Work miracles on your photos and scans with Qimage Pro

A little over a month ago, reader Gary Berg suggested I give a program called Qimage Pro a look and see what it would do for my digital camera output. And I finally got around to doing it.
If you’ve got a scanner and/or a digital camera, I’ve got just five things to say to you: You gotta get this thing.

OK, OK, I’ll elaborate a little.

I took a few design classes in journalism school, and I remember one cardinal rule when it came to dealing with images: Reductions are fine, enlargement is a feature you should never use. If you’ve got a 5×7 image at 300 dpi, it’ll get pixelated if you try to enlarge it. You can go smaller, but you can’t make something from nothing.

Qimage Pro is supposed to work miracles. So I threw the worst-possible test at it.

I took a 640×480 image taken by a Sony Mavica digital camera. I blew it up to 8×10. Then I printed it on my 600 dpi laser printer. On cheap office-grade paper (not even the highest grade available).

Now I’ll gladly admit, the resulting picture shows a little bit of pixelation. A little. But from a slight distance (I’m talking two or three feet here), I wouldn’t know the difference. That picture would look fine hanging on my wall, and I’m not just saying that because I’m supposed to like looking at the subject matter.

I’m amazed. Based on previous experience, I wouldn’t dare try printing a 640×480 image any bigger than three inches across.

I suspect printing in color might give me less leeway. I plan to test that theory on my girlfriend’s color inkjet later today.

That test knocked my socks off, but there’s more to Qimage than just giving high-quality enlargements that look better than anyone has any right to expect. Photo paper is expensive, and it will arrange photos on the paper to maximize the available space on it. Depending on how you’re currently printing your digital photos, it might pay for itself in paper savings.

I also like its redeye reduction and blemish removal. To take out redeye, you click on the center of the pupil and drag your mouse to the right. To do a digital makeup job (or fix other problems–I swear that Sony Mavica must have had dust on its lens at some point), click on the center of the spot you want to remove and drag left. It sounds weird, but it took me about two tries to get the hang of it.

And the autocorrect functions are pretty intelligent. You don’t want to go blindly turning all of them on. On some pictures, it looked pretty good when I did that. Others took on a really artificial look. So experiment to get the hang of the tools, but be selective.

If you want to crop an image, it has a Crop Wizard. Who needs a wizard to help you cut out a piece of an image? Don’t worry, this isn’t a worthless wizard like Clippy from MS Office. Its recommendations, believe it or not, are intelligent. This wizard really does help you.

If you have a scanner, Qimage Pro will give you an easy way to make quick-and-dirty enlargements and reprints. Scan the picture at your scanner’s highest hardware or optical resolution (check your scanner’s manual). Load the scan into Qimage and size it however you want, do any touchups and/or cropping you want to do, then print. You’ll definitely want this if you ever get to spend an afternoon with the stash of photographs your grandmother kept under her bed in a Russell-Stover candy box.

It’s not a serious photo manipulation tool like Photoshop. If you want to cut out your head and put it on the body of a supermodel, Qimage Pro won’t do it. But most people are just interested in touchups and printing and don’t want to spend an hour futzing around with each image. For those kinds of people, Qimage Pro is perfect and it costs 40 bucks.

The only downside to any of this is that the quality of most inkjet printers is anything but archival–the ink fades fairly fast. But Qimage can’t do anything about that. It does an amazing job at everything else.

7 thoughts on “Work miracles on your photos and scans with Qimage Pro

  • January 8, 2003 at 9:52 am
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    Lots of folks use Qimage for printing, and Photoshop for manipulation. It is a highly regarded product, even among professional photographers.

    Most inkjet printers are no longer subject to rapid fading, if used with the appropriate photo paper. Epsons range from 25 to about 100 years, and are the preferred printers for serious amateurs and pros. I use a Canon S9000, which is rated to give me about 25 years as well. I haven’t noticed any fading on pictures I printed 2 years ago (on an epson 870) and just hung in my cubicle, not exactly a protected environment.

