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Image quality is the primary concern for anyone taking a photograph. A photographer wants each image to be the best it can be.

This lesson is designed to illustrate the role of resolution in creating fine photographs.

The essential elements of photo image quality are sharpness and detail. A camera's ability to capture sharp images is referred to as camera resolution. In digital photography, a camera's resolution is measured in megapixels.

Image quality actually involves more than only camera resolution. While the camera's job is to capture the image, the printer's job is to print the image on paper. A high quality camera capture means nothing if the image is not printed properly. The latter part of this lesson will discuss how to print a digital photo file.

NOTE: This lesson is not intended to be camera specific. Any 5 megapixel camera will capture images of the same resolution as any other 5 megapixel camera.



(Click on any image below for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Components of resolution
  • Comparing Megapixels
  • Image Quality
  • Setting your resolution for high resolution prints
  • Outdoor lighting tips
  • Downloading and printing your images

Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Boom
  • Photoflex BoomStand
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" Black/Silver
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" Soft Gold/White
  • Photoflex LiteDisc Holder
  • Photoflex Litestand 2214

 

MEGAPIXELS EXPLAINED

A digital camera is able to process a certain amount of information through its lens and record it onto a removable media card. The information stored to this media card is essentially made up of digital pixels. A 2 Megapixel (MP) camera can process and record images that consist of 2 million pixels apiece. Similarly, a 5 Megapixel (MP) camera can process and record images that consist of 5 million pixels apiece. Why is this important?

Simply put, the more pixels that can be recorded by a camera, the greater the image resolution. And the greater the image resolution, the better the image quality.

The image above compares an apple that was photographed by two different digital cameras, 5 MP and 2 MP. Here, we've magnified a section of each result for comparative purposes. As you can see, the difference in detail, or resolution, is quite obvious.

(Note: if you have a 3 or 4 MP camera, your resolution capabilities will fall somewhere in between these examples.)

In addition to the differences between cameras, there are also settings you can make within each camera to render its optimal resolution (image size and quality).

The first part of this lesson focuses on the difference of resolution between a 5 MP and a 2 MP camera, and walks through the process of taking an outdoor portrait.

The second part focuses on downloading images to your computer, and preparing it for the highest quality print resolution possible.

RECORD MODE

The E-1 offers a few Record mode settings (JPEG, TIFF, RAW) that ascend in both image size and quality. The following chart describes the differences between these different Record modes.

 

Record Modes

Record Modes

 

High quality images require more storage space on the camera's media card than lower quality images. Therefore, a media card can store more low quality images than high quality images.

 

Photos per Memory Card

Photos per Memory Card

 

If you prefer to shoot in the TIFF or SHQ modes, we recommend purchasing larger xD-Picture cards, as you will only be able to record a few images to an empty 16MB card (2 for the optimal TIFF setting and 5 for the Enlarged Size SHQ setting).

COMPARISON

To give you an idea of the size differences between Resolution settings in a C-5050 Zoom (5 MP) and a D-520 Zoom (2 MP) camera, we photographed an apple with both cameras set to SQ, HQ and SHQ Record modes and placed the results next to each other.

As you can see, with the D-520 Zoom results, the SHQ version is roughly three times the size of the HQ version and 9 times the size of the SQ result. With the C-5050 Zoom, however, the SHQ result is roughly four times the size of the HQ result and 16 times the size of the SQ result (figures 1 & 2).

 

 

Notice how the C-5050 Zoom SHQ result of the apple is almost 4 times larger than that of the D-520 Zoom SHQ result? This illustrates the basic difference between a 2 MP image and a 5 MP image.

SHOOTING FOR HIGH QUALITY PRINTS

Here, we will demonstrate how to adjust the resolution using an Olympus C-5050 Zoom to get the highest quality prints possible. However, in the following instance we draw upon an outdoor portrait session that was shot with an Olympus E-20N, which is also 5 MP. Since the E-20N and the C-5050 Zoom are both 5 MP cameras, the examples of size and quality from the E-20N results are indicative of what you can expect to achieve with the C-5050 Zoom.

If you want to be able to make high quality prints from the pictures you take, it's best to set your camera to one of the higher resolutions. If you are shooting a portrait that you will later make prints from, we recommend you set the Record Mode to SHQ, since it enables a fast capture rate while maintaining a high quality level.

To select the SHQ Record Mode, activate the Main menu and press the Left arrow button to enter the Record Mode menu. This will bring you to a menu where you can select the Image Quality. Choose SHQ and scroll right to enter the Image Size menu. Here you can select between different pixel dimensions. Choose 2560x1920 and press the OK/Menu button three times to exit the menu (figures 3-6).

 

 

(Note: with the C-5050 Zoom, it is also possible to set the Image Size to ENLARGE [3200x2400 pixels]. Through a very clean interpolation process, this setting can render images you would expect to capture on an 8 MP camera!)

 

PORTRAIT SHOOT WITH AN OLYMPUS E-20N

To demonstrate how easy it is to get great natural lighting, we set up this makeshift portrait studio in an empty car garage. When the garage door is open and the sun is overhead, it serves as a large window light source, perfect for portraits. We created a background quickly by setting up a LiteStand and Boom and clipping a sheet of tan muslin cloth to it. We then draped it off to the side to create sweeping folds (figure 7).



