Digital Image Archiving – The Lost Generation Part 2

So far, all the digital archiving solutions we discussed in part 1 have their pro’s and con’s. Mostly con’s. What’s left? How about a good old fashioned print! If you make a good quality print, note I said ‘quality’ print, not a cheapo inkjet that will fade faster than American Idol winners, you can be good to go with just a simple shoe box to hold all your precious memories. OK, so maybe not a real shoe box although I’m willing to bet my New Balance sneaker box full of prints will outlast any of the digital storage solutions currently available. Did you know you can buy, cheaply I might add, photo storage boxes in all variety of sizes? Most are made of archival acid free paper, have dividers and give you (or your decendants) access to actually see them whenever you want with no batteries required. How about an album? There’s nothing like a good photo album to thumb through. That tactile quality can never be replaced.

I was recently at a family reunion being held in a local park. One of the Aunt’s brought a stack of photo albums which consisted mainly of old photos of past family members and deceased pets. People were grabbing them left and right to look through the pages, laugh at their relatives and ask over and over “who this that with so and so”? It really draws a crowd and certainly helped those present feel much more connected to the family. Then I noticed a few digital cameras floating around, people taking snaps, a few videos and a lot of chimping. If you have not heard of chimping, it’s the process of looking at your photos on the camera typically right after shooting them. So called because if you really look at someone doing it they really do look like a chimpanzee all hunched over and staring with wonder at the tiny magic screen. Anyway, back to the family chimps. What I noticed is that the photo albums stopped right around when the digital age hit. There were a few awful ink jet prints made by Auntie so and so but not many. According to them, most of their recent photos were either on their computer somewhere or still in the camera. Hmmm.

Now I am not suggesting you print every shot you take, although from a lab’s perspective that would be pretty cool. Just print the important stuff. The photo’s you want to pass on to future generations, the photo’s you want to be remembered for. I also suggest you don’t hide them in the attic or basement. Leave one or two albums laying around, see what happens when family or friends come over. Bet someone picks one up and starts going through it. Makes for great conversation and reminiscing over those good times you all shared. Sure beats having everyone huddle (think chimp) around a laptop or I-pad, if that would even happen. Whatever you do, just print it, put it in an album, in a box, even in a pile but just print it. The only true way to archive your photographs and for the future all of mankind!

You will still want to keep your digital ‘originals’ somewhere but if you only share them on Facebook, flickr, e-mail’s and what-not, understand that these are all very short term options. The sooner you start thinking about a long term archiving solution the easier it’s gong to be.

Tell us what you think and what you are doing to preserve your memories. Here is a resource for archiving digital files, mostly for professionals but really it applies to anyone who shoots digital photographs and does not want to be part of the lost generation.
http://dpbestflow.org/data-storage-hardware/storage-hardware-overview

Digital Image Archiving – The Lost Generation Part 1

Are your images a ticking time-bomb?

There has been a lot of chatter between the photo labs and digital imaging professionals the past few years. We all fully expect many digital photographers including pros, amateurs and even the family archivist who we affectionately call Digital Debbies, to completely loose a whole generation of images. Gone, Adiós, Sayonara, Bub bye! Why you ask? If not you should be. It used to be fairly simple to store and archive your film images whether you used archival pages, slide boxes or just printed them. Some people went as far as to store them off site or in fire proof safes and for the most important of images, you could have duplicates made. Either way, you could actually see them whenever you wanted. It’s easy to reproduce film, always will be. Now in the digital age we can shoot like crazy onto huge memory cards because it’s inexpensive, practically free in fact. Well, now what do you do with all of these shots? I hear of people who burn them off to CD/DVD’s, store them on external hard drives or even just use the memory cards as a storage device. Heck, many people of a certain age group don’t store or keep their photos at all, they just shoot for instant gratification and move on, but that’s another story we’ll investigate later. With the cost of storage so inexpensive all of these are viable solutions except for one detail. None of these are anywhere near as secure as film storage for several reasons. First, CD/DVD disks can and do fail, even the finest ‘gold’ disks. Hard drives fail all the time and with the mammoth size of current models you could be putting thousands of images at risk and all on one device. Now let’s assume for the moment that your CD/DVD or HD does not fail. So far so good. Imagine 10, 20 or even 50 years into the future. What’s the chance you or whoever has possession of your images will have access to a device to read any of these disks. I can promise you that CD/DVD readers will not be around that long and very possibly they will have no way to connect that external HD to a computer because USB is long gone. Will new cameras or card readers still be compatible with SD, CF and other current memory cards? There is a good chance all these images, possibly 100’s of thousands will not be accessible.

