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home : features : modern times October 04, 2015

3/2/2013 9:59:00 PM
Options for labeling CDs, DVDs
Prescott Computer Society

Q: I have produced a family video and I'd like to label my DVD nicely rather than simply write on it with a marker. What are my choices?

A: Using a marker is acceptable for a disc you're going to store for yourself. But in this case, you'll want to label it properly. There are several choices and each one has pros and cons, so you will need to see which fits your particular situation. And you also might need to purchase additional equipment to complete the project.

The most common way to dress up your disc is to print an adhesive paper label and place it on the CD or DVD. These labels are available at any office supply store and will usually include a link to free software or templates. This software will take care of most of the heavy lifting of designing and printing the label. Go to to see some examples. The only way to properly center the label on your disc is to use some form of mechanical guide, usually known as a "Stomper," so the disc is not subject to destructive vibration.

As an alternative, certain types of CDs and DVDs may be printed on directly if you have a printer that offers the proper holding mechanism - usually a tray or carrier of some kind. Most printers do not, but if you're in the market for a new one and expect to frequently print on discs, you might want to consider this feature.

Another possibility involves an item, which you might already have on your computer but are un-aware of - a LightScribe CD/DVD drive. A special disc (known as a "LightScribe disc") can have text and images burned to its non-data side. Software, templates and information are available at no charge from

The LightScribe discs are more expensive than typical ones, but you can buy them in small quantities to meet your needs. The process takes about 15-20 minutes per disc and the result is not very colorful, but they offer a nice low-cost alternative to that marking pen.

Q: Often when I see a scene that I think is worthy of a photo, the results from either my phone or camera are disappointing. What's wrong?

A: There is nothing wrong with you but you are a victim of what I call camera failure. Our cameras often do not see the same as we do. The pictures we see with our eyes have been run through our brain, which can work as well as a computer at enhancing images. Many a time, I've seen a scene in bright sunshine where I can see detail in both shadows and highlights but my good quality camera can only show detail in one or the other but not both without some software trickery. So there is what is called a limited tonal range and not recognizing this can easily lead to disappointment. Also, the camera focuses on one flat plane in front of it. Everything that is not in that plane will be out of focus whereas if we look at the subject, we think we can see everything in focus. In addition, we have two eyes and can see in 3D but our camera only has one eye (lens) and so sees everything as a flat, two-dimensional image. These things sound like severe limitations but experienced photographers work with them and still produce fine photos. So can you.

On the other hand, the camera is better than the eye in seeing better in low light. Night skies show more stars than you actually saw while standing there and long exposures of brightly lit objects like the Yavapai County Courthouse during the Christmas holiday nights show more detail than could be seen by eye. When brighter light allows faster exposures, the camera can freeze motion, which lets us see something that happens too fast for our eye to see. The limited focus mentioned above can actually be an advantage when we take sharply-focused photos of a subject with the background out of focus and therefore unobtrusive. So be aware of these differences and you'll get much better photos.

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