Improving your Google Hangout Experience.

GoogleHOABadgeThe rising star in online networking is the Google Plus Hangout On Air, or HOA for short. This medium mixes the experiences of video conferenceing, webinars, screen sharing and chat all in one easy-to-use package. The affordable (can you say free?) tool also comes with the added benefit of increasing your SEO, your personal brand and the leverage of your YouTube channel.

If you are not using HOAs now, I urge you to look into them. Here are a couple of resources I highly recommend to get you on the right track towards understanding the benefits.

Entrepreneur and Social Media coach; Sandra Watson over at provides valuable direction for those new to any social media platform.

Carol Dodsley has a G+ mastery course for those who want to dig deeper into the G+ community. She also hosts several weekly shows on G+ that cover a range of topics. You can find one of Carol’s posts espousing the virtues of G+ HOAs here. has a great post that makes a great business case for the use of HOAs

Regardless of the platform, a good video conferencing experience requires some attention to detail to avoid bugs and other road-blocks. 

Having troubles with your video dropping out during an HOA?  Not getting clear video into your stream? Here’s a few things to do before you start your broadcast:

Attach to your network via Ethernet cable and turn off wireless at your computer.  Unless you are running the new experimental gigabit wireless, your Ethernet is likely to be much faster and less problematic.

Turn off all devices on your network that do not need to remain on during the broadcast.  When devices are on , they are routinely sending various signals across the network, potentially creating congestion. This network traffic then get’s “heard” by your computer causing it to take processing cycles to evaluate the traffic and determine if it is something it needs to pay attention to. Quieting things down on your network will help your computer focus it’s attention on your feed.

Speaking of quieting… Network and modem cables should never be running parallel and close to a power cord.  Power cords emit a small amount of radio frequency interference (RFI) that is picked up by your network cables. This causes glitches that will effect data transfer rates ( slows your network down). It’s nearly impossible to route these completely separated as often they at least need to cross over each other to get to where they need to go – in this case, do your best to cross them perpendicular so they look like a plus (+) sign.

Same goes for USB and Microphone cables too. Keep them away from power cords when possible for all the same reasons.

Use the chrome browser when possible. It’s developed by Google and will likely be the most stable for the hangout plugin.

Speaking of plugins, they suck.  Memory and resources I mean. 🙂 They consume ram, processor resources and are constantly pinging the network.  Turn off any plugins, search bars,  and extensions you don’t need for the broadcast.

Close any browser tabs you don’t need open. One tab can consume between 50 and 300MB of addition memory, depending on what is loaded into that tab. Also, tabs that are open could be sending traffic across your network. Shhhhh…. a quiet network is a happy and speedy network.

Turn off ALL other applications – including browsers – you don’t need during the broadcast. Not only are they slowing down your computer, they are likely using your network. Email apps are always looking for new email. You don’t want to be downloading 25MB of attachments while you are trying to stream 3MB per second of HOA video.

If you are running windows, you can temporarily turn of automatic updates to prevent activity during your HOA. Just remember to turn it back on later.

Run a valid copy of a good anti-virus and anti-malware application and keep it current and up to date. An infected machine = a slow machine.

If all of this is not enough to get things looking good then:

In dire conditions where you have done all of the above and are still having video drop-outs, uninstall any applications that you don’t use on your computer. Many of these applications monitor your network to talk to the devices you just shut off. Printer utilities are a big resource sucker and can often be uninstalled. Do you really need some bit of software to nag you when you are low on paper or ink?  Some of your installed applications will also check the internet every few minutes to see if there are updates available that need to be installed – thus slowing your network.

On windows machines: turn off file indexing. This “feature” does make it faster to find files on your machine, but it is also doing a great deal of disk reads and writes, perhaps during your broadcast.

Whew! Sounds like a lot to do, but it’s not really all that much.  Once you have cleaned your machine of any malware and removed old applications you don’t need, and moved your cables the tedious work is done.  When you are ready to do an HOA the easy thing is to reboot. This will close any applications you have running. When the computer comes back up and you login, open just Chrome, launch one tab to G+ and you should be on your way to a great HOA experience!

Don’t discount the benefits of a good mic, and adequate lighting. For more on that, have a look at the post: Easy and Inexpensive Tips for Better Video Meetings

Megapixels Aren’t the Only Factor to Consider When Buying a Camera

megapixSome questions from our clients and our readers seem to come up more often than others. Many of those questions center around the importance of Mega-pixels. This question came across my desk this morning and since it’s often relevant to our readers, I am sharing my response with you.




