You've learned how to start blank images in Elements, and it's something you'll find yourself doing whenever you need a quickie Web graphic, like a button or a logo. But the real reason that Elements exists, just like Photoshop, is to clean up, retouch, edit, color correct, and work with photographs and scanned images in general. (That's why it's bundled with many of the better cameras and scanners .)
Making a Scan
The first step in scanning a picture is to put it into the scanner face down. Until you've actually made a scan, you may not know what end of the scanner is the "top." Quite often, you can't tell by looking, or with logic. Of course, if your picture doesn't fill the scanner screen, you may choose to place it sideways to shorten the scanning time, as I have in Figure 22.14. Turning the image 90 degrees on the screen is probably quicker than scanning a correctly oriented portrait. However, you'll do yourself a favor and save a ton of time if you learn to place pictures in the scanner straight against an edge. You can always rotate it back, a half degree at a time, but why should you, when you can be a little careful and get it scanned right to begin with?
Figure 22.14. The picture as shown on the left will take about 1/3 longer to scan.
Okay, now what? Do you push the button on the scanner, or do something else? Because we're scanning into Elements, it makes sense to start from Elements. In the File menu, select Import and choose your scanner, as in Figure 22.15. You can also click Connect to Camera or Scanner from the Welcome window, and then choose your scanner from the Import list and click OK. You will probably see TWAIN as one of your choices. The TWAIN interface handles images from scanners, digital cameras, and frame-grabbers (it takes a single frame from a video camera). If you can identify the scanner's own plug-in, use it. Otherwise, TWAIN is generic and will work with most scanners. Oh, and be prepared to jump out of your skin when the scanner starts up. Most of them make a strange series of chirps and beeps and burps as they're starting up.
Figure 22.15. Scanning is done through the Import submenu in the File menu.
Selecting the scanner opens a window, which may or may not look like the one in Figure 22.16. There are, of course, dozens of different brands and models of scanner on the market, and each uses its own drivers. Unless you use the same model of Microtek scanner that I do, your screen will look different because your software is different, but that's okay. The elements in each are similar. At the very least, you'll see the scanner window, and the buttons for preview and scan. Preview gives you a quick, low-resolution version of the scan, mainly for positioning. Scan is the real thing.
Figure 22.16. Your scanner window may look different. See if you can identify the Preview screen and button, and the Scan button.
You probably also have a set of buttons or a drop-down list with choices similar to the ones at the right of the Microtek window. These help you set up the scanner by having you identify what you are scanning and what you want to do with it. I'll review the choices I have available on my Microtek scanner, with the hope that our choices are similar. The Original option seeks to determine the probable resolution of what you are scanning and gives you these choices:
This covers most of the items that you're scanning, but what if you're copying your coin collection or other small objects? Think about it. If you classify them as illustrations, you'll get the best combination of quality and resolution possible. If you don't much care what you get, call them newspapers. The scan will be much faster and still legible.
Scan Type refers to the number of colors to be scanned. Your choices are True Color, Web Color, Gray or Black and White. True Color allows all the millions of colors available. Web Color limits the scan to the 216 "Web-safe" colors. Gray gives you 256 shades of gray, and black and white is just that: one-bit b/w "color."
Purpose affects the output resolution. (Remember the discussion of resolution earlier in this chapter?) If the picture's only going to the Web or for onscreen viewing, there's no point to giving it high resolution. Therefore, Onscreen Viewing outputs at 72 dpi. Inkjet printing, in search of a reasonable compromise for all kinds of inkjet printers, outputs at 200 dpi. Laser Print, Standard and Fine give you respectively, 100 and 150 dpi. Faxes are sent off at 200 dpi. OCR, which requires the most accurate scan of any, will output at 300 dpi. Finally, you can elect Custom and set any number between 10 and 9600 dpi. Remember that you don't need to go to the highest possible resolution. As long as your printer can print to a factor of the resolution supplied, you should end up with a nice clear picture.
The reason for this is easy to understand. Let's say you have an inkjet printer that outputs at 9600 dpi. You can scan and save the file at 9600 dpi. The scanner can handle that, but the resulting file is so big you'll probably choke the computer in the process. Whether you have enough RAM to handle all that, you'll still be limited by the speed. Handling that amount of data, as you learned last chapter, takes a long time even with a fast computer. However, you can divide the 9,600 dpi by any factor , which is to say, any number that divides in evenly with no remainder, and have a guaranteed good result. 200 pixels goes into 9,600 pixels 48 times. You can also use 300 because 9,600/300 = 32, and so on. The computer and printer agree on this very simple math and make the interpolation from 200 up with no trouble at all.
