Frequently Asked Photo Questions for January

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can’t promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from October, November, and December.

Dealing With Red-Eyed Puppies

"Photographing Your Pets" was most informative for my future pet shots. But what do you do when you already have a photo with the dreaded "devil eye?"
--Richard "Doc" Wagner, Salisbury, North Carolina

There are very few programs that can deal with red eye in pets, Richard. The only program I've had satisfactory results with is Corel's Paint Shop Pro (you can find it for under $100 at PC World’s Shop & Compare), which has an amazingly comprehensive red eye reduction tool. It sports a full featured pet mode that allows you to choose from among several eye shapes, glint, and other details. If you take a lot of indoor flash photos of your pets, Paint Shop Pro is almost essential.

Wearing Out a D300

My son and I want to try stop-motion claymation with my Nikon D300, but will this prematurely wear out the shutter?
--Brian Laurie, Denver

The Nikon D300's shutter is rated for 150,000 exposures, so if you shoot 15 frames per second, that's about 3 hours of video, one click at a time. That doesn't sound like much. The good news is that you can get a lot more than the rated number of shutter activations out of a modern digital SLR than the specifications imply. But if that ceiling worries you--and you don't want to risk needing to replace or repair your camera on an annual basis, try using the D300's Live View mode, which moves the mirror out of the way, so fewer parts move each time you press the shutter release.

Print Resolution Revisited

To print a photo calendar, I was told the minimum picture size is 4 by 6 inches at 300 dpi, but no more than 5MB. I've saved most of my photos at 12 by 8 inches at 300 dpi. How do I find how many megabytes are in that size image? If I need to go down to a smaller size, how do I compute megabytes verses pixels when I am sizing an image?
--Maxine, Torrance, California

Digital photo file sizes are complicated enough to begin with. I'm always amazed when people make this issue even more confusing than it needs to be. I've said this many times before, such as in the May FAQ, but it bears repeating--there's really no such thing as dpi when the photo is stored on your computer. Thinking about digital photos in "dots per inch" or "pixels per inch" is just asking for trouble. On your computer, a picture is built of pixels, so it's measured with pixels in the X and Y dimensions, such as 2500 by 3800 pixels. Dots per inch means something only when you try to print that image. So a 2500 by 3800 pixel, printed at 300 dpi, would become approximately 8 by 12 inches on paper.

The folks telling you that your photos need to be 4 by 6 at 300 dpi are being unnecessarily confusing. What they should say is "photos need to be no smaller than 1200 by 1800 pixels." Why? Because if you check your photo's properties in Windows or in your favorite photo editor, it'll tell you the image's dimensions in pixels, not some arbitrary number of inches at some other arbitrary dpi setting.

Finally, to answer your question about determining the file size of a photo, just look at the photo's file size in Windows. Open your Pictures folder, find the file, and you'll find that Windows reports the file size in megabytes. There's no absolute guide you can use to know the file size of an image, because it varies depending upon the variety of colors in the photo and how much compression was used to save the JPEG image.

Calibrating an LCD Monitor

I am currently using a very old CRT monitor, and am thinking of replacing it with a bigger screen. CRTs appear to be a dying breed, but I have heard that LCDs are not ideal for digital photo editing. Do color calibration gadgets work with LCD monitors?
--Gordon Falise, Jupiter, Florida

Modern LCDs work great for digital photography, Gordon, but make sure you buy a high-quality, full-gamut model. Some cheaper LCDs are only 7 bit per channel and can’t reproduce as wide of a color range. Read more details in "How to Buy a Monitor."

Also, most modern calibration devices are designed to work on both LCD and CRT displays. You should check the Web site or user guide for yours to be sure, though; older models might not accommodate LCDs. For more on calibrating a monitor, read "Correct Your Monitor's Colors."

Undead Photos

I have a 4GB Secure Digital memory card. Each time I insert it into my computer, it will load about 50 old photos on top of the new ones. I have tried to delete them, but the same old files keep coming back. I got this problem after I copied photos from the computer to the card to move them to another computer. These are the same ones that will not delete from the card. How can I clean the whole card?
--Bill Foster, Portland, Oregon

I think I know what your problem is, Bill. Your digital camera doesn't know anything about those extra photos you copied to the card by hand, so when you tell the camera to "delete all," it only removers the photos it creates and ignores the others. You need to format the card to kill off those undead photos once and for all. You can format it using Windows--choosing the FAT32 option--or use the Format command in your camera's menu. You might need to check your camera's user guide for instructions on how to find the Format command.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Tree Bark," by Kathy Olding, Tok, Alaska

Kathy writes: "I have been taking pictures of her and the rest of my dog family all their lives. They have become so accustomed being photographed that when they hear my camera start up they run to get in front of it so I can take their pictures."  She took this photo of her dogs--a pair of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers named Otter and Journey--with a Canon PowerShot A550.

This Week's Runner-Up: "Penny Found," by Peter A. Jensen, Kenmore, Washington

Peter writes: "I took this photo after getting a lecture from my youngest son on how I shouldn’t discount his good fortune in finding a penny on the playground." This photo's unique look comes from the ultra wide angle 22 mm lens, mounted on Peter's Canon EOS 20D.

See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have the Digital Focus Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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