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These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the January 29, 2003 edition of U.S.

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Make the Most Of Digital Photos: Jim Lee

First came the shoe boxes. At home, closets and attics

filled up with dozens of them — all stuffed with photos. These

handy boxes became the photo-storage cabinets of choice at many a

small office too. The more sophisticated — both at home and in

small businesses — stashed mementos of family reunions or the

boss’s presentations in file cabinets, or perhaps in albums.

With the popularization of digital photography, computer folders have

replaced shoe boxes. A key difference is that the person who snaps

the family at play or the firm at work has been cut loose from the

restraints of film. Forget rolls of 24 or 36 pictures. It is now nothing

to take 100, 200, or more shots at a single event. The images are

easily uploaded to a computer. At that point, the similarity to the

shoe box comes back into focus. Just as few prints ever escape the

shoe box to lead a fuller life, so too are digital images most often

imprisoned on a hard drive, destined for quick oblivion.

It does not have to be so.

Jim Lee, co-owner of Image Arts, a digital photography, restoration,

and framing franchise located in the Princeton Shopping Center, offers

suggestions for organizing and showcasing digital photographs when

he speaks on "Digital Photography" on Tuesday, February 4,

at 6:30 p.m. at a free Tech Talk sponsored by the Princeton Library

on North Harrison Street. Call 609-924-9529.

"Now that you’ve got the picture, what do you do with it?"

That, says Lee, is the big question for the digital photographer,

who can now take thousands of pictures each year with great ease and

virtually no expense beyond the purchase of a camera. No longer do

amateur photographers, at home or at work, need — or want —

double prints of all of their pictures, as is the norm with photos

taken with film. "They want to do something special with the four

of five best photographs," he says.

A photographer and techie himself, Lee got into the business of helping

people make the most of their photographs — both digital and print

— after two decades in financial services. He graduated from St.

John’s University in 1983 with a degree in business administration

and went to work for Merrill Lynch, where he became a manager in private

banking.

After taking early retirement, he decided to go into business for

himself. He had wanted to be an entrepreneur since he was 18. "I

worked with a small business rebuilding auto electric parts,"

he recalls. That experience left him with a hankering for the life

of a business owner. In evaluating his options after leaving Merrill

Lynch, he decided upon a franchise because, without a retail background,

he thought the support would be important.

He also decided to start a business along with a partner. He and David

Chambers, also an executive in financial services, met at Merrill

Lynch. Chambers went on to work for other firms, but the two stayed

in touch, meeting for dinner once in a while to toss around business

ideas. Sharing a mutual interest in photography, they decided to go

together on an Image Arts franchise, and opened their store in August.

A great deal of Image Arts’ work in its first half-year of existence

has centered around traditional photo images. A current project, for

example, involves restoring and enlarging 60-year-old photos for an

historical society. Other projects involve framing, captioning, enlarging,

or enhancing print photos, everything from adding pixels to give a

4×6 photo a crisp look at 11×14 to transferring a photo to canvas

or watercolor paper. Even those who cling to print photos realize

the limitations of paper in preserving photos, and are asking Image

Arts to burn their pictures onto CDs. Slide collections are getting

the same treatment.

But while the bulk of his business still involves work with print

photos, Lee says he and his partner go on all of their company’s photo

shoots armed only with a digital camera. He guesses that the bulk

of his customers will have gone digital within three to five years.

Here are his suggestions for making the most of pictures shot with

digital cameras.

Go for big megapixels. A three-megapixel digital camera

provides sharp images at sizes up to 5×7 and "maybe 8×10, says

Lee. Jump up to four or more megapixels and 11×14 enlargements look

great. Prices have dropped drastically, both for the amateur and for

the professional.

A full-featured four megapixel camera can now be had for well under

$500, the price for a 1.3 megapixel camera just two or three years

ago. There is now almost no shot that can not be captured as well

by a digital camera as by a camera using film. "Kodak just came

out with a 14 megapixel camera for $4,000," says Lee. He says

he and his partner paid the same amount for a 6 1/2 megapixel camera

just two-and-a-half years ago.

Work on your photos. It used to be that removing a passing

stranger from a picture or smoothing down a cowlick after the shutter

closed ranged from difficult and expensive to impossible. With digital,

ex-boyfriends and blemishes disappear with equal ease. Lee recommends

Adobe’s Photoshop Elements for working this magic. A less expensive

version of industry-standard Adobe Photoshop, it retails for about

$75 — "$50 with a coupon," says Lee, and does an excellent

job.

