|Volume 8, Number 17||18 August 2006|
Welcome to the 182nd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We evaluate the security risk in using a WiFi digicam before Shawn describes Nikon's latest dSLR. Then we present our second book excerpt, this time from Stephen Johnson on the timely topic of imaging ethics in the digital age. Finally, we offer some tips on taking passport photos.
Don't miss Dave's discussion of the Nikon D80 and one other yet-to-be-announced camera on PhotoTalk Radio next Saturday, Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. ET (http://www.worldtalkradio.com/archive.asp?aid=3884). Listeners can call in to talk with Dave during the show.
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Informit, a site devoted to information technology, recently published "Wireless Gadget Vulnerabilities: The Nikon Coolpix P1," a report (http://www.informit.com/guides/content.asp?g=security&seqNum=211&rl=1) detailing the wireless vulnerabilities of the Nikon Coolpix P1 when communicating with a host computer. The report did not address connections from the digicam to a printer or router.
After detailing the communication sequence between the two devices, the report describes the Multicast Dynamic Naming Service protocol (http://www.multicastdns.org) used to manage the connection. iTunes uses mDNS for its Shared Lists and the Xbox 360 also uses them to connect to systems running Windows Media Connect service, informit said. But the protocol transmits packets of information in uncoded plaintext with no built-in authentication measures.
That prompted informit to monitor and duplicate a picture transfer session using a Linux machine to play the role of the digicam. They were able to create a Denial of Service attack by continually sending the end-of-transfer code to the computer, interrupting any attempt to make a legitimate connection.
They were also able to "capture and replay an image transfer to the host PC," a Windows system. By substituting the image file name, they found they were able to transmit non-Nikon images, including an infected JPEG. They masked a Windows executable known as winshell.exe with a JPEG icon and upload it to the host computer.
Informit reported the problem to Nikon via their Web site, they said.
While informit limited its warning to the Nikon P1 it emulated, the networking code in the P1 is used by many WiFi digicams, including those made by Canon and Kodak. Licensed from FotoNation (http://www.fotonation.com), the Picture Transfer Protocol over IP networks or PTP/IP code provides key software components allowing the development and integration of both plug-and-play wired or wireless networking into imaging devices that require no or minimal configuration, according to the company. It has also been recently adopted as an international standard by the Camera & Imaging Products Association (http://www.cipa.jp/ptp-ip/index_e.html).
A partial list of PTP/IP cameras published by the gPhoto site (http://www.gphoto.org/doc/ptpip.php) includes the Nikon Coolpix P1, P2, P3, P4 and S6; Kodak EasyShare One; and Canon PowerShot SD430.
Nikon's Wireless Transmitter WT-1 for its dSLRs, in contrast, uses File Transfer Protocol as its transmission protocol, requiring configuration on both the camera and the computer to be able to transfer data.
RATING THE THREAT
So how big a threat is this?
The vulnerability exposed in the report describes a situation that exists for just the few minutes that the camera communicates with a host computer. This situation would be most compromising in a public area where other devices would be within snooping distance. But it would terminate as soon as you quit the transfer program (Nikon PictureProject, Kodak EasyShare, Canon ZoomBrowser EX) or shut down your computer.
A lost or stolen WiFi digicam, however, can be mined for its configuration data just like a stolen laptop compromising the router until its password was changed.
Neither FotoNation and Nikon responded to our request for comment.
Informit is a subsidiary of Pearson Education, a publisher of technology and education content whose partners include Addison-Wesley Professional, Adobe Press, Cisco Press, New Riders, Peachpit Press, Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, Que, Safari Tech Books Online and Sams.
By SHAWN BARNETT(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D80/D80A.HTM on the Web site.)
The new Nikon D80's combination of high-end features and its 18-135mm DX kit lens make a killer photographic tool for the amateur and intermediate photographer who can't afford or justify the extra cost of the Nikon D200.
