September 2007 HelpLine

HelpLine
• Compatible Savings
• SDHC Printing Work-Around
• Essential Accessories
• Smart Use Of Scene Modes
• Reader’s Surprise     

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Compatible Savings

Q) Often, I work with transparencies, making  a montage by cutting parts of a photo in Photoshop and mixing them with other shots. Sometimes, I can’t see them in other programs such as ACDSee or Bryce. Instead of the picture with the transparency, I see a black square in which it says: “This layered Photoshop file was not saved with a composite image!” I just can’t figure out what I did wrong and why it’s different from my other transparencies! How can I change these files into “composites”? I’d immensely appreciate your tips to resolve this problem!

Charles G.
Via the Internet

A) This is a common problem when trying to open up Photoshop files with third-party applications. While a piece of software might specify that it can support Photoshop (.psd) files, you have to make sure that you first save the files properly in Photoshop.

Before I explain how to solve this problem, let’s deal with why your problem seems to be intermittent. My guess is that some of your files have layers and some do not. If the file doesn’t have any layers (it has been flattened), then there’s a good chance that other applications will be able to use the file if they support .psds.

If your file has layers, you must make sure you save the file properly. If you save a Photoshop file in the .psd format, during the save process, after you have selected the location and file name and clicked OK, a Photoshop Format Options dialog box should pop up with a single check box labeled “Maximize Compatibility.” Make sure that’s checked, and click OK. Your file is then saved so that other applications can read it.

If you don’t see the dialog box, adjust your Photoshop preferences. Go to Preferences/File Handling, and find the drop-down menu labeled “Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility,” which has three options: Never, Always and Ask. I recommend you set it for Ask. This way you can control which files have maximum compatibility. The file will be larger with compatibility turned on.


SDHC Printing Work-Around

Q) In your June 2007 HelpLine, you mentioned a person who was wondering if he could use SDHC cards in his photo printer, and you said no, he’d have to stick to using SD cards in the printer. Well, there’s one work-around—he could connect the camera to the USB port of the printer and drive it using PictBridge. This is perhaps less convenient, but at least he wouldn’t have to use his computer or buy a new printer.

Thomas Mosteller
Via the Internet

A) That’s a great suggestion. PictBridge is a technology that allows you to print images from your digital camera directly through your printer. In other words, there’s no computer involved in this method.

While this is a great work-around, there are a few issues to consider. If you’ve read my column in the past, you know that I’m a big proponent of card readers. I have a list of the disadvantages of connecting a camera directly to your computer. Two come into play here:

The problem of battery power—printing takes longer than downloading images, so there will be more stress on your camera’s battery. Assuming your camera uses rechargeable batteries, you’ll put the battery through the charge cycle more often. Rechargeable batteries have a limited life span that’s measured in charge/discharge cycles. If you print from your camera on a regular basis, then expect your battery life to be shortened.

The minor concern of making sure your camera is properly supported while tethered to the printer—I’ve seen many setups where there’s little space for the camera, posing the danger that the camera could fall and become damaged.

I’m not saying this isn’t a good solution for using SDHC cards in a photo printer, I just want you to be aware of some issues.

Essential Accessories

Q) I’m looking to build on my recent digital SLR purchase, but I’m not sure where to start. Another lens? A flash? Filters? Help!

Greg D.
Via the Internet

A) This is always a tough question to answer through e-mail because there can be so many follow-up questions, but recently I viewed a number of images taken by photo enthusiasts, and the topic of accessories popped into my mind. There was one thing that could have helped a vast majority of those images: a tripod. Most of the images had that telltale blur of a handheld shot. I’m sure they looked good on the LCD on the back of the camera, and printed out at 4×6, they probably looked okay, too; but several of these images were printed at 8×10 and they showed the motion blur associated with lack of a steady camera.

While there are situations that don’t allow a tripod, many situations do. Besides keeping your camera steady, there’s a common side effect of tripod use (and no, it’s not dizziness or drowsiness). Using a tripod makes you slow down or even stop and think.

Too often, people grab a camera, turn it on and start shooting. Photography is a creative process like writing. When you sit down to write an important letter or e-mail, do you just start hitting keys? Or, do you sit for a bit and think about what you’re going to say?

Setting up a tripod, leveling it and mounting your camera gives you a chance to slow down and think about what you’re trying to say photographically. So while there are many things you can do to improve your photography—understand and practice good composition, learn proper exposure—if you want to add an accessory to take your photography to the next level, support your camera with a tripod.


Smart Use Of Scene Modes

Q) Eventually, I hope to purchase a digital SLR, but it will be awhile. I long for the ability to manually control shutter speed or aperture. My current camera doesn’t have those capabilities. Is there some way I can fool it?

Sandy G.
Via the Internet

A) When I first read your question, I really wondered how I could answer it. There are so many models of compact digital cameras with so many different controls. Then I remembered that I did exactly what you’re asking about when I recently did some shooting with a compact digital camera.

The key is to learn what your camera is doing when you use its scene modes. There’s more going on when you flip through those funny icons of the runner or dog or whatever your camera uses to indicate the various scene-mode settings.

Let’s take the Action or Sport mode. The camera will attempt to freeze the action, so it
‘ll do whatever it can to set the shutter speed to a fast setting. This means that your aperture will be wide open. To increase the shutter speed more, you could adjust the ISO higher. If your camera has a Landscape setting, it might want the aperture to be stopped down to increase depth of field so that more of your image is in focus. 

I don’t have enough space in this column (or probably a year’s worth of columns) to diagram all the options available for each scene mode on every camera. But there’s a fairly easy, though somewhat time-intensive method for you to discover what your scene modes are doing. Set up your camera on a scene and shoot it using all the different scene modes your camera has. Next, download your images and look at the EXIF data to see what changed with each image. You might have to shoot several different types of scenes to see what changes. Some scene modes may not change anything related to exposure, so you might not see changes in the EXIF data.

Reader’s Surprise

Q) Thanks for the reminder to back up in your June HelpLine. I was in the habit but, somewhere along the line, became lax. After reading your article, I checked to see the last time I did it, and I was shocked—it was almost a year ago!

Kathleen Dombrowski
Oxford, North Carolina

A) I know that I keep pounding away at the concept of regular backups, but I’m constantly reminded by readers about the importance of this subject. Kathleen’s letter has a good ending, but I receive many that have bad ones. I’ve heard sad tales of priceless loss of images, or whispered comments on how a month’s worth of work was gone in a second. While I won’t visit this topic every column, I hope we’ll all keep it front and center.                 

If you have questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or helpline@pcphotomag.com.

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