Digital pic woes [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Digital pic woes

Dble Haul
07-25-2002, 07:43 PM
I've tied up a ton of flies to put into some of the archives, but I'm having some trouble getting quality pics. They either get bleached out by the flash, come out fuzzy or blurred, or distorted. I have an Olympus D520 with the full software pic editing package, and even the software hasn't been able to resurrect the images. I've tried the usual.....backlighting, natural light, tripod, framing, and all the other pointers that are included in the 130 page manual that came with the camera. I'm afraid that I may have maxed out my limited experience in this area and am soliciting advice from some of you out there.

Please fire away with suggestions. As I roll through them, I'll say yay or nay as to whether or not I've tried them already. Again, keep in mind that I'm only having trouble with stills of flies. All other pictures are great.

Thanks as always.

07-25-2002, 08:05 PM
If you have access to a scanner, it does a great job as long as the flies are OK with a little pressure on them from the background. I suppose a white box would provide a sheild while not squeezing the fly... have to try it sometime.

Hope to see them soon!

John Desjardins
07-25-2002, 08:35 PM
What I've noticed, from my limited experience. [list=*]
Try having the backdrop far enough behind the fly so it is out of focus.
Use manual focus and bracket the focus.
Set the camera to it's maximum resolution and crop the extra area out of the picture in the software.
Some flies just don't seem to come out good in pictures, try the scanner on them.
Modify the pics in the software in the same order every time. e.g modify light intensity, contrast, color balance, etc

What I've noticed is that if you get the focus right, you can normally get the software to adjust the colors balance.

Dble Haul
07-25-2002, 09:42 PM
Well, I've found at least one of my problems. In macro mode, I need to hold the button down half-way until a green light blinks, telling me that the focus is locked. I then press the button down the rest of the way to take the picture. I haven't been doing this (rather, I've been pushing the button all the way down without waiting for the green light), so the focus isn't locked, and the pictures come out fuzzy! I just tried the correct way and it's made a world of difference. Now I have the problem of macro mode creating bigger files which don't fit our limitations here. I reduce the picture size dramatically, but some still won't come under the 30KB limit. I'll mess around with it this weekend, and if things work out I'll try to take second pictures of some flies already in the archives that I feel could be much better.

I don't have access to a scanner, but I definitely like the idea. And I've been taking all of my pictures with the flies laying directly on a surface. Perhaps I'll take a stab at shooting them in the vise with a backdrop. Thank you both for the suggestions.

Let's keep this thread going. I think I've found the answer to my problem (right under my nose), but I'd like to hear other ideas for taking nice fly pics.

07-26-2002, 10:44 AM
I use a flatbed scanner and it works pretty well. You can scan with the lid open to get a black background, or use something for a background to change the background color. Using different materials and colors and varying the distance of the background to glass will yield different results. I've used paper, flybox foam, file folders, pieces of cardboard and tissue paper for backgrounds. Best colors are white, pink, light blue and gray. I sometimes lay the background right on the fly and sometimes prop it a short distance from the glass. I played around a little with backlighting but haven't had good results with that yet. I like Juro's idea of using a box for the background. A box about an inch deep should be about right. The inside of the box should be white or some other light color because having the background away from the scanner glass has a darkening effect.

As for sizing the image, remember that you can't "see" a higher resolution than what the monitor shows (72 pixels per inch???). My scanner has a low resolution setting of 72 ppi, and if I scan something at that setting then the image on the monitor is "actual size". If I want to enlarge the image or make high quality prints then I need to scan at higher resolutions.

It seems like resizing the photo sometimes distorts the image (sharp lines get blurred). I'm guessing it's because the data is digital and the software sometimes has to interpolate when the image is resized. If you don't need high resolution for prints or enlargements, then it may be better to start with low resolution so you don't need to resize.

Image compression (which is not the same as resizing) also causes distortion. I usually save a scan as a .bmp file, which is not compressed, and then edit it in that format. When I'm done editing I convert it to .jpg, which compresses the image. That way I only compress it one time. I'm pretty sure that repeatedly resizing or editing a compressed image causes additional distortion so I try to avoid that. I think that most digital cameras save images in .jpg format, but allow you to select the compression level. If your photo will need a lot of editing, then it may be better to save the photo using little or no compression, edit the file, then compress to reduce file size.

