Challenges with digital photographs

A New Adventure

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Before the dawn of the digital camera, photographs in all newspapers required film, a dark room, plus chemicals for developing and fixing the film.

To save money we purchased Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film in 100-foot rolls. Loaded manually, 5 foot at a time, into regular film canisters, we could take approximately 750 pictures for every 100 feet of film.

For comparison, Jacob and I took over 1,200 pictures Friday at Vienna’s graduation. Before digital cameras, we would have probably taken 72.

After the film was developed each photo was printed one at a time. It took a lot of time and patience, up to 15 minutes per picture to get the correct exposure.

That all started to change in 1996 when we purchased our first digital camera, an Apple QuickTake 150.

According to Wikipedia, Time Magazine profiled QuickTake as “the first consumer digital camera” and ranked it among its ‘100 greatest and most influential gadgets from 1923 to the present’ list.” 

The QuickTake was limited in its uses for a newspaper. Because of its low resolution, just 640 x 480 pixels, we only used it for photos of used cars. At 11/2” wide they were small. At up to 20 pictures a week it saved a lot of time and frustration in the darkroom.

Since the mid 90’s we have purchased and retired more digital cameras than I care to think about. The most expensive camera we ever purchased was a Nikon D1 around 2001. Billed as Nikon’s first practical digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, we found this pre-owned camera on e-Bay at 1/2 price, just $2,500.

Our current Nikon cameras take photos up to 6,000 x 4,000 pixels. My old iPhone 7’s resolution is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels. Both are a huge improvement over that QuickTake.

Another advantage that digital cameras have is the ability of the general public to submit photos to the newspaper for publication. 

This is both a benefit and a challenge.

Most cameras, and phones for that matter, can take good quality photos with proper lighting.

The best way to get us your digital photo is to stop by one of our offices with your camera, or phone. We can then plug in your camera’s card or phone and download the photo. That is not the easy way.

The easy way, the way we receive most submitted photos, is by e-mail. This is also where we have the most challenges. 

Years ago when e-mail was in its infancy we all had to deal with slow dial-up connections. Do you remember that? To speed up e-mail delivery of a photo most mail programs have four settings for JPG files: actual, large, medium and small.

Here is what those settings do to a photo.

• Actual—6,000 x 4,000 pixels; 5.7 megabytes

• Large—1,280 x 854 pixels; 317 kilobytes

• Medium—640 x 427 pixels; 98 kilobytes

• Small—320 x 214 pixels; 34 kilobytes

With the large files our cameras produce, the e-mail setting on medium reduces the photo to the same quality as our 1996 digital camera.

Most people do not realize these settings are even there. To ensure your photos are the highest quality always use the “actual setting” in your e-mail program. With today’s fast Internet speeds the smaller file sizes are not necessary.

We can run into the same problems with a photo taken on your phone.

There are three ways to send us a picture from your phone. First, if you have e-mail set up on your phone you can e-mail it. See problem above.

Second, you can text your photo to one of our cell phones. Third, you can now text your photo to an e-mail address. With a little experimentation, I have discovered that texting a photo also reduces the file.

Here is the size of a photo from my iPhone 7

• Actual—4,032 x 3,024 pixels; 1.8 megabytes

• Texted—2,048 x 1,536 pixels; 594 kilobytes

It cuts the file size in half.

Digital cameras have made possible full-color photos in most newspapers as well as speeding up production and reducing costs. But, as with many  innovations, there are challenges. 

When you see a photo that is a little blurry printed in any newspaper, most likely the cause is the low resolution of a small digital file that was e-mailed. 

Help us make your photo look its best by sending in high-quality digital photos.

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