· Digital Camera and Photo Resizing Tips
Now you have your high-res digital image, whether direct from a digital camera, CD-ROM or scanner. You will need a good photo editing package, there are several that are free such as Paint.net for Windows PCs or GIMP for Mac, Linux (and Windows).
The first stage is probably to 'crop' your image to leave just the part you want to submit and cut off excess grass, sky etc (but don't overdo it, cropping is an important 'artistic' decision you have to make as to what looks right). This might still leave the photo too big, so the second stage is to 'resize' the image. You want to aim for between about 750 or 800 pixels along the longest edge and about 500 on the shorter edge (ie 750 x 500 pixels or 800 x 600. The maximum should be about 1000 across unless you have a really wide, thin panorama in which case you should scale as appropriate).
Cropping and resizing should bring the total file size down to below our 320kb file size limit when it is saved. (which is set so as to allow people with slower internet connections to view your photo). The next step is to actually save it as a JPG file (which will have a .jpg at the end). To do this look for a 'Save As' or 'Export to JPG' menu option.
You need to set to a pixel size rather than a percentage for scaling and don't forget to tick the box keep the aspect ratio the same when resizing. Set the 'zoom' on your photo program to 1:1 and check you are happy with the overall size.
When you save your 750x500 (approx) image as a JPG you may find that the file size comes out bigger than 320kb (viewed in your computer's file browser) . If this happens, keep the image open in your paint program and please don't reduce the image size (in pixels). What you need to do is find the JPG quality setting, reduce the quality a little a bit and try saving it again.
Depending on the your photo editing software, it may describe such a reduction in different ways. It may be part of the Save As dialog box, or may be an option hidden away in the File Save Preferences. You probably want a number value of about 80 to 90, or it may be called 'High' or 'Medium' quality. This may need some experimentation to get the right level of JPG compression. This only affects the copy you are saving, you should keep a larger, high quality version of your image as well.
Other things to try before saving your final photo:
For scans from film it can help to sharpen the image slightly. Don't do overboard though, back off if it starts to look too grainy. Digital cameras usually sharpen their images as part of the picture taking process, so don't feel guilty about doing this.
Other things to try are to increase the colour saturation a small amount (don't go mad!), adjust gamma correction, or perhaps the contrast. Don't be tempted to fiddle too much though as sickly green grass won't impress anyone. If you follow these tips, you should amaze yourself with the improvement.
Finally, always save a high-res version of your image, and keep a back-up of it on recordable CD or somewhere. If you have forgotten to do this, do 'Undo' a few times to get back to your larger image and then save this before you close your paint program. You never know, a publisher may want to use your image and you could end up earning a few quid from your hobby. (See our separate FAQ item about selling photographs.)