Scale Output or Adjust Output Size enables you to shrink or enlarge the output of the file by a percentage, maintaining the same aspect ratio. Increase to 150 or 200%, or decrease size to 75 or 50% of the original, precisely and with no loss of resolution.
The Adjust button gives you access to a panel of sliders, shown in Figure 22.17, which can correct obvious color and or exposure problems while scanning the image. It's good for fixing major flaws, like a photo that's turned purple from sitting in the sun. Because you can't really see what you're doing close up, it's not good for subtle adjustments.
Figure 22.17. Your scanner may do this differently, but the same kinds of sliders are somewhere in the interface. Look on the menus for them, too.
The last button (almost), Reset, puts every setting back to where it was originally. Use it if you're starting a new scanning job unlike the last one, for instance going from scanning a photo of Great Uncle Hector to copying his typewritten love letters to Great Aunt Sue.
Finally, you're ready to click the Scan button or a similar one. Because you've initiated the scan from Elements, you don't need to deal with other options. The scanned image will appear as any other image in the Elements window. Be sure to save it before you start working because it is only a temporary file at the moment.
If you don't have a scanner, please consider buying one. It will be very useful as you continue in computer graphics. Assuming you have a scanner available, try this:
Importing Images from a Digital Camera
Digital cameras and scanners have a lot more in common than digital cameras and film cameras. Film cameras rely on light and chemistry to produce an image. Digital cameras use a device that collects image data much like the scanner does. Scanners send the data directly to the computer. They don't have any storage media. Cameras have memory. They may have an internal memory and/or a removable memory card, stick, or floppy disk. When you fill up a card and need more memory, you remove the full card and pop in an empty one. Memory cards (and for our purposes, Sony's Memory Sticks are also considered "cards") are intended to be reused. They're not for data storage. So, at some point, you need to get the data off the card or out of the camera and into the computer. There are several ways to do this, depending on the make and model of camera you use.
The easiest method for importing digital pictures from a camera is to connect the camera to the computer with a USB cable. If your camera is capable of this, it will have come with the appropriate cable and, perhaps, a driver on a CD-ROM. If your camera is compatible with iPhoto, you may not need to install any special driver. (Visit www.apple.com/iphoto/compatibility/camera.html for a list of supported cameras.) Refer to Chapter 12 for more information about importing photos into iPhoto.
If you do choose to use the software that came with your camera, install the driver. When you connect the camera to your Mac, you'll probably see your camera as an icon sitting on the computer desktop, as it is in Figure 22.18. If you don't see a desktop icon, connect the camera via USB and start the camera's software if it doesn't start up on its own. Be sure you have set the camera to play or transfer mode as directed by your camera's manufacturer.
Figure 22.18. Other brands of camera have their own icons. Some cameras do not display an icon on the desktop.
With the camera mounted this way, you can use it like any other hard drive. The Nikon software creates a page of thumbnails you can view and a folder with all the raw pictures (see Figure 22.19). The first thing I always do with my pictures is to copy them into a folder in the computer labeled with date and subject. Then I immediately back this folder up onto a CD-ROM and check it to be sure everything transferred correctly.
Figure 22.19. My Nikon lets me browse through thumbnails or open the folder containing the images.
That's the easiest way to import batches of pictures at the same time. If you simply need to locate and open a single photo, let your camera pretend to be a hard drive. Use the Open command in Elements to locate and open the picture you want. Then save it to the hard drive. Be sure you turn the camera off when you're done copying pictures. Leaving the camera on, even if it's "asleep," will eventually drain the batteries.
Importing Still Frame Captures
If you have a digital video camera, you can work with single frames from your favorite video. Save your video in a compatible format such as AVI, WMV, MPEG, or QuickTime, and choose File, Import, Frame from Video, as I've done in Figure 22.20. Click Browse to locate your video. It will open in the window in the dialog box. Use the video controls to steer to the frame you want to use, and click Grab Frame as it goes by. It will be copied into an Elements window, ready to work with and already labeled with a name similar to the video file. Continue grabbing as many frames as you like, and then click Done to close the window.
Figure 22.20. This is a frame from a TV commercial my husband worked on. (Used by permission.)
You should be aware that the quality of a single digital frame won't be very good, but you can still use it as a basis for filters and other tricks.