of paper on the market, so here are few of the types you may come across:
Photo quality glossy film: A bright, white film; good for photos, and report covers. Generally available in A2, A3, A4, Letter and Super A3/B sizes.
Inkjet transparencies: Available in A4 and Letter; clear films producing excellent colors for overhead projections and overlays for presentations.
Inkjet cards: Bright, white A6 cards; excellent for creating postcards, snapshots, invitations, and digital photos, for example.
Connecting to a Printer
For converting your digital image into something tangible that you can show friends, you need to get your image over to a printer.
Transferring Images to a Printer
There are basically two methods of getting images from a digital camera onto a printer. The simplest method is to use a direct cable connection between camera and printer. While this is very straightforward, the disadvantage is that only certain printers have the special socket which allows the direct connection to be made. The most obvious devices are the portable photo printers. The other (and by far the most widely used) method for printing an image is to download it onto a computer, and then use whatever printer is linked to the computer. This is a much more flexible approach. You can then make prints of your images at any time.
When you buy a new printer, you have to make sure it can communicate with your computer. Some operating systems will be able to do so without any further software but usually you will need to install the manufacturer’s own drivers.
When a new printer is installed, it must be able to find the correct software on the computer in order for it to work properly; this is known as the “driver” and controls how documents from your computer print out. The drivers for many printers come as a standard feature on some operating systems, whereas others need to be specially installed. New printers will come with the drivers supplied on CD. These are easy to install, since the disk will auto-start when it is inserted into a computer. The set up procedure is simply a matter of following the instructions on the screen. If the disk is missing – maybe the printer is second-hand or the original has been lost – a search on the internet will usually prove fruitful. Personally I use Google (www.google.com) as my search engine, if you enter the name of the printer together with the words “free download” and “driver” in the Search field, it will nearly always result in what you need in order to get your printer “talking” to your computer.
Many of us use computers these days that they have become a feature of just about every household and office. Nevertheless, it is worth considering which models are likely to be the most suitable for your needs.
If you already have a home computer, it will probably be entirely adequate for your purposes. Processor speeds are usually above 2GHz, but you will not need one this last unless you do a lot of image processing.
Far more important than processor speed is the amount of RAM you have. This is the solid state memory the computer uses when doing any operations. Start with a minimum of 256MB, and fit more if your machine will accept it (memory is relatively inexpensive).
Types of Computers
There are two main types of computer in use today – PCs, which run Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, and Apple Macintoshes, which use their own dedicated system; known as “OS”. The typical home computer is known as a “desk station”, whereas the smaller, briefcase-sized units are known as laptops or notebook computers. There are a variety of even smaller devices available, and as time goes by these will undoubtedly become more and more popular.
If you travel frequently with your camera, a laptop may be worth considering. Otherwise, there are many reasons why a desk station computer is likely to be your best choice. Faster computers are being brought but almost every day. This means that sooner or later, your machine will need upgrading.
An operating system is the software that a compute uses in order to function. It supervises the hardware and co-ordinates all the various programs that you run. A good, stable and fast operating system can make a computer a pleasure to use.
By far the most common forms of operating systems – known as “platforms” – are the various Microsoft Windows variants. These include Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 and XP. Some of these are available in different format, such as “Home Edition” and “Pro”. Apple uses its own operating system for Macs known as “OS X” which Stands for “Operating System”, where the “X” represents the version number. Unless you are an advanced user, stick with a current version.
Backing-up Your Work
An Important (but often overlooked) issue when working with computers is to make sure that you have back-ups of your work, not just on your hard drive but also on a CD or DVD.
I have my word processor configured to save automatically every ten minutes, but in the event of a power failure the file may become corrupted, in which case you will be glad you backed it up. Additionally, if you experience a hard disk drive failure, you will be lucky to resurrect anything off it, so it is best to get into the habit of backing up.
