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Monday, August 13, 2001
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Photo by Kuldip DhimanYou want to share your
memories with your loved ones. You take photographs of your child’s birthday, and would like to share them with the rest of the family which is spread in various parts of the world. Roopinder Singh checks out on the contemporary way of showing your photos, online.

YOU want to share your memories with your loved ones. You take photographs of your child’s birthday, and would like to share them with the rest of the family which is spread in various parts of the world. Your daughter’s Massi lives in St Louis, MO, USA, while another lives in Australia. You have friends all over and want them to remain in touch with the happenings in your life.


The traditional way of doing this would be to take photographs, get them developed and printed and send copies by conventional (snail) mail to everyone on the list. This would take time, could be tedious as well, and it certainly would be expensive. There would, of course, be a time lag, between when you post the letter and when the person concerned receives it. Depending upon the place, it could take as long as two weeks for this to happen.

Well, the Net has a solution to this. What a Net-savvy person would do is scan these photographs and save them in his computer. He would then put them up on the Net. For this he could use one of the many virtual photo albums that exist on the Net. All that he would have to do after this would be to e-mail his friends and relatives and give them the URL (address on the Net) of the virtual album.

The first step in this is to digitise the photographs, i.e., to basically get them into your computer in a format that can be understood by the machine.

How to digitise photos

There are two ways of digitising photographs, but before we go into that we have to understand what digital photographs are. Traditionally, the making and processing of photographs involves various chemical processes and the darkroom side of photography has been associated with chemistry and chemical processes. In digital photography you replace these with electronic processing.

One way would be to take photos with a digital camera itself. Such cameras were esoteric just a few years ago but are getting more common. While professional cameras would be rather expensive, amateur cameras are not too expensive. Digital video cameras also give users the ability to take still photographs.

Most people would use a hybrid approach. You take photographs with conventional cameras and scan either film or prints with a scanner to digitise the images. (A scanner is a device essentially takes a picture of your photograph, somewhat like a photocopier, and saves it in digital format on your computer.)

Touching up digital images

Once the image is scanned it can then be transferred into the computer and saved as a file. Most of the time you would save it as a jpeg (see box) image, though some people prefer to save it as a gif image for the Net. This can then be touched up with a photo processing software like Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver Fireworks, or even basic photo editing software that come free with the scanner. With this you would be able to alter your photographs if you wish, like edit out certain details, apply colour correction, make adjustments in brightness and contrast, remove the infamous "red eye" that often occurs when flash is used and touch up minor scratches or blemishes.

For the screen or print?

While scanning, you will be offered a choice between CMYK and RGB colour (see box for details). For the Web, what you need is RGB colour and an image resolution of 72 dots per square inch (dpi). Saving it at a higher resolution would not be of any use unless you want the viewers to be able to download and print the photographs. The 72 dpi resolution works for all computer screens, though it is inadequate for printing, which ideally needs a resolution of over 200 dpi.

You must remember that the higher the resolution the bigger the file size would be and the longer it would take to download. Here you do have to make some decisions about what exactly you would like your intended audience to do in order to plan and execute your virtual album properly.

Posting photos on the Net

The procedure of posting photos on the Net normally involves such seemingly complicated tasks like FTP (file transfer protocol) though all sites that offer online albums now have streamlined it to an extent that it just requires a click of the button. This is a major step forward in ease-of-use and has had positive impact on the penetration of Net activity.

It normally does not take too long for the image to be uploaded, even with slow Internet connections that we are used to in this country, as the accompanying story shows.

The add-ons

Various sites offer different add-ons. You can select various kinds of frames. Or have a slide show in which your pictures become slides and you feel that a slide projector is giving a show of your album. This has the typical projector-like special effects including fade-in, fade-out. You could also add a musical background to your photographs and even send postcards. Hewlett-Packard has a Web site what offers very good printing support for you images. There are a lot of sites that have tie-ups with traditional photo shops and allow the viewers to order photographic prints of the photographs that they want.

In fact, while we are at the topic, a new trend abroad is to give in your film for developing and also take the option of having it digitised, either on CD or otherwise. Many vendors also allow you to save the photographs on their Web sites and benefit from the tie-up by getting print orders.

In other words, the world of traditional chemical photographs and digital ones is merging and we are the ones who benefit from that.

Inviting friends to view

Virtual album sites make it easy for you to intimate your friends about the new photographs that you have put on the Web via e-mail. In fact on many sites you can create or import an address book too.

Now your photos are in cyberspace, your virtual album can be seen by everyone and at the same time you still have your original photos. Technological innovations are changing the world, aren’t they?



What the jargon means

CMYK: Cyan, magenta, yellow, and key. A system for describing colours by giving the quantity of each secondary colour (cyan, magenta, and yellow), along with the "key" (black). The CMYK system is used for printing. For mixing of pigments, it is better to use the secondary colours, since they mix subtractively instead of additively. The secondary colours of light are cyan, magenta and yellow, which correspond to the primary colours of pigment (blue, red and yellow). In addition, although black could be obtained by mixing these three in equal proportions, in four-colour printing it always has its own ink. This gives the CMYK model. The K stands for ‘Key’ or ‘blacK,’ so as not to cause confusion with the B in RGB.

