Some technical details

October 04, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Those who have ordered photos from this website have discovered that there was an approval step after you placed your order.  I pray that you have been satisfied with the result when you got your prints.  Be assured that I did not arbitrarily add this step, nor do I take delight in delaying the processing -- as a matter of fact, I usually have orders approved and sent to the printer within hours, and the delay is not even noticeable by the time you get the prints delivered to your front door!

There are actually technical reasons for needing to "approve" your order.  Actually, it is not so much approving the order as it is making sure that I have properly processed the photo you desire.  My standard workflow is to hurry up and get images uploaded following a ballgame so that parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, and you can see the photos as quickly as possible,  (even before you can see the game, I have sent pictures to the newspaper!)  In order to get them uploaded quickly, I size every photo as a 4x6 print, and make the adjustments accordingly.  So, if you order a 4x5 or 4x6 print, everything is already done and I usually can approve the order from my phone!  

On the other hand, if you are ordering a larger print, the picture needs to be re-worked, especially with a dimension of processing called sharpening.  The term itself comes from back in the film days when a mask was used to accentuate the edges in a picture.  In the digital era, your point and shoot camera automatically applies sharpening to your image when you take the picture.  BUT Professional photographers like to control every detail of the image making process rather than let the camera or computer make decisions for them, and we have learned that sharpening is best applied to an image based on the output size rather than the picture dimensions at time of image capture.  That makes details crisp in the image while also eliminating ugly halos and artifacts.  

What practical difference does that make for you?  Well, when you get a larger print, I can control where this sharpening (as well as color casts, brightness, tonal contrast, blur, etc) is applied to the image.  Very often when I go back to process a photo for a larger print, I discover more things about the picture that I can fix prior to delivery.  For example, a chain link fence in the background reflects the flash I used and can be terribly distracting.  When processing that file, I can minimize that fence, highlighting the scene you really wanted to see.  I'll also double check to make sure the colors are accurate and the exposure is where we really wanted it to be as well as cropping it to the size you want.  Although the file I originally uploaded was a 4x6, the actual file from my camera is more like a 20x30 inches.   As a matter of fact, I have had pictures used for billboards, so there is a good deal of wiggle room on many of the pictures you see.   Whether printing for a billboard or a wallet sized print, the trick to getting it right is to process the file for the print size:  how people will view it.  

Remember that chain link fence I talked about?  If we simply told the printer to use the same file that I uploaded as a 4x6 to make your 8x10, it would dramatically stand out, and the details that you wanted to see in that photo would be "soft," maybe even appear out of focus.  We might get "posterization" or "pixelation" because there was not enough information for the printer to use properly.  By sending a full sized version of the file to the printer, I can avoid these problems and get the best possible results for you.  After all, that is what really matters!

 


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