Digital Photography Tips Tricks & Tutorials


Crashed memory card

PhotoRescue is a flash card recovery solution that does not do anything to your memory card except read it. The files are not changed in any way. Just have the card attached to your computer and run the software. It will show you thumbnails of what is on the card, and you can select which images to rescue. The application costs $29, and the demo software on their site ( will show you the data but will not let you download it. You must pay the money and register to get access to your files. If the demo sees the images, the software will work. If the demo doesn't see the image, neither will the full application. Mac and Windows.

Profile your monitor

It has been estimated that digital photographers get rid of 90% of their color problems when they purchase a colorimeter, such as the Gretag-Macbeth Eye-One Photo or the Spyder Color Vision. At least as an interim step, check out the Pantone huey, which will only do one monitor and does not allow for such accurate control, but which costs less than the professional models and is extremely easy and quick to set up.

Cleaning inside

Digital SLR camera owners should be aware of the risks of dust and other contamination on their CCDs. Nikon and Canon don't recommend cleaning the CCD, but Kodak, Fuji, and Leica all do. It's a very delicate operation, and all manufacturers warn that you do so at your own risk. Good images are dependent on the pristine quality of the CCD. One of the better cleaning strategies is to start by blowing dust off with CO2. If dust still adheres to the CCD, try Sensor Swabs from Photo-graphic Solutions (, specifically designed for cleaning CCD chips and other delicate or hard-to-reach surfaces. Although Nikon, Canon, and others vociferously warn you not to clean the CCD, the risk is minimal if you are very careful. The CCD is covered by an anti-aliasing screen, which is fairly hard and durable.

Before doing a cleaning, do a Google search for instructions on cleaning your particular camera. Certainly dust will get onto the CCD, and unless you enjoy cloning images or have the time, money, and patience to keep sending the camera back to the manufacturer, learn to clean it yourself. After doing it once, it will become routine.

Histograms and histograms

When you look at the histogram in your camera and compare it to the histogram in Photoshop CSx Raw, you will notice a significant difference. This is because the camera converts the image to jpeg to construct the histogram. This embedded jpeg preview has been processed, and had highlights and shadows clipped.
Some cameras only provide the luminance data in the histogram, others all the RGB values. So should you trust your on-board histogram? Probably not too closely. If you take photos in low light environments at 1600+ speed with +1 compensation, and adjust for the histogram by backing off a little, you are actually judging your image on clipped highlights. So probably you should experiment with leaving it at +1. You will probably find this is perfect.

Can't mess with Raw

When you adjust settings such as target color space profile, bit depth, pixel size, and resolution, white balance, exposure and tonal settings, sharpness, smoothness, and color noise reduction, or other settings in Camera Raw, the original camera raw image file remains unaltered. The settings applied to the camera raw image are stored either in the Camera Raw database file or as a sidecar XMP file.

Bigger flash

As the price of flash memory cards continues to decrease, they are becoming a viable storage medium for images. Prices for a 1-GB start at about $50, and 2-GB cards can be had for less than $100. While this is a lot more than DVDs, there are no problems with exposure to air and light, the medium (silicone) does not degrade, and the lifetime is said to be indefinite. 8-GB cards are starting to appear, and the prices will soon become affordable. Having a few large format cards when traveling can save a lot of headaches.

Emulate lens filters

If you're trying to emulate lens filters used on black-and-white film when transforming color into black-and-white with the Channel Mixer, here are some numbers to get you started. You will want to adjust these according to your image. The larger the red setting, the darker skies and water will become. You will often have to tone down the specular highlights. First make sure you do this on an adjustment layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Channel Mixer), rather than on the original. Check the Monochrome box in the lower left, and start with these settings:





Green filter: 14 58 33





Orange #1:




Orange #2:




Red #1:




Red #2:




Red #3:




Red #4:




Normal #1:




Normal #2:




High contrast:




Anonymous JPEGs

For those times when you don't want metadata attached to a JPEG file, there is a free utility called JpegStripper It's very simple; just drag a file onto the small interface window and the metadata disappears. Nice, in that it does not require opening and resaving, consequently it is lossless.

