Breaking away from film and entering the world of digital isn’t easy. But for you, the entry-level person, and me, a former computer illiterate, it’s a challenge that can be successfully met. Once mastered, you’ll find new horizons that were not available to you in the past. Here are a few principles in the order of their importance:
1. If you can get any Internet connection faster than dialup, get it! You’ll save much time and frustration.
2. Calibrate your monitor - that is, adjust your screen as close to a set standard as possible, so that your photobuyers view your images in the same way you do. Shareware programs are available, or you can buy off-the-shelf software such as the Spyder line by ColorVision (see the PhotoStockNotes article, (www.photosource.com) “The Memory Card, ” in the October 19th, 2005 issue, for a discussion of this and other products).
3. Learn to take advantage of all the basic Photoshop features. (While there are other imaging software programs, Photoshop is the industry standard. It even comes in a “lite” version, known as Elements).
4. For a great resource for learning Photoshop, I highly recommend joining NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals – you don’t have to be one in order to join!). For $99/year, you get their bi-monthly magazine Photoshop User, discounts on books, workshops and seminars, and access to online video tutorials to guide you step-by-step through virtually all the things you’ll need to know how to do in Photoshop, as well as the best ways to accomplish them. http://www.photoshopuser.com.
5. Examine your images at 100% to find and eliminate dust and scratches. Adjust levels or curves (the darkness and lightness of your image). Color-correct your images. If an image is a preview (usually sent as 4x6” or 5x7-1/2”), SHARPEN the image. If it’s the hi-res version a buyer has requested for publication, keep the above corrections MINIMAL, and DON’T SHARPEN the image at all!
In the editorial field, such as magazine and textbook publishers, most of your pictures will be used at the quarter-page size. This is an advantage to entry-level photographers still learning Photoshop.
Once an image is accepted, it gets passed on to a “designer, ” who has the job of making any technical improvements to your digital submission. However, if you consistently submit images whose technical quality is not high, your name will soon drop to the bottom of the photobuyer’s/designer’s list. They are not overjoyed when they have to put extra time into your digital images.
THE LEARNING CURVE
It’s no small task to learn this medium of digital photography. Reading the instructions for a scanner, or especially for your new digital camera, can mean wrestling with an English translation of Japanese “engineer-speak”! It ain’t easy. I recommend three courses of action:
1) Attend a local workshop on the product you’re interested in, presented by the manufacturer's own reps. Large local camera shops often host these for a nominal entry fee (about $10).
2) Buy or rent a video produced either by Nikon School or Blue Crane. They are available at retailers such as http://www.bhphotovideo.com. It will cover all the basic controls and features in an hour. A great advantage is that you can watch with your digital camera in your hands, pausing and repeating sections as often as you need. There’s even one for Nikon scanners!
3) Buy a “Magic Lantern Guide ” for your particular digital camera or flash. They are written in English, by photographers, produced by Lark Books and available at Amazon.com. A final reminder, which bears repeating: Make previews you’re sending to photobuyers look as perfect as you can, but when asked for a hi-res “final” image, keep necessary corrections minimal, and don’t sharpen it.
Dennis Light is a freelancer living in Chicago. He specializes in horticulture, fitness, and lifestyles. He is a member of PhotoSource International. http://www.photosource.com/products