Photography tips to produce professional results
One of the biggest advantages of PEMSoft over conventional textbooks is the ability to show thousands of images. So how do you get a photo into PEMSoft? We've distilled the experience gleaned from well 10 years of amateur digital medical photos to bring you these simple guidelines. Impressive, huh?
Image File Formats
PEMSoft uses "jpeg" formatted photos. This is because these files are adequately compressed to speed up page load times but retain good detail when displayed on screen.
Photo resolution (DPI)
Resoution is how many dots can be squeezed tight together for displaying your photo. The dots on computer screens are 4 times further apart than conventional printed glossy photographs. Whether taking photos with a digital camera or scanning an existing photo with a scanner, you will face a choice of 'resolutions'. Resolution is expressed in a number of different ways. With most cameras, you won't have to worry much about this because you will only have a choice of 'low', 'medium' or 'high' quality. For PEMSoft, we need only low or medium quality although you might want to store your originals in high quality on your computer (just in case you want to print them or publish them in a conventional textbook in the future). In some cases, and almost always when using a scanner, the resolution will be referred to as either DPI (dots per inch) or in dimensions as measured by the number of pixels to a side (like 640 X 480 or 1024 X 768). The best resolution for this purpose is 72 DPI because computer screens can only display 72 DPI (some new monitors display 96 DPI) compared to conventional printed photographs which need at least 300 DPI to look good. So set cameras to 'low' or 'medium' quality and save scanned images at 72 DPI.
Physical dimension (pixels are the dots!)
The actual physical dimensions are also important. The actual physical space we allocate for your photo is 533 X 500 pixels (dots) so that is the minimum size we need. However, we want to allow for a future where monitor resolutions increase so PEMSoft is smart enough to compress a 1066 X 1000 pixel image and display it in its 533 X 500 pixel space. Therefore, the preferred physical dimensions for your photos is 1066 X 1000 pixels and so it's best to get as close to this as possible if you can. Finally, watch your file sizes. The optimum size is somewhere around 100 kilobytes, and file sizes of significantly more can be a real problem. First, they take longer for you to download/upload (assuming your Internet Service Provider will even allow it!), and second we're just going to cut it down again anyway for practical reasons. If all this sounds a bit too hard, don't worry about it. All you need to know is: take photos on low or medium setting; save scans at low to medium resolutions and in jpeg formats - and try to keep file sizes around 100 kilobytes. Before you
Look for an area with a relatively clean background. Avoid places where other people are part of your background. 'Stuff' in the background can make your photos look messy and will help obscure the focus of the photo. Find a spot with the most even background possible, preferably one that's not too bright. A sheet or operating drape is ideal but shots taken in on open ward can be fine - as long as the background is uncluttered. Basic rule? Keep detail out of the background.
Suitable lighting is essential but most hospitals have good lighting and flash is often not required. Flash bounce or white out with close photography can be a problem (especially if trying to photograph Xrays on a viewing box). So don't use flash unless you have to. If you use it, be careful not to allow bright reflections, and check to make sure your flash isn't causing glare.
We recommend the use of flash should be avoided where possible. The flash will only tend to wash out parts of the photo's colour and detail, while creating black shadows and an unattractive, unnatural look. If some flash is needed, fine, but check your photos straight away to make sure you haven't ended up with something that look like its been caught in a spotlight. Modern digital cameras are now of such quality that even in quite modest light conditions you can obtain quite acceptable pictures. Remember: you're not producing art, you're producing clear communication.
Try to zoom in or out until the focus of the photo almost fills the screen, leaving a small area around it for cropping to our preferred 533x500 proportions.
You can get really creative with this, but we recommend against. Really, you need to show people at a glance what what sort of condition it is, its colour etc - factual information. Attempts to produce 'beauty shots' are probably less effective, but it's your call. Usually take these photos from a normal standing position at eye-height. Straight-forward, businesslike photos are less contrived and therefore more likely to convey the information we want. If a reader can actually see worthwhile things in your photos (like colour, condition etc) you will have succeeded in the main purpose of the photo: communication of additional, useful information.
Don't change anything unless you really must. Really, the quality of the automatic settings on digital cameras is excellent and there is rarely any need to alter any of them manually. The only suggestion we make is to either not use the flash at all, or to use it in 'fill' mode only when absolutely necessary. Make sure your camera's photo quality setting is set to the minimum or medium in order to keep file size compact, so going for highest quality settings is a waste of camera memory and internet bandwidth when you upload unless you want to keep a highest quality original fro your own records.
Taking the photo
Assuming you've done all of the above, and have your camera batteries charged and enough memory left in the camera, you're ready to go. From here it's really just point and shoot, but even this simple task can have a trick to it. Depress the shutter button part way for a moment before clicking it all the way in to take the shot. This partial pressure causes the camera to auto-focus. Clear, sharp photos are what we need. Take a minimum 3 photos of each condition and select the one that is sharpest to send to us.
What about scanning conventional photos?
Perfect. If you have a conventional camera and a computer scanner, it's just as easy assuming you've applied all the same basic guidelines to taking the photo. Your scanning software will allow you to save the file in jpeg format, and all you need to do is make sure you don't set the resolution too high. Just as with digital camera photos, going for too much resolution is a waste.
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