Don’t lose your images to a lossy .jpg

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo

Comparison of the original image with the lossy jpg version of the same photo-Courtesy of Rick Miller/Wake Forest University

Before we being, I apologize for my absence. I’ve switched jobs, switched lives basically and am just now getting settled into some kind of routine. Thanks for sticking with me during the past month of silence.

Okay…so if you’re like me you shoot in raw or maybe jpg and then rush over to your PC to download your shots and view them in some tool like Lightroom, Picasa, Microsoft Paint, whatever…

There is a reason why you should not save those precious images in a .jpg format for long term.

Everytime you open a .jpg type image you decompress the image and when you close it, you recompress it. It’s in this recompression that you wind up losing data. To understand why this happens you have to understand how compression works.

Compression works by using an algorithm to compute where changes in your file can be safely made to substitute one character for several. Now for you techies…this is a major simplification of the process. There is actually a lot that happens but suffice it to say that the original file that you started out with is stored in a compressed format. JPG uses this to reduce the size of the file and there are two formats…lossless and lossy.

If you are using lossy, you are also using a format that loses data. So everytime you open a file in Picasa, Photoshop, John’s photo viewer, etc…you are losing data. So over time, that image of your loved one, pet, flower, or something else over time, and multiple openings and closings, will start showing noticeable signs of deterioration in the digital version.

So what’s the solution? Save images in a lossless .jpg format or save them in an entirely different format like tiff, or maybe even .bmp (yes…a bitmap). Another option is to save original in their raw format that your camera shots them in, and use a lossless .jjpg for sharing and use a tiff/bmp on those images that you want to save for a very long time.

If your images are already in a lossy .jpg format. save them in a different format like tiff now. If you are just now importing images from your camera in a nice raw file mode, leave them in that mode and work with/use .jpg copies for short periods of time. Of course you can always make digital copies of your jpgs and share them.

More about online photo storage

Well I told you a couple of months ago that I would give you some additional information regarding online photo storage and there has been a little movement in the market as prices have come down a little bit and services have become easier to use and access. So let’s review my top five online digital photography storage sites.

First let’s review my criteria for selecting someplace to store your images online:

  1. Provides you with tools to upload multiple images off of your PC/Camera at one time
  2. Provides you with access to your images regardless of platform (PC/Phone/etc)
  3. Provides you with quality service around the clock
  4. Provides you the ability to have backups of your image collection
  5. The service does not automatically resize your images or provides you with tools to restore their original size
  6. The service gives you control over who looks at and downloads your images

With that in mind, here are my top 7 online image hosting services. These are in no particular order. I do this because I want you to go to each site and maybe look up one or two of your own and see which ones you will think can work best for your needs.

  1. Adobe Photoshop.com starts you with 2GB of storage for free but that’s not this site’s strength. Oh no…this site’s strength is in its editting
    tools. These tools allow you to make basic image edits like remove red eye, crop the image, or make some basic changes. For $20/year, you
    can buy 20GB of space. And you can expect to pay $1/GB for each increase above that.
  2. Flickr’s free account provides you with a monthly upload/download limit which has changed and continues to change. For $25/year you get
    unlimited photo and video storage.
  3. Smugmug is service geared at semi-professional and professional photographers. For $40/$60/$150 a year you can have more control over the
    site that presents your images. All plans have unlimited storage and allow you universal access to your images. The high end plan gives you
    complete control over the page that displays your images plus the way you sell your photographs.
  4. Photobucket is an Internet staple. Free accounts get 500 MB of online storage and you are allowed up to 10GB of downloadable bandwidth per
    month. There is a 1MB size limit per photo so if you use a Canon Mark V with the 77MB raw files, this is not going to be the solution for
    you. However for $25 a year, those limitations are removed and you get to post images up to 4000×3000 plus access to their technical support
    team
  5. Webshots by American Greetings, is a service that comes with the ability to use your images or the predefined images of other photographers
    into your projects. What this means is that there is also a likelihood for others to have access to your images for things like calendars, coffee
    mugs, and the like. They give you a 1000 image limit and then boost that with 100 extra images for every month that you remain a member of
    their free plan. For $20/year, those restrictions are limited but this offering is among the least favorable ones for photographers looking to post
    the thousands of images they generate a year.

Now there are some prominent sites that I left out. I left them out for a reason. Either I am not a fan of their policies or I do not like the software they ask the user to use for their site. However everyone is different and I urge you to research these other sites as well.

If you have any additional questions, just ask.

