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Stupid question....How do I make a 4x6 print?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Bob_C, May 24, 2004.

  1. Bob_C

    Bob_C Well-Known Member

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    Hi guys,
    As the thread title probably indicates, I am new to the digital photography world. I have a Canon Powershot A70 and so far I love it. But I have a ton of pictures on my PC that when I try to print come out all wrong for a 4x6 print. The software that came with my camera doesn't seem to allow me to easily crop my pix to the correct ratio for printing. Am I missing something? What do you guys use for this task? I downloaded a trial version of Adobe's Photoshop Elements but this might be more than I need for what I would consider a basic task. Thanks[​IMG]
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
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    Photoshop Elements is definitely the way to go, but then I like to have control and know what exactly is happening to my print. You can also do what needs to be done with Microsoft Photo Editor.

    Open your image, right click on it and select Properties from the menu. Photo Editor automatically adjusts the image for 300 pixel per inch (ppi) output resolution, but anywhere between 200 and 300 ppi is fine. Over 300 is usually seen as excessive because most consumer grade printers aren't able to resolve beyond that level of detail. As you change the resolution you'll notice the dimensions changing over to the right. Adjust until you get the dimensions you would like. Using a 3 MP camera you won't be able to size as far down as a 4X6 (assuming you've done no cropping of the image) using that control (assuming you are not choosing to go beyond 300 ppi). If that's the case, you'll have to go to Image>Resize and change the dimensions there (just cancel out of the resolution window to leave it at 300). Be sure "Allow Distortion" is not selected and change either width or height to the desired number. The image will then be resized to a 4x6 at 300ppi output resolution.

    Now the benefit of Elements is that these two controls for size and output resolution are not separated but found in one complete dialog box. Besides seeing all the info for resolution and printed size, you also can choose whether the image needs to be resampled, which is what needed to happen in order for the print to be sized down to a 4x6. Resampling down means information is getting thrown out to go to a smaller size. This might sound bad, but it's not. What's worse if you resize up, because then the program needs to guess (or interpolate) what the information should be. It doesn't do a good job, and the results are less than ideal.

    Any image will also benefit from some sharpening, which Photo Editor will do, but again Elements is a superior product in that regard because it has the "Unsharp Mask." Yes, it's an oxymoron, but it goes back to the days of darkroom manipulation.
     
  3. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Well-Known Member

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    The aspect ratio for 35mm film is almost exactly 3:2 -- a ratio that matches up very nicely with 4" x 6" prints.

    As you've discovered, the aspect ratio of many point-and-shoot digital cameras is 4:3. That ratio is identical to the aspect ratio of a standard TV set or computer monitor, but it doesn't line up with the AR of 4" x 6" prints. On the other hand, a 4:3 image does not have to be cut apart as much when making an 8" x 10" enlargement.

    The easiest way to crop your pictures is probably to take them to a lab for printing, or to search until you find a program or programs to automate cropping (of copies). (A lab will probably crop your photos to "fill" the paper if not instructed otherwise; it is pretty much the same line of reasoning the studios use for "Full Screen". This may not be objectionable if you have anticipated the crop and composed to avoid it.)

    The highest-quality way to crop your pictures is do it by hand, with final AR being only one of the factors. A lot of photo books talk about improving photos by getting rid of extraneous parts of the picture. No machine is likely to make judgements that part of the picture should be sacrificed and part should be enlarged, because the result would look better.
     
  4. Bob_C

    Bob_C Well-Known Member

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    Ahhhh! Okay, Cameron, I think I see what you are saying, but I was really hoping for a solution where I wouldn't need to think so much...just shoot my pix and print away. I might have to follow Thomas' suggestion and take them somewhere to print them. But they would still need to be cropped and I would have no say in how it was done. Another thought was those little photo sized printers like the Kodak easy-share ones. If I had one of those guys and just plugged the card from my camera in there, would it just jam my pic into a 4x6 format? And as for composing it with the crop in mind, that also is annoying because when I'm using the screen, its very difficult to guess what will make it after the crop and what won't make it. Oh well, I guess digital photography is like any other hobby in that part of the fun is dealing with all the eccentricities of it. Please keep your thoughts coming[​IMG]
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
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    I'm sure that's what it does, which isn't necessarily a bad way to go if you want something easy. I'm just a bit of a control freak and like to know that all my prints are consistent and that all my files aren't excessively large for what I need. I think you'll also find as you start to dabble with the image manipulation software, you'll develop a more critical eye and you'll see images straight from the camera can always stand some tweaking. I have an older Canon A10 and I really like it, but it has a pretty strong bias towards red, so that always needs some adjusting. After going through a round of adjustments with my Digital Rebel I'm happy to say that colors were very accurate so all I found myself doing were adjustments to sharpness and gamma.
     
