Text and photographs by Jain Lemos, Special to The Kansas City Star

In April 2007, just before the worst twister season was about to hit Kansas, Allen Holder, the travel editor of the Kansas City Star, asked if I would revamp some of my digital photo tip articles to coincide with their annual photo contest. Allen felt that many of his readers were struggling with “organization,” or what we call “digital workflow.”

“Welcome to the club!,” I thought.

Of course, I could only begin to touch on the very basics of this complicated and evolving subject, which has become the bane of all but the most technically inclined photographers. However, I was able to highlight a few key habits for the successful processing of digital images.

Allen also asked me for a selection of photographs to run with the piece, and my photo below of a building in Berlin ran across the top fold of the Travel Section’s cover on Sunday, May 6. It was great to see the final tear sheets. In the middle of a statewide crisis the paper didn’t miss a registration mark!

Berlin-6

Digital cameras have taken some of the fun and surprise out of coming home and rushing down to the one-hour lab. But there’s a very positive tradeoff. If you used to expose 10 to 20 rolls of film on vacation, that’s about 400 prints. More than half were likely to be duplicates or missed shots. Digital photography allows you to return with even more great photos, enhance them, then display and share them in new ways.

Taking inventory.

Getting images out of your camera and into your computer is the first step in organizing your vacation record.

Taking along a portable or stand-alone storage unit is a smart way to do just that. It allows you to view, edit and save pictures until you get back to your home computer. For a few hundred dollars, you can store thousands of JPEG images.

The camera automatically assigns a unique number to each photo and creates a folder on your computer that houses the images. Before you start editing, create a separate new master folder in an easy-to-find place on your computer, say “Italy2007.”

Then pull out your maps, guidebooks and caption information and create subfolders. Name subfolders by city or town (“Genoa”) and then by situation (“Genoa, Children Playing) or location (“Genoa, Museo di Palazzo Reale”). Add subfolders for “favorites” or “art shots.”

Start editing by opening images to the largest view. If you want to keep the shot, choose “save as” and file the image into the appropriate subfolder.

The art of correction.

Almost all digital images can be improved with a little alteration. Your camera’s software has some basic tools. Typically, these allow for simple adjustments of color, brightness and contrast levels.

To maximize your efforts, you’ll need additional software. Adobe Photoshop is the leading program among pros and serious amateurs, but other, less-expensive and easier-to-use programs are available, such as Microsoft Digital Image Suite and Corel Paint Shop.

Many computers also come preloaded with some kind of photo-editing software. Programs include tools for red-eye removal, sharpening, tinting, panoramic assembly, adding text, removing objects, dodging, burning and dozens of other manipulating actions.

It’s safer to work on a copy of the original file. Remember, with JPEG images, every time you make corrections and then save, information is lost, so tread lightly.

Computer monitors have different color calibrations. Make some test prints, then note the differences between the print and screen. You may need to make separate color and cropping adjustments if you plan both to print and to share images electronically.

Natural and artificial light in your work area also must be considered. Check the overall exposure and make adjustments. If you have duplicate shots, compare them side-by-side and save only the best one. See whether converting color to black and white makes the shot more dramatic.

Cropping is a valuable tool, but be careful not to crop haphazardly — pictures shown in a collection look better when sizes are uniform.

Putting on a show.

Adding structure and narrative to photographs is the last step in completing your picture-taking journey.

Place your images in a specific order for viewing, called sequencing. One way is to order the images by day and time, but other structures can have even more impact. Mixing close-ups with scenic shots, for example, provides balance. Or start with an establishing shot, followed by details.

Berlin-5

Writing captions takes some thought, but if you have taken good notes during your trip, this will be easier. Establish a format and stick to it throughout the show. Complete sentences are best.

When you are ready to publish, try using some new technologies. PhotoJam (shock wave.com/sw/content/photo jam), FilmLoop (filmloop. com), Google’s Picasa (picasa.google.com) and Kodak Easy Share Gallery (kodak gallery.com) are fun and have free versions.

From postage stamps to tote bags to jewelry, digital images can be transferred to practically any surface. Dozens of Web sites allow you to create one-of-a-kind products.

Whether you print images for an album, set up a slide show for electronic sharing or invent a whole new product line, the choices are sure to keep you and your audience inspired.

Avoid these mistakes and don’t:
  • Wait until after you leave to learn how to use your camera.
  • Try to take shots your camera can’t handle.
  • Get discouraged by bad weather or uninteresting settings.
  • Run out of space or battery life.
  • Forget to write down information about the places you’ve photographed.
  • Take pictures only on the first or last day of a trip.
  • Wait too long to finish working with your photos once you return home.
  • Make changes to originals without backing them up or making a copy.
  • Overcorrect images.
  • Skip captioning and sequencing your travel images.
To Live and Die in Tombstone
For Better Digital Photographs, Focus Inward