Disperser’s Presentation of Photographs

This post is about how I process and present my photos.  Prepare to be bored . . .

Some of us share our photos in a number of different venues.  I even occasionally print mine.  In each case I take the time to process each photo for it’s intended purpose, and in the case of photos that get posted here, there are two different processes.

The version that appears on the blog is resized to the largest width that can be shown (limited to 640 pixels in width).  Anything more, and WordPress compresses it down to fit, and does so rather badly.  When I output for WordPress, I bump up the contrast and sharpening because it will look a little better for the given size.

The version that goes into the SmugMug album is processed to show the most detail at full resolution.  That’s because SmugMug does an excellent job of sizing the photo to the viewer’s screen resolution, so I don’t have to worry about anything but the full-size (original) view option.  

When one attempts to view a photo beyond the intended viewing of the photo, all sorts of bad things happen.

Let’s take a random photograph of mine.  Pardon the watermarks, but I don’t like sending out full size photos unprotected.

Why, here’s a random photograph . . .



That is the RAW capture without any adjustments.  It has been saved as a JPG (80% quality), and while that has a slight degrading effect, it’s not noticeable versus the uncompressed version.  The 80% quality file size is a little over 1MB, versus 12MB for the 100% quality photo.

Now, you can click on the above photo, then click again to show the native resolution.  Likely, the photo is much larger than your screen, so here’s a 1:1 crop of a random area of the photo (1771 x 1080 pixels – still might be larger than some people’s monitors, so just click on it again to magnify to full resolution).

RAW-as-shot - full crop

RAW-as-shot – full crop

This is not a bad shot, but the chick is in the shade, and as the camera metered the scene, the chick is a tad difficult to see.  Plus, the adult is not as sharp as I usually like due to the fact swallows move like the dickens.  But you can still see the detail of the eyelashes.

I have canned adjustments in Lightroom 4.1 that boost the brightness, brightens the shadows, and tries to compensate for the loss of “punch” by upping the contrast.  I also bump up the colors and saturation.  If needed, I adjust the White Balance, but in this case it’s not necessary.

Next, I up the clarity (midtones adjustments), do some sharpening, and because that usually introduces some graininess, I also add some noise reduction.

This is the end result from my Lightroom adjustments.



You can now see the chick a bit more, the adult is still reasonably represented, and I think the photo is slightly better than the RAW.

Here is a 1:1 crop of the same area.

Lightroom-Adjust - full crop

Lightroom-Adjust – full crop

At first glance, it looks about the same as the RAW, but if you click on it, you can see some of the details, while sharper, have degraded.  That’s due to a number of reasons . . . boosting the brightness and saturation and contrast highlights any halo (chromatic aberration) at the boundaries between bright and dark areas, such as, for example, at the fine eyelashes of the adult.

Sometimes I use a program called DxO Optics. It is a very good pre-processor that is tailored to the specific camera and lens combination used to take the photo.  Its adjustments are subtler, and it generally produces less degraded photos.

Like so . . .

DxO - Adjust

DxO – Adjust

. . . and here’s the corresponding crop:

DxO - Adjust - full crop

DxO – Adjust – full crop

It’s subtle, but the detail (click to view at full resolution) is not as degraded.

However, because it leaves the photo somewhat muted, I import the .TIF file into Lightroom, and do some minor tweaks to boost it a bit, including sharpening it a tad more.

Here’s the result:

DxO Adjust and LR Adjust - full crop

DxO Adjust and LR Adjust – full crop

Viewed at the typical resolution available in WordPress, this will look fine, but this processing further degrades the details (click on the photo to see full size) . . . HOWEVER . . . look at the chick . . . that’s not bad.  The adult has an inherent slight blur because it was moving, so adjustments tend to magnify the blur, making it unsightly.

Now it gets complicated . . . the above is something like an initial processing I do.  Were I planning to only show a reduced version of the file, say, for example, with a maximum size of 1000 pixels for the longest edge, I might stop there, and it would look like this:

(767 wide by 1000 tall)

(767 wide by 1000 tall) click to open in a new window or tab

That, to my eye looks pretty good . . . BUT . . . the SmugMug album version of the photo needs to be of higher resolution because I want visitors to be able to view the fine details.  So, I process the files that get loaded into SmugMug better than I do the ones for the blog.

Click on the photo above, and you will get a 767×1000 pixels version of that photo, and it will look pretty good on your screen.

HOWEVER . . . if for some reason, none I can think of, someone wanted to take a closer look at the detail of that photo, they would have to magnify it beyond the resolution it was intend to be viewed at.  What might that look like?

Well, I used onOne Perfect Resize to enlarge the above photo to approximately the size of the original photo.  Here is the result:

Small photo enlarged to original size.

Small photo enlarged to original size (click to view).