OK so maybe now you realize that you will become that Grandpa or Grandma with zillions of images in your attic and your relatives will climb up there to discover this treasure trove of personal and family history and possibly even your professional career’s cache of photos. Now what? Can’t see em, can’t read the disks, can’t reminisce over all the beautiful photos you took over your digital lifetime. Bummer, now there dumpster fodder! Maybe someone will take the time, effort and expense to find a guy who can recover these images, maybe not. So what’s a digital photographer to do? Well, you could keep copying all your images from device to device to keep them stored on current technology. Can you even imagine how exponentially labor intensive this will get, even in just a few years! No way!! No one is going to go through all that hassle. Option 2, store everything with a cloud based operation or with one of the off site storage companies that currently offer this service for a monthly fee. Some even have redundant storage for extra security. Not a bad idea, sounds easy anyway except for the horror stories we have heard when one of these guys goes out of business and with a flick of the switch your photos are gone. Yes, many people have been able to retrieve their images but your still back in the same boat as before.

We also are told many people actually use facebook, flickr and the like to store/archive all their images. How long do you really expect them to be around? They may be here for some time but free storage of all your photographs for life is not something anyone should count on. How many people realize that facebook automatically downsizes your files when uploaded? Forget any large files let alone Raw, PSD, etc. Any designer out there working in Illustrator, Quark, Corel, or CS whatever also needs to pay attention. All of your work both personal and professional is at risk. So what’s the solution? I am interested in hearing what anyone else thinks and what they are currently doing.

Next post look for part 2 of Digital Image Archiving: The Lost Generation

Featured Artist: Dan Walters

Featured wildlife artist photographer Dan Walters showcases his fine art prints in this videoExtremely talented, Dan Walters has been epitomizing the perfect wildlife shots for years. Practically undiscovered, his body of work is worth more than a passing glance. In this one-on-one artist highlight with the wildlife photographer, Dan discusses his inspirations and techniques for shooting wildlife. He showcases thirteen of his photographs in a slide show that is not to be missed.

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What “they” might not be telling you about the flaws in ICC profiled workflows.

Profiles are typically generated using less than .016% (yes that is less than 16/1000 of one percent!) or 16/100,000 of the 16.4 million colors available in 8bit RGB. Talk about a shot in the dark. There is a tremendous amount of mathematical software based “guessing” that occurs in the ICC color management process.

Profiles are 100% dependent on consistency. They only work if you have consistent input and consistent output. Lenses used in capture, accuracy of camera white-balance calibration, scanner calibration, conditions in process, paper, chemistry, ink, equipment condition, light sources, supply voltages, time of day, humidity, blah blah blah can all have an impact on product output or digital input. These conditions are all subject to change, and do change. Thus, profiles are at their most “accurate” for the moment the profile was created. As these conditions drift and change over time, they effect the “accuracy” of the profile. Many individuals in our industry have touted that profiles have an expectation of consistency. One that unfortunately just does not exist in real world conditions. Through equipment care and high levels of professional level calibrations we attempt to keep our input/output equipment “calibrated” to the same standards on which the profile is based. In theory, this causes the final output to float around the bull’s eye and stay close to the expected, rather than take a direct bee-line away from it and continually get further off-target.
A good lab will calibrate their devices back to factory standards several times during a production day.  This is done to compensate for process variables that occur over time, and changes in paper from batch to batch.
My goal here is to help you become aware that though profiles are often elevated to a high stature as an end all solution,  they really fit more into a false-god category.

