Photos for Seaboard/SPAR Web Site
Revised July 31, 2014
Digital Photos Prints & Transparencies Photography Flash Photography
This Web site would not be what it is without the photos, now almost 2,300 in number. The majority of them were generously contributed by SPAR members. They include photos they took and photos they acquired from others. Both types often have problems that can be lessened with proper technique. Sometimes, people who want to be helpful edit the photos and make the problems worse.
These thoughts are based on my experience looking at and editing photos. I looked through more than 1,000 photos for the Seaboard video, ranging from those taken by crew members with inexpensive cameras, to those taken by professionals with professional equipment. I edited hundreds of them, including all 442 used in the video. I selected and edited every photo on this Web site. The photos of the 2008 SPAR reunion photos were selected by me from almost 500. I have also looked at thousands of my own, starting with a simple box camera as a child, to thousands taken with my professional digital camera. I have probably seen every sort of problem that photographers and photographs might have. I've certainly seen plenty of my own.
Every time a JPEG image is edited and saved, the image quality is degraded. You can see the effects of excessive JPEG compression here. Best results will be achieved if you send me the images files exactly as they came out of the camera. If you are only going to send a few digital images, you can send them by e-mail. Make certain that your software is not reducing the image size or file size. Even though the originals are a larger size than I will use, full size makes it easier for me to do necessary editing, such as removing red eye. It will also allow all editing to be done before posting on the Web site with it having been saved only once, thereby preserving as much of the original image quality as possible. I am not going to publish photos like this. It has been reduced to such a small size that it is difficult to see anyone clearly. If you are sending more than a few digital images, please put them unedited on a CD.
Prints & Transparencies
All of the photos dating to the years when Seaboard was in business were taken on film. When I get one now, it is usually a copy of a print or copy of a copy. The original transparency had the best image quality. Prints made from it are lower quality. Copies of prints are lower still. When I get a first-generation or second-generation print, I have to scan it, reducing the quality even more. Like every other aspect of digital imaging, proper scanning requires a good understanding of the scanner software. My preference is to get the earliest-generation version of the image available. I will then scan it and return it to the owner.
All (or almost all) of the photos on the Web site have been edited by me in some way. The better the quality of what I get, the better the results. The links below show a few before-and-after restorations I did.
This is an example of a photo that was too closely framed or too closely cropped. This can not be fixed. In this example, the photo is closely cropped and the camera was tilted down on one side. The photo also has perspective distortion, which occurs whenever parts of the scene in view are not all the same distance from the camera. This is often unavoidable, such as with pictures of buildings at an angle to the camera. We also see this effect with our eyes. An often-cited example is railroad tracks that appear to converge in the distance. Small digital camera make the problem worse, because of the use of LCD screens on the back of the camera as viewfinders. When using these cameras, it is difficult to keep the camera perpendicular to a line that is also perpendicular to the subject. When the photo above is straightened and the perspective distortion is corrected, the photo has to be cropped even more to eliminate the resulting white areas, as can be seen here. In this photo, I tilted the camera down on the right, and forward so that it pointed down toward the floor. As you can see, this caused the vertical lines of the building to diverge at the top. However, after correcting the tilt and distortion, there was enough room to crop the resulting white areas away, as you can see here. This is the final result.
If you take pictures outdoors in shade or under cloudy skies, set the camera's white balance (WB) to shade or cloudy to match the conditions. If you don't know how, read the manual! Failure to do so will cause the photos to have a blue cast. Conversely, if the conditions are sunny, the WB should be set to Auto or Sunny. You can see which works best with your camera. If the wrong white balance is set, the photos will have a color cast. To illustrate this, I took three photos in sunlight. One had the correct WB. One had the WB set to Shade. That photo has a yellow cast because the camera tried to compensate for the blue cast of shade. One had the WB set to Tungsten. That photo has a blue cast because the camera tried to compensate for the yellow cast of tungsten or incandescent light. In other words, two of the three photos had settings that caused the camera to compensate for color casts that did not exist, causing the color casts you see here. Most compact cameras have screens on the back used for taking and reviewing photos. As far as I know, most of them show color casts before and after taking the photos. Use the screen to look at the photos you are taking to see if you need to make adjustments before you take a bunch of photos using the wrong setting(s).
Finally, do no not take the photo until the camera indicates it has focused and is ready. The proper procedure is to press the shutter button half way and wait for the ready light to show the desired indication, usually a steady light. Your manual will show you where it is and what the different indications mean.
Setting the correct white balance is just as important when taking pictures indoors (see above). One of our members sent me 84 photos taken at the 2011 reunion. Many of them were very good, except all of them, indoors and out, were taken with the WB set to Tungsten or Incandescent. They all had a blue cast almost as bad as that shown at the bottom here. I worked many hours trying to correct them but could not get them to look as good as they should have with little or no adjustment. Room lighting almost always has an undesirable color cast because the color of incandescent and fluorescent lights is not the same as that of sunlight or strobes. Since the built-in flash on small cameras is weak, it is best to get reasonably close to the subject. Even though your lens might make it possible to zoom in on a subject across a fairly large room, the built-in flash will not properly illuminate the subject at that distance. The closer you are to the subject, the greater will be the percentage of light falling on the subject coming from the flash. This will result in the best illumination and color of the subject, even though the background, lit primarily by the room lighting, will be darker and will show a color cast. You can see that effect in many of the reunion photos taken in dimly-lit rooms. Make sure the flash is set to On, rather than to Auto.
If you are too far from the subject in dim light, the camera will try to compensate by making adjustments, all of which degrade the image quality. One adjustment is to open the lens aperture to the maximum f-stop (wide open). No consumer lens is very sharp wide open. Another adjustment is to increase the exposure time. That makes the camera more difficult to hold steady, increasing the chances of a blurred image. Finally, the camera will increase the sensitivity (ISO). Small cameras with a relatively large number of pixels do particularly poorly at high ISO settings and produce images showing what is called noise. That effect of high ISO can be seen in two photos I took from five feet, close enough for good illumination. The top photo was taken at IS0 100 and the bottom photo at ISO 800. You can see the comparison here.
This photo was taken from twenty feet in the same lighting with ISO set to auto. The camera set the ISO at 233 but could not compensate for the dim light and the image quality is very poor. Finally, I increased the ISO to 800. This increased the brightness of the image to a sufficient level but the image quality is terrible, as you can see here.
Make sure camera settings are correct and wait until the camera indicates it is ready to take a photo. As with outdoor photography, the proper procedure is to press the shutter button half way and wait for the ready light to show the desired indication, usually a steady light. Your manual will show you where it is and what the different indications mean. Finally, as I recommended above, use the screen to look at the photos you are taking to see if you need to make adjustments before you take a bunch of photos using the wrong setting(s).