I don't know of any specific guidelines, and each camera and photo software is probably different. Guess you just have to keep experimenting and make notes of the settings that work well for various applications.

Hope this helps!


Dble Haul
07-26-2002, 11:55 AM
Thanks, Q. I already start at the lowest compression that my camera allows (320X160), but even at this size the macro function yields pics that are between 70 and 80KB. That's a longshot from 30! And without the macro function, the pictures just aren't good at all.

I'll keep fudging around with it.

John Desjardins
07-26-2002, 02:29 PM
Mark, I think you may have some terms confused. The 320x160 you refer to sounds like the number of pixels, rather than a compression of the image. It's a good size for posting pictures of flies, but will make focussing on the flies difficult.

The problem with focusing is with the depth of focus. A term that is not frequently used in photography literature. When you zoom in on an object the object gets bigger, and the depth of focus gets smaller. If you are trying to take a picture of a small fly the problem gets extreme. Flies being a 3 dimensional object start to have part of the fly in focus and parts out of focus. At its extreme in a microscope (where my experience in photography lies) the depth of focus can be less than a micron (~0.00004").

Now how to work around it. This is the counter intuitive part. Set your camera for the Maximum # of pixels you can. Focus on the fly with a LOW magnification and take a picture. The example below is a picture that was taken at 2048 x 1362 pixels (reduced to 590 x 392 for showing here) that was 1.12 Mb.

Now crop away the area to show only the fly, slightly compress the image, and the result is a 26 kb file at a size of 290 x 150 pixels. Aside from the cropping there was no resizing of the image. I agree with Quentin on the effects of resizing images.

What this does is trick the optics of the camera into having a greater depth of focus, while still producing the size, in pixels, image you need.
The flies a size 20, RS2 by Brad from the trout fly swap. I think it would look better with a light green background.

I hope this helps.

07-26-2002, 02:33 PM
To get around the 30Kb if you want... will give you free space to upload pictures to. Then you can link to them by cutting and pasting the address from the address bar into your post.

Juro/Sean will like that as well, since it will help keep our bandwidth down!;)


Dble Haul
07-26-2002, 03:43 PM
John, you are absolutely correct. I was speaking in terms of pixels, and not really trying to say anything about compression (brain cramp :eyecrazy: ). I'm going to try your counter-intuitive approach tonight and see how it goes.

Nick, that tip is a good one. It could also save some serious space on my hard drive at home. Thanks. :)

07-26-2002, 05:10 PM
My discussion about using low resolution was for scanning things that you intend to display as "actual size". I don't have a digital camera so I don't know how the resolution settings on the camera affect what you see. I also don't know if all cameras will let you set the level of compression. The camera I looked at had settings for high, medium and low (and maybe zero?) compression.

John, Interesting info about field of focus. At college, one of other students gave a presentation about "depth of field" and "circles of confusion". All I remember is that he had me thoroughly confused!


Dble Haul
07-26-2002, 07:30 PM
John, you da man! I took your advice with the counter-intuitive approach and got great, sharp, clear pictures by taking images at 1600X1200 pixels (my camera's highest setting). Cropping worked out the pixel size issue.

Nick, I opened an account at, but I'm a bit confused as to how to post a pic from there. I've started a photo album, but I haven't been able to identify any addresses that are particular to each image. If possible, please advise.

Thanks John, and thank you Nick in advance.

07-27-2002, 02:57 PM
As with many free things in life, its not perfectly easy. What I did was to right click on the pic, and open it in a new window. That address then is what you would copy and paste into the forum post. Make any sense?

Edit: I was apparently lying to you about this...;) What I did is click on the thumbnail that opens the new window. In there, right click on the picture, go to properties, then copy that link into the Post. Sorry:eyecrazy:

Dble Haul
07-27-2002, 05:09 PM
Nick, it worked like gangbusters. Check out the "test post" in the bonefish archives that's no longer a test.

Thanks again to everyone for your helpful thoughts and advice. You're the best!!! :)

07-27-2002, 11:02 PM
I don't have a digital camera (yet - but we were out looking). To facilitate e-mailing and posting of photos from our recent 25th Anniversary trip to Cape Cod I had my film put on CD as well as prints. This worked really well for e-mailing, but I have not been able to post any of them as they exceed the new 30k limit on the forum. Sean has offered to reduce them for me and post them, but I'd kind of like to figure out what I need to do.