Now this is not to say that profiles are useless. Far from it in fact. They can have a dramatic impact on overall color approximation across multiple devices. Such as getting your ink jet to approximate your file and to get our LightJets to approximate that very same file. In fact we use profiles in-house to get our LightJets to approximate the smaller sRGB color space of the Fuji Frontier prints. Due to the larger available gamut of the LightJet, it is more likely to get the LightJet to approximate the Frontier than the other way-round. And we use them in some profile dependent work flows such as our professional digital press, and our Durst Sigma scans. The software that drives these devices, will not function correctly without profiles in place. The truth is, most digital capture and print sotware have some sort of embedded profiling built in. Your digital camera for instance, needs to know the characteristics of the dyes used to filter the image sensor in order to deliver a density and color accurate file.
I believe that any NON-DESTRUCTIVE method of producing better color has the potential to be a good idea. I’ll again stress “NON-DESTRUCTIVE”.  I am a big proponent on avoiding color channel damage whenever possible.  The caveat to forcing a profile on an image is it’s potential for color channel damage. I have seen many files where the colors were pushed too close to 100% saturation prior to a profile conversion. The resulting breaks/banding is inevitably and incorrectly blamed on the profile.

The great thing about ICC profiles in your work flow is their potential to get you closer to your target. They are by no means any guarantee of a bull’s eye, an exact match, perfect color, or any other false promise you have heard or at this point still believe. I often use this analogy: “Profiles are like a ticket to a baseball game. They get us in the gate, and might just get us a good seat, but that ticket will never allow us to sit on home plate while the batter hits a homer. BUT, that good seat is still much better than listening to the game on the AM radio while sitting in the parking lot.”

So, better. It’s just not a guarantee.
Profiles, in a nutshell, describe the devices available boundary or gamut as well as the limitations or inaccuracies and should not ever be confused with or used as working color spaces. They are far too small for use as a working space and should be thought of something to move colors <to> not <within>. Banding/breaking/clipping will likely result if you should choose to ignore this. It is best practice to use a working space that is larger than the output space, then allow your profile conversion to remap to hold detail.

If you remember my remarks regarding consistency, these constant changes diminish profile accuracy.  So why do we make a profile available for our printers? Well, quite frankly, because in most cases, an perceived improvement in print quality will result from a proper color-managed workflow.

One exception to this is our Fuji Frontier. This device is specifically calibrated to work within the sRGB colorspace. It’s output gamut is limited of course by the capabilities of Fuji Crystal Archive paper, but this design will allow a photographer who is color-calibrated and working in sRGB to be free of output profiles. One less layer of potential damage to the file.
So how should you be using your profiles?

Let’s start with what NOT to do.

If I use profiles in an attempt to get one device to approximate the characteristics of another device, I am in essence, attempting to get device A to look like device B, and both devices inaccuracies will be included! This is a great example of Square Peg I A Round Hole. If the gamut (outside edges of the pegs) of device A do not match the gamut (profile outliers) of device B, loss will occur. Much like using a hammer to get that peg in – you’ll shave off some of the peg, and what is left does not completely fill the hole.

fig.1

In fig.1 above, the LightJet Fuji Matte has the larger gamut.The darker looking cube inside that area is the gamut of the Epson Enhanced matte. The bit of gray peeking out at the bottom is the zone where the Epson’s gamut is a bit larger than the LightJet. The area labeled Profile Overlap represents the available colors that both devices share. So this would be the available gamut when trying to match one of the devices to the other. In other words, all of the areas outside the overlap would be lost. In my opinion, that is a pretty large chunk of color to toss away just for the gratification of getting two prints to look as close as possible to one-another.  In essence, we would be “dumbing-down” the quality of our final print.

Good profile methods will attempt to “re-map” or squeeze those outside colors to fit within the range of output (the square hole), but the missing colors (the corners) aren’t properly restored. This results in a sacrifice of color fidelity from the original file.

So if you still want to profile, this is how I approach ICC profiling for Maximum Color Fidelity. At least within the limits resulting from profiling.