While it is very similar to its predecessor, the Nikon D70s and sports the higher 10.2-Mp resolution of the D200, the Nikon D80 is replete with new features and advances in overall quality that make it a great upgrade for D50 and D70 owners, plus a compelling alternative for those who've been looking at (or waiting for) a Nikon D200. Finally, because its controls are so similar to the D2x and D200, pro photographers may want to pick up a D80 as a second or third body to take along instead of their heavier pro cameras.
Feel. Nikon's original camera for this prosumer category, the D70, was my personal benchmark for superb balance in an SLR. It had just the right weight distribution, even after attaching a lens. Most of the weight rested in the grip and the camera didn't tend to twist away as do some other dSLRs. That has been maintained, with the exception that the camera feels more dense in the middle, with less of a hollow feel to the body. Instead, it's a tighter, more solid package. I suspect this is due to how Nikon trimmed its outer dimensions as well as the addition of an actual pentaprism in substitution for the D70's pentamirror arrangement. Certainly the LCD also weighs a little more, but overall the camera has lost weight, coming in at 20.6 oz. (sans battery and card; based on pre-release information) vs. the D70's 21.1 oz.
Though it's changed somewhat, the grip of the D80 is enough like the D70 that I still like it. The change in weight distribution as well as the mild trimming of the bulk matches the grip change; it's more subtle than the change made by Canon as they went from the Digital Rebel to the Digital Rebel XT, which left the otherwise excellent XT with an anemic grip.
Speaking of grips, consumers will be able to purchase a Nikon-branded battery grip for the D80, which was unavailable for the D70. The $166 MD-80 vertical grip/battery pack will be compatible with two EN EL-3e batteries (no EN EL-3) or six AA batteries.
Silhouette. When I first saw Nikon's D80 teaser ads, which went up 20 days before the announcement date, I thought the silhouette looked a lot like a close competitor: the Canon 30D. From the fall of the shoulders to the height of the pentaprism mound, they're remarkably similar. After looking at the two cameras side-by-side from the back, the location of the diopter adjustment wheel helps complete the impression. It's a far better location for the diopter adjustment, by the way, appearing here on every mid-range Canon dSLR since the original D30, as well as the Digital Rebels. On the D100 and D70 models, the diopter control was a vertical slider nestled behind the viewfinder's rubber eyepiece, requiring removal of the eyepiece to adjust the slider. Whether this is imitation of a good design or just the most natural place for diopter control, Nikon D200 owners will feel right at home. I think it's safe to say that the silhouette similarity is just a coincidence, however noticeable to my eye (after all, saying one SLR looks like another is like complaining that all sedans look alike).
Where the D70 bulged out in the back, left and front, the D80 has been tapered and flattened. The D80 is shorter left to right, contributing to the balance equation. While the D70 was excellent in its day, it now seems bulky compared to more recent competitors that are smaller and yet higher resolution. The D80 brings Nikon's mid-range dSLR into compliance with the industry trend toward smaller bodies with bigger LCDs. The overall impression is one of greater quality than the Nikon D70. It feels more solid and still big in terms of features and capability, yet it takes up less space and is easier to bring along.
Views and Displays. The 2.5-inch display from the Nikon D200 comes to the D80, but perhaps the best news is that the D200's bigger optical viewfinder has also been brought along, with a 0.94x magnification, a welcome relief to the eyes. You'll squint less when composing images and adjusting menu settings and be able to show off your pictures more dramatically. The greater magnification to the optical viewfinder really does make a big difference and the large LCD is beautiful.
The Status LCD display on the top deck is largely the same, not as big as the monstrous display on the D200, but it's a little wider left to right and a little narrower top to bottom. The illumination button for the Status LCD has been moved from just right of the LCD to the power switch surrounding the shutter button.