Separate the best. A miracle of digital photography is

the ability to snap away with no worries about the cost of buying

film or getting it developed. A problem is the way these no-cost images

mount up. Minnow them down, is Lee’s advice. Choose the best, fix

them up, and prepare to let them shine.

Organize the photos. There are a number of software programs

and websites that place images into albums. Apple has won widespread

kudos for its iPhoto program. Ofoto (www.ofoto.com), a Kodak website,

allows registered users to store as many albums as they want for no

charge. Lee points to Flipalbum (www.flipalbum.com) as a good software

package. Using Flipalbum, which sells 3-D album software for from

$25 to $140, photographers see their images displayed in a range of

sizes in a virtual album with turning pages.

Share the photos. E-mailing snapshots is popular, but

Lee points out that this sharing method has limitations, largely because

most E-mail programs will not accept more than a couple of photo attachments

at a time. An easy alternative for amateurs is Ofoto and similar services,

which allow photographers to E-mail an invitation to friends to look

at albums online. For businesses, Lee says the way to go is an FTP

program, which provides easy upload and transfer of images to a printer

or a business partner. A program can be had for as little as $20,

says Lee, or can even be found on the Internet as shareware. Consumers

can use these programs, too, but Lee finds that most are not yet ready

for this level of sophistication.

Do something special. Don’t let all of those digital photos

languish. It is now possible to have a slide show in a frame. Digiphoto

frames can display the 10 — or 20 or 40 — best Grand Canyon

vacation photos on your desk. Driven by computer processors, these

cutting-edge devices can be programed to fade to a different photo

at intervals you designate, perhaps every five seconds or every 30

seconds. Still newcomers on the electronic gadget scene, they are

pricey, retailing for about $400.

A lower-tech way to display digital photographs is to have them enlarged

and framed, or put into albums, or made into collages or montages.

Much of this can be done at home, but for those who want a professional

job, Image Arts does all of this work, and even retains an artist

to add special touches to images transferred from cyberspace to canvas.

"The industry is changing," says Lee. Instead of asking

photo finishers to crank out millions of borderless 4×6 prints, photographers

increasingly "want someone to do good things with the photos they

cherish." Of his new business, he says, "that’s the bet we’ve

made."

Top Of Page
Please Give

Homeless families at HomeFront need the basics this

year more than ever. In other years, toys and gifts, as well as special

holiday dinners, have been more than enough to create joy in the lives

of homeless families whose basic needs were being met.

Unfortunately, the year 2002 has been different. HomeFront,

a non-profit volunteer organization serving homeless families in Mercer

County, has experienced several shortages of food. "The rising

need could never have been anticipated," says Connie Mercer, executive

director of the organization. "The demand on our food pantry in

just the month of November doubled since last year, from 406 food

bags to 822. December followed suit. We are seeing more desperate

families at our door than ever before."

Emergency shelter options have also been decreasing in Mercer County

just as the need has been increasing. With the closing of the Trent

Motel on Brunswick Avenue, families are sometimes put up in motel

rooms in Bordentown, far away from their jobs and schools. "Transportation

is a bigger issue from this location, another expense we didn’t have

last year," says Mercer, "especially since 85 percent of our

families have a full-time wage earner, and an average of two children.

Homelessness is not about derelicts anymore," she says. "It’s

a problem of the `working poor.’ And, even more importantly, it’s

a children’s issue."

Making a difference in the life of homeless family can be surprisingly

inexpensive. Organizations can pool their donations to make a bigger

impact, Mercer suggests.

She says that $6.24 buys a typical food bag when the Food Pantry purchases

items from food banks or wholesalers. That same bag of donated food

items, when purchased at grocery stores, costs $38.51. Forty-six dollars

provides one night of emergency shelter. Three hundred dollars pays

for one week of emergency family shelter. Fifteen hundred dollars

moves a family into a new home. (Includes security deposits, rent,

setting up utilities, etc.)

"This is not to say we aren’t extremely grateful for the toys

and gifts that bring smiles to the faces of our youngest clients children,

as well as their parents," says Mercer. "However, with the

start of the new year, we have to get back to basics again — emergency

food and shelter."

Send donations to HomeFront at 1880 Princeton Avenue, Lawrenceville,

08648. To donate or to volunteer, call 609-989-9417. For more information

go to the new website at www.homefrontnj.org.


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