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Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2 - Second in a three part series on moving to digital

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Category : Portraits and People
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It's now a good time to make the move to digital, as professional society photographer David Simm explains in the second of a three part series aimed at those who shoot, or want to shoot, weddings or portraits. This second part explains how to make a slide show and sort out your presentation.
Words and Pictures David Simm

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2In the early stages of exploring the exciting new world of digital imaging, it is very easy to be led astray. Way back when I first started experimenting someone mentioned that I should do a batch conversion of my JPEG file into TIFFs, well on the first time out I found out just what a stupid move that was. My contact, at the lab, suggested I use I_View32, a great little shareware that is superb for viewing with windows 98, to convert all the images to TIFF files.

Of course I tried it just the once, then I soon found out just what kind of mistake I had made, now instead of storing all the original images I had to make three times as many CDs to handle this Multi gigabyte assignment. If that is not enough, when I came to open the files at a later date I found that some had been corrupted and couldn't be recognized by Photoshop. Take it from me, you don't need batch conversions at this stage, however if you followed my advice from part one, you will have the rescue discs... smart move eh?

There is perhaps one batch process I should have mentioned in part one and that is the reorientation of your vertical images. For this operation I like CompuPic Pro, which I also use for renaming the files (renumbering). Reorientation is simple once you have the images on the light table, you simply highlight the pictures to rotate and go to Tools>Lossless Image Modifications>Rotate(+90,-90, 180) and select the degree of rotation needed -90 turns anti clockwise, the others are pretty obvious.

OK so to take it from where we left off, you now have the web page you created in Photoshop, which in itself would be a fairly presentable way to turn out proofs to the client, just by burning to CD. I like to entertain the client a little so I make a slide show. I am currently experimenting on slide shows that will run on both PCs and DVDs with ProSho. Like CompuPic this is a Photodex.com software and I will share more on this when I have become more familiar with it. For now, let me introduce you to the program I have used for the past two years, since it works fairly well, is very low cost and has a shallow learning curve.

Arc Soft's Media Browser 2000 turns out a fairly respectable slide show that will run on any PC and, providing you organise your work in advance, it is quick and easy. Let's get the organising out of the way first. Create a new folder call it titles and save it somewhere in your 'work in progress' files. Now in Photoshop open a New document (i.e. File> New) then you will be asked to size the new document - go by pixel size at 680 x 450 or somewhere close, it isn't really all that important, now on the Photoshop desktop you have a blank canvas.

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2Way over on the left hand side is a tool box, at the bottom of which are two overlapping squares, representing the foreground and background, by clicking either of them you open the colour picker, make your choice black and click OK, now select Edit>Fill and Background or Foreground which ever is black. Save the image (Save As) to your title folder as 00001 and then save again as 00002. You can make as many as you think you need. You may at this stage also make a title slide for the studio with some suitable lettering. For the beginning of the show keep the number preceded by four zeros and for the end of the show make it a high number such as 10001.

Here is where the images from your web page come in doubly handy, we're going to borrow them for the slide show, when I say borrow them, Media Browser 2000 doesn't remove them from the images folder, but uses a copy image for the web show and so long as you don't remove, delete or file the folder elsewhere Media Browser will be able to find the images at the time you are ready to save the slide show.

So open up Media Browser 2000 and click the add image icon, go to your title folder and add two black (blank) slides and as many title slide as you want, next click the add image icon once more and go to the job file with all your images in it. Highlight the first picture and scroll down to the last JPEG and while holding the shift key highlight the last. Now with all, the pictures highlighted click open, you now have the entire job on your light table. There is at this point one small quirk, Media Browser has transposed your first and last image, I don't know why, but it has. However if you click the sort icon (AZ12) you can sort the images in ascending numerical order. You may also change the order, one slide or several slides at a time by highlighting them then dragging and dropping them where you would prefer to see them. The program also lets you make minor adjustments like knocking out colour and sharpening, sometimes useful when Jpegs have been saved more than once, you can also change the orientation and crop images. All these functions are worked through a very self-explanatory dialogue box.

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2You are almost ready to make a slide show, but no good show would be the same without music, sadly Media Browser needs a wav file for it's sound track, .wav files are large and clumsy but work OK with this program. There are two ways you could go about preparing a .wav file for your soundtrack. Media Browser will actually record the sounds for you, via the computer's on board microphone, but I find that a bit amateurish with all the background sound of 'phones ringing and doors slamming, I prefer to record the length of music I want into one wav file, i.e. if I have 500 images and I'd like them to show for five seconds each, then I need an approximately 42 minute .wav file. So I just pop a CD into the computer, record it internally and save as a .wav file... easy. I have several of different length, I suggest you name them by the length of time they play, i.e. 35min.wav and so on.