Speaking of Buttons. Controls on the Nikon D80 will be familiar to most Nikon users, but some functions have been moved around. The White Balance and ISO buttons on the left side of the camera's back have been swapped, for example. The delete button has been moved from the lower left corner of the LCD display to the upper left where the Bracket and Drive Mode buttons were on the D70. The Bracket button has been moved to the left of the lens on the front of the camera, just under the Flash button, oddly. And button position on the top deck has been refined, for the better, I think. In place of the Status LCD illumination button are the Drive mode and AF mode buttons. Pressing either button cycles through the available modes, changing the icons and words on the Status LCD.
One of the few contributions from the Nikon D50 to the D80 is the AF-A mode, which automatically switches from AF-S (single autofocus) to AF-C (continuous autofocus) if subject movement is detected. You can also set a time threshold when tracking focus to compensate for momentary interruptions in visual contact with the subject being tracked. If you're tracking a car on a racetrack, for example and someone walks in front of you, most cameras will stop tracking and try to focus on the person in the foreground. But with the D80, you can compensate for this. That's one clear advantage that digitally programmable cameras have over film cameras and I'll detail a few more shortly.
Finally, a Function button has been added, which appears between the grip and lens. This arrangement will cause a little confusion for D200 users, because this is where the DOF button resides on the D200, with the Function button beneath it; but D80-only users will be happy to have such easy access to this reprogrammable button, which can be used to for a number of different functions, like quickly turning on the framing grid or switching temporarily to spot metering mode.
Memory Shift. Looks like the days of CompactFlash are numbered, at least in consumer cameras. The D80 uses both SD and the new SD-HC (High Capacity) cards. The SD standard only allowed up to 2-GB capacity, but the new SDHC standard will allow up to 32-GB. (That should be plenty for the next year or so -- maybe.) That makes the D80 a great upgrade for D50 owners, which also uses SD, but not so great for D70 and D200 owners who want a second camera and want to use their existing cards. More peripherals are compatible with SD these days, though, so I suppose the move was inevitable. Unlike other Nikon memory door arrangements, the D80 is no-nonsense: just slide the door toward the back and it swings open toward the front. Press down on the card and it pops up for easier removal.
Sensor. Not only did the camera get smaller while the LCD and viewfinder got bigger, the pixel count went from 6.1 megapixels on the D70s to 10.2 megapixels on the D80. This is the same basic number of pixels as are in the D200, but the sensor isn't identical. They're both CCD, but the difference, as far as we know at this date, has mostly to do with readout speed. The D200 has a four-channel data readout, while the Nikon D80 has only a two-channel readout. This means data can't be read off the sensor as quickly, hence the difference in maximum frame rate: the D80 is limited to three frames per second and the D200 can capture up to five. Put another way, the D80 sensor's speed is matched to the shutter's ability and delivers more pixels at a lower price than its bigger brethren, the D200 and D2x.
Kit Lens. The D70's 18-70mm kit lens was unusually excellent for a kit lens when it debuted. But the D80's kit lens adds unprecedented versatility to the excellence equation, with a focal length of 18-135mm, equivalent to a 27-202.5mm lens on a 35mm camera. It used to take two lenses to cover this range, but now a single, relatively small lens covers the entire range of 7.5x. I think 10x gives most users just what they want in terms of capturing all that their mind's eye can conceive without a lens, but 7.5x is pretty close. Sure, it would be better optically to have the excellent 18-200mm VR lens, but that weighs more and costs several hundred dollars more than this new kit lens. Build quality of the 18-135 is very tight and it's only a little longer than the 18-70mm.
This non-cheap kit lens has a long list of fine features, including ED glass, a silent wave motor, digital-specific design, a rounded seven-blade diaphragm for smoother bokeh, manual adjustment after AF in AF-S mode and it focuses as close as 17.7 inches regardless of zoom position. Add a non-rotating front element and an included lens hood and you have quite a lot for the effective $300 price when purchased with the camera (it's $485 when purchased separately).