“When customers order larger photographs from the lab…let’s say using the Kodak Metallic Print paper…is anyone able to tell me how many pixels their cameras usually use or how does one figure this out?…I am thinking about upgrading my Camera and would like the ability to offer larger prints without losing quality.  I know that some of the new cameras offer more pixals some offer 20 etc.  However, is that what I truly want to look at?”

The good news is that you are asking the good questions. The flip-side is that this is opening a door to a warehouse full of more questions.

Yes, megapixels are an important factor to the end result. It is only one factor however.  Megapixels are top of mind for everyone because the camera manufacturers need “features” they can market with.  They are looking for ways to set their product apart from the others, and this stat is one that is easily digestible to the consumer. We tend to like easy comparisons, and anything with a number fits that bill nicely. Unfortunately, the marketers rarely tell you the benefits of the various features and leave it up to you to infer them.

Here is a short list of what are often considered the primary stats to consider:

  • Chip Resolution (megapixels)
  • Raw file capabilities ( shooting in raw provides greater editing flexibility after the shoot)
  • Max ISO ( high ISO with low noise is generally considered favorable)
  • Dynamic Range ( The ability to capture shadow detail and highlights in the same shot)

There are other considerations that are often driven by an individuals needs.

  • Price
  • Video capable (frame rate and resolution are important factors for video quality)
  • Max burst rate ( more frames per second is important to action shooters who will shoot in bursts to try to get the perfect shot – think sports photography)
  • Auto bracketing ( Auto brackets help you get maximum dynamic range if the scene’s range is greater than the camera can capture in a single shot)
  • Auto HDR ( takes a bracket and automatically merges them for highlight and shadow detail)
  • zoom level if it’s fixed lens (The higher the X number the more zoom range from wide to telephoto)
  • auto focus speed ( important when you are shooting moving objects or if shot timing is critical)
  • max f/stop – again if it’s fixed lens ( f/2 lets in more light than f/3.5 and thus allows for faster shutter speeds)
  • included software ( some cameras come with specialized software – usually consumer grade software)
  • form factor ( How big, how heavy, what’s the shape and color, etc.  Will you carry it in a pocket or purse? Around your neck? etc)
  • tethered shooting ( remotely controlling your camera from a laptop, tablet or smartphone allows for instant downloads of the captured image to your device for enlarged viewing and fast editing)
  • position and accessibility of controls ( how fast can you get to often used controls such as shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and any settings that are important to you. Also are you likely to accidental bump something during casual use and handling)
  • bells and whistles ( fancy stuff like shooting in sepia or black and white, special effects, built-in timers for time-lapse, etc.)

Since your question was in regards to image quality in relation to enlargement, I’ll focus comments there.

There are several generally accepted aspects to image quality:

  • Pixel dimensions (megapixels = file resolution H x W)
  • Image resolution (actual sharpness – it’s a combined result of lens sharpness and pixel resolution)
  • Color fidelity ( color accuracy for every pixel – this affects how true-to-life the image is)
  • Noise level ( less noise is generally considered ideal – noise looks like film grain)
  • Compression artifacts ( these are generally considered detrimental as they destroy color fidelity and detail – to avoid these you will need a camera that shoots RAW or TIFF in addition to the usual JPEG)
  • Tonal range (contrast and detail without clipping to pure black or pure white – the ability to capture shadow detail and highlights at the same time)

All of the items are important to quality, but items in bold are specific to how big the image will reasonably print before the quality drops to unacceptable.   While pixel count is certainly important, equally, if not more important is lens quality. Pixels are not a representation of sharpness, but of resolution. While the two are inter-twined, sharpness is in my opinion a bigger factor.  We have printed many files that had low pixel count but were shot with really nice lenses. The results are better than a high pixel count file shot with inferior lenses.  A not so good 24MP file will not print as well as a good sharp high quality file from an 18MP file scaled up to 24MP  If your budget demands picking either good glass or high mega-pixels, I would suggest you go with the better glass – you’ll get a better return on your investment. Stats and specs can be misleading, so use them as general guide, not as gospel and remember, more is not always better. Especially if you are giving up something more important to get the “more”.

Noise level varies from model to model and is a result of the quality of the chip, the amount of light falling on the chip and the quality of the camera’s internal computer and it’s software.  It can also come from the software you use on your computer to process your RAW files. Part of the cost of a pro-level camera is to pay for the high-end and high-speed processors and CCD chips used in the body.

