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Photo CD: The Sleeping Giant (Cont'd)

Today, most imaging programs can import Photo CD formatted pictures and guess what? You don't have to make a back-up copy of the imported "original" because your real digitized original is mummified on the CD-ROM and easy to re-acquire. If you do something silly or the power goes off and you haven't saved your work, just import the picture into your program again. Of course, you'll be starting from scratch but it's better than having nothing to start from at all.

I should note at this point that Photo CDs are not the same as low-resolution floppy disks that can be ordered along with film processing and which allow you to view pictures on a monitor. Photo CD is a fully professional process that gives you multiple resolution choices based on how you intend to use your photographs and how big you want them to be.

And you should also be aware of yet another product called Picture CD where your photos are scanned at only one resolution: 1024 x 1536 for 35mm or 864 X 1536 for APS-sized film. That's the equivalent of shooting with a 1.6 or 1.3 MegaPixel digicam and will provide enough resolution to produce prints up to 8 x 10. With this service, each roll of film is on its own disk -- new photos are not added to the same CD.

To simplify the usually incredibly incomprehensible subject of resolution, let's begin by saying that resolution is simply a measurement of how much information or detail is contained in the image. The higher the resolution, the bigger the pictures you can print without having them "pixelate" into individual squares (pixels) that you can see. It's similar to grain in a conventional photograph.

But grain is kind of loosey-goosey and can vary from inch to inch. Pixels like to line up military-style in columns and rows: "Tennnnnn...Hut! All 640 x 480 pixels present-and-accounted-for...SIR!" That's it. Really! So rather than have you figure out all kinds of arcane (and insane) formulas, I'm going to do it for you in terms of your ultimate picture size. Your idea of good print quality may be more or less critical than mine, but I'll give you some good starting points and you can adjust upward or downward from there.

If you're going to use a picture only on the web or in a multi-media production, import it at one of the lower resolutions depending on how big you want it to display, because most monitors can only display images at low resolutions of 72 pixels-per-inch (ppi) for Mac and 96ppi for PC.

Here's a bit of basic math (don't cringe, now) to calculate approximately how big the screen images will be. Just divide your monitor's resolution into each of the pixel values to find out. So an image with a resolution of 384 x 256 pixels will display at 5.33" x 3.56" on a Mac screen or 4" x 2.66" on a PC's. Of course, you can always import images at high resolutions (which will display larger on the monitor) and crop smaller parts out of them.


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