Flash. X-sync speed has been reduced from 1/500 on the D70 to 1/200 second on the Nikon D80. However, the D80's master flash control capabilities have been markedly improved, with an expanded Commander mode. Whereas the D70 could only control one group of remote or slave flashes using its built-in strobe and couldn't add its own flash to the exposure, the Nikon D80 can control up to two groups of SB-800 and SB-600 flashes in addition to contributing to the scene. With the addition of an SB-800 flash, the D80's capabilities increase to controlling up to three groups of flashes independently and also allows fill flash sync at up to 1/8000 second.
Shooting. Controls were well placed and familiar and the menu usually presented what I needed on the first screen. The camera's trimmer figure made it easier in the hand than the D70 and its soft shutter sound drew less attention. The 18-135mm zoom is relatively short when retracted, but zooms to its full 135mm with just a quarter turn, offering excellent speed for candid photography.
I really like the AF and Capture mode buttons on the top deck just right of the LCD so I can be looking at the Status LCD as I watch the setting change. AF mode really deserves a button within sight of the Status LCD and the D80 has one. Pressing the button cycles through three options, including AF-A, which detects subject motion and changes from AF-Single to AF-Continuous when something starts moving.
The large viewfinder and 11-point AF system made composing images easier and it seems Nikon has made the LCD/LED arrangement a little brighter. The Nikon D80 made all the necessary AF decisions very quickly, which allowed me the versatility to take the shot or else release and half-press the shutter again for another pass. The D80 would always choose the center point on that second pass, which I could use if I wasn't happy with its first AF point selection. The Nikon representative told me that was a feature designed into the D80.
I also liked the Nikon D80's Auto ISO mode, available in most shooting modes. Not only is that unusual for an SLR at this level, you can set a threshold shutter speed for it to activate and also limit how high it will automatically adjust ISO if the required shutter speed goes below, say, 1/40 second. That's smart use of digital technology.
Modes. The Nikon D80 has the usual complement of Scene modes, called Vari-program settings. You can also bias the color settings in a number of ways and even take multiple exposures. But the best addition to the D80 is its more comprehensive Black & White modes. Like other leading SLRs, the Nikon D80 can simulate a number of common filters used with black and white film. While reviewing these modes, it would have been nicer if the settings weren't buried so deeply in the menu, but once you know what effect you're looking for, you won't mind so much. Like other offerings from Canon and Olympus, you can also tint the images you capture.
Taking it further. But unlike the Canon and Olympus dSLRs, you can do more than just tint the images or apply a filter before you capture. You can tint them post-capture and do a whole lot more.
Post-capture image editing, available via the new Retouch Menu, is limited to one adjustment per type of adjustment, but can include a combination of tinting and cropping, for example. Other options include several Coolpix favorites, like D-lighting, to improve shadow and highlight detail and heretofore-unaddressed essentials like Red-eye correction are now possible in the camera. You can make several versions with different changes and still have the original to edit later on the computer. You can also combine two images with Image overlay, a feature that first appeared on the D2x.
Color balance is among the more interesting filters (skipping right past Skylight and Warm filter). While Nikon didn't put this tool to use like Canon does to set and bracket white balance while shooting, they do let you fix images post-capture using the two-axis color chart. Regrettably, you can't use the resulting settings to set a white balance once you've achieved it. Could be patents, perhaps, but the Color balance filter is quite useful to fix a worthy shot if you forgot to set the proper white balance; then you can go back and use the conventional tools to white balance the shot properly.
Slide Shows. Another Coolpix feature to make the jump to the Nikon D80 is the more elaborate Pictmotion Slide Show, which can include music in the mix. The music selection is limited to a handful of well-known songs. It's good they're well known, too, because you can't actually hear the music you've chosen from the D80 as the camera has no built-in speaker. But hook it up to a TV via the included AV cable and you'll have nice musical accompaniment to your effects-driven slide show. While this functionality falls under the "nice but non-essential" category, it begs the question why more cool features that have grown up in the digital all-in-one camera aren't included on today's crop of dSLRs.