Most in-camera file compression is destructive and at varying degrees. In my opinion, JPEG is not the ideal file format if detail in the print is of paramount consideration. The compresson process throws away critical detail and is very damaging to the color fidelity. If you pay for a 24MP camera and shoot jpeg, you may only get 12-18MP worth of real detail and around 6MP of color fidelity.  You can learn more about RAW versus JPEG in a previous post here.
When choosing a new camera, make a thorough list that covers what kinds of shooting you do and what features and controls you use for that style. Use that list to determine your must haves as well as any features that would just be nice to have.  Here is an example such a list:


  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • high ISO
  • Tripod mount
  • Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  • Jpeg and raw in single capture


  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • Tripod mount
  • Bracketing
  • Tilt-able view screen for low angle shooting


  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • high ISO
  • Tripod mount
  • Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  • Tethered shooting
  • Jpeg and raw in single capture


  • Large megapixels
  • Full-frame sensor
  • Uses my existing lenses
  • Large view screen
  • Lightweight
  • Accepts accessory grip with additional battery
Now distill this down to one list to remove the duplicates, refine the details then put them in order of priority for you:
  1. Interchangeable lenses
  2. Uses my existing lenses
  3. High megapixels
  4. Full-frame sensor
  5. Top shutter speed 1/5000 or better
  6. Aperture priority
  7. flash sync
  8. white balance
  9. Tripod mount
  10. high ISO
  11. Bracketing
  12. Large view screen
  13. Tilt-able view screen for low angle shooting
  14. Jpeg and raw in single capture
  15. Tethered shooting
  16. Lightweight
  17. Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  18. Accepts accessory grip with additional battery
With list in hand, the internet or a good camera store should be your next destination for finding models that fit your needs. Nothing beats a well informed and experienced camera sales-person. If you have your list, they can often point you to a few selections in a matter of minutes. It might cost a small amount extra to buy in the store, but the time and frustrations you save instead of doing the search yourself can be worth it.
In the comments below, share what your priorities are and your methods for picking the ideal camera or other tools in your arsenal.  I’ll send the first five helpful responders a nice gift.

Raw Versus JPEG – What They’re Not Telling You

In the ever-present quest for perfection, photographers from around the country call me weekly with questions about shooting raw versus jpeg. The debate over this topic has been waging strong on the internet since the advent of digital still-image capture. Creating confusion, every photo blogger and “expert” in the forums has their opinions. Each of them expressing “this is the right choice”.  Well today’s post is here to proclaim that it’s mostly bunk. There is no perfect answer that fits every photographer all of the time. The Holy Grail of file type is a myth and it’s time to stop looking for it and get on with the business of taking great images. The two camps in the JPEG versus RAW debate have strong emotional bonds to their “rightness” and are willing to go to great lengths – even as far as to embarrass themselves online while attempting to change the unchangeable minds of the opposing camp. They cling to the strategy of looking for evidence to support their case while ignoring the evidence of the other. In the end it just adds up to more confusion for the reader – who continues to be un-prepared to make their decision. If you are hoping this post will give you the right and perfect set-it-and-forget-it-forever options, you won’t find them, because I don’t think they exist – though you may find one that works for you most of the time. What you will find is unbiased data to help you make educated decisions before you enter a shooting scenario. You will also find enough data to see clearly why I made my bold statements against the “This is always the right way” mentalities.

Let’s get down to business
If you are a professional shooter, regardless of market you will likely have some of the following example criteria to consider as part of your decision making process:

    • On what standards do your customersdetermine quality of service?
      • How important is color accuracy?
      • How critical is the pixel depth (megapixels)?
      • Is dynamic range an issue?
      • What are your expected turn times from capture to delivery?
    • Technical issues
      • Are you shooting under controlled lighting and can control scene dynamic range?
      • What is the expected use of the image?  Web, press, photographic, pigment, all of them?
      • How large will the file be expected to print?
      • Do you have time for custom white balance?
      • Do you have time to verify exposure settings with a quality hand-held meter?
    • Business related
      • Do you see time as money?
      • Are you paying assistants or digital artists to post-process?
      • Are you paying your lab to color correct for you?
      • What is your present customer satisfaction rate and is there room for improvement?
      • Are you willing to spend some time, effort, and resources to impact product quality?
      • Do you expect your workflow to minimize the post-process impact on margins?

If you are a hobbyist, what are you looking to gain?

  • The best possible print.
  • To spend more time with family and less time with post-processing
  • To gain more control over the final image
  • To fit more images on the limited space of a card
  • Technical questions:
    • What is the subject matter?
    • Under what conditions am I shooting?
    • How will the image be used?
    • What is your personal criteria for quality?

