Frequently Asked Photo Questions for June

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 March, April, and May.

Making a Positive Print From a Negative

I have a black-and-white negative and need to make a positive print. How can I do that?
--A.K. Brenman, Orange, California

This is pretty straightforward with almost any scanner. Look in your scanner's software for the setting that identifies the source material you are trying to scan. Your choices should include things like color photograph, newspaper, illustration, and--here's the one you want--black and white negative. It'll scan the negative, making the necessary conversion to display it as an ordinary positive print.

Problems Transferring Photos With Windows 7

Before I got my 64-bit Windows 7 computer, I used to regularly transfer pictures with an Secure Digital card and card reader, but now the card reader no longer works. Even when using a cable directly to the camera, I can't download pictures.
--Ron Tancredi, Fort Wayne, Indiana

That sounds frustrating, Ron, but it's not normal behavior for Windows 7--even the 64-bit edition. Windows 7 is extremely compatible with hardware and devices such as card readers and cameras.

Your problem makes me wonder how old your gear is. If it's very old, it might simply be too ancient for Windows 7 to recognize. How old is too old? If you bought it prior to about 2003, for example, you might have trouble. One thing you can try: Start Windows Update and see if there are any available updates for our card reader or camera. Also, visit the camera's Web site to see if there is any software you can install. Generally though, you shouldn't need to install anything to use either a card reader or a camera with any modern edition of Windows.

Programs That Work With Nikon NEF Files

What is a good program for handling Nikon NEF files? Can I use Adobe Photoshop Elements for that?
--Brian Choa, Northbrook, Illinois

Yes, Brian, Photoshop Elements handles NEF files.

NEF, of course, is the file extension for RAW files used in Nikon cameras, similar to the CRW and CR2 files used by Canon cameras. Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS4 both rely on Adobe's Camera Raw converter, a plug-in that imports your RAW files into the photo editor. But you can work with NEF (and other RAW files) in any modern photo editor: Corel Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Lightroom, and even free photo editors like Windows Live Photo Gallery. GIMP, a popular free editor, works with RAW files if you install the also-free UFRaw plug-in.

Changing the Picture Icon Size in Windows 7

I recently upgraded my system from Vista to Windows 7. In Vista, I was able to show my photos with large icons. Now there are no column headings unless I am in detail view. What am I missing?
--Jack, Easton, Pennsylvania

If I understand your question, Jack, you're looking for a way to change the folder view in Windows 7 to show large icons and perhaps switch to other views as well. Those controls did move around a little in Windows 7. If you look in the top right corner of the folder window, you'll see the "Change your view" drop-down menu (the third icon from the right). There, you can switch among icon sizes, making it easier to preview your photos. Also, the Preview pane icon is right next to it--click it to get a large preview of a selected photo right in the folder if you prefer.

Setting Scanner DPI for High-Quality Photos

I have started to scan photos to keep them in digital form. The scanner has dpi settings, and it takes much longer to scan at 600 dpi than at 300 or 150. Does the higher dpi setting result in a higher quality scan so that in the future I could enlarge it to print as a poster, or crop it, without losing quality?
--John Lydon, Peru

Exactly, John. The dpi setting, which stands for dots per inch, controls how large your scanned photo will be, measured in pixels. Suppose your original photo is 3 inches across. If you scan it at 150 dpi, the digital version will be 3 x 150 = 240 pixels wide. If you scan it at 300 dpi, it'll be 900 pixels wide. So the higher you set the dpi on the scanner, the more detail you'll capture, which will enable you to make bigger prints.

Of course, there are always caveats. For example, there's an upper limit beyond which increasing the dpi will have no effect. Your photo only has so much information in it. Scanning at 4000 dpi won't give you additional information if the original source material is only 300 or 600 dpi to begin with; it'll just make the digital file enormous. And many scanners can be set to resolutions far above their true optical resolution, which yields no real benefit. Check the guide that came with your scanner to see what its real resolution is, and never go beyond that value.

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: "Heavenly," by Justine Veloza, Carlsbad, California

Justine says: "I took this photo at the top of Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. It's my friend's snowboard, and the clouds in the background, along with Lake Tahoe, the scenery is incredible. I used a Nikon CoolPix S570."

This week's runner-up: "Out for a Bite," by George Fritzsche, Carmel, California

George reports that he took this photo with his Canon Digital Rebel XSI.

To see last month's winners, visit the May Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail 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.

This story, "Frequently Asked Photo Questions for June" was originally published by PCWorld.

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