Making the show couldn't be easier, after saving the slide show and giving it a name, you simply click the icon that looks like a filmstrip and CD, when the dialogue box opens it asks you if you want to create a slide show, a web page or video postcard. Select "slide show", then in the New box, hit Select All and follow the onscreen instructs to add music etc. Towards the end of the process you'll get two choices, either to burn a CD straight from Media Browser or to save as a file. I would go for save as a file and create a new folder to house it all in. That way you can add items to the CD, like the Web Page and/or I_View 32 for viewers with older operating systems like Windows 98. Later Windows OS such as XP will pop open the JPEGS so that the images and numbers can be identified for ordering, but older operating systems need the web page or I_view.

Test the slide show, it makes sense to check it out before delivering your proof CD to the client, just to pop it into the CD drive and run it for yourself. To do this open the file which contains the show, scroll down to the very end and find the slideshow.exe file, double click and wait for the dialogue box to pop up, then click effects and wait approximately ten seconds for the two blank slides to pass by and your slide show with music will begin.

There is another fantastic use for these slide shows; you can use them to show wedding prospects and to mail out to wedding enquiries. Now you see digital has empowered you to become more self sufficient in your marketing and promotion department too. You ought to add a "read me" file with instructions and/or sales message to all the CDs you burn, again you can save and store this in the work in progress folder along with the titles.

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2If you would like to spice the slide show up a little there are lots of things you can do, you can make multiple image composites in Photoshop or sequence images that would pop the viewer eyes out, just like a real multi media show. Altenatively, you could take the simple track and use old photo effects, edge curls and many more. Remember about effects.... Less is More! It is easy to over do it, so while they can be fun you need to be sparing with gimmicky effects.

Professor Franklin's Instant Photo Effects is from Streetwise Software, Inc., (http://www.swsoftware.com), it is low cost and very useful, many of The Professor's instant functions can also be created in Photoshop, but you have to work at it, all the effects are one click in The Professor's. One word of caution don't "Save" always "Save As", by simply saving, it will default to create a bitmap file, too big and clumsy for your slide show needs, just add a digit like an 'a' and save as a .jpg.

Now that we've gone from digital capture, proofing and presentation, we have to think about the marketable digital products we can sell. Well, variations on the proof CD can be quite profitable, but I am thinking more of the images that can go into a picture frame or wedding album. For the most part I intend to touch on that in Part Three, but for now here's food for thought. Those who use GraphiStudio Albums would find sending a CD overseas a lot more palatable than sticking their precious negatives onto a plane in today's climate and Graphi are superbly geared to making digital album products, but more on that next time.

At this point in your learning curve you should be thinking about shooting a couple of dozen digital images, alongside your film cameras, at every event, since you are going to need lots of images to practice on and to learn from. Don't, please don't, go out and shoot a wedding on stand alone digital imaging. Although you are almost there, at this stage there are still a number of issues and pitfalls to overcome, many of which will rear their ugly heads without any encouragement from me, but the time to get the better of them is during this wannabee digital period, when your clients are not depending on the digital pictures.

Just as we did, you can include some of them among your analogue, or film produced images and allow the client to purchase some if they wish, but as with any new discipline you should only go out to inflict it onto the unsuspecting world at large when you have a reasonable mastery of the process and as the weeks go by, trying out these technique as you go, you will find yourself step by step increasing in confidence and skills, until one day you will know that you are ready and the market will love you for it.

Digital: Taking the plunge Part 2 Various off the shelf effects for borders, page curls lettering, and spotlighting are shown on the page opposite and above. Whilst all off them are possible from Photoshop and other image manipulation programs, for speed in preparing slide shows having them to hand as one click solutions is a boon.

This series of articles has been adapted from material that has appeared in Professional Image Maker - the subscription only magazine for members of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers. For details of how to join please visit their web site: www.swpp.co.uk, write to SWPP & BPPA, 6 Bath Street, Rhyl, LL18 3EB. Tel: 01745 356935 or email info@swpp.co.uk.

David Simm has a web site at www.davidsimmphotography.com

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