More Time. Shooting with the Nikon D80 was a blast. Though I only had it a short time, I was pleasantly surprised by the Nikon D80's easy nature. "Easy" doesn't really do justice considering the depths you can explore with the D80 if you want to, but I'm referring more to its ability to reach out and get the picture you want in the way that you want it. Though I'd only used it for a few minutes, I quickly felt comfortable and could concentrate on composition while exploring the special features, with none of the awkwardness that usually accompanies complicated new SLRs.
Nikon has hit on the right combination of camera capabilities and zoom range, such that I'd call the Nikon D80 a near-ideal camera. I'm not sure the competition could have seen this one coming, especially the ground-breaking inclusion of a very good quality 7.5x zoom. Add a bigger viewfinder, more integrated access to the Nikon Creative Lighting System, a 10.2-Mp sensor, very fast performance and some of the best enhancements from the Coolpix line and Nikon has another potential runaway best seller on its hands.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: HP Photosmart D7160 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/D7160/D7160.HTM)
- Reviewed: Panasonic Lumix LZ3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LZ3/LZ3A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot A530 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A530/A530A.HTM)
By STEPHEN JOHNSON(When photos altered by Lebanese photographer Adnan Hajj were unwittingly published by Reuters last week, the integrity of photojournalism in the digital age took a hit. To clear the smoke, we're pleased to be able to reprint this short excerpt from the chapter "Photography and Truth -- Imaging Ethics in the Digital Age" in the book "Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography" by Stephen Johnson (ISBN: 0-596-52370-X). Copyright 2006 by Stephen Johnson. Visit http://www.oreilly.com/go/sjimaging and enter code D6JNMR for a 30 percent discount. There's a lot more on the subject in the full chapter. -- Editor)
There is a fundamental point of departure when a photograph is made. It is transforming a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional abstract representation of that scene. One could argue that the result, in a sense, is a lie. However, I believe it is really the best our technology can offer in terms of translating that scene into a light-based record of what was before the lens. Photographs have many limitations -- the direction the camera is pointed, the lens chosen, the image recording medium used, and, as important as anything else, the moment the shutter is released. What is said, or not said, about that photograph, to provide context after the fact, is also critical. All of those things affect the perceived truth in the photograph. These are givens, the ease and seamlessness of digital manipulation have added new and justified suspicions about photographic veracity. But our first instinct remains to believe a photograph as evidence of what was there. This is still a precious quality of photography.
A far-too-common practice that undermines that truth is the purposeful distortion of photographs in order to achieve a particular goal. These are often small agendas with no particular intent to lie. Several examples are relevant here, and although National Geographic has been long criticized for their February 1982 cover, this is a legitimate example. The pyramids were too far apart for the image cover composition to work the way they wanted, so what did National Geographic do? They moved the back pyramid closer to the front pyramid, digitally. They didn't do it on a Macintosh and they didn't do it with Photoshop; they probably did it on a Scitex retouching station because that's what was available at the time. It's the same sort of decision that other people have made on covers -- synthesizing images or moving things around because somehow a magazine cover is seen as advertising rather than real content. I couldn't disagree more -- a cover should be used because it is strong and revealing of the content. It should not be a contrived seduction in a news or documentary context. You have to make your own decision. National Geographic has sworn that they will never do this again, but I remain wary as I look through an issue. That is unfortunate because I've always loved the magazine and I don't want to see it in that light.
Another example of this alteration of images by the press is the coverage of O.J. Simpson's murder arrest. The Time cover and the original photograph look very different. Did Time do anything wrong by using a dark, scary rendition? What if they had marked that photograph as an artist's rendition or interpretation? What if it had brush strokes imposed on it? Would that have changed things? The more you step away from the perception of this cover as a photograph, the easier it is to stumble in the interpretation. There is a fundamental line that was crossed when editorializing about a person's guilt by visual implication. It is a most ominous development where this sort of dark, dastardly look is imposed on something purporting to be news. It was done to kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst many years earlier. We need an aggressive press in search of the truth, not an editorializing machine pronouncing guilt and ruining reputations, while letting the big lies of war and greed go unchallenged.