I am not a total Luddite, but I can be somewhat challenged by the technology. If I need to get some new software - so be it, suggestions are welcome. My machine has Windows XP and apparently it has some capabilities that may suffice, I don't know.

It seems that it is time for some turnabout, I have answered a number of questions re speycasting, now somebody can give this digital beginner a hand!

07-28-2002, 06:32 AM
:) I am far from being an expert, but in the local paper every Sunday they have an " Ask Jim" column, of sent in computer questions. A couple of years ago his recommendation was a program by Image Disk called "PhotoVue Plus" It resizes, changes file formats,over 35 file formats. reads movies, and sound files, makes slide shows, changes contrasts, and much much more. It has a compainion program called "Vuelcons" which allows you to view images through their actual window icon. Even I am finding I can do about anything with pictures.:eyecrazy: Imagain what one could do if you knew what you where doing?:rolleyes: I just lookedup their website, here it is.

10-16-2002, 02:14 PM
Thanks for the tips, guys. I finally bought a digital camera last weekend and was having the same problems alluded in this thread in taking pictures of flies.

Will try these techniques this weekend.

If any body has any more tips let me know.

Will start posting up steelhead and salmon flies to the archives.

Dble Haul
10-16-2002, 03:06 PM
Hal- In addition to the advice that is given here, I highly recommend that you read the manual that came with the camera. That means EVERY PAGE. Sometimes little tidbits are easy to overlook when they're buried in some inappropriate areas of the guide. Just skimming can lead to a lack of knowledge.

Good luck. I'm sure that you've read it, but I just want to emphasize how thoroughly it should be read. :)

10-16-2002, 03:42 PM
I use Adobe Imageready and yes it's too expensive for general purpose users. It's amazing though, you can achieve excellent byte reduction without compromising quality.

Here's a site that gives a big list of FREE image editors - I have no idea if they are any good or not, fair warning!

10-16-2002, 03:57 PM
Thanks for the comments, yes I have been reading the manual (although I hate to) and a fellow that works with me knows a lot about them. An image editor came with it that looks fairly good.

I am now in the R+D stage, hope there is enough DASD space in the forumn servers for the forthcoming steelhead and salmon fly uploads this winter. :)

10-19-2002, 06:08 PM
I can see this is not going to be easy. Can't wait to tell the boss (aka wife) that I need a mini hollywood lighting studio set up to shoot digital fly pictures. :hehe:

I am already at the end of the rope with the fly tying equipment and all of the other fly stuff..

If anybody has a "silver bullet" for the lighting issue please advise before I do something stupid and jeopardize my 25 years of marriage. :confused:

Dble Haul
10-19-2002, 08:44 PM
What's your lighting issue, Hal? Too bright? Too dim? Not enough contrast or backlighting?


10-20-2002, 09:07 AM
Not enough light I would say, the room I am in has very limited outside light.

Dble Haul
10-20-2002, 07:26 PM
Hal- If you don't have enough natural light, you'll have to supplement what you have with artificial light. Check out this link:

While you don't have to follow every pointer in this article, it will point you in the right direction. Don't worry about the insistance for buying very expensive equipment.....I've found that the advice applies to affordable gear as well. :)

Good luck.

10-29-2002, 04:19 PM
Thanks will look at these links, heres another one I found on how to down size digital images to post on web sites using various software editing packages.

Have not been able to take any more fly photos the last week been busy taking pictures of my sons high school football team and giving to the coaches for posting to the schools web site.

Paid off got free passes to all of our state football playoff games starting this weekend. 9-0 and ranked #2 in our school size class, and # 6 of all teams in state of Illinois.

Would he a hard choice for me between a good day steelheading and a great HS football play off game.

10-29-2002, 06:05 PM
I would not recommend even looking at that link to the story on Global Fly Fisher. It is so riddled with errors, innacuracies and mis-statements that it was obviously written by someone with only a marginal understanding of photography.

I did find one statement that I agreed with though: " Unfortunately most digital cameras are useless for fly photography, because they don't have proper macro capabilities and exposure controls."

