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Watermarking Photos, Removing Date Stamps, Erasing Power Lines, and More

Dave answers questions about preventing online photo theft, erasing power lines from photos, enlarging photos without hurting image quality

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from October, December, and January.

Protecting Photos With a Watermark

I found myself identifying with Jake, who complained about some of his photos that were stolen online in "Organizing Photos, Fixing Dark Prints, Solving File Format Problems, and More." I suggest you tell him about TSR Watermark Image Software. It works beautifully. I usually use it to mark my samples--many customers request the samples, and I avoid misuse or unauthorized copies this way. I think that this software would fit Jake's needs perfectly!--Angel Molinary, Clearlake Oaks, California

Thanks, Angel. Consider Jake told.

Removing the Date Stamp

Is it possible to remove the date that's printed on a photo after the picture has been taken? Also if I crop the photo, will it be possible for the person receiving it to find out the date that the photo was taken?--Janet Boccelli, Milan, Ohio

Some digital cameras (and old film cameras) let you stamp the date directly on the photo--but I highly discourage this practice, since I feel that this ruins your photos. Who wants to see a gorgeous landscape photo with bright orange text in the corner announcing the date it was taken?

It isn't always easy to get rid of the date once it's "stamped" onto the picture. If you don't mind throwing away part of the photo, you can crop away the part of the image with the date on it. Another alternative is to carefully use your photo editor's clone brush to erase the date by painting over it with nearby, similar textures. I explain how to do that in "Get Rid of The Ugly Date Stamp."

Fear not: The date your photo was taken is embedded in the photo's metadata, which anyone can check even if the date stamp is removed. That, of course, makes the date stamp an unattractive redundancy to begin with.

Erasing Power Lines

Could you explain how to remove overhead power and phones lines in photos? My photos include lines that cross the sky, buildings, trees, and so on. I have used the Healing brush in Adobe Photoshop Elements 10, but I don't get great results.--Ron Compton, Fairbanks, Arkansas

Power lines are indeed the bane of every photographer's existence, Ron. You're on the right track, but the Healing brush is a difficult tool to use for this particular chore. I'd switch to the Clone brush. And don't think you're doing something wrong if it's slow and challenging work; when power lines cross dense and complicated textures like buildings and trees, cloning away the line becomes more art than science. Patience will pay off. I covered how to do this in "Two Ways to Remove People From Your Vacation Pictures."

Sharpening and the Digital Workflow

Did you forget about sharpening in the digital workflow?--Steve Zimmermann, Mesa, Arizona

Sure did! A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to establish your own digital workflow to ensure the best quality in your photos, and I neglected to suggest the best place to sharpen your photos. So here's the deal: If you need to add a little sharpening to your photo (and generally, most digital photos will benefit from a little sharpening), make it the very last step, right before you print or share it.

Enlarging Photos like Chloe O'Brien

Are you able to enlarge the attached picture enough to see the faces without losing clarity/resolution?--Melissa Stanley Owens, Abilene, Texas

I'd love to process your photo through one of the magical photo sharpeners they apparently use on police procedurals and in spy movies, but I'm afraid that you generally can't enlarge a photo without completely blurring it beyond recognition. And the lower the initial resolution, the worse the enlargement will look. The photo you've got here is so small that each face has only a handful of pixels, so your computer has no idea how to reconstruct their features when you make it bigger.

There's no harm in trying, of course, especially if you use a free program like Smilla Enlarger. Check out "Enlarge a Photo Without Sacrificing Quality" for details--though I'll warn you ahead of time that this particular photo is just too small to enlarge very much at all.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Eager Eyes" by Miriam Sanz, Sydney, Australia

Miriam says that she took this picture at the Sydney Wildlife Park with a Nikon D5000.

This week's runner-up: "Leaf in a Sand Forest" by Bill Moore, Kittery, Maine

Bill took this photo with a Canon 50D and a 300mm lens at Fort Foster in Kittery Point, Maine. The etchings in the scene, he says, are lines in the sand caused by the retreating tide. Using Photoshop Elements, he emphasized the blue in the scene and increased the saturation.

To see last month's winners, visit our January Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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