It does not look bad above, but click on it to get the full resolution, and you will see edges that are not smooth, a loss of detail, and in general, a “fake” look.

This is no fault of onOne’s Perfect Resize, which is an excellent program.  The problem stems from the fact that the 767×1000 pixels version of that photo contains a lot less information than the original photo.  Not only that, it’s been down-sampled from the original 240 dpi resolution, to 72dpi (the typical limit of the screen resolution), and compressed by converting it to JPG.

Again, it looks pretty good above, but if you wanted to see the fine details of the eyelashes, of the feathers on the chick, of the grain, you actually need to look at the original sized photo, and not the enlargement of a twice processed, down-sampled, shrunk-and-then-enlarged photo.

You would need instead to go to the SmugMug Gallery, and look at the photo processed with the intent to be viewed at full resolution; you would need to click HERE to get a 1:1 version of the original photo, and have it look pretty good.

Now, I have no idea why one would want to magnify and look at a photo beyond it’s intended resolution and viewing size, but people do lots of crazy stuff, and none of it makes sense to me.

All I can control is my part on all this.  So, I can take these two photos from the 2011 series of swallow photos, size them for display on the blog, and then link them to their corresponding photos (click on the photos to go there) in the  corresponding SmugMug Gallery (HERE).  The photos in the SmugMug gallery are processed differently than the photos below.  

The photos below have extra sharpening, contrast, and brightness, etc. than the ones in SmugMug.  If I did my job right, they should be close.

26JUL2011_1__DSC4287_DxO 26JUL2011_1__DSC4231

And that, dear readers, is my primer on displaying your photos so that they look good on whatever medium they will be viewed.  

It was probably very confusing for the majority of the people, but that’s because I do more than most people in terms of specifically processing photos, but I am anal like that.

Most people output one version of a photo, and use it for everything, and I don’t fault them for it; it’s a lot less work.

If you enjoyed this moment, found the discussion inspiring, and learned something, feel free to share it.  However, if you hated the whole thing, were bored beyond belief, and consider it a waste of time . . . why, then, it’s the perfect thing to forward to people you do not like!  It will serve them right!  



Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  If said astute person is curious about them, click on it for an explanation of their origin.

WordPress is still screwing around with trying to be a class operation.  As such, while they busily work to add features and themes I will never use, they are remiss in fixing problems like disappearing links.  So, if you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to:  https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.  Note . . . there is no guarantee WordPress will keep this as a link, but at least you can copy it and paste it on a browser’s address field.


Please, if you are considering bestowing me some recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline nominations whereby one blogger bestows an award onto another blogger, or group of bloggers.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I would much prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would actually mean something to me.

Should you still nominate me, I will strongly suspect you pulled my name at random, and that you are not, in fact, a reader of my blog.  If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards          About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not personally hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.  

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in How-To, Photography Stuff, Writing Stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Disperser’s Presentation of Photographs

  1. You must have read my mind Emilio. I was wondering what others do when posting on WP and I sure haven’t got that right yet. Although your process is a little confusing to me, I will play around with sizing and tweaking and will give DXO Pro a go. I’ve been resizing my photos to around 600 x 450 and losing quality in the process. Thanks for posting this. It’s much appreciated :)


    • disperser says:

      I can simplify . . .

      It depends a bit on the theme you use. Different themes have different maximum sizes for the photographs.

      I use Twenty-Ten (and have not upgraded to the later versions), in part because I both write and show photographs, and that particular theme gives me a good balance. In that respect, you need to look at which one suits what you do.

      BUT . . . as far as posting photographs, for whatever theme you use, make sure you upload a photo that is not larger than the maximum allowed, otherwise WordPress will resize it for you.

      My experience is they “mess up” the process. Typically that means the photos will not be as sharp, and they will lose some of the punch.

      For the theme I use, Twenty-Ten, The maximum width they allow is 640 pixels. I’ve not found a maximum height, which is why I try to do the majority of the photos in portrait mode; it allows for a larger photograph to be displayed. For example, for a 640 pixel wide photo, I can have a height of well over a 1000 pixels if in portrait. However, if I have a photo in landscape orientation, the maximum width is still 640, but the maximum height (assuming the same aspect ratio as the original) is only 348 pixels; it will be a smaller photo in the post.

      As far as when I output them, I typically use Lightroom as my final processor as it allows me to add easily add my signature and copyright. The program has options to control the maximum dimensions, the compression, and additionally, it has the option to “sharpen for screen mode”, which for WordPress I set on “high”. I do that because even for photos which are not reduced in size, WordPress will “soften” them somewhat. The extra sharpening seems to make up for that, and keeps the photo “punchy”.

      I also make sure I output the WordPress photos in sRGB, and 72 dpi. sRGB is the color gamut for most monitors, and 72 (or 75) dpi is the maximum resolution most monitors can show (in contrast, I print at 300 dpi – the limit of what most people’s eyes can discern).