Perspectives – it’s all a point of view
Before choosing your shooting format I recommend you first determine your priorities and make a list. When you know what is important to you, then the best choices can be made and most often with higher levels of confidence. For these examples, we’ll look at the typical requirements of each shooter type. Knowing the requirements will lead to understanding why a certain thing might be a priority. Photographers and business models vary, so results and opinions may differ. For the pro, they have to satisfy an end user in order to make a living. Often working with pro level tools to maximize image quality and speed the process. For some of the professional markets such as studios, time is an expense against the profit margin and customer experience may have the largest impact. For other business models such as fine art, it’s often maximum image quality that is the primary target. Studios are the business model most likely operating in some type of assembly-line type of workflow. They have dozens of images from each person or product shot and each of these files needs some kind of attention. Usually starting with elimination of the unusable, then selection of the prime images followed by editing. The artists that are paid to handle this process are usually compensated by the hour. The longer it takes to move a job through the work-flow, the deeper the cut into the bottom line. Quality needs to be maintained to meet or exceed the customer’s minimum expectations. The average consumer’s expectations are often that the professional print should exceed the quality of a drug-store print. As long as they can see a higher level print, that particular expectation is met (photographic skills such as composition aside for the intent of this discussion).  Skin-tones and most all other colors related to people photography fit will inside the sRGB colorspace. Studios have a great deal of control over their lighting, and thus the required dynamic range for the shoot. A good setup can usually hold within a 6 stop limitation of a JPEG work-flow. Interior location photography has additional challenges resulting from ambient conditions that might not be controllable. Office lighting, large windows, etc. can contribute to the overall lighting of a scene and may result in lighting ratios that exceed the 6 stop limit. In profit-centric people photography, merging brackets for HDR is rarely an ideal solution.

Commercial product photography has unique demands, especially when the product or person being photographed requires special staging and effects.
And yet the images themselves usually end up being used in the lowest of gamut conditions: 4-color press and the internet. In a complex shoot, where lighting, effects such as smoke or movement are in play, bracketing is not an option so maximum dynamic range is beneficial.  In table top product photography – think catalog photos – there is no movement, lighting is completely controllable and product colors rarely exceed the basic gamuts of Adobe1998 or sRGB. Since the subject does not move, bracketing can be used to maximize dynamic range.. Food photography brings the potential for highly saturated colors that would do well with a larger gamut and maximum control.  A commercial photo session often includes a day or more of styling, prep and active capture, followed by a similar amount of time in post. There are thousands if not ten’s of thousands of dollars at stake and final image quality can be critical to the customer’s end sales. Such diversity creates situations where JPEG would be most profitable and other times where a RAW work-flow is mandated.   The fine-art photographer is often most concerned with image quality. They seek an integrity in the image that jpeg does not deliver. Maximum dynamic range, sharpness, color fidelity and detail are all sought in the persute of the ideal print that meets the artist’s vision and the expectations of the descriminating print buyer. Fine art images are often heavily manipulated to create the mood sought by the artist and to bring out maximum detail. Through manipulation, detail along with any compression artifacts will also be brought to greater light. Artists will often use improper white balance to enhance mood and emotional response. The artist will often spend countless hours laboring over pre-planning of a shoot, and many financial resources are spent on models and assistants. The final editing is usually performed by the photographer rather than an assistant.

Pick a card, any card…
Prepared with the insights you now have into the requirements of a few professional photographer types, these charts should help clarify why one format type won’t properly cover every photographer’s needs, and how some photographer’s might benefit from both types during their day.

Jpeg Versus Raw, Capabilities by File Format Type

Basic Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
  • Can be any working space you have a profile for.
  • WB can be tuned post-capture.
  • Greater exposure latitude – though precise exposure is recommended.
  • Highest level of adjustment flexibility before causing gaps in histogram.
  • Best option if over-sampling is required.
  • Supported by Pro-level software
  • Non-lossy raw formats contain highest levels of color-fidelity
  • Takes the more time and resources to post process.
  • Larger in-camera and offline storage space requirements.
  • Must be processed before online sharing/distribution can occur.
  • Must be processed prior to printing
  • Additional software required.
  • Not supported by all editing software
  • Smaller file sizes maximize in-camera and offline storage space.
  • Proper WB and exposure can often go directly to print.
  • Easily shared via email and web with no additional work.
  • Lower time investments.
  • No additional software required.
  • Maximum software support both pro and consumer level.
  • Usually limited to sRGB or Adobe1998 at time of capture.
  • Any settings applied in camera i.e. WB, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. are “fixed” into the image – changes require post-capture retouching/editing.
  • Minimal exposure latitude of 1/8 stop.
  • Lossy format means you paid for resolution that you are sacrificing.
  • Typically does not over-sample well due to in-camera sharpening and compression related artifacts.