I checked out the specs on your Olympus camera, and it has some shortcomings for macro photography, mainly that it does not focus closely enough and there is no macro attachment available for it. The spec claims that it will focus as closely as 8 inches, but that is at a focal length of 28mm, which will lead to distortion and dark corners. Olympus point-and-shoots have notoriously poor zoom lenses, especially at the wide end.

Although I would agree that you will get better images scanning directly off a flatbed scanner, I think that you will get improved picture quality of you follow these steps:

Set the zoom around 50mm, and focus the camera in Macro mode.

Determine the closest possible camera to subject distance and set up some type of support for the camera, if a tripod is not available get creative, use a bean bag, or jam it between a couple of books etc.

Most cameras have exposure modes to choose from, but this one has only program mode. This means that you are at the mercy of available light with regards to depth of fied. In order to get adequate depth of field for sharpness, you need to apply ambient light, whether natural or artificial.

Cheap lighting tricks

Natural light. Set up your shot next to a window. Cover the window with a sheer curtain to soften the light and minimize shadows. Use artificial lights to fill in shadows.

Artificial light. Basic household lamps have a completely different color temperature than natural light. Flourescents have the same problem. All this means is that combining these kinds of lights to shoot flies will almost always produce unwanted color shifts in the final image.

Cheap, dirty multiple studio lighting.

Gather up all of your flashlights. Go to the craft shop and buy a couple of pieces of 8x10 foam core that is self adhesive. Tear off a piece of tin foil larger than the foam core, and carefully crumple it up into a ball, then un-crumple it. Attach the foil to the foam core. You now have a set of professional macro reflectors.

Use the reflectors to bounce light from the flashlights onto the fly. Look through the camera viewfinder as you are moving the lights and reflectors around, and you will get a real-time look at what the final image will look lite. I have found that Mag-Lites have a color temperature that does not change the color of the flies drastically.

If you really want to get fancy, you can buy gold color foil at the craft shop for a warmer light and mix and match with the silver-reflected light which will be whiter.

The other big stumbling block with this camera, is that the meter is going to count the background in the metering, instead of metering directly from the fly. To account for this, you must choose a medium shade background, as close to 18% gray as possible. You can buy a medium gray Kodak card at most any photo store for around five-bucks, complete with instructions on how to use it.

With the metering and flash on that camera, you absolutely must avoid shooting with the flash, which means you have to provide enough ambient light for the meter to operate, and to provide depth of field.

Lastly, if you find a setup that works with your camera, make notes so that you can easily replicate it!

Here is a link to a much better story on macro shooting:

Also, I own Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe ImageReady and Adobe PhotoShop Elements. Elements has everything from real photoshop that you will ever need, and sells for only $ 99. That is about $ 600. less than full PhotoShop. It comes free with some better scanners, but if you need to buy it, this is a reputable outfit: _html___260399___ADPE2___REG___CatID=0___SID=F1698 6F1D30

If you are interested in learning more about photography, go to the learning section at See especially the section, ' Good photography with a point and shoot camera.'

Good luck and good shooting.

10-29-2002, 08:14 PM

Thanks for the detail information will read and continue experimenting. Glad the winter is here, there will be plenty of time to do that. In the thirties now and snow flurries. :whoa:

I have the Canon A40 Sureshot digital camera.


John Desjardins
10-30-2002, 09:43 AM
Jay, Thats a good link to the macro photography description. I picked up some things that will help at work.

11-04-2002, 09:41 AM
I've had very good luck with a cheap-o OTT lite clone that I got at Staples. I can't remember if it was $19 or $29.

As mentioned above, you really have to light up the fly enough so that you don't need the flash. You may also have some other adjustments that can be made in the camera settings to increase the exposure rates or to compensate for different ambient light settings.

I also got an excellent tip from a friend on macro pics.. due to the longer exposure, the camera is very sensitive to vibration in macro mode. Most of the time my pics were coming out blurry just from my pushing the button. The tip is to mount the camera in a tripod, get the shot all lined up, then use the auto-timer to actually snap the picture. That way you aren't even touching the camera when the shot is taken.

The camera is an old Fuji 1.2Mpixel, so nothing fancy there.