  • January 8, 2003 at 11:24 am
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    I believe it, but serious photographers aren’t going to come to me for advice about what software to buy. Unless they’re looking to upgrade their computer hardware, they don’t need anything from my head. 🙂

    I hope what you say about fading is true about most printers, but I just read earlier this week about magenta inks fading in general (they didn’t list specific printers or conditions). The longevity of film prints on processed photo paper is a known quantity, while the longevity of inkjet prints still raises questions, and at the very least isn’t proven (there aren’t any 25-year-old Epson and Canon inkjet prints).

    But to keep from sounding like a total Luddite, digital pictures do have the advantage of allowing you to store them, so as long as you recopy them to new media over time (burn them to CD-R, then recopy the files to new CD-Rs every few years, and as new media become available, move to the new media–rewritable DVD is the obvious next generation) you can always print new copies if they fade. And they take up less space than negatives.

    I think technology is going to solve this problem. If inkjets aren’t fixable, that’s not a problem–color laser printers get more affordable all the time.

  • January 8, 2003 at 4:07 pm
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    Dave,

    One other thing that Qimage does nicely is to let you up-size before giving the file to someone to print. You can go to the File menu and tell it to Print To File. You’ll get asked about resolution and such.

    Put the files in the queue and tell it to process them. It should even do some of the smart sharpening. Then you can put those files on a CD and take them someplace to get done on a Fuji Frontier. The Frontiers run 300dpi, I believe.

    I used QI to upsize some 2.6MP files from my Canon Pro 90; closeups of flowers. I had them printed 8×10 from those files. The detail on the Frontier prints is amazing! I did this back on an older version of QI, where the upsizing process was a little different (done via the filter interface for a picture and change resolution).

    For a lot of things you never have to go to a program like Photoshop, since QI can adjust levels, do curves, remove redeye, sharpen, crop. But for the greatest control a program like Photoshop can do more.

  • January 8, 2003 at 6:11 pm
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    One of the worst things for prints and effects their fading the most is UV light. If they are near windows where sunlight can get to them, they will fade easier. Though with today’s photo papers that’s less of a problem. If you frame them, never have the glass touching the print, very bad no matter what type of paper it is.

    If I remember right, color prints made from negatives, if treated properly will last 25 years or more. If they are stored in acid free binders and pages, I doubt you’d need to worry much about it. An Ilfochrome (Used to be called a Cibachrome) which is a print made directly from a slide or larger transperency, are in the 100 + life range.

  • January 9, 2003 at 8:35 am
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    Thanks for the suggestion! I forwarded a link to this review to my wife – sounds like just what she’s been wanting for her scans & digital camera files…

  • January 9, 2003 at 2:51 pm
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    Dave… This program looks interesting, I’ll give it a look. I do have Photoshop7, and I regularly use a plug-in called Genuine Fractals to do my image scaling. I use a Nikon CP990 with a 3.4 MP image, and using GF permits me to print super A3 prints on an Epson 1290. It uses a totally different mathematical method (compared to PS7) to scale the image up.

    Agreed that the more pixels in the image, the better the quality – but 12 MP gear is pricey, so we make do with what we’ve got. Proof of the pudding is that my prints pass muster in photo competitions, and I’ve yet to have a judge comment on pixelation or over-sharpening etc.

    Also agreed that longevity is really an unknown quantity — current inkjet inks haven’t been around long enough to prove out. And I’m not convinced that accelerated aging tests really indicate just how long a print will last. But there is a caveat: put the print under plastic or glass and don’t subject it to sunlight — and you’ll get far longer life.

    But what the hell — just print another. I keep all my print files (a super A3 clocks about 50 MB) so it’s no great deal. Just the cost.

    Cheers… /Mike

  • January 9, 2003 at 4:03 pm
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    And the promised update: Prints off my girlfriend’s HP Deskjet 812C are beautiful. There was very slight banding (I noticed it because I knew what I was looking for) but this is a lower-mid-range printer. Qimage Pro can’t do anything about a printer’s physical characteristics.

    And I was able to use Qimage’s tools to salvage a photo that I thought totally unacceptable. It still wasn’t great but she liked it. Compared to prints from her fixed-focus point and shoot, I’m sure it’s fine. Compared to the magazine-quality stuff Gatermann shoots, it was garbage.

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