 Jpeg Versus Raw, Considerations by Photo Type

A successful photographer will learn the needs and expectations of their client, then support those needs through technical and artistic know-how, all the while minding the needs of the bottom line.

You can help our readers by sharing tidbits you have discovered regarding JPEG and Raw workflows in the comments below. And as always, we are here to answer your questions.

Big Changes in JPEG Could Change Your Workflow

The folks over at the Independent JPEG Group who have the job of maintaining all things technical behind the JPEG file format have added some much needed support to the oft-maligned aging file-type. With the release of version 9 of the jpeg software libraries comes 12-bit color support and optional loss-less compression; after all it wouldn’t do much good to have 12-bit color if you lose so much color-fidelity in the compression process. For the true geek in all of us, the new libraries are available for download should you want to try your hand at implementing them into your workflow. Be warned though, that unless you have some serious skills, implementing them in existing software will be a challenge. Open source fans on Linux and MacOS have the best shot at implementation at this time.  You can grab the codec files from

Camera Support

12-bit support should be a welcome addition for raw file shooters as the new standard will allow for  full color fidelity in embedded JPEG previews and in-camera JPEG stand-alone files. This new wider-gamut support could result in JPEG being adopted as a viable workflow option for the serious pro.  Adoption of the new standard will likely take some time in the commercial arena as the big software players and the camera manufacturers wait to see if the social-media buzz will add credence to the spend required for implementation. It’s my prediction that the early adopters will be open-source software and firmware authors – in part because their mind-set is usually quality instead of cost, and in part because their hands are not tied by corporate bankers, investors and bean-counters. It’s not uncommon for open-source software users to get some of the goods long before commercial adoption – as an example, Adobe’s content aware fill had been years-old news to GIMP users by the time Photoshop users heard about it.  Frequency separation processes, de-blurring/de-motion tools and boutique sharpening algorithms could make this list as well as a good part of those were developed in scientific and educational circles and released as open-source, often years prior to commercial adoption. The new JPEG features could mean an short increase in digital camera sales as new models using the technology will appeal to a portion of the market. Users of major manufacturer legacy equipment might be out of luck unless you are willing to used a hacked version of the firmware, and assuming your jpeg codec is not hardware embedded in way that cannot be bypassed. Canon camera users will find the most mature firmware hacks over at Magic Lantern and  CHDK. Nikon buffs can find a handful of hacks online, but none of them appear as mature and feature rich. A place to start looking if you are a Nikon fan might be the fledgling community over at Nikon Hacker. If factory firmware is your only cup-of-tea, then Canon owners might still have hope, as Canon has shown greater interest in supporting legacy equipment with feature upgrades. Nikon users will very likely be out of luck as the major manufacturer tends to release only bug-fixes for their firmware. As a Nikon shooter myself, I envy the attention Canon gives to the best-interest of their users. In the end, users of cameras that support raw, but do not support firmware updates should still be able to rely on software-based raw file conversion to get full JPEG9a support when it’s available.

Now the bad news

It appears that images created using the new codec will not decode properly on software that is using the older versions. This suggests that full implementation of the new JPEG codec into your workflow is likely to require new software in that one would not normally associate such as graphic design/layout apps, browser updates, thumbnail preview generators, operating system patches, even updates to your smartphone will be in the mix.  My advice, don’t rush to adoption unless you have a very solid and critical reason to do so. Attempting to share a new version file with a client who has not fully adopted the software to handle it might lead to ugliness. I could find nothing in the new release that cannot be achieved using a different file format for most needs. For many years the Tiff format has fully supported the larger bit-depths and loss-less LZW compression. PNGs loss-less compression is already web-compatible and enjoys full browser support. Is the new JPEG version a potential game changer?  Perhaps in a few circles. Those circles however will likely touch most any user of digital imaging; just not right away.  When adoption is complete, the changes will be more of convenience than of consequence, but it’s nice to see the old JPEG standard get another face-lift to keep it current.

Looking for more LEADS through Social Media? This is a great place to start!