-- Tom

11-04-2002, 10:55 AM

Thanks, have to check if I still have the Tripod from my Nikon SLR which I have not used in a long time, but the task master (wife) may have sold it in a garage sale. Got to watch those days before the garage sales ! :(

Not had time to experiment with more detailed fly pictures lately tied up with actually fishing and taking HS football play off flicks lately.

Yes the tripod is a must I believe.


11-06-2002, 06:11 AM
I know there has been some discussion about digital underwater. I am debating whether or not to get a new digital camera. I have an old Kodak 210 zoom, it takes fair pictures, but cannot compare with my old Canon A1. Looking at the new digital ones, they seem to be advertised as close to the old 35 mm's. I have really been interested in either the Canon S30, or the S40 cameras. Lot of money to take near the water.:( Looking around I see they now make Underwater cases for these cameras. One name I seem to come up with is Sea & Sea Housings,I guess expensive $250. Wondering if anyone has been using, or knows of them?:eyecrazy: The Canon cameras I am looking at can Macro down to between 2 and 3 inches, and have 10 to 11 combination zoom.I guess I am just crazy to start to thing of buying such an expensive camera.:tsk_tsk:

11-06-2002, 07:10 AM
Those cameras are sweet for Point and Shoot applications and the housings are awesome. I'll let Juro explain more (he's got an A40? and a housing), but suffice to say that the camera rocks and I have never been dissappointed by a canon.


11-06-2002, 10:48 AM
Thats good to hear about the Canon A40 which I just bought, but am in the beginner stage of learning how to use it. Yes I see in the accessories there is an underwater case you can by for it but it looked to be pricey, $ 200-250 I think. I paid $ 225 for the A40 which was on sale:D

11-06-2002, 12:16 PM
God they 'stick it to you' for these things. Most of us just want a 'case' that will keep the thing dry if you take a dunking. If I'm 15' under water I'd be more concerned about drowning.

11-06-2002, 03:22 PM
Just picked up a used Canon S300....totally sweet machine! Ordered the underwater housing as well....overkill for fishing ops, but will great fun scuba diving...although the notion of doing in a little free diving when bass/tunoids are on the feed is equally tempting.


11-06-2002, 03:56 PM
Originally posted by jared
[but will great fun scuba diving...although the notion of doing in a little free diving when bass/tunoids are on the feed is equally tempting.

--j [/B]

I'd hate to think one of those "bass/tunoids" 'mistaking 'a body part' for "wiggling bait.":whoa:

11-06-2002, 08:28 PM
Nick, I was talking about the S30, or S40 not the A40. :D I ruined a Nikon camera when my dog jumped out of a canoe, and I reached over and grabbed her, rolled the canoe. I always manage to slip on a rock, or have a wave break over me, with a $500 camera I want some insurance.:eyecrazy:

11-07-2002, 09:13 AM
Just a couple of notes on underwater photography.

I know a guy that has been actively trying for years to get images of gamefish feeding, with no success whatsoever. Apparently, they are not real comfortable with a bigger critter in the water.

Getting these types of images with a digital point-and-shoot is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. When you get underwater, light is the problem. That built-in flash will throw enough light to shoot a subject that is about a foot in front of the camera.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying, but merely pointing out that if you are making this investment in underwater housings to protect the camera in the boat, fine, but if you want to shoot pictures of feeding gamefish, I think you will be disappointed.

Also I wanted to point out, that if you have homeowners insurance, check with your agent, but I think you will find that loss of camera will be covered up to a specified amount. I would not want to try and make that claim more than once, though, or you may be looking for a new insurance company.

11-07-2002, 10:53 AM
Haven't seen enough of Laptew's footage to know if he's actively gone after feeding fish. Does anyone know??

But have seen some great video of stripers nabbing shorts as they were tossed back by lobstermen. (Gave rise to some interesting experiments at the vise!).

A few years back, I was down in the Caribbean and snorkeled out to & then with pods of feasting small 1-3lb camera, but was totally cool to watch them feed. Of course, this is hardly
a representative sample, it's entirely possible that if I spent a lot of time trying to find shoot feeding gamefish, the results
would be more in line with what your friend has seen.


11-08-2002, 06:57 AM
Those are equally as good. I really like Canon's line and approach to digital photograpy. the S30 and S40 are built well also making them take a pretty good lickin'.