  6. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Well-Known Member

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    3" x 4" and 6" x 8" picture frames. [​IMG]
     
  7. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Bob,

    Here's a semi-simple method.

    If you have a PC with XP on it and a connection between the PC and your camera (so you can see the pictures as a folder - or else copy them to a folder) it's relatively easy to print all sorts of formats (but not free choice). An alternative for the connection is a card reader (e.g. USB) that will show the pictures as if it's a removable disc.

    Open Windows Explorer, go to the folder containing those pictures.
    Now select at least one picture. Personally, I first choose "thumbnails" from the 'View' tab for that folder, but it's not necessary.

    If a picture is selected (blue), open (click) the 'File' tab (top left) and now you see a choice called 'Print'. Choose that one, it will open a wizard helping you to immediately print all selected pictures in any of several formats you choose.

    May not be exactly 4" x 3", but one of those is close.

    Good luck, it's easier even than it may look from the above.


    Cees



    NOTE:
    (1) If you don't select a picture first (preferably .jpg or so) you won't see 'Print' under 'File'!!
    (2) There's no such thing as a stupid question. Only stupid answers. Hopefully this isn't one of them. [​IMG]
    C.
     
  8. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
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    Yes, XP is another way to go. I actually just helped someone out with this today. I was aware of the Photo Printing Wizard but was never interested in using it for myself. It's actually not a bad way to go and with a 3MP camera you're already pretty close to the 4X6 300ppi spec to not have to worry too much about excessive file size, etc. Again, I am curious what the Wizard is actually doing to the file, but if the prints look good...there's no real reason to question it unless you just want control.

    Any folder designated as one for pictures will have a section on the left titled "Picture Tasks," under which is an option to print. Select it and you will open the Photo Printing Wizard. At the third or fourth screen there is an option for layouts, one of which is for 4x6s, two per page. You can also specify how many times to print each photo for mutiple copies. Pretty nice for just a built-in thing.

    The issue my co-worker was having was an error message after the first page. The only thing I changed was the dpi setting from 600 to 300. That seemed to solve, though for what reason I'm not sure.
     
  9. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
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    If you create a folder on the desktop it will not be customized for image files. Customizing the folder will open up other options, one of which is the "Picture Tasks" menu on the left but also a "Filmstrip" view for the files. To customize the folder, open the folder and right click in an empty area and select "Customize this folder" from the menu. From the control panel that comes up select from one of the options (I usally use "Pictures (best for many files)".

    I believe any folders you create in "My Pictures" will be customized in this way automatically.

    EDIT: Even if you don't customize the folder the Wizard will launch as Cees explained in his post.
     
  10. Bob_C

    Bob_C Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the great advice guys! I appreciate it. Unfortunately I still have Windows 2000 and it doesn't have an option for pictures when you customize a folder. Which is kind of a shame because that sounds like just what I need. Might have to upgrade! [​IMG]
     
  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Well-Known Member

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    If you purchase one of those small dye-sub printers (like the Canon CP printers), you can print direct from the camera. During the process, you can crop right on the Powershot's LCD, or choose to print the full frame.

    If you have access to a Mac, iPhoto will contrain crops to 4x6 with a simple mouse-click.

    I'm not familiar with Photoshop Elements, but the full version will let you set up actions (like macros) that let you do just about anything. Photoshop is no doubt much more than you need, but if Elements has the same feature...

    -Scott
     
  12. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Well-Known Member

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    If all you need is to do some cropping and maybe do simple rotation/flipping/etc., you can try one of a couple diff freeware programs that do these tasks quickly and losslessly -- doing it in most editing software like Photoshop is slower, will recompress the photo and lose a slight bit quality if JPEG. The quality loss would not be noticeable for 4x6 prints though, but it's just simply quicker and easier to use one of these freeware programs instead.

    I use this simple one quite often for 4x6 crops:

    http://www.enotes.de/twiki/bin/view.pl/Notes/JpegTools

    There's also this popular, more feature-rich one that allows batch cropping and cropping for many standard framing formats, eg. 5x7, 8x10, etc:

    http://ekot.dk/programmer/JPEGCrops/

    Finally, for home printing, you might also want to consider getting a dedicated 4x6 dye-sub printer like the Hi-Touch HiTi 630 or 640. I used to use an inkjet too, but got tired of it for 4x6 prints and went w/ the HiTi 640 instead. It will do auto-cropping to 4x6 (center portion) if you don't make any adjustments. Consumables at $.40 per print total cost are not much more expensive than inkjet 4x6's unless you're using 3rd-party refills. And the printer w/ its simple editing tools is much easier to use, if you don't need the more complex editing features of Photoshop or the like -- certainly much easier for computer illiterate folks. Basically, I use the dye-sub for 4x6 at-home prints and just get occasional large batches printed at cheaper places like Costco (at just $.19/print) or Adorama (at $.29/print, if I want better quality). Those places also offer great prices for enlargements. Some people use Walmart also (at $.25/print?), if they don't shop at Costco.

