Portfolio A Belief In Design
And A Love Of Photography

Improving Your Image (Part 2)

Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole

Is Your Image Bigger Than Big Iz?

Can’t see the linked video on anIPAD?

Who says Twitter doesn’t do anything useful? I put a Tweet out the other day and within a couple of minutes the following suggestion had been made,

“Anyone out there able to recommend an online image resizing tool, not that my image needs resizing you know?”

mediocre_mum @designcredo “picnik.com???”

“excellent work @mediocre_mum, award yourself a mid-afternoon drink”

So why am I looking for online editing, as a pro photographer surely I use fancy software ‘n’ stuff?

In short my customers need a way to manipulate images and somehow I have to bridge the gap between what I know and do and what they could really do to know and do. Putting it simply I am trying to erect some scaffolding for those learning WordPress

My Workflow

I now work entirely digitally having sold my trusted Mamiya RB67s some time ago. I generally use Nikon equipment. What customers don’t always get is that the taking of the photo is a relatively small part of the process. Nowadays quite a bit of time will be spent at the computer but compared to the costs incurred pre the full digital era this is a worthwhile investment and a step forward.

Typically then I will

  • Shoot the image
  • Transfer the image to computer and open up in Photoshop
  • Adjust levels, curves, colour balance, verticals, crop
  • Save a PSD and a High Res JPEG (retaining the original file)
  • Let the customer proof the JPEG
  • Backup computer before deleting originals on camera card

So the first problem here is that Photoshop is a hugely powerful program that isn’t the easiest to learn. The second problem is that the program alone costs several times more than most reasonable compact cameras.

Back To The Customers

This simple workflow barely scratches the surface of Photoshop so are there alternatives? Lets look at how to deal with a simple problem that anyone may encounter.

We have already seen that it is not good practice to put an overly large image on a website. So let’s try and rework a typical image taken on a little Canon IXUS-70. It’s a landscape of Bedruthan Steps in Cornwall. Out of the camera it is an 880kb (2462×1469 pixel) JPEG. It looks OK but, if we try to load it up to WordPress we get an out of memory warning.

This is rather annoying. WordPress is great but dealing with memory issues is beyond most people’s understanding. You may be able to resolve this with the .htaccess file or php.ini but our life is easier if we get the image right first.


Bedruthan Steps

Click Image To See Control Panel

If you have a Mac you will have access to iPhoto and very good it is too. Although I will admit to still being a tad bemused about how it handles originals and worked images. I guess this confusion is instructive, I don’t use iPhoto much which makes my experience of it a fairly good indicator.

However I have watched customers new to iPhoto use it and almost immediately get on with it. With iPhoto it is relatively easy to adjust the colour balance, sharpen the image and adjust the levels. It is very easy to touch marks out of images although there isn’t as much control as with Photoshop.

After editing, simply export your image as a high quality JPEG with ‘large’ rather than ‘full’ filesize selected and for WordPress this should be ‘job done’ ready to upload to the blog.

If you are in a hurry, a neat thing that iPhoto can do is to resize a group of images at once.

File >import-to-library (select the group that you want to resize)>
Allow the images to Import and leave them selected, then,
File>Export (select the saving options, generally good quality JPEG and large size)>Save

Overall iPhoto is a great package that will do most of what most people will need to do. You can use it to improve the overall image crop and retouch. You can set it to resize to a given pixel dimension. I’m not convinced that it is totally intuitive but at the price it’s part of what adds value to macs.

PicNic Anybody?

Picnik Workspace

Click Image To See Saving Screen

So now to mediocre_mum’s recommendation PicNic.com. I couldn’t believe how capable and intuitive this was, quick too.

What I really like is the friendly interface and the fact that the captions are in real speak (albeit a bit Americano). I like the fact that as you open the image it clearly tells you what size your file is. There are tips to help you, they are tech tips but not in tech-speak.

Look at these JPEG saving guides (click the image above to see the screen),

  1. Barely recognizable as your photo, microscopic file size. 35.5kb
  2. Big, ugly blocks of pixels, teeny tiny file size. 44kb
  3. Downright ugly quality, tiny file size. 53.9kb
  4. Kinda nasty quality, really small file size. 66.2kb
  5. Meh quality, small file size. 86.6kb
  6. OK quality, somewhat small file size. 115kb
  7. Good quality, medium file size. 159kb
  8. A sweetspot of really good quality and file size. 201kb
  9. Great quality, big file size. 269kb
  10. Best quality, huge file size. 422kb

Picnik.com comes in a variety of flavours and the free one will do a job for most needs. Because of the speed and interactivity I suspect most people will find this extremely intuitive.

As with most things play is a great way of learning and PicNik will let you play to good effect. I suspect the point at which playing with PicNik leads you to start digging into your pocket for an upgrade is the point that iPhoto will start to make more sense. Along the way, if you can live with the name there are open source PhotoShop alternatives such as GIMP which leaves pocket delving optional.

Whichever route you settle on PicNik and iPhoto show that photo editing software doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

The unfortunate thing about re-working images is that if done well the viewer isn’t overtly aware of what’s been done, something for to ‘pros’ muse on there when selling a service I’m sure.

PS Thanks to Karin for the Bedruthan Steps image

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