For my very first Google+ hangout I spoke on the panel as a Social Media expert for an HOA (Hangeout on Air) for SMGDenver and I had a blast! Lots of great information was shared. If you are looking to generate leads through social media, or looking to create an online business community with your existing social media platforms, this video is a great place to start.


Happy to answer any questions, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Dang I Like Your Proportions!

BigColonC’mon now, admit it. You’ve been faced with it too: Not knowing what print sizes your file will fit on without cropping.

The answer is all in the colon. No, not THAT one, this one ==> :  These two quiet dots carry the full weight of the answer to the problem and it comes in the form of proportions.

Proportions, or “aspect ratios” are really just the comparison of one dimension to the other , ie. how height compares to width.  When the proportions of your image, match the size you want to print, we say that it “pros out”.  If it does not match we call this “fails to pro”. Pro, of course. being short-hand speak for “proportions.”

Proportions are used for many purposes in the graphic and photographic arenas, sometimes for technical reasons i.e. to fit a print size, sometimes for aesthetics – each ratio has its own gestalt – or feeling.

Images have their aspect ratios determined by either the camera or the cropping. For the purpose of our discussion, we are determining ratios to know if we will need to crop our image more to get it to fill all of a given print size.  Cropping is required if the image aspect ratio does not match the print size aspect ratio.

Proportions are written as two numbers separated by a colon, such as 1:3 – meaning that for every 1 the other gets 3.  So a print that is 1 inch on the shortest side would be 3 inches on the other side. Or an images that is 4 inches on the shortest side would be 12 on the other.

Note: officially when you verbally state a ratio, that little colon would be substituted with the word “to”, as in a ratio of 1 to 3.   Now say this out loud: “1 to 3”. Sounds like you just counted to three right? Welcome to english where we have two too many toos to go around. Since a great deal of our customers are from around the globe, and we don’t want to risk confusion in a print order, we prefer to use the word “by” instead. As in “a 4 by 5 aspect ratio”.

The Basics

The aspect ratio is determined by reducing dimensionA:dimensionB to the lowest common denominator. Most print sizes will divide by 2 or 3  A few simple examples are a 4″x6″ print and an 8×10″ print.

Finding the ratio of the 4×6 would look something like this:

4×6 = 4:6 and the smallest number that these numbers can be divided by is 2.

4/2 = 2  : 6/2 = 3  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 2:3  or “2 by 3”

The 8×10 would go something like this:

8 x 10 = 8:10

Neither number divides by three down to a whole number, but we can divide equally by two.

8/2 = 4  :  10/2 = 5  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 4:5 or “4 by 5″

Let’s add another example: the 16×24 print size.

the 24″ dimension divides equally by three (3×8) but the 16” dimension does not (16/3= 5.33333) so we’ll try dividing by 2:

16 / 2 = 8 : 24 /2 = 12 and we get 8:12. We can take this further, yes?

8 / 2 = 4  :  12 / 2 = 6 and now we have 4:6 and we can still go down further.

4/2 = 2  : 6/2 = 3  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 2:3  or “2 by 3″

Now you might recognize that last one as the same ratio we determined from the 4″x6″ print. So our 4×6 and our 16×24 all have the same 2:3 aspect ratio. This means that an image that  fits our ratio will scale to either size print without the need to crop off image area.


Some print and image sizes might need to multiply up to get to a good whole number. Let’s take a 2.5″ x 3.5” print – commonly called “yearbook wallet size”.  These dimensions will not divide by the same amount to reach a whole number, so we must go up.  Again, I’ll use the 2 or 3 rule first.

The number two looks like a good fit here:

2.5 x 2 = 5 : 3.5 x 2 = 7 for an aspect ratio of 5:7.  These numbers won’t divide down further so we  have our final aspect ratio.

Now that we have an aspect ratio, let’s look at what print sizes this will match without cropping:


x2 = 10″x14″

x3 = 15″x21″

x4 = 20″x28″

x5 = 25″x35″


These are not very recognizable sizes today, in part because this aspect ratio has not been used in cameras for several generations. The 5×7 print size still exists, but it does need some cropping for most modern images.

So let’s try this with our other sample aspect ratios:

2:3 is the ratio of 35mm, most DSLRs and digital hand-held cameras in the consumer market. Since it’s likely one that most of our readers will have had some experience in, let’s start there.


x1  = Standard wallet – 2″x3″

x2 = 4″x6″ – Your basic minilab/drugstore print

x4 = 8″x12″ – A common portrait print size. Note that an 8×10 would need cropping

x8 = 16″x24″

x10 = 20″x30″

x12 = 24″x36″



In this next example you’ll see some very familiar sizes.


x2 = 8″x10″ The single most popular enlargement size in the USA.

x4 = 16″x20″

x6 = 24″x30″

x8 = 32″x40″



Let’s answer a common question:

How do I know how much of my DSLR file will need cropping to fit a 16×20 print?