Let’s assume that we have:

– A source file: test.jpg
– Ink jet printer A that lets say: prints Blues with too much Green,
– and I have printer B that prints Reds with too much Yellow.

So:
A) +Green cast in Blues = Damaged Color
B) +Yellow cast in Reds = Damaged Color
ICC Profiles = Attempted Damage Reversal (at least in theory anyway)

Example 1: Try to get Printer B to look like printer A with one profile – bad Idea

If I print test.jpg on B, trying to approximate A via A’s ICC Profile, I have a print that has the native issues of too much Yellow in the Reds, and because we told B to look like A, I also have too much Green in the Blues. Why would I want a print with both sets of issues?
Damaged Color + Damaged Color = MORE Damaged Color.

Example 2:  Try to get Printer B to look like printer A with two profiles – best idea for closest approximation between printers 

I print test.jpg using profiles for both printers. I tell my software to make B look like A, but use B’s profile too.
So now the output attempts to remove B’s issues, the Yellow cast from the Reds.
BUT, because I am still approximating printer A, I am still introducing the Green cast in the Blues. So now I have at least one printers issues in full glory.
Damaged Color + (Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal) = Damaged Color. Still some loss, but I should have two prints that are fairly close.

Example 3:  Try to get Printers A and B to look like the source file – best idea for maximum fidelity to source file.

Rather than attempting to get A to approximate B, We print the file to each printer, avoiding an approximation between the printers.
Instead, we want to allow each printer to get as close to test.jpg as possible. So we print test.jpg to A with it’s profile and to B with it’s profile.
A) Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal = Less Damage.
B) Damaged Color + Attempted Damage Reversal = Less Damage.

So rather than compounding issues or keeping some and removing some, in theory, both prints are now as close as they independently can be to the original contents of the test.jpg file.

 

 

TIP!

Nothing in nature is saturated to 100% of any given color. There will always be some absorption of wavelengths of all colors. So don’t push your files thinking the final product will still be believable or still hold detail. The closer to 100% you push the saturation, the closer to zero you push the detail. And please don’t blame your profiles for damaging a file that was pushed too far.  Perceptual profiling is just not designed to work with a lack of color fidelity and you just might be wasting your hard earned cash to get a print you don’t like.

If your preference is hyper-saturation, make sure to match image type to printer type. For example, if you like saturated yellows, you could be printing to a device that can actually reproduce the brilliance you are seeking. Giclee printers are a great example of this. Being an ink-jet, they are quite capable of reproducing intense yellow as this is one of the native ink colors on the device.The same holds true for the other two colors, Cyan and Magenta. When you add any two or more inks together to create a new color, you are adding density and reducing saturation. With the advent of the intermediate “photo” colors, some of the subtler in-between colors are now improved. On the LightJet, the Kodak Metallic paper holds more saturation than Fuji Crystal Archive, but the blacks are not as rich nor as neutral.

How to get great color, save your profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. Part 1

I’m going to fill you in on the secrets of how to get great color, save your
profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. All without
the use of ICC profiles, confusing work-flows or batch conversions.
If you understood the above and it applies to you, chances are you are a
professional photographer. Professional print quality is much easier to achieve
than most photographers are aware.
Getting there requires Five crucial elements. With these five in place, you can go
directly from camera to print and get excellent results.
Yes, that’s right, higher profits and more free time with:

  • No Photoshop work.
  • No profiling magic.
  • No bag of tricks or fairy dust.

Rule #1 – If you have to adjust the density of your files, your metering is
inaccurate.
You may find this hard to believe, but truly consistent exposures rarely come
from TTL metering. I know that’s tough to swallow, but reflective metering is just too fallible.
Don’t believe me? Here is a simple test to see if this rule applies to you.
1. Take a look at the average corrections you are making on your files in
Photoshop or Lightroom.
2. Jot down the number of exposure and color balance corrections you make
in a work week.
3. If the answer is any higher than zero, guess what, I’m right – your TTL has failed you. So how do we
correct this?
Get a GOOD new or used hand held incident flash meter, and calibrate it to your
camera using Will Crockett’s “Face mask Histogram Technique” copy and paste
the following web address into your browser: Go to
http://www.shootsmarter.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=116&acat=16
Keep in mind that digital cameras have only 1/8th stop of exposure latitude. If you
have an incident meter, compare it against Will’s meter reviews and see how it rates. Some
well known meters are unprofessionally inconsistent . Up to a horrible deviation of +- 1/3 stop from
reading to reading. This is definitely outside of the acceptable range for a
professional photographer by approximately 300%! In other words, that exceeds
professional limits for exposure control by 3 times.

