INNOVATIONS IN PHOTOGRAPHY: Digital Printing Techniques

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  • K N O W L E D G E E X C H A N G E April 2003 Anthropology News

    I N N O V A T I O N S I N P H O T O G R A P H Y

    This is the sixth of seven monthly articles that will cover innovations in photography for the most important equipment areas, including: camera bodies, lenses, film, film scanners, digital cameras, digital printing techniques and irnage-pro- cessing software. If you have a specific question about innovations in photography or photography equipment that youd like Eugene F Lally to answer, send it do Stacy Lathrop, AN Managing Editdr, American Anthropological Association. 4350 N Fairfax Dr, Suite 640, Arlington, VA 22203-1 620;


    EUGENE F LALLY New Inkjet and LightJet printing technologies are exciting and can be helpful to anthropologists. A quantum leap in non-darkroom photo printing quality occurred in 2000 when Epson introduced new Inkjet printer technology. Before this, sever- al generations of dqqtal printers for photos were unacceptable and the only acceptable approach remained the age-old optical enlarger using photo paper and liquid chemical processing trays.

    Both Inkjet and LightJet prints can be made from slide and print film after digitally scanned and from image files made by digital cameras. Image files are downloaded into a computer and manipulated with image-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop then printed by Inkjet or LightJet.

    Inkjet Printers Generally, Inkjet printers like a 240 dpi setting while UhtJet printers prefer 155 dpi to produce their best prints. This results in the largest pro- ducible quality prints of 8 x 10 and 12 x 15 respectively from a 4 mega pixel (MP) camera set at highest resolution. These numbers offer a real- istic rule of thumb for determining the largest size quality print producible from an image size such as 4 MP noted here. If you require larger size quality prints, a more expensive camera with a larger file size is required.

    There are now Inkjet printers that do not require computers. They directly accept image files from digital camera internal memory and their memory cards and prints are made directly. They have received wide acceptance from the digital camera marketplace. These printers cur- rently produce enlargements up to 8% x 11. The digital camera or its memory card are plugged into the printer. Some printers have a display for viewing the image and include basic image adjustments such as zoom in and out, cropping, color and other corrections.

    Results are good for properly taken photos but are limited for correcting poorly photographed images compared to using a computer with image-editing software. However, their conven- ience, ease of operation and no computer re- quired, have made direct printers a driving force to speed the acceptance of digital cameras in the mass market.

    Direct printers dedicated to making one size only, 4 x 6 prints, are also available. They are useful for traveling and allow making prints at

    the end of each day for review. Anthropologists would be able to share photos of their fieldwork while still at the site. These printers are small and transportable in standard luggage. They take up the volume of a shoebox.

    LightJet Printers Traditional optical enlargements made from 35 mm size film begin to degrade in sharpness and color for prints larger than approximately 20 inches. We had no choice but accept this limita- tion until digital techniques became available.

    LightJet prints offer comparatively better qual- ity than traditional optical enlargements as size is increased. Digital image files are fed to threecolor lasers (red, green, blue), which precisely recon- struct the image on traditional photo paper developed with standard photo chemicals. The lasers preserve the sharpness and color of the image independent of how big the enlargement.

    This is a breakthrough improvement over opti- cal enlargers that use a lens to project the image onto photo print paper. Larger digital file sizes are required for large LightJet prints so check with local photo labs offering digital capabilities for guidance regarding how appropriate your cam- eras file size is. Each lab has varying requirements to obtain the best results.

    I recommend LightJet prints for your most valuable images selected for display as framed wall hangings. Their sharpness, color quality and dynamic range will improve the experience of viewing the print.

    Archiving Along with the convenience of Inkjet printers and the outstanding quality of LightJet prints, the longevity of the prints or archival characteris- tics have improved. Industry tests are alleging to exceed 200 years longevity for Inkjet prints when certain premium paper and inks are used and up to 75 years for LightJet prints when made with archival photo paper. Of course, only time will confirm these claims that exceed longevity of tra- ditional photographic prints.

    We traditionally save important slides and film negatives in cool and dry locations. It is advisable to save digital image files the same way and on the best available storage media. Currently that would be on CDs. Only use well-known brand CD-Rs for this purpose. CD-RWs are not as robust and not likely to preserve the image information as long as CD-Rs. %Ti

    Eugene F Lally ( is a photo archaeologist. He has developed camera innovations, con- sults to camera companies, teaches photography work- shops, exhibits Southwest Indian Pueblo photos in muse- ums and magazines, ledwes, and Wntes.

    Anthropologists Help Bring Back the Pamphlet The old-time pamphlet is back, with some of the most challenging intellectual work being done today is the welcome visitors to the Prickly Paradigm Press website receive.

    Last year, Marshall Sahlins, an emeritus profes- sor of anthropology at the U of Chicago, became executive publisher of this small press that spe- cializes in unconventional polemics via 80-page or less pamphlets. Mathew Engelke, a lecturer in anthropology at the London School of Economics, is the editor.

    Prickly Paradigm, distributed by the U of Chicago Press, published its first five titles last August. Selections include Bruno Latours take on the Wests relationship to other societies and to nature; Thomas Franks piece on the unlikely affinities between leftist cultural studies scholars and libertarian corporation executives; Derek Nystrom and Kent Pucketts Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies; a conversation with philo- sopher Richard Rorty; and economist Deirdre McCloskeys Secret Sins of Economics. Sahlins own contribution is an anthropological satire entitled Waiting for Foucault, Still.

    While George Orwell and John Milton have used pamphlets to introduce radical ideas and challenge prevailing thought, this genre is rare in the US, as Sahlins discovered in 2000 when he wanted to publish Apologies to Thucydides, an essay exploring why historians sometimes nar- rate history in terms of great individual actors and sometimes in terms of collectives. His answer was found in Bobby Thompsons 1951 home run . . . and then . . . brought in the Elian Gonzales case, he told David Glenn (Prickly Paradigm Press to Issue Pamphlets by Noted Scholars, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 26, 2002).

    He realized that this essay would probably not find a home in a typical academic journal. As he told Glenn: The academy is now structured in a way thats outmoded, relative to the actual organ- ization of knowledge . . . If you look at the social sciences, half of them dont talk to the other half. Thus, he turned to Prickly Pear Press, which put out scholarly pamphlets on anthropological topics. But when he approached Engelke, who had taken over the press in 1998 from its founders, anthropologists Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart, about Apologies he found the press was financially strapped.

    Believing in the importance of Prickly Pear, as it gives academics the freedom to creatively say what they want to say, Sahlins put together a team of investors, which took over the faltering publisher by agreement, changed its name to Prickly Paradigm Press because of several other existing Prickly Pears, and broadened its editorial mission beyond just anthropological topics. %Ti



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