This is pretty straight forward. Let’s start with the short dimension.

So we have a 16X20 print and a file with a 2:3 aspect ratio.

Divide the short side of the print by the larger of the ratios: 16/ 2 = 8

Take the result and multiply by the longer: 3 x 8 = 24.

Result of 24 minus the print size of 20 and the remainder is 4

So this process shows us that if we enlarge the file to fit the short side to the 16″ dimension, we will have an extra 4″ of image area that will get cropped from the long dimension.

If the last step of the equation leaves you with a number that is smaller than the print size, then you need to begin again, this time starting with the longer print dimension.


Whew!  Still have questions? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my very best to answer them.


The Last First Friday of MoP

1stFriday_April_2013First Friday Art Walks in Denver are always a blast. The galleries open their doors to the public for later the normal viewing and a little “wine and cheese” type atmosphere. Whether you are in the Santa Fe Art District, known as the hub of the Denver art scene, or any of the seven others around town, you are bound to see amazing art and some fascinating characters.

The creative community in Denver is

Giclee Fine Art Printing – Getting a Great Print Part 1 – Photography of Artwork

A Pigment print is a bit more than just an inkjet print. So what makes it fine art worthy? To qualify, the print must be achieved using archival grade pigmented inks on archival grade fine-art paper or canvas. While we love the look of the watercolor papers and canvas papers we don’t suggest using Giclee “photo papers”. For aesthetic reasons, we recommend that the artist get a fine art photographic print for that. But the quality of the fine art pigment print is not limited to the inks and papers you use. There is quite a bit more that goes into the craftsmanship than just the print alone.

There is a great many details that should be tended to, but the major areas can be broken down like this:

Photography of your artwork
Working the file before testing
Generating a worthy test print
Working the file again to refine the proof
Printing the final units or series

Each of these is important to understand so they may become an effective part of your workflow. Since there is a great deal of information to pass along,  I’ll split the content into a multi-part series.

Photography of art work

Every step in the production chain of your fine art edition is critical, but some steps, if improperly done, can be disastrous to the final viewer experience. The first step, photography of your artwork, is an excellent example. This step is the largest determining factor to the faithful reproduction of your original art. To create a great pigment print, the photography of the artwork should be:

  • Focused properly using high-end lenses
  • shot using a strudy tripod in a vibration free environment
  • photographed using the sweet-spot of the lens
  • in some cases, polarized light and or special lens filters may be required
  • exposed correctly with a critical attention to detail
  • evenly lit using the proper lights
  • correctly white balanced
  • shot in the proper file format and with sufficient resolution
  • shot in a colorspace that is large enough to capture the full range of the painting and supports the full range of the Pigment print

The right glass

Shooting with inferior lenses may result in various distortions, such as smearing around the edges, chromatic aberrations – where some colors focus differently than others, barrel or pin-cushion distortion, lens flares and overall lack of saturation and/or contrast.  Shooting with prime lenses and pro-level equipment will provide the highest possible image integrity and result in a file that achieves the closest honesty to the original.

Image courtesy of

Chromatic aberrations of cheaper lenses result in out of focus images with color fringing.

Image courtesy of

Proper apo-chromatic focus results in all wavelengths (colors) focusing on the same plane for maximum sharpness and detail.


Image courtesy of

Bottom photo clearly shows effect of apo-chromatic aberrations.

Distortions, or bending of the image are another issue with lesser quality lenses with “pincushion” and “barrel” being the most common. Pincushion distortion has the effect of the center of the image being further away than the edges while barrel distortion is just the opposite. With barrel distortion, the center of the image appears closer to the viewer than the edges.

Image courtesy of

Pincushion distortion created converging lines towards the center of the image

Image courtesy of

Barrel distortion creates diverging line near the center of the image


A quality image capture is not dependent exclusively on a good camera/lens combination.

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art, and they are expensive.

All elements in the photographic process are important. For example: how the camera and art work are handled during the exposure process will add a measurable difference to the final product.

A good solid vibration free tripod is a must-have if you are serious about photographing your own work.  Any vibration in the camera or the original artwork during exposure will result in “motion-blur” that will visibly carry over to your reproduction prints. While lesser tripods may be appealing just because of their price, they are susceptible to vibration, “ringing”, sagging and slipping during exposure. Think of it this way, if cheapo gear would lead to professional results, then why would there be a need for “pro” gear, and why would the pros invest the top grade gear?