    EDIT: Ah, I did not read every reply and just noticed you did consider a dedicated 4x6 (dye-sub) printer. I would suggest going w/ one that does *not* require hooking up to your camera, but has a memory card slot instead unless you want a portable one to lug w/ you on a trip or something. Hi-Touch is a good choice as I mentioned. I would stay away from Sony though as they tend to give overly vivid colors and boost brightness too much in their default settings -- and I'm not too sure the color issue can be corrected w/ the limited adjustments.

    _Man_
     
  13. Michael St. Clair

    Michael St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    Here is how I suggest performing basic cropping (no real recomposing other than controlling which side gets cropped, and by how much).

    I print at Sam's club on real paper these days.

    The Fuji Frontier machine has a native resolution of 300dpi. That means a res of 1800x1200 for a 4x6. Using Paint Shop (currently switching to Photoshop) and bicubic interpolation, I scale the image so that it is larger than 1800x1200...perfectly matching on one axis, and larger on the other. With a 4x3 camera, this would be something like 1800x1350. Then, using the crop tool and toolbar, I create a crop selection of 1800x1200. Slide it up and down until it is where you like it, then place it and apply the crop. Voila, a 1800x1200 image that fits the printer resolution and is cropped just how you like it.
     
  14. Bob_C

    Bob_C Well-Known Member

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    I think I pretty much have made up my mind to just buy a new printer so I appreciate the validation there! I was actually looking at the HP 7960 so I could do enlargements as well. Is that a good choice or would a dye-sub printer be better? Man-Fai Wong, I downloaded Jpegcrop and it rocks! That is pretty much what I wanted exactly. I can't believe that these other programs don't have something as simple for cropping. Michael, how are the prints from the Fuji Frontier machine?
     
  15. Bob_C

    Bob_C Well-Known Member

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    I think I pretty much have made up my mind to just buy a new printer so I appreciate the validation there! I was actually looking at the HP 7960 so I could do enlargements as well. Is that a good choice or would a dye-sub printer be better? Man-Fai Wong, I downloaded Jpegcrop and it rocks! That is pretty much what I wanted exactly. I can't believe that these other programs don't have something as simple for cropping. Michael, how are the prints from the Fuji Frontier machine?
     
  16. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Well-Known Member

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    I highly recommend the Epson 1280 or Epson 2200 inkjets. These are excellent printers for photographers, and are highly regarded by digital photo professionals - they are definitely among the best-in-class.

    -Scott
     
  17. Michael St. Clair

    Michael St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    They are great, but the main thing that attracts me is the fact that they are on true photo paper and processed as true wet prints, and should last 25 years without fading (50-100 in the dark).

    If I were going back to printing at home at this point, I'd probably go with a dye sub.
     
  18. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Well-Known Member

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    Seems like very many places use Fuji Frontier machines nowadays. They are apparently the leading choice now. However, it's really not the machines that count most times, but the people who operate them. Some may have no clue how to get good results, so you should do trial runs at a few different places if you can. Also, if you're very critical about quality, you should get a printer profile for the specific site/lab (or even home printer) you use, but I suspect you won't want to go that deep into this stuff -- at least not yet. [​IMG] Still, here's a good site to check out for more info on this:

    http://www.drycreekphoto.com/

    And while I don't have the highly recommended Epson 1280 or 2200, I have considered getting one on and off. Problem is I just don't print large often enough to justify their price tags (and the effort too) although the 1280 has come down significantly since the intro of the 2200. These are pro-level, large format inkjets (good for upto 13x19" prints or 13"-high banners/panoramas). For me, using a good photolab for enlargements is good enough even if not so convenient. Maybe if I someday turn semi-pro or something, then such a printer would be worthwhile. And I suspect you're not quite ready for one either w/ your Canon A70. [​IMG]

    BTW, one thing I don't like about inkjets is the ink clog up very easily if you don't print regularly. That's one of the reasons I decided to go w/ dye-sub. Another is I prefer the continuous tone printing of dye-subs. The problem though w/ dye-subs is that they're not that flexible in terms of print format unless you're willing to waste consummables -- dye-subs use same amount of consummables per print regardless of size. You could get an 8x10 dye-sub like the Olympus P400, but you won't want to use it for quick, smaller prints since it uses same amount of ribbon per 8x10 page. For smaller prints, you'd have to format them for multiple photos per page to not waste ribbon. Consummables are ~$1.80 total cost per page.

    _Man_
     

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