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A Few Words of Advice

Sometimes we get orders that we cannot honour. It’s not because we don’t want to . . . we really do!
But sometimes the photos we receive are simply not good enough to work with. The following should explain a bit about why, and also provide you with a few tips & tricks on how to submit a great photo.

Movies Lie!

You know how in the movies there’s always a police officer (spy, detective, superhero) who gets a picture of the bad guy and takes it to the ‘lab’ and tells the technician, “Enlarge and enhance this part of the picture!” and after a few moments you see the reflection of someone in a pair of sunglasses, or a clear car registration number come into focus? That’s bull - pardon - a complete lie! Digital photographs can’t t be ‘blown up’: it’s all in the pixels. At 100% zoom, that’s all the data there is. Look at the examples below.

Let’s blow up the part of the image that contains the spy’s car.

This is a cropped piece of the picture at 100% zoom. As you can see, the number of the car is not clearly visible. Now let’s try to blow it up and ‘enhance’ it so that we can see the number.

We made it bigger. Did we make it better? Can you read the number now? NO. Because what the software does is simply make the pixels bigger, NOT clearer.

No amount of zooming can make a photo more clear. In addition to what is called an ‘optical zoom’ (what we saw in step 2), camera manufacturers have invented something called a ‘digital zoom’. Basically, this takes a crop of the picture and forces it bigger, like we saw in step 3. It does NOT help you in any way. A sharper, smaller image is always preferable to a larger, fuzzier one.

When using a digital camera, ALWAYS use the optical zoom. Forget about the digital zoom, it only brings trouble.

The Tripod Is Your Best Friend

Tripods are very cheap. They come in more expensive versions but ANY tripod is better than no tripod (so buy one today)! It’s hard to lug around a tripod sometimes, true, but you can always use things around you to support your camera. Use a fence, a friend’s shoulder, a tree branch, a chair, anything you can find. The less the camera shakes, the sharper the image—especially when using zoom or when shooting in poor light.

See how blurry a picture can be when you’re just using your hands? That’s not a picture we can help. Support your camera and get good pictures every time. If your camera has an ‘image stabilization’ setting, be sure to use it as well.

Don’t Skimp on Quality

Pictures get saved on memory cards. Memory cards are much cheaper today than they used to be. They can hold a lot of pictures. ALWAYS set your camera to save your pictures with the best quality available, at the highest resolution possible. Even if you’re never going to print them, it’s always easier to erase bad pictures from your camera to free up space than it is to retake the same picture again. Always remember that the moment is fleeting . . . you want to save it at the best quality you can!

Look at the photos below.

These pictures came from the same camera: the one on
the left is lower quality, and the one on the right
is the best quality the camera can offer. When they’re
small like this—roughly the same size that you’d see
on your camera display screen—they look very similar.

But let’s see how they look when we zoom in at 100%.

See how much more detail the picture on the right has? See how much sharper the edges and colours are? That’s because: 1. There are more pixels in the picture on the right, and 2. the image quality is set to “best”, which means that there is little or no compression going on. Cameras use a compression algorithm to make pictures smaller, but at the cost of quality. We can work with the picture on the right, but not with the one on the left.

When you send us your photos, please consider the initial quality of the image you’re submitting and the fact that we can make magic happen, but not if there’s no data to start with. It also helps you. The better the original image, the less money you’ll have to pay for enhancements—we can dispense with colour correction, shake correction and whatnot—and we can get straight to what’s important: making it pretty!

So, if anything, please remember the following:

* A blurry picture is NOT something we can help.
* A small, poor quality photo is NOT something we can work with.
* When using a digital camera, ALWAYS use the optical zoom—the less the camera shakes, the sharper the image.
* ALWAYS set your camera to save pictures at the best quality available, and at the highest resolution possible.