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Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Making It Big

A pro nature photographer shares how a quality poster was created from his own 6-megapixel image

After adjusting the contrast of the image using a Levels-style control in Nikon Capture, I save the files as RGB TIFFs in 8-or 16-bit format. I don't sharpen any images in-camera or in Nikon Capture if they're going to an editor for publication. I often leave it to the pre-press house, as it has the best knowledge as to how the image will be used. If you're printing your images yourself, sharpen them at the end of your workflow.

When sharpening images, I use the Unsharp Mask tool for the greatest control. If you're uncertain about the correct settings for sharpening, plug-in software such as nik multimedia's Sharpener Pro! offers an easy way of achieving optimal sharpness for any size print.

Adobe (Photoshop)
(800) 833-6687

Extensis (pxl SmartScale)
(800) 796-9798

Fred Miranda
(Stair Interpolation Pro)

LizardTech (Genuine Fractals)

(206) 652-5211

nik multimedia (Sharpener Pro!)
(888) 284-4085

ShortCut (PhotoZoom)

Going To Press
Once the pre-press operator gets the file, he or she goes to work with his or her own set of requirements for enlarging the photo and massages it for publication. In the case of the Nikon poster, pressman Ed Barchowski of Tana-Seybert Printing in New Jersey chose Genuine Fractals to upsize the original 17.5-megabyte file to an 89.5-megabyte TIFF file for reproduction. Genuine Fractals as well as several other applications, such as PhotoZoom, Stair Interpolation Pro and pxl SmartScale, use advanced algorithms to interpolate the size of the image with minimal evidence of digital artifacting, such as jaggies. Photoshop CS also has improved its own interpolation engine when working with RAW files. It has an option called Bicubic Smoother, which provides cleaner upward interpolation of image files.

Interpolation is a process where the computer software adds information to and rebuilds the original image, adding more pixels to achieve the size needed to produce the poster. It's an amazing process that's getting better and better with each new generation of interpolation software. In the case of Nikon's poster, the results were so good, I'd have never guessed it was produced from a 6-megapixel camera.

Making Me A Believer
Like many of you, I started small, just to try digital capture, and soon it became evident how incredibly efficient and fun this new medium is for photographers. But as I earn my living taking photographs, I need the quality to be good enough to satisfy even the most demanding photo buyers. After shooting with the Nikon D100 for the last two years, I'm happy to say that, so far, not one of my images has been turned down due to lack of quality.

There are legions of folks who will tell you that what we've achieved shouldn't be possible. You'll see the results, however, when Nikon releases these posters to dealers by the time you're reading this article. I suggest you take a look for yourself and make your own decision.


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