No more underexposing

Many photographers who have moved from film to digital find they must change some old habits. In situations where the light was variable or unpredictable, it was common to underexpose by a half a stop. This saved the density of the image, because with film it is nearly always better to have more density than too little. But with digital this is not the case. Underexposure can cause slight posterization and an increase in noise in darker areas. So if bracketing is out of the question, it might be better to err on the side of overexposure. This of course will entail some adjustments to the image later. If you want to get the best results, correct exposure is always best. We still use a handheld exposure meter for incidental light meter-ing where possible, but this is partly due to old habits.

Raw is not always the place

Although it is often possible to manipulate an image in Camera Raw so that it is almost perfect and needs little or no further work in Photoshop, this is not always a good idea, unless you particularly enjoy working within the limitations of Camera Raw. Usually when processing a Raw image using Camera Raw, you are attempting to extract the maximum amount of information from the image. So you might expand the dynamic range with the Exposure and Shadows adjustments. Even this reduces the integrity of the file, so working on copies and keeping all the detail your camera could capture is the thing to do. On the finished print, often you will end up diminishing this range, even eliminating detail in shadows or in a channel. By setting up basic parameters in Raw, it is possible to batch-process multiple files while leaving creative adjustments to the individual files.

Where to put your lens

If you're combining several lenses to get a higher power, mount higher-power lenses closer to the camera lens.

Pricing stock

If you sell your images to publications, the Photo Price Calculator can help estimate an approximate market value for the image and guide for negotiation. It has three categories: advertising, corporate, and editorial. Each category is further broken down into magazine, billboard, brochure, catalog, inserts, newspaper etc. with places to enter size and circulation. A newspaper editorial half-page, with circulation up to 500,000, ranges from a low price of $175, average price $287, and a high of $400. A magazine half-page, for advertising, with the same circulation ranges from $650 to $1,400. Prices have been calculated from survey responses from Visual Support Inc. who sell about $1 million worth of stock images a year and represent photographers within excess of 10,000 images. For most a good place to start.

Cleaning sensors

If you are getting dust and hairs stuck to your image sensors, they will become very apparent when photographing with small lens apertures; what you see is a shadow of the dust on the anti-aliasing filter in front of your sensor. Previously we pointed you to cleaning supplies, but some people are very nervous about actually messing with the sensor. If this is the case, consider sending the camera back to the manufacturer. However, if you have a steady hand and wish to do it yourself, there is a collection of documents about what is entailed at We recommend that you read them all.

Digital depth of field

Depth of field with digital cameras tends to be very different when you use lenses for digital cameras rather than lenses made for film cameras. With small digital cameras, the size of the sensor influences the size or focal length of the lens used. Digital lenses start getting very small. A lens with a 35mm equivalent of 28-200mm might actually be 7.2-50.8mm. This affects both apertures and focal length for depth of field. Shorter focal lengths give a more apparent depth of field, so these very short lenses give more depth of field than typical 35mm lenses. As the lenses are physically smaller, depth of field increases (for example, a pinhole gives infinite depth of field), so with small lenses the aperture is smaller, giving more depth of field.

Memory failure

CompactFlash memory cards rarely show signs of failure before they eventually do. Although manufacturers do not usually list the expected life of these devices, it seems to be very long when they're well treated. Some companies do state that their cards are not to be used on life-support systems. However, if you start to see image corruption after a format, it is probably time to retire the card.

Up-size non-squares

If you have a camera that captures in non-square pixels, such as the D1X, upsize the resolution in Camera Raw at least one step, for the highest quality, and then scale to your final size in Photoshop.

Hand-held rule

A good rule of thumb for hand-held, no-flash exposures is that the shutter speed most be faster or at least equal to the lens length in mm. If you are using a100 mm lens, shutter speed must be 1/100 or faster (1/125, 1/200, etc.). This also applies to whatever focal length you have a zoom set to. To be on the safe side, if there is enough light, go even one speed up or brace your camera, and/or your self against something solid.