If you want to get the best looking print, and your are committed to doing your own photography of your art do yourself and your art buyers a big favor and use the gear that will get you fine art quality instead of drugstore quality.

A stable support for your artwork is equally important. Any movement in your art during exposure will result in motion blur issues that will leave the image looking out of focus or double-exposed. While it may be tempting to take your art outdoors for the photo session, keep in mind that your painting is much like a sail in the wind. The slightest breeze will result in movement in the artwork. Heavier breezes or gusts may damage your art. And shooting with only one light-source, such as the sun, does not provide even lighting across the entire painting. I know this sounds crazy, but it has to do with what is called “angle of reflection” This is basically a measurement of the angle the light-path takes as it reflects away from the subject towards the viewer or camera and it is always equal to the angle of incidence (the angle the light path takes to get to the subject).

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it's source.

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it’s source.

Light falling on your canvas is more likely to scatter in a direction away from the light source. So let’s take the example to the right. The light source, in this case the sun, is to the left of the painting and the camera is directly in front of it. As we move across the canvas from left to right, we have less light reflecting in the direction of the camera lens. This results in the right side appearing darker than the left. This is called “fall-off”. Our eyes and brains adjust for fall-off for us, so we tend not to see it with the naked eye. While much of the light will “scatter” off in multitudes of directions, it is not enough to eliminate fall-off.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.











Shooting indoors gives you the greatest control over your environment for lighting and stability. When possible, setup your tripod on a concrete floor. Wood floors have flex and tend to amplify vibrations like a spring-board. If you must setup on a wooden floor, try to locate the load bearing supports under the floor and set your tripod in that area to minimize vibration. The farther you are away from the supports, the more amplified the vibrations.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series on Proper Lighting and Exposure. You can subscribe to our newsletter or via RSS to be notified automatically.





Professional Drum Scanning – What You Need to Know to Be the Smartest Person In The Room

Drum Scans

Color space is determined by the methodology used to create the colors within a file. The most popular of those are:
LAB or a similar space such as YCC
RGB is gaining popularity in the graphics output community. RGB colors are “mixed” using values stated in levels instead of percentages. i.e. 0 to 255 rather than 0% to 100 %. This colorspace can be thought of as a “Transmissive” colorspace as RGB devices use light to image instead of pigments. As your levels increase towards 255, your values get lighter.
Black, medium grey and white in RGB are created from the following mi

Black Medium Grey White
0 0 0 127 127 127 255 255 255

As you can see, the closer to white (more light) the higher the number.

RGB is a “Device Independent” colorspace, meaning that regardless of the device printed to, a given color in a file will always be made of the same color “mix.”

CMYK is a long standing “standard” but is not a device independent colorspace. This is due to the many variables in the CMYK world. GCR (Grey Component Removal) and UCR (Under Color Removal) can result in the same perceived color being reproduced with several different combinations of Cyan Magenta and Yellow, depending on the level of the Black. These mixes are determined by paper stock, press conditions, inks used, etc. One CMYK file built for a web press, can yield drastically different results when sent to a sheet-fed press, or an inkjet printer. Each of these devices prefers different levels of GCR, or UCR. Creating a CMYK file for one, does not mean it will perform as expected on the other. Because CMYK files are “calibrated” to a specific device, they are referred to as “Device Dependent”. CMYK values are measured in percentages from 0% to 100%. The higher the number, the more ink is laid on the paper during printing. Because each press and paper combination can yield different results, there is no exact formula for a rich black, middle grey, or any other color except for “paper white” which is:

0% 0% 0% 0%

There are several formulas that are used throughout the industry as approximate guidelines. These can be obtained from your printer.

Our Professional Drum Scanning is provided in a RGB colorspace file unless otherwise requested. All scanners actually see in RGB, but a CMYK scan is converted on the fly through either hardware or software algorithms. By providing you with an RGB scan, we are allowing you or your service provider to convert the file to CMYK based on their individual requirements, leading to a higher quality product


Wholesale Photo-Plaque Opportunities Available

If you have a retail or online business and are looking for a fast selling, highly profitable product, look no further!

Wholesale Photo-Plaques

sfyl has dedicated itself to selling our entire line of photo-plaques!
Choose from Travel, Inspirational, Humorous and Vintage.
To see our entire line, visit Our line of products is a proven money maker in online storefronts such as amazon or ebay.