Next week:
Rule #2 – If you don’t have custom white balance, you don’t have correct color.

To make sure you get the rest of this series, you can subscribe to this blog at the top of this page.


Black & White Chromagenics Offer Stunning Tonal Range and Detail.

Using a chromagenic process to printBlack and White Chromagenic Prints Black & White on canvas offers visually stunning B&W Prints in the same sizes and pricing as we offer in all of our Gicleé Pigment Prints. You will be amazed at the beauty of the expanded tonal range and clarity of detail in these exhibition quality fine art  pigment prints. The standard features include continuous-tone like look, image permanence, tonal control and exquisite appearance while offering the unique advantage of greater dynamic range over conventional wet process printing.

 

 

 

 

Publishing an E-Letter

This week’s blog is about publishing an e-letter. This summer, Reed Photo-Imaging decided to publish an electronic newsletter. I went on an expedition to investigate whether or not we should use a service like Constant Contact or make and publish our own. I initiated a trial with Constant Contact for 60 days. During that time, I worked with their templates and basically had a test drive. Even though we ultimately made and published our own, I found Constant Contact, fairly easy to use. I use Adobe’s Dreamweaver to design and create my HTML e-letter. Dreamweaver offers tools that allow me to design and create rich content in a HTML document. Once the design was approved, I saved that as a template. That is what we use each month to generate new content for our e-letter. We use an email program called Autoresponder to send out the e-letter. This program helps us to comply with the CAN_SPAM act. These federal laws, must be followed or you can be heavily fined. Here’s the website address to download a pdf file of these requirements from the Federal Trade Commission.:

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-Compliance-Guide-for-Business

Below is a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.

Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Do not ‘buy’ a list. The best results always come from people who opt in and that know or know of you. Also, Constant Contact does not allow you to use purchased lists. We work within our own customer base or use an opt-in to receive the e-letter. We include an unsubscribe feature and honor any request we receive to opt-out from receiving the e-letter. Our e-letter has monthly contests that I find (This month, the photo contest being promoted is by the Smithsonian Magazine). We hold monthly contests for our Facebook fans too! Every week the theme changes and around once a month we hold a contest and the winner is chosen by the amount of likes that their image receives. Whenever we find something that promotes a community group, we try and let our readers know about it. This month’s e-letter showcases the recent Facebook winners and their images. Additionally we promote through a short video, selected customers. Each video has an interview and a slide show of the customers work. Our basic belief is that when our customers win, we win. Our community feature this month is: Denver’s Big Picture – Putting Cameras into Children’s Hands to Jumpstart Creativity – A Project with Deep Sleep Imaging LLC.

Larger and Faster Storage is on the Horizon

At the current rate at which silicon-based technology doubles – approximately every 18-24 months, it won’t be long before our cameras outgrow their present storage form-factors. Nikon, SanDisk and Sony have announced their joint effort for a new portable storage specification aimed at meeting the future needs of music playback devices, digital cameras and video capture devices in a new standardized format. The new proposed specs show a transfer rate of 500 Megabytes per second – far exceeding the present 167 Megabyte per second of the current CompactFlash specifications. Yes, that is a full gigabyte transferred every two seconds. The maximum theoretical storage capacity for the new devices are expected to exceed two Terabytes. These new memory cards are planned to be rugged, similar in size to the existing SD form-factor and have a lower power consumption and longer battery life – thanks to integrated power scaling. With the data speeds and power savings, I suspect we will see this new technology integrated as solid state drives (SSD’s) on laptops, smart phones, and other intelligent devices in sectors like medical and transportation. A projected production date for the new cards was not announced.