A CD writer is a good investment; in fact most new computers now come with one built in. Take the time and trouble to make CD copies of all your work, and then store them somewhere where they cannot get damaged. The process of writing a CD is known as “burning”. Old office safes can be bought cheaply, and in the event of a fire or a break-in, your work will not be lost.
Keeping Your Computer Virus-Free
It is a sad fact that there are a lot of malicious people who derive pleasure from creating ever more sophisticated ways of interfering with your compute from afar. The methods they use can be grouped together under the term “Viruses”. By far the most common way of viruses making their way onto your computer is through infected e-mail attachments. The amount of damage a virus can do depends on its type. Here are a few guidelines to follow if you want to keep your machine clean and unaffected.
One of the best ways to help reduce the ingress of unwanted programs onto your computer is to use a “firewall”. This is a method used by a special software program to block the passage of information to and from your computer. Each lime another program attempts to access your machine from the internet the firewall intercepts it, and will only let it through if you have set the program to do so. Microsoft Windows XP has its own version of a firewall already in place.
Never open any attachments with the file extensions “scr”, “exe”, or ‘pif”. If you are in any doubt about an attached file, do not open it Delete it from your machine immediately.
There are a huge number of anti-virus programs available. No matter which software you use, it will only be as good as the definition files it has to work from. These files are special lists used by the anti-virus programs, which tell them what are the latest viruses and how they can be recognized. They are generally free to download, and since new viruses are coming out all the time, you can never update them often enough. Once a week is the absolute minimum if you want to stay virus-free. The best attitude to take is one of extreme caution-be complacent and your machine will become infected at some time!
Monitors & Pixels
When using a desk station computer, it is important that the monitor is up to the job. A poor quality screen will make all your images appear dull, lifeless, and possibly distorted.
Make sure that the monitor screen is large enough for you to work on in comfort especially if you are doing lots of image manipulation. Monitors of superb quality have become more affordable, but good second-hand monitors can also be bought through newspaper adverts or from specialist dealers.
How the Monitor Works
A desktop monitor works in much the same way as the screen in a traditional television set. However, monitors are available with many different evolutions. You can usually change the number of pixels used to make up the screen area to suit your situation as well. The higher the number of pixels used the better, although the color setting will also influence the image quality greatly. The setting known as “16 bit High color” will give you good results, but “32 bit True color” is much better overall.
As with digital cameras, monitors compose their pictures from many thousands of pixels, each of which is controlled for color and brightness. Controlling a grid of pixels is called “bit mapping” and digital images are called bit maps. The higher the numbers of pixels are, the better the resolution and the overall picture quality is. When an image is enlarged too much, it becomes possible to see the individual pixels, an undesirable effect which is known as “pixelation”.
Scanning & Re-Touching Old Images
Image editing is great for digital pictures, but it can also be used to great effect with old or damaged prints. The print first needs to be digitized. Of course, you could take a photo, but far easier would be to scan the print and save it digitally.
If you want to make a copy of a flat image, a scanner is likely to be your best option. In recent years, flatbed scanners have fallen in price to such an extent that really good. Ones can be obtained fairly reasonably. They are also much easier to use than their predecessors. Nowadays, all you have to do is plug them in via a USB port load up the software CD, put the item you want to scan in place and press the “Scan” button. The image is recorded and transferred into your graphics program, which is then automatically started for you.
Other Graphics Programs
There are lots of other graphics programs in the marketplace and many of these are aimed at the domestic user. You may well find that they provide all the functionality you need without the complexity or expense of the larger packages. If you have access to broadband internet, then it is always worth keeping an eye on the official websites of companies such as Adobe and Jasc, since they often have time-limited trial downloads available for free.
As well as viewing your images on your computer in thumbnail, real-size or full screen formats. It is also possible to look at them on a variety of other media.
Using “Video Out” on Your Television
Apart from those models at the budget end of the market, most digital cameras have some form of small LCD screen on which it is possible to view your pictures. However, if you are away from your computer or have a group of people that you would like share them with, it can be difficult trying to display them to everyone at the same time. An excellent solution to this is available if your camera has a video-out port. This will allow you to connect it to a television set through the video-in terminals. Make sure you have the correct cable – it is usually supplied with the camera.
