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Picture Perfect: Jack Holm

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Scientist helped make digital photography possible

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April 2001

Every time you snap a photograph with a digital camera, you're seeing some of Jack Holm's work. For nearly a decade, Holm has been a principal force behind the art and science of digital photography.

Now a senior scientist at HP Labs, Holm invented the complex processing architecture used to create good-quality digital photographs. He's been instrumental in setting international standards for digital film speeds, color, resolution, metadata and terminology.

What the photographer sees

And he holds the patent for the algorithm behind a key feature of HP's PhotoSmart C912 and C618 digital cameras - the ability to reproduce not just the image the camera captured, but the picture in the photographer's mind.

"What the camera sees is different from what is captured at the back of the eyeball," says Holm, and neither is similar to the image in the photographer's mind. The algorithm, known as Prefered Photographic Reproduction, automatically adjusts the image after each photo has been shot - adjusting lighteness here and color there. girls on a ride at Disneyland

"In many ways, what the camera sees is more accurate," says Holm. "But a camera shouldn't be accurate. It should focus on taking a nice picture. That's what I've been trying to do here."

Early digital photography

Holm joined HP three years ago after working as a color science consultant for NASA and major companies like Kodak, Polaroid and HP. Before that, he taught technical photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Jack Holm's daughter wearing sunglasses In the early 1990s, Holm was commissioned by Focal Press to write a book about digital photography. But 150 pages into the project, he felt compelled to stop because standards about digital color processing had not yet been resolved.

"This was when digital cameras were just still video cameras," he recalls. "Everyone thought the images were pretty bad."

Holm then set about designing a process for creating digital photographs. That process became recognized as the means by which digital photographs can surpass film photos, and is a key element in color imaging technology at HP. At the same time, he worked with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to set standards for digital photography.

Shooting a solar eclipse

Photography has been Holm's passion since he was 11, when a friend's darkroom magic turned a fuzzy, gray photograph Holm had taken of a solar eclipse into a dramatic image with a brilliant sun on a dark sky. He was hooked. By the time he was old enough to drive a car, he was shooting weddings and special parties for extra cash.

These days, Holm is helping to shape the strategic technology for HP's imaging and printing business, as well as continuing his efforts to shape standards for digital imaging.

Photos displayed here were shot with an HP PhotoSmart C912, and reduced in size for easier web access. Images are of Holm at the lab and Holm's family in Disneyland.

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