The press has a larger responsibility, and I'm afraid it is slipping away into corporate commercial interests overriding an honest take on the day's events. The images that result are just symptoms of these depressing developments.
What if the prosecution in O.J. Simpson's murder trial had introduced a photograph of a masked, tall man and this white Ford Bronco with a license plate that matched O.J.'s in front of the crime scene? Do you think it would be accepted as truth in this day? Do you think the defense wouldn't challenge it on the basis that anybody with a small computer could create this? What does that do to our talents and to the notion of truth? Not anything particularly positive.
There's another example from LIFE magazine that is worth discussing. LIFE ran a story for the 25th anniversary of the murders at Kent State University. Somebody had touched out a fence pole in a file photo and LIFE magazine published it before anybody noticed. LIFE was heavily criticized for this and they apologized. There is an increasing sensitivity to these issues that I think is an indication of progress in this whole area. But you never know -- a gun might appear in a student's hand in some future revision intent on recasting the events of that terrible day where four American college students were killed by our own National Guard.
The credibility of photographs is in a state of erosion. With digital technology we can synthesize things rather than explore the world. There is something disappointing about that. It tends to supplant the desire to provide information with the desire to merely entertain. It is a kind of reality enhancement instead of documentation, creating our own fiction of what the world is. It's fine if it's contextualized as fiction, but enhancement is becoming so widespread that we are becoming desensitized to the impact; adding a little more color saturation here, a little more sharpening there, and you know this branch sticking in from the side, we can just take that out. All of these things are small decisions on their own, but the cumulative effect of them is potentially very damaging. I think there needs to be a value attached to the integrity of the image, the real place, the real people, and the real circumstances.
With all of this messing about with images, we're also creating the possible denial of anything we don't like, or that we don't choose to believe. If the photograph no longer constitutes proof, we've lost something very valuable. It is getting to the point where people can see something in a news magazine and say, "Well I'm not really sure I believe that happened, they probably retouched that one." This can be, by extension, a very disturbing development, because we now see some groups saying the Holocaust didn't occur in the 1930s, and that the Nazis didn't murder six million Jews. We can point at things like photographs for evidence, and people can now say they can be faked. Our visual history as evidence of real events is in jeopardy by our casual concern for truth.
The upside of this is that we now know photos can be easily faked, and so we are less susceptible to the dark agendas out there with much to gain by hiding the truth and propagating lies. Skepticism in complex times is often warranted.
We are responsible for the damage or gain from this situation because those of us working in this industry in this period of time are the ones that are setting the tone for how all of this will be perceived in the coming years. The more willing you are to trade your Photoshop abilities to aid those trying to deceive, the greater the loss of photographic veracity.
SIDEBAR: CODE OF ETHICS
National Press Photographer's Association: Digital Code of Ethics Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography
As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public. As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic images ... in light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content ... is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.
-- Approved by the NPPA executive committee Nov. 12, 1990. (c) NPPA 2004. All rights reserved.
Yes, you can shoot your own passport photo. There's no law against it, just a bunch of head-scratching advice from the Dept. of State. Recently we decoded it well enough to make a couple of our own. Here's what we learned.
First, start with the seven-page, 798K PDF called Guidelines for Producing High Quality Photographs for U.S. Travel Documents at the State Dept.'s site (http://travel.state.gov/passport/guide/download/download_884.html). It's the same information you can find on the site in HTML (http://travel.state.gov/passport) but a little handier.
Specifications. The Dept. of State is pretty specific about image composition. The final image has to be two inches square. The head (from top of the hair to the bottom of the chin) must be between one and 1-3/8 inch tall. The head itself must be centered with the eyes between 1-1/8 and 1-3/8 inches from the bottom of the frame. It must be shot straight on against a "plain white or off-white" background with no distracting shadows. Compose the shot so there's some space above the subject's head and include the middle of their chest, too.
