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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pass It On - Photography Lesson One

A little over ten years ago, I belonged to an online photography group.  I was just starting out and desperately wanted to get better.  You know sometimes when you really want something and work very hard at it, the fates give you a break.  That break came in the form of a professional photographer from California, who took me under his cyber wing and taught me almost everything I know today.  I quickly nicknamed him "The Rat," because he wasn't easy on me.  He held up a very high bar but I learned to clear it.  Not every time, but over time I got better, a lot better.

I once asked him why he bothered and he told me that someone had taught him, he was now teaching me and he expected me to pass it on.   So Ratty, that's what I'm doing here, passing it on.

Your first lesson is going to be about image size, file saving, and getting it web ready. Every camera has a setting for image size.  You must always choose the largest one your camera offers. If you camera only offers JPEG, choose the 3:2 setting and it goes without saying you are always and I mean always going to use the fine image quality setting.  I can hear some of you now saying to yourself.  Why should I bother to do that if I'm taking pictures for my blog and my camera offers a PC setting, isn't that what I should use?  Beside when I use that setting, I can get so many more pictures on my card. No, it isn't. You need to start with most densely packed picture you can, always, the end, period.  This way you do not lose any details.  And having twenty good pictures you can work with is such better than two hundred lousy ones.

Now because digital photography, unlike film photography, has two pieces to it and both pieces are equally important, we have to talk about photoediting.  For the sake of argument, I am going to use Photoshop Elements. I have both Elements and Photoshop CS4, but we're going to use Elements here.  If you don't have Elements, I'll talk later about Picnik and Picassa. 

Upload your photo into elements and immediately save it as a TIFF.  Why should you do that?  Because every time you make any changes and save a JPEG, you lose detail and you don't want to do that.  You want to keep all the detail you can.  Then because this is lesson one and not lesson twenty one, I want you to resize it to 1300 pixels on the long side.  Then save it for the web.  Use the JPEG setting and image quality maximum in web dialogue box, and you're done.

I took these pictures with my Nikon Coolpix P80 instead of my Canon 50D and pro lens, because not everyone has a DSLR, but everyone can take a great digital picture.

PC setting, resizing and saving it as is.                 
2:3 setting, saved as a TIFF, resized and saved for web


  1. I decided to start with this, because an assistant on a job I had this winter, said, "Well since this job is going on the website, I guess I should use the smallest size available. After I stopped hyperventilating, I said in a nonsnark tone of voice, "No, you have to shoot in your highest setting and cut it down." When she gave me that twentysomething blank look. I said to myself, "Self we are not startng with the proper fstop, and exposure detail and photoshop hints; we are beginning at the beginning.

  2. Maia~I'm sooooo glad you're doing this! I need all the help I can get. And, I at least understand what you are's not too technical for me. I don't have Elements, but it's on my wish list. I've used Picnik a little bit, but haven't gone premium yet.

  3. You have to get premium, because it has almost everything I'm going to teach you about photoediting, The only thing it doesn't have is saving for the web. Stay tuned, next lesson is coming this weekend. We're going to take the shooting mode off automatic.

  4. I just found this (thank you Life at the Rough String) and am so excited! My first question (for your first see where this is going?) is how do I save all of my downloads to tiff? Is there a button to do batch converting in Elements? Or do I have to do it one by one by one by one?
    Thanks so much for doing these lessons :)

  5. Ok, Reb in Elements, choose save as and choose TIFF in the bottom box. I'll try and email you this. If you'll email me, I'll walk you through it. It's easy