Scanning For The Big Print

Keep Scanning That Film • Charge It • Pocket Pro • Comparing Sensors • Volunteer Photographers • Shameless Self-Promotion Department

This Article Features Photo Zoom

tech tips
A great egret in southwestern Louisiana displays its plumage in hopes of attracting a mate. The original 35mm transparency was scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 at 4000 dpi. The file size from the scanner was 53.32 MB.

Keep Scanning That Film
Q When using a film/slide scanner, what resolution (dpi) should I use to produce good-quality prints in the 8x10 to 11x14 range?
M. Thompson
Via the Internet

What scan resolution settings should I use to achieve optimal results for a 16x20 print from 35mm to 6x9cm slides or color negatives? I’ll be printing on a large-format inkjet printer.
S. Hood
Via the Internet

 A Always scan at your scanner’s highest possible optical resolution. You may want to produce a small print today, but a large one next year. Getting the best possible scan the first time only makes sense. You’ll have a high-quality master file that you easily can resize for any purpose in image-processing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Elements. You’ll choose the output dpi/ppi when you prepare the image for printing. Different manufacturers suggest different dpi/ppi outputs for their particular printers. For example, most Canon printers use 200 dpi, and Epson often suggests 360.

Be aware that at maximum scanner resolution, larger formats will generate very large digital files, and very large prints. Despite the aggravation of large-file storage, my advice is to never limit your options.

If your slide or negative is in need of obvious improvement, you can accomplish some of the initial steps at the scanning stage. The scanner’s software will have some correction capabilities built in. These are especially helpful for contrast, color, exposure and minimal sharpening. It’s always best to make these corrections subtly at the scanner and perform fine adjustments in image-processing software. If you find out later you’ve gone too far at the outset, you’ll have to go back and rescan the image.

When sending your slides and negatives to a scanning service, you probably don’t want the service to make corrections for you. But still request the highest-resolution scans possible.

Charge It
Q I have a Canon 50D with the Canon Li-Ion Battery Pack. Two questions: 1) The night before going out on a shoot, I charge the battery regardless of whether the little battery icon indicates it needs a charge. Does this create memory at a partial level so the battery capacity is reduced over time? 2) On hikes, while looking for birds and wildlife, I leave the camera “on” all the time, letting the one-minute auto-turnoff work—the shutter button brings it back to life so quickly. Is this using excess battery reserve or decreasing the battery life in any way?
D. Rabun
Via the Internet

 A One of the advantages of Li-Ion batteries is that they don’t “take a memory” as did some previous types of batteries, so topping off the charge prior to a shoot isn’t a bad idea at all.

When the camera is on “standby,” there’s a negligible amount of energy lost. The camera is almost completely powered down in that mode. However, be aware that touching any button (not just the shutter button) will bring the camera back to life. That’s great unless your camera is in standby mode and rolling around in a camera bag, or hung around your neck and bouncing against your vest; it can be cycling on and off without your knowledge. This will take a toll on the battery.

Pocket Pro
Q I’m a stock photographer who uses Canon D-SLRs, but I’m looking for a pocket camera that will meet the quality requirements of stock photography agencies. Will something like the Canon G10 do the job?
G. Corbett
Via the Internet

A Even though the Canon G10 has 14.7 megapixels, it (like other high-end point-and-shoots) has a very small sensor. The camera’s image quality is excellent for most uses, but it doesn’t meet the criteria of stock agencies for commercial uses, such as advertisements, billboards and other high-impact, high-resolution printing. Frankly, the G10 produces an image that would suffice for most uses short of a billboard, but it takes some time for agencies to expand their criteria to include new technology. Each agency has different standards, and you need to talk directly to the editors at the agency to which you would like to submit G10 images. The output from this and similar cameras might very well be accepted for editorial uses, such as textbooks and newspapers, and for websites. That said, I also would welcome a compact camera with a larger sensor!

Comparing Sensors
Q I’m trying to understand the difference in capture quality obtained from a full-frame sensor and a 1.6x (APS) sensor. If I were to take exactly the same photo from the same position with a 400mm lens on a Canon 50D and a Canon 5D Mark II, then crop the 5D image in Photoshop to give the same composition as the 50D’s, which image would be better?
Steve Dimock
Via the Internet

A A Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a full-frame, 21-megapixel sensor. The size of each pixel is 6.4 microns. The Canon EOS 50D’s 1.6x APS sensor has 15.1 megapixels at 4.7 microns. If you crop the image generated by the 5D Mark II to match the image generated by the 50D at 1.6x, the area covered is 11 to 12 megapixels, less than the number of megapixels in the 50D’s image. So you’d think that the 50D’s image would be of higher quality. However, the 5D Mark II’s larger pixels have greater light-gathering capability and less noise at higher ISOs. In the end, you probably wouldn’t see a significant difference between the two images.

If you find you’re always cropping images from the full-frame sensor because you can’t get close enough to your subjects, then you’re probably better off using the 50D. The real advantage of the 5D Mark II is when you do fill the full frame, using all of its pixels and its higher ISO capabilities, the captures can generate a very high-quality, large-format print.

In the end, you should be making your decision based on what your primary subjects are. The 50D’s 1.6x APS sensor and its faster capture rate (6.3 frames per second) are an ideal combination for wildlife photography. The 5D Mark II’s full-frame sensor and higher ISO capabilities (due to the larger pixels) perform exceptionally well in landscapes. The price point also may be a factor, as the 50D runs about half the cost of the 5D Mark II.

Volunteer Photographers
We recently spent some time with an active group of photographers in the Nashville area, and we were very impressed by their well-organized support of local charities. The members of the Brentwood Camera Club make themselves available to photograph participants in charitable fund-raising events such as runs, exhibitions and more formal gatherings. The assigned group of photographers may include both experienced professionals and beginner apprentices working in teams. The resulting photographs are posted on a website and participants can purchase prints from the club, with all proceeds donated back to the hosting charity. It’s a great way for photographers to gain experience and visibility while contributing a valuable service to the community. If you’re interested in promoting a similar project in your organization, the Brentwood Camera Club will generously share more information with you. Visit their website at

Shameless Self-Promotion Department
If you’ve visited our website in the past few years, you’ve probably been disappointed by its back-to-basics content. But we’ve just launched a new site with more information and lots of images, along with links to articles and schedules of upcoming seminars and workshops. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit soon at

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.

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