Figure 7

 

To demonstrate size differences, we first set the Record mode to its lowest setting (SQ) and adjusted the White Balance for daylight. We then set the Mode dial to Manual, set the aperture to f/2.4 so that we would have a short depth of field, making the background somewhat out of focus. We then focused on the model's face and took a shot (figures 8 & 9).

 

 

Our initial result is quite good. The light on our model's face gradually transitions from light to dark to create a natural sense of depth and the background is nicely out of focus due to our aperture setting of f/2.4.

In order to reduce the contrast in a portrait setup, it is common to use a reflector to fill in the shadow areas of the face. To demonstrate this effect, we set up a 22" Soft Gold/White LiteDisc on a LiteDisc Holder and LiteStand and positioned it to the right side of our model's face to serve as a "warm fill" light. We then changed the Record mode to HQ and took another shot (figures 10 & 11).

 

 

The result shows that the shadow side has lightened considerably, and yet there is still a sense of dimension to the face. This classic “main and fill” lighting setup is used often, as it is very flattering to many people's faces.

But, remember that when it comes to lighting portraits, there is no “right” way and that it is always good to experiment with different setups. For some people, increasing the contrast may make it more flattering. This is particularly true for men. To illustrate, we simply replaced the Soft Gold LiteDisc with a 22" Black LiteDisc to create a "negative" fill. The Black LiteDisc absorbs light, rather than reflecting it, and helps to increase the overall contrast from left to right. Once the LiteDisc was in position, we set the Record mode to SHQ and took a final shot (figures 12 & 13).

 

 

Notice the difference the Black LiteDisc made. The shadow side is much darker now and the angled features of our model are much more pronounced.

Keep in mind, however, that how you choose to light someone is a matter of personal preference. Having a few different LiteDiscs at your disposal allows you to come up with the look you're after.

DOWNLOADING

After the shoot, we downloaded the images to our computer so that we could make prints from our Olympus Dye-Sub printer. Unless you already use a photo-editing application to prepare your images for print, email, etc., you will need to install the Camedia software that came with your Olympus camera. After you've successfully installed this software onto your computer, you will be able follow the next sequences.

When you want to import the images onto your computer, there are a couple of ways to do it. You can either connect the camera directly to your computer using the included USB cable, or (as we did here) you can use an Olympus USB Dual Slot SmartMedia/CompactFlash Reader to copy images to your computer. This unit can be connected to any USB port (PC or Mac) even while the computer is on. On a Mac, you can even plug the Reader into the keyboard of the computer (figure 14). The card (either SmartMedia or CompactFlash) can then be inserted into the appropriate slot of the Reader (figure 15).

 

 

After a few moments, a card icon will appear on your desktop (for Macs) or as an external drive (for PC) allowing you save the images onto your computer (figures 16 & 17).

 

 

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Keep in mind that if you want to delete any images from the camera's card, it is best to do it while the card is in the camera and not in the Reader. Otherwise the card can become damaged.)

Using the Camedia software, you can do many things with your images, including: preparing them email and the web, making calendars, postcards, photo albums, and basic printing. Here, we'll run through the basic steps of printing an image onto high quality photo paper.

After we copied the images to our hard drive, we loaded our Olympus Dye-Sublimation printer tray with Olympus PA4NU A4 Standard Dye-sub paper and placed it in the printer (figures 18-21).

 

 

PRINTING WITH CAMEDIA SOFTWARE

Once you have your printer hooked up, you'll want to install the Camedia software and launch the program.

 



Figure 22

Once you have your printer hooked up, you'll want to install the Camedia software and launch the program.

 

Once you are in the Photo section, you can browse your computer to upload photos from your camera or your hard drive (Figures 23 & 24).

 

 

Once you find the appropriate folder, the images will appear as thumbnails on the left side of the screen. Click on the image you want to print and drag it into the main window (Figures 25 & 26).

 

After you determine how you want the image to print on the page (using the template to the right), press Print (Figure 27).



Figure 27



Figure 28

Here, we printed the SQ, HQ and SHQ versions of our model and placed them next to each other. Notice the difference in print sizes from the various Resolution settings (figure 28).

 

Remember, the C-5050 Zoom will produce the same size ratio as the E-20N since they are both 5.0 Megapixel cameras. Remember that you will get larger, higher quality prints from the SHQ, TIFF and RAW Record modes than with the SQ or HQ Record modes. So before you shoot photos for email, web sites, or prints, remember to set the Record mode accordingly.

 


Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Boom
  • Photoflex BoomStand
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" Black/Silver
  • Photoflex LiteDisc 22" Soft Gold/White
  • Photoflex LiteDisc Holder
  • Photoflex Litestand 2214

Recommended Links

  • To learn more about Photoflex equipment, go to www.photoflex.com
  • For more tips and techniques on lighting and cameras, visit www.webphotoschool.com and sign
    up for access to the Member Lessons.

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