      The dimensions (640 maximum width) is for the theme I use; you need to check the maximum size for your theme, and adjust accordingly.

      Finally . . . while I highly recommend DxO, it is more labor-intensive (although it allows batch processing, saving presets, etc), and is not as quick as Lightroom for adjusting multiple photos (my experience only – someone may say different based on what they are used to). If you don’t currently use it, I would spring for Lightroom. very powerful, and lots of free presets . . . PLUS . . . when you win or place in the contest, you’ll be able to use the plugin you win (the plugins do not run stand-alone unless you buy their handler, Photo FxLab).

      But, if money is not an issue, and if you want to have lots of flexibility, I would then get both Lightroom and DxO, and in addition I would add the onOne Suite, and the Topaz Suite (Topaz has free upgrades for life, and if you catch them during one of their sales, the suite is half off). All those I use primarily for effects (going to black and white, doing HDR, simulating various film looks, painting, etc).

      Hope this helps.


    • disperser says:

      I forgot to mention . . .

      I used to link the photos in the blog to the photos in SmugMug (as I did for the last two photos in this post). HOWEVER . . . WordPress has started losing those links, and as that is very labor intensive, I no longer do it, instead pointing people to the SmugMug gallery in a separate link.

      In the previous post (October 20th drive), I wanted for people to click on the panorama and have it open in a new window.

      The way I did that, was to output both a full size photo and a WordPress-sized photo, and load them both into WordPress. The blog shows the smaller-sized photo, but links to the full-size photo.

      That typically works for a while, but sometimes older posts will lose the links (hence why i provide them in the text). This is a problem I’ve complained to WordPress about, but they don’t seem to think it’s a problem . . . they say I’m not “linking them correctly”, and proceed to give me the steps to do so . . . which turn out to be exactly the procedure I use.

      Someday I will likely get fed up, and get my own blog, and personally managed . . . but not yet.


  2. oneowner says:

    I found this post very interesting, not because I enjoy confusing stuff but because I do like the technical background on things that I am involved with myself. Perhaps I should do the same but it looks like a lot of work and I gave that up for Lent (42 years ago). I use a series of presets in LR4 to export for use in WordPress and I do not have a Smugmug account (yet). I might give the DXO a try but the prints I get back from MPIX and Bay Photo have been excellent. As far as I’m concerned, the print is where the rubber meets the road.


    • disperser says:

      Bay Photos is one of the four printers available through SmugMug, although I’ve not used any of them. The only printing I do is for my own use, and I have a Epson 2200 I’ve used and been quite happy with (again, I don’t print much). The prints you can see on the wall are all from that printer (https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/the-office-and-the-rainbow/), and I occasionally print for friends and family.

      I too use LR4, and have about 90-100 presets to handle combinations of various subjects, lighting conditions, etc.

      I tend to hand adjust the first few of a new batch of photos, and then process the others using those new presets.

      I agree with you on the print statement . . . provided you are selling them. I don’t typically have a need for a physical print.


  3. Chillbrook says:

    This is a very interest post Emilio. I can come up one reason why people might want to look more closely at a photograph however. The winner of the Landscape Photographer of the year 2012, here in the UK, recently had his title stripped from him as, when someone suggested the sky looked a bit iffy, the organisers took a closer look.
    They decided it looked a bit iffy too and when they asked the winner to provide his RAW file, it was discovered that the photograph was a composite of two different pictures and certain details had been removed. As he’d posted it in the ‘Classic View’ category and not the ‘Your View’ category that allows for such manipulation, he was disqualified under the rules. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9652485/Photography-competition-winner-disqualified-for-too-much-Photoshopping.html. I much prefered the original winner’s photograph but there you go.
    I know that over at the Digtial Lightroom Competition, they have added to the rules such that shortlisted entrants will be required to produce full resolution jpegs of processed images and may also be required to produce a RAW file so that any questions that might be raised can be properly assessed as, you so rightly pointed out, compression and resiszing of photographs can make it appear that such manipulation might have been carried out. Maintaining the integrity of competitions in an age where digital manipulation is so relatively easy to do, is getting more and more difficult. It’s important that everyone knows what is, and what is not, acceptable. A level playing field for all is what competition organisers are after.
    I convert my RAW files to .TIF in Lightroom and export at full resolution. I then do most of my my processing in Photoshop – contrast, brightness, saturation etc. The native resolution of a RAW image from my camera is 7360 x 4912 px. I resize to 4000 x 2670 and post with a digital watermark such that WordPress viewers get to see, not quite the full resolution, but a decent representation and can download and use any image freely for their personal use. I’ve had numerous requests from people to do so. Any unauthorised commercial use would be picked up by digimarc. Their bots trawl the Internet looking for digimarc’d images and report back when they find them.


