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by Tom Berry
(trust him - he's older now)

Photo Taming
Dealing with all those holiday images

Advice on digital photos, graphics, and their handling can fill hundreds of pages, so a modern photographer needs to decide how involved to get. But if a viewer out in the world or on the family homestead can easily see your work, that will be appreciated.

Your main goal is simply to make sure your images are small enough to fit the average desktop monitor screen so that you can share your photo work without requiring people to scroll across vast distances to see the entire picture. That's like trying to prove the flat earth theory because your images are, in fact, that large. With my attention deficit disorder I forget what I saw in the upper left corner of a huge photo before I get to the lower right hand corner.

It's also nice to consider those folks who don't have high-speed internet connections and would like to see your work materialize on their desk tops in less than half an hour. Newer versions of web browsers will resize images to fit your screen when they finally finish loading but the full size image still has to be downloaded first..

I'm going to give you some technical parameters in the next four paragraphs. It means you have to know at least a little bit about the photo-editing program on your computer. If you want to skip the techno-blah-blah here, jump down four paragraphs to get some on-line help.

OK. This is important. Make a copy of your original image before you resize or compress it just in case something awful happens. Work on the copy, and leave the original in the file. After you have worked on the copy, you can compare it to the original to see if you like it or not. Meanwhile, your original masterpiece is safe for all time.

Don't send or post images over 1200 pixels wide by +/- the same height. MAX.

If you are offered the opportunity to reduce the file size (that's called compression) a good benchmark is approximately 300 Kb for an image close to 1200 pixels in either dimension. For smaller images (800 pixels in either dimension) you compress until the file size is quite a bit smaller without any visible effect.

And please, in my humble opinion: if we (you will notice I said 'we' not 'you') learn to take better pictures that won't need much editing other than re-sizing. Makes things simpler. I know this to be true since I read the instructions that came with my digital camera after taking a whole bunch of horrible shots. Luckily no 'film' was injured.

'Digital' for me and many others means 'an infinite numbers of monkeys using an infinite number of digital cameras'. Can you tell that I have experience in an old-camera darkroom? And love taking many, many shots without having to wade through the stinky, costly, time-consuming process of developing film.

If you run across an on-line image editing service that doesn't want an arm and a leg in payment and is willing to properly re-size your images for you, why not give it a try? We're all bound to learn something in the offing. I repeat: Make a copy of your original masterpiece. Send them the copy, keep the masterpiece.

Most free online services have something to sell (per any good business model) but know that some online services resize your photos without even asking. This can make life simpler but it still behooves you to understand that you might lose photo quality if you send your masterpiece. Send a copy. Am I hammering that home enough?

Here are some online services I found poking around. I'm not recommending any of these over another.

Photobucket, Facebook, and Fliker, among others, also feature re-sizing.

If you're up to installing software on your home computer, you can download a copy of Google's Picassa. It can be a bit intrusive in trying to take control of your computer graphics but is quite well-liked regardless.

Another possibility is Gimp-"The Ultimate Graphic software".

I think the best results come from software that is installed on your local machine but I do graphics for a living and I'm a shameless Adobe Photoshop snob.

Trying to keep this subject brief is all but impossible, but if you just start with photo-image down-sizing, dimensional size and file (Kb) size, you will already be on the road to becoming a photo manipulation guru.