Frequently Asked Photo Questions for April

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 January, February, and March.

Photo Recovery Software

Is there a photo recovery software program out there that actually works?
--Rose Keller, Longmont, Colorado

I hear some frustration in that question, Rose.

I've used several photo recovery programs, and most of them do a good job--as long as you understand their limitations. Like any file recovery program, a photo recovery app works best at retrieving accidentally deleted photos from a disk or memory card, not from a storage device that has been physically damaged or has failed. Also, if you've subsequently put new files on the card, the odds of recovering those lost photos goes way down.

These programs rely on the fact that file systems don't truly delete files, they just remove information about where to find those files from the disk or memory card's table of contents. Most recovery programs do their magic by crawling through all the memory locations on the card to look for intact (but deleted) photos they can "recover."

Want to give one a spin? I recommend Digital Photo Recovery, which is free and effective. Alternately, you could try CnW Recovery Software, which is designed to work on corrupted memory cards--something most other programs won't do. If you have an especially vexing recovery problem, you can try this program for 30 days for $15 (handy for a one-time emergency) or get a full license for $29.

Choosing a Photo Program

What photo editing program do you recommend that I use with Windows Vista?
--Carol Craul, Pittsburgh

All the usual proto editing programs that work with Windows XP also work just fine with Windows Vista, Carol.

I usually recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements (available online for about $85 and up) and Corel Paint Shop Pro (available for about $70 and up). Both offer all the most important photo editing tools--like exposure adjustments and multilayer support--yet they're fairly easy to use.

If you want to try your hand at some photo editing for free, there's also the open-source GIMP photo editor. It's quite nice, but you might find it somewhat harder to learn to use than one of the commercial packages.

Posting to the Web

I've spent days trying to get my pictures posted to a Web site. I was told to go to Microsoft Picture Manager and then select "Web small" and save. Sounds easy, right? Well, I can't find the program. What do I do?
--Colleen Hansen, Knox, Pennsylvania

Picture Manager is a utility that comes with Microsoft Office, Colleen, so if you don't have Office, you won't have Picture Manager, either. And I should point out that what you describe won't post the picture online; it'll only make the photo smaller so it's easier to post online.

I think you need to figure out what you really want to do. Do you want to e-mail the photo to someone? Then right-click the photo and choose Send to Mail recipient. Then follow the steps to resize and attach the photo to an e-mail message. (See "E-Mail Your Digital Photo.")

If you want to post it publicly on the Web, then you might want to try a photo sharing site like Flickr. Photo sharing sites offer all the tools you need to post photos online without messing with programs like Microsoft Picture Manager. Be sure to read "Sharing Full-Size Photos" for more tips on sharing photos online.

Meter Readings

I have often read about people taking a meter reading or metering the scene before they take a picture. From what I can determine, this is usually done using the manual setting on the camera. How would I take a meter reading using my camera? I have a Canon 30D. Once I took a reading, what would I do with that information?
--John Tinmouth, Layton, Utah

A meter reading tells you the amount of light in a scene, John. This lets you decide what exposure setting--a shutter speed and aperture at a particular ISO--needed to properly exposure the photo. You can use a hand-held meter, but you don't need to: Your camera, set to almost any exposure mode, will work just fine. It takes just such a meter reading every time you take the photo, and that information is available to you in the viewfinder.

This "meter reading" is useful if you are trying to be creative or take a better photo than the camera could do on its own in automatic mode. For example, you'll get two very different exposures if you point the camera into shadow or bright light. What if you're taking a picture that has both shadow and light in the same scene? One solution is to override the automatic exposure and set something in between.

You might want to browse old episodes of Digital Focus, like "Fix Your Exposure Before You Take the Photo" and "More Exposure Tricks." I also recommend my book, How to Do Everything: Digital Camera, which has a lot of useful advice about this sort of thing.

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: "Sundown at Long Beach," by Rob Castro, Chino Hills, California

Rob writes: "I could not resist taking a photo of these backlit masts at Long Beach Pier in California. I used my Canon 5D with a 50mm lens teleconverted with a 1.4X adapter. In Photoshop Elements, I layered a gradient fill to brighten the foreground."

This Week's Runner-Up: "Abbie in Wildflowers," by Tim Babcock, Atascadero, California

Tim used a FujiFilm 3-megapixel camera to catch his dog, Abbie, sitting among the wildflowers.

To see all of this month's Hot Pics, visit our April slide show. Visit our Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

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

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