    • disperser says:

      It is part of the human spectrum, I suppose, to have individuals who want to “game” whatever situation they are in so as to gain undue advantage, and that is one of the things which has soured me with respect to owning and operating a business, and why, at my advanced age, I have so little regard for humanity as a whole.

      I do like the idea of providing an original along with the submission, and not just for keeping the competition honest. People who are not into photography and presenting their work get the idea these photos come out of the camera as presented. That accounts for the “what kind of camera do you use” questions. While those can be legitimate question (I will ask it in a moment), they often underline a misunderstanding of the process of presenting one’s work.

      That said, . . . what kind of camera/lenses do you use? The 36MP points to a FX camera, and I’m just curious of what people use.

      You run your own domain for your photo presentations; I presume that still runs through WordPress, but I ask because your images show up pretty well in your blog. Although, the web template you use allows for a larger size, and maybe that’s why they look so good. Then again, you focus much more on quality than I do, and when you present a photo, it is of very high quality.

      My photos are presented for quantity (I figure if I flood them with a succession of photos, the cumulative effect of each one will apply to the whole, and people will think they are all good), typically 30 to 50 in a gallery, and occasionally getting to over 100 or so.

      I also wonder about Digimarc . . . their prices came down a whole lot, so that is something I will consider, but I struggle between wanting people to use my photographs, and wanting to know where they end up. As you say, there are unscrupulous people out there, and I remember reading of individuals who would take other people’e works, print them up, frame them, and sell them as their own.

      I assume you must be able to let go of that concern.

      I have a peculiar sense of fairness, and the possibility of that sort of thing happening nags a bit at me. Righteousness – more toward the social aspect, not the theological concept – is big with me; it torques me up to no end when someone does something dishonest, cheats, steals, or otherwise takes unfair advantage, and as much as I try to not let it bother me, the knowledge of it will play at the corners or my mind for days-on-end. Another reason why I don’t associate with many people.

      Finally, do you run a business associated with your hobby? I ask because people who do generally will limit the number of photos they present. I’m still debating whether I should try to monetize my efforts. In part it’s why I have a SmugMug account, although I don’t actually sell anything (I might someday). Then again, I struggle with the idea of writing for a living as well.

      Anyway, thanks for your input.


      • Chillbrook says:

        I have struggled all of my (approaching) 50 years through having a very finely honed sense of justice. It’s innate and my mother has said it was there from the start. I, like you, will struggle to deal with all that is so wrong and unfair in this world and I find it difficult to let go when people steal from me or question my honesty and integrity not that people do very often. I can count the incidences when they have mind you. I don’t forget.
        I just can’t understand those that think it’s fine to lie, cheat, steal etc etc. although if others do the same to them they are quick to cry foul. When you empathise with others, you don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you but of course a lack of empathy defines the sociopath and they seem to be on the increase. However, when I was teaching, a day spent with the kids would fairly successfully restore my faith in humanity. There were a few bad apples but the majority were good, decent and honest. When I am out with my wheelchair, people are so kind and helpful.
        I do have a full frame camera. I use a Nikon D800 and I love it. I do have my own domain but it is hosted by WordPress so my blog works as any other .wordpress.com blog works.
        I have just recently started selling my work. A retail outlet close to me that caters to the many tourists that use the main road in and out of Cornwall sell my photos. I have made a lot of sales of cards and prints.
        I have my work on several commercial websites but I haven’t, as yet, sold anything online. It’s a very crowded marketplace.
        I think guarding against people taking your work and selling it as their own is always going to be problematic. I try not to think about all of that. I like to present my work at a high resolution and I guess this does open me up to the risk of copyright infringement. I am always happy, as I said, for people to download and use my work for wallpapers etc. It’s always nice when people as however. Digimarc gives me some protection online but people can still, as you pointed out, right click, download and print your work. Up until now I always doubted anyone would want to do. As I have now started to make sales, I’m realising that people do want to buy my photos and I might have to think again.


  4. Eddy Winko says:

    I just wish I had the time; always appreciate your photos though:)


  5. AnnMarie says:

    Even though I get lost in some of the explanations of the photographic equipment or the various processes, I very much appreciate the amount of work you do to provide us with excellent photos. Your passion for this “hobby” is obvious. Perhaps, in time, a way may appear that will allow you to sell your work and feel good about doing it.


    • disperser says:

      I would feel good doing it now, but like I told mother . . . go check out just how much stuff is out there, and how much is outstanding.

      It’s a very competitive field, and as far as I can tell, the amount of money is not worth the amount of effort one has to do. At least for me at this stage of my life. Now, if I did not work, maybe . . . but then, I would likely be writing as well.

      Regardless, I enjoy what I am doing without worrying about monetizing what is ultimately a hobby. If it becomes a job, it might be a lot less enjoyable.


Voice your opinion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.