A Digital Photography Memory Card Primer

SD, SDHC, Compact Flash, Memory Stick, miniSD, microSD, and about two dozen more anachronyms clutter the storage type definitions for your digital camera. Here’s a word or two about which you may need and why bigger is not always better.

Flash memory uses small chips to electronically store data and your camera may use any of a number of formats to store that data. You can look at your owner’s manual (I know..I know but honestly it is in there). Or you can refer to any number of online buying guides which will tell you which memory card would be the best one for your camera.

If you have a DSLR, the kind with an interchangeable lens and it’s kind of big, you probably use either a SD, SDHC, or Compact Flash card.

Now the SD and SDHC cards are almost identical but there is a difference. SD stands for Secure Digital format and it is an older technology. It has a maximum storage capacity 4 gigabytes. There are numerous manufacturers of these types of cards and each one ships formatted in a Fat32 format. If that format sounds familiar, it’s because that is the same format that was used by Windows.

SDHC is just like the SD memory cards except SDHC means Secure Digital High Capacity. These cards start at the 4GB mark and are currently available in 32GB versions.

And some companies already are coming out with the next generation of secure digital cards with capacities that can get up to 2TB.

SD cards come in different speeds, Class 2, Class 4, and Class 6.. The difference in these speeds has a direct correlation on how fast they read and write data to the memory card from your device. The fast the read/write time, the quicker your camera can unload data from its internal memory and on to the card which frees up memory for the next shot. This can lead to a faster burst of speed if you are taking photos are a very fast pace.

The same is true for Compact Flash. Compace Flash cards come in Class I, Class II, and Class III. Class III cards are the newest and fastest. Class I cards are the oldest technology and Class II is the happy medium.

The current maximum capacity for a Class III compact flash card is 64GB. These Class III cards write at 90mb/s or Class 6 speeds on an SDHC card.

These large cards are great for video. So if you have a DSLR that is capable of video, these large and fast cards are for you. However, if you have a DSLR or even a point and shoot camera, smaller is better.

Why? The answer is simple. The larger the capacity of the card the more data you are able to store on it. The more data that you store on it and this means that there is a larger risk of losing more images or data that is stored on it. So smaller is better because if a small card gets corrupted and you lose data, the fewer images or the less important data that you lose.

These same rules hold true for other memory formats. Use smaller cards, switch them out and you run less of a risk.

There is one more thing to know about digital memory cards. On each card, there is usually a switch that locks the card and prevent someone from accidentally erasing the data on it before you have had a chance to download it on to a larger capacity device, like your computer or your photo sharing service.

Just an idea….

Wild Flowers are popping up

Wildflowers are blooming-Sandia Cemetary

Wildflowers blooming in the cemetary in Sandia, TX

It’s time to prepare your cameras and your bug spray and venture out to your nearest patch of wildflowers. Here are some basic tips for finding and shooting those winning flower pictures.

1)Finding the right patch is easy. TxDOT actually does something right by publishing a list of where the best wildflower patches can be found. There may be more and you may want to do a Google search on Texas Wildflowers and find the list. This season is expected to be one of the best ever and it’s a good chance for you to take those cameras that you got at Christmas and go get some experience. Here is a link to the Texas Department of Transportation list

2) Take your children but please LOOK AT THE GROUND before you put them down. It’s borderline cruelty to drop small children on top of ant hills and ask them to hold still while you take their photograph.

3) Frame your shots. Do not just point your camera at the field and get the whole field alone. If you feel like that is a great photo, certainly take it.  But in addition to that shot, you should walk around look for exceptional shots or flowers with brilliant color.  and then follow the basic rules of thirds in taking your shot.

4) Add something different to the shot to break up  the floral scene. Notice the cemetary shot that I have posted with this. It uses a grave marker as a piece to break up the scene and to also give the viewer some idea of the relationships between  the flowers, the graves, and the cemetary.  You might use your dog, your child, an old broken down tractor, or something else all-together.

5) Do not simply take the photo and upload it. Bring it home and spend some time with it on a computer. Adjust the lighting, play with the settings. Every camera comes with basic software to do the most basic editing functions. Please do not take this to mean to go out, buy a $1,000 overpriced copy of Adobe Photoshop.  There are are many free image editing solutions that go beyond the basic features of the software that came with your camera. Google search them or try a search on Download.com but be careful. Malware takes on many forms and you should only download from sites you trust or that come recommended. If you have questions about software packages, feel free to ask me or check out DPReview.com, About.com, Photoshop.com or any other photocentric site.

6) Have fun. This should be enjoyable and not a hassle. If you find yourself struggling or inconvenienced by taking the time to take these shots, perhaps this is not for you.

Happy shooting!