The subject should face the camera with their eyes open and look direct at the camera. Sunglasses are not allowed but eyeglasses are required if normally worn (tilt the head to avoid glare on the lenses, the site recommends). And dress should be "normal street attire."
The idea, after all, is to recognize you.
Equipment. Those requirements actually pose some interesting technical issues. Firing a digicam flash isn't going to do the job, casting a shadow on the white background and flattening facial features (not to mention red eye). And posing under office fluorescent lighting won't either. It can be harder than it sounds to find a white background, too.
Pros will dig out their umbrella strobes and another strobe for the background to burn out any shadows. But you can also light the subject with natural but indirect light, a reflector to wash out any shadows and even the odd flash. The trick is to evenly illuminate the face with diffused light so there are no harsh shadows.
And don't forget the tripod. You'll have to crank it up to the height of your subject's head (as if you're looking right at them), so you might want to provide them a chair, too.
Our Setup. Our own setup was a bit peculiar, but it worked very nicely.
We found a white inside door slightly back from a central skylight. In fact, the further from the background you can place the subject, the easier it is to avoid any shadows.
We placed a mark just between the skylight and a side window with diffused but full sun. So both sides of the face were evenly lit with diffused light. We needed a white reflector to erase the shadows under the eyes cast by the skylight. And we dropped a diffused strobe behind the subject to throw some light on the white door. Lots of light, all of it diffused.
We set the tripod four feet from the mark and cranked it up to eye level. We set the zoom lens to the equivalent of 50mm, which covered the composition requirement nicely. We had space above the head and the middle of the chest was in view. You can always subtract from the composition in software, but you can't add to it.
We raised the flash to trigger the remote strobe wirelessly, set the self-timer on and ran to the mark, looking directly into the lens.
One little problem we hadn't foreseen was using autofocus with the self-timer -- particularly since there was no subject in the picture. But that was easily resolved by switching to manual focus and focusing on a stand in: a Japanese screen.
The Print. Getting that two-by-two crop is easy enough. Just make sure the size of the subject's head falls within the spec. You may want to crop a couple of pixels larger than 2x2 because you have to trim the images out. The Dept. of State wants two 2x2 photos, not a 4x6 with two 2x2 images on it. The final image is only 1-3/8 by 1-3/4 inches, but the extra room is regulation, so don't scrimp.
And resist the temptation to retouch the image. Pretend you work for the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Pick one shot and make multiple copies of it. They have to be identical.
A dye sub printer is perfect for this because it prints a continuous tone color image. A color inkjet works with glossy photo paper works just as well if it has enough resolution that you can't see the dots. Older inkjets (300 dpi, say) and halftoned images (as if for a newspaper) don't meet the spec.
Yes, inkjets print halftones, but today's modern model uses a Frequency Modulated screen to put down very tiny dots, all the same tiny size, clumping them together to make them darker. Twenty years ago, printers used only the Amplitude Modulated halftone screens familiar from printing presses (using 80-150 lpi screens), which make dots larger or smaller to make the ink darker or lighter. If your printer offers photo quality and you print on glossy photo paper that encapsulates the ink, you'll be fine.
And in a pinch, you can always copy the final image to a memory card and take it down to the drugstore where you can use their kiosk. And many Post Office locations that process passport applications also offer Photo Services, if you really blow it.
We cranked out our images on a Canon SELPHY CP510 that was sitting around begging for some free publicity. At 28 cents a print (14 for each 2x2 if you want to get technical), we saved enough to splurge on expedited service, which took a week.
The Trick. The real trick here is finding the right location and setting up the light to illuminate the face evenly. The Web site and PDF give great examples of what not to do and how things should look in the final print.