Reading EXIF

EXIF data from any photograph can be read from the Properties dialog. Just select the file, right-click on the file name, scroll down to Properties, then select the Summary, and finally click on the Advanced button. Here you will see the EXIF data that has been stored with the camera. Just be aware that some software does not preserve this data, although most image editors do.

Color Efex strangeness

There is some odd behavior when using Color Efex Pro 2.0 with PhotoShop CS2. Under various circumstances, the Color Efex Pro Select dialog, which normally remains on top of PhotoShop, will disappear behind PhotoShop. This happens when switching between PhotoShop CS2 and Adobe Bridge , or when minimizing PhotoShop CS2 temporarily, then maximizing it. It can also happen simply by clicking an image title bar. All of these issues seem to be related, and are being investigated by nik multimedia.

Where's your WB?

All too often, cameras set to Auto White Balance will pick up on a white dress, nearly white sky, or even on a bright yellow and adjust to this. It is always safer to carry around a small white card and manually set your balance with that. If you also include a grayscale bar on the other side, you can be much surer with your exposures.

Quick view

If you need to look at photographs on the road, it is often more convenient to use Pixture Studio's QuickImageCM. This opens the images almost instantly with a single click. Although it is not an editor, many people just want to check the image on their PowerBook, make sure it is what is needed, and then save it for image editing later. There are several things you can do with the image within the application, but it's real use is solely as an image viewer. (Mac only)

Can you use more memory?

Now that memory cards can hold up to 5 or more GB, don't just assume that your camera can write to cards of any size. If your camera is more than a couple of years old, it may well have a limit of 2 GB. To find out if your camera can handle cards with a capacity over 2GB, check to see if it supports FAT32, in which case it will. If it supports FAT 16, it won't. If you can't find any mention of this in the literature associated with your camera, assume that it will not, but email the manufacturer and check.

Better sunsets

When photographing a sunset with a digital camera, make sure that the white balance control is off and that you are not using auto-focus. The first will try to compensate for the saturated colors, and the sun can confuse the auto-focus controls and cause the camera to focus incorrectly. If you have a landscape mode, use it.

Remove the battery

If you don't intend to use you digital camera for two weeks or more, you should consider removing the batteries. Even the best batteries can leak or corrode.

A TIFF is a TIFF is not a TIFF

Files saved in the Nikon TIFF format are not the same as files saved as regular TIFFs. Nikon uses the LAB color space for their TIFFs, and to load these into Photoshop you have to use a plug-in that comes on the same CD as the regular Nikon View software. You can also open them in Nikon View and save them out in regular formats. This plug-in should be installed at the same time as Nikon View, but it will not be included in other regular versions of Photoshop. The plug-in cannot be downloaded on its own, but the whole software bundle can be obtained from the Nikon website.

Card care

Don't format a Compact Flash and Smart Media cards in your computer. Sometimes the format is not recognized by the camera, and either the card may become unusable or portions of the card will appear to contain data that the camera will not be able to write to, thus reducing the available space for files. Don't remove the card while the camera is reading or writing, or even remove the batteries with the card in the camera. Although cards are not affected by X-rays or electromagnetic radiation, they are susceptible to sharp knocks and static electricity, so ground yourself before removing a card.

Before you buy

If you're about to buy an expensive digital camera, you are probably reading a lot of hype about the merits of both the CMOS and the CCD sensors. Users and manufacturers always extol the virtues of their own system, and it's difficult to find dispassionate comparisons. A couple of references go a long way toward explaining the differences and the technology but won't come out and tell you which to buy.

The first,, has a comparison chart and is from a manufacturer of cameras used in auto-sensing, which uses both types.

The second,,1558,566961,00.asp, is from Extreme Tech and is written by the very competent Sally Wiener Grotta, who also writes for PC Magazine. It is more technical and goes into the subject in depth.


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