RGB: Red, Green, and Blue. The three colours of light that can be mixed to produce any other colour. Colour images are often stored as a sequence of RGB triples or as separate red, green and blue overlays, though this is not the only possible representation (see CMYK and HSV). These colours correspond to the three "guns" in a colour cathode ray tube and to the colour receptors in the human eye. Often used as a synonym for colour, as in "RGB monitor" as opposed to monochrome (black and white).

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format. A standard for digitised images compressed with the LZW algorithm, defined in 1987 by CompuServe.

Grey-scale: 1. Composed of (discrete) shades of grey. If the pixels of a grey-scale image have N bits, they may take value from zero, representing black up to 2^N-1, representing white with intermediate values representing increasingly light shades of grey. If N=1 the image is not called grey-scale but could be called monochrome. 2. A range of accurately known shades of grey printed out for use in calibrating those shades on a display or printer.

Image: Data representing a two-dimensional scene. A digital image is composed of pixels arranged in a rectangular array with a certain height and width. Each pixel may consist of one or more bits of information, representing the brightness of the image at that point and possibly including colour information encoded as RGB triples. Images are usually taken from the real world via a digital camera, frame grabber or scanner.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group. The original name of the committee that designed the standard image compression algorithm. JPEG is designed for compressing either full-colour or grey-scale digital images of "natural," real-world scenes. It does not work so well on non-realistic images, such as cartoons or line drawings. JPEG does not handle compression of black-and-white (1 bit-per-pixel) images or moving pictures.

Monochrome: Literally "one colour." Usually used for a black and white (or sometimes green or orange) monitor as distinct from a colour monitor. Normally, each pixel on the display will correspond to a single bit of display memory and will, therefore, be one of two intensities. A grey-scale display requires several bits per pixel but might still be called monochrome.

Pixel: Picture element. The smallest resolvable rectangular area of an image, either on a screen or stored in memory. Each pixel in a monochrome image has its own brightness, from 0 for black to the maximum value (e.g. 255 for an eight-bit pixel) for white. In a colour image, each pixel has its own brightness and colour, usually represented as a triple of red, green and blue intensities.

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format. A file format used for still-image bitmaps, stored in tagged fields.

Courtesy: FOLDOC, UK.



Making your own online album

THERE are many sites that invite you to make your own virtual album (see box). The procedure on most of them is quite similar. Here we will try to create our own photo album at Yahoo, which most of our readers are familiar with since they have been using the e-mail facilities of this site.

Yahoo invites you to create online photo albums. Photos (at http://photos.yahoo.com). Of course, you need a Yahoo ID, which is free. So is this facility, which offers you 30 MB of space. You create a photo album by selecting the name of the album, say Saba. After this you click on the "add a photo" button and select the source of the image, in this case the hard drive of your computer from which you want to import the photo. You could also import a photo from the Web.

Let’s say that we import a photo called sabacake, which is one of Saba cutting a cake. It has been saved on the hard drive of our computer as sabacake.jpg. We are then asked to give the photo a name and a description that serves as the caption of the photo. We then decide whether we want it large, medium or small. Medium is the best since the larger the picture, the bigger the file size and longer the download time. We also click the "keep the original picture" option so that we can order prints from the high-resolution print that we had.

In order to see what it would look like, we click on the preview button and see what it would look like on the Web. Once we are satisfied, we click the upload button, the photo gets transferred (this could take a few seconds or as much as a few minutes, depending upon the speed of the connection or the size of the photo). Voilà! Your photo is on the Net and you can share it with friends by sending them the URL of the image.



Online photo albums


As a member of an AOL group which is a free—private area where you can connect with friends and family—you can share photos with family by posting photos from your last family gathering to share. You can also caption every photo.


Give you up to 25MB of storage space to create and manage your photo albums
and share them with family and friends. It’s free and easy to use.


This free service by the hardware giant Hewlett-Packard Company is a class by itself and members can post photos as well as browse into other members’ photo albums, provided they are public. You need passwords to see private or shared albums.


Enter.Net provides an easy solution to help you share your photos with family and loved ones. It’s a free album service which lets you upload all jpeg and gif images.


Shutterfly.com was launched by Jim Clark, founder of Netscape Communications, Silicon Graphics, and Healtheon, near the end of the 1999. With its free membership, you download the Smart Upload software and use the album. Certain value-added services like getting prints made and mailed, captioning the prints at the back, adding frames to prints, making greeting cards etc come for a price.


Ofoto is a Kodak company and a leading online photo service. It offers the usual set of free and paid services along with the reliability of being associated with the Kodak name.


They develop your 35mm film, send you back prints and negatives, and put your photos online for easy sharing with family & friends.


Free service and space for posting your albums.