Our final image looked like one of the good shots in the example images, so we walked down to the Post Office and they liked it so much they threw us out of the country. With a passport, of course.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read about the Nikon D80 at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea34f9
Visit the Sony Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6f789
Scott asks for suggestions for a camera with text stamp capabilities at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea3432/0
Ali asks about a good camera for a beginner at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?50@@.eea345c/0
Visit the Digital Cameras Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2a8
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RE: Lens Baby
The Lens Baby sounds a lot like a vignetting filter. You could buy one, but we used to put a clear glass (or maybe a skylight filter) on and smear the outer part of it with something; fingerprints, Vaseline or whatever. Control the vignetting with aperture. Or even better, use a little matte box in front of the lens with jagged cutouts to soften the edges.
-- Al Clemens(It's a bit like that, Al. But it's more interactive. By changing the bellows, you more the focus spot around in real time. Very welcomed with animated subjects. -- Editor)
RE: How to Make Your Own Ribbons
Cut your paper into strips and curl them with your scissors -- wad it up into a cute, curly mass and tape it to your package. The results of a paper shredder aren't a bad start on that. :-)
-- Janet(Great idea! If only I could bear to shred paper, that would look nice without our custom printed gift wrap. -- Editor)
As a duly authorized SLH (Santa's Little Helper -- I have the ID to prove it, printed it myself I did) I've used the ribbon from a 3x5" dye sublimation printer to tie up gifts. That and the recipients mug shot under a SLH seal make quite a colorful presentation.
Need I say, these are used dye ribbons. After printing an image there is still a lot of color left and it doesn't rub off on your hands.
-- George(Hey, perfect, George! I've hung them at parties, but never wrapped with them. -- Editor)
I am looking to purchase a circular polarizing filter for my digital camera (Nikon D50). Will you tell me, how much of a difference there is between a digital filter and a normal coated filter? And are they worth the extra dollars?
-- Randy(A filter is a filter, Randy. What really matters is if the filter is multicoated. And, yes, it matters. See our 'To Filter or Not to Filter' Advanced Mode column in the May 26 issue. -- Editor)
How to fly with professional gear became the topic of the week after new security concerns forced a change in carry-on regulations. Among the more interesting discussions is Matt Brandon's Lexar blog (http://blogs.lexar.com/mattbrandon/2006/08/tighter_securit.html). The regulations are updated at the Transportation Security Administration site (http://www.tsa.dot.gov/public). According to the FAQ, "TSA continues to allow laptop computers, cell phones and other electronic items as carry-on items."
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has updated Photoshop CS2 [MW] to version 9.0.2.
Ink Technology Corp. (http://www.inktechnology.com) has released a newly-formulated ink set for filling cartridges used in the latest HP Photosmart printers with Scaleable Printing Technology. The inks incorporate high tech dyes and pigments featuring greatly improved fade resistance and reduced intercolor bleed.
The Library of Congress exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/boundforglory/glory-exhibit.html).
Zykloid Software (http://zykloid.com/posterino) needs beta testers for Posterino [M], its photo composition application
Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has updated Phanfare Photo for Mac OS X with music for slideshows, iTunes integration and support for MP3, WMA, M4A, and OGG formats. It also expands the display of EXIF information.
Callisto (http://share.photoparade.com/homesweeps) has launched the PhotoParade Share Sweepstakes. Sign up for a free trial at PhotoParade Share, upload five photos for a chance to win a Nikon D200 dSLR and other great prizes.
Iridient Digital (http://www.iridientdigital.com) has released RAW Developer 1.5.2 [M], adding support for over 10 new camera models including the Nikon D2xs, Sony Alpha DSLR-A100, Pentax K100D and K110D, expanded support for digital backs from Leaf, Sinar, Hasselblad/Imacon and Phase One and more.
Epson (http://www.epsonstore.com) has published four digital scrapbooking reference guides: "Introduction to Technology" for $6 and for $10.99 each "Digital Scrapbooking Kits," "Divine Secrets of the Design Sisterhood," and "Scrapbooker's Guide to Photo Corrections & Artistic Effects."
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