There are several useful things you can do by connecting your camera to a television. While it works well as a giant view screen, so that your family and friends can see your existing photographs, they can also watch live images of new ones being taken. Alternatively, you can set up a video recorder and capture a whole sequence to show off later, or maybe review work you have done that day.
While a television offers an excellent way of presenting images to a small group of family and friends, it is not a very satisfactory method for presenting them to larger groups. A public display device, such as a digital projector or some sort of a cinema screen, would be ideal. For medium-sized groups of up to a hundred or so, a multimedia image projector is ideal.
Portable Image Storage and Viewing Devices
If you take a lot of photographs and like to travel light, there are several portable items of equipment on the market to answer your needs. For example there are handheld image storage arid viewing devices available that can hold vast numbers of digital photographs – in some cases, between as many as 10,000 and 30,000!
These units can read most card formats and have sophisticated file management systems, which can store images in folders. In addition, individual files can be renamed, copied, moved around or deleted. There are also features that appeal to professional users, such as the fact that these units are able to handle images in RAW format of up to 18MB each. It is also possible to view histograms and other information, as well as to upload images from hard disk onto the handheld units, or to make hard copies of images by connecting directly to a printer.
Another way to view images while on the move is with a portable DVD player or a laptop computer. Since these tend to be about the same size and weight, many people cannot see the sense in paying out for a DVD player when a laptop can do so much more. There are also many multimedia players on the market. These tend to have LCD screens of around 85mm (3in) in size and can play MP3 files as well as display images. Depending on the make and model, you can connect to a printer or a television. If you are considering purchasing one of these, take some time to review what each version offers -the storage capability, the types of memory cards they can accept, and so on.
E-mailing Digital Photos
One of the most popular ways of sharing digital photos between family and friends is by sending them by e-mail.
To send a digital photograph by e-mail is simplicity itself. However, there are a few things to watch out for. Firstly, make sure that you have shrunk the image down to a sensible size. Even If you have broadband internet access, the recipient may not and a 15MB file on a dial-up connection will make you very unpopular indeed. A good rule of thumb is to keep the images down below 100KB.
Another thing to bear in mind is to check whether your intended recipient’s e-mail system will actually allow attachments through. If you are sending an e-mail to a company, many have become so security conscious that attachments are viewed with great suspicion and are often blocked out.
It is also important to remember that not everyone has their own imaging software packages, so when you send an image file by e-mail, make sure you choose the most appropriate format. If you send someone a Photoshop (.psd) or a PaintShop (.psp) file, they may well not be able to open it. JPEG and GIF files are universally accepted these days. These formats are also efficient In terms of quality and size, so they are good choices for e-mail attachments.
Sending Images By Camera Phone
Camera phones are becoming more popular. These devices are handy for commercial purposes, used by estate agents, car trader magazine staff and so on.
It’s Good to Snap
If you are sending a camera phone image to another camera phone, the recipient must also be on a network that can communicate with your own. A link to the photos can be sent by e-mail to anyone with an e-mail address. Recipients are sent a text message explaining how to view your photos over the internet. Your images are kept in your own personal photo album, which is protected by a password so that you can decide who gets access to your pictures. Camera and other devices that support this service let you include still images, video images and sounds.
Sending Images to Websites
If you are creating your own website or want to post your images onto someone else’s, there are three main ways to transfer your images to the host location.
The three methods are:
By using a file transfer program, such as FTP (this stands for file transfer protocol).
By using the “Upload” facility found on some websites.
By e-mail. This only works if you are sending them to someone else to post for you.
The best way to send large files to a website is via an FTP package. There are many different versions available, some of which can be downloaded for free from the internet. Using such a program, you can move large files from your computer across the internet to a folder at the host location. You will need to know certain technical information about the host machine. This includes the host’s web address, a User ID and password.