Good Input = Good Output

There's an old expression: Garbage in, garbage out. When it comes to working with an on-line photo lab, that expression holds true. In other words, good input equals good output.

To help you get a great on-line print, my friends at Nations Photo Lab offer these tips.

1. Start with a great image.
Labs have tools they can use to help enhance images, including color corrections, but it is imperative that an order starts with a quality image. If the image is of low resolution or poor composition, there is little a lab can do to turn it into a professional looking print.

Nations does have an outstanding customer service team that contacts customers if images are below production standards, however this adds time to processing an order. So, we recommend customers check each and every image before they are submitted to the lab. This will ensure speedy turnaround times and accurate final products.

2. Submit the Right Size
Labs have quality control measures in place to ensure orders are processed correctly every time, but it is also a lab’s job to execute orders without interfering with an artist’s integrity. This means, for example, that if a gallery wrap is produced with a portion of the image over the edge, or even cropped off for size, the lab cannot assume the photographer did not want this effect.

To ensure the right size photo is submitted for the product order at hand, ROES, the software system used by us and many other pro labs, has a “frame” visual where an image can be cropped and adjusted so photographers can see exactly how their image will appear as a final product.

3. RGB or sRGB?
At out lab, sRGB color space files are preferred for printing, but RGB files can easily be converted to sRGB, so it truly is a matter of preference.

4. File Types
JPEG and TIFF files are standard across most photo labs, it is recommended that files are at a resolution of at least 300 dpi.

5. Color Management
It is most helpful if photographers’ set-up color management on their end prior to submitting images for production. This actually starts when an image is taken. It is important to be sure the subject and color of light are both taken into account before capturing an image.

Color can also be distorted on a computer monitor during viewing depending upon how the monitor is calibrated. We recommend using a colorimeter and software for precise calibration. The X-Rite Eye-One Display 2 is one such device. Next, check with your lab on their ICC profiles and follow their accompanying instructions.

If you have any questions about making a great on-line print, contact my friends at Nations Photo Lab at 1.800.315.0420, or chat live at

P.S. This just in: Nations is running a HUGE enlargement sale on 16X20's, 16X24s', 20X30's and 24X36's, ending Dec. 3rd at MIDNIGHT! See Nations' prints page for details.

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Hey, as long as we are talking about top tips here, here are my top tips for taking great digital pix.

1) Be Aware of the Background
When composing a picture, it is very important to be aware of the background. Distracting subjects and elements can ruin a photograph.

2) Camera Looks Both Ways
When photographing a person, keep this expression in mind: “The Camera Looks Both Ways; in picturing the subject, we are also picturing a part of ourselves.” Remember that your mood and energy will be reflected in your subject’s face and eyes. In other words, you are sort of like a mirror.

3) Create a Sense of Depth
We see the world in three dimension: height, width and depth. Your camera only sees two dimensions: height and width. Therefore, for realistic images, we need to create a sense of depth. We can do that by photographing a subject at an angle. Shadows also create a sense of depth, which is why it’s a good idea to shoot in the early morning and late afternoon.

4) Interesting Subjects Make Interesting Photographs
Never underestimate the importance of an interesting subject. Search out interesting subjects, photograph them in an interesting setting, and take the time to make a picture, and you’ll have a pretty darn good photograph.

5) Make Pictures
Making pictures is fun and creative. You can make a picture by rearranging objects in a scene or by reposition the subject. Use props.

6) Name of the Game It To Fill the Frame
Filling the frame with an interesting subject is an effective method for creating interesting photographs. However, using open space in a photograph could be effective. It depends on the mood you are trying to create.

7) See Eye to Eye
Don’t look down on a person when taking their pictures. Rather, get down on their level and see eye to eye.

8) See the Light
When it comes down to it, every picture on this blog the same main element: light. No light, no picture. Before we snap the shutter we need to see the direction of light, the contrast range in a scene, the quality of light and the color of light. When shooting, low-contrast scenes are better than high-contrast scenes.

9) Use Your Camera Like a Spaceship
Here’s fun idea: Use your camera like a spaceship – and don’t take all your pictures standing straight up. Move up and down. Tilt your camera down to the left or right. Pitch it backward or forward.

10) When You Think You Are Close, Move in Closer
Most photographers simply point and shoot. For a picture with more impact, move in closer to the subject, or ask him or her to get closer to you.

Explore the Light,