Why “PrntScr” is my friend

I wrote a neat feature about how some old 16 mm filmstrips — bought off of eBay — are helping document the history of a cool place. And the copy desk staff at my newspaper gave it pretty cool treatment on page A1.

The story is about Carr’s Beach, one of the beaches along the Chesapeake Bay that catered to African-American families back in the days of segregation. These filmstrips offer a glimpse back into those days. (You’ll have to read the full story to find out more!)

The man who owns the filmstrips had them converted onto a DVD, which he brought into the newspaper office to show me. He isn’t exactly passing out copies of the DVD left and right — and understandably so. But he was cool with me taking some still images from the films to use with the story.

So how did I make that happen? It’s actually easier than you might think.

(Before I explain further, I should acknowledge that I know almost nothing about design, graphics or computer stuff. So there may be flaws in my workflow. I welcome any suggestions for how to do this easier.)

I brought my personal laptop into work that day, so that I would be able to have it handy in the conference room where I did the interview with the owner of the films.

As the DVD played, when we got to a spot that looked interesting, I hit the “PrntScr” button. PrntScr is your friend!

PrntScr, as far as I know, doesn’t exactly print out what’s on your screen. But it does make a copy of exactly what’s on your screen.

Then I paused the video and opened up the Paint program, which is standard program that comes with Windows.

A quick Ctrl + V pasted the image of the screen into the program. Using Paint’s cropping tool, I could crop out the edges of the image (the border of the media player window, the toolbar at the bottom, etc.). Hit the crop button, drag the box around the selection you want and then hit the crop button again. Bam! You’ve got your image.

Paint automatically wants to save your file as a .png, but you can also choose .jpg or .tiff if that’s what you’re looking for.

The talented designers on the copy desk at my newspaper used three of my screenshots in a very cool design. They ran them horizontally across the page and made them look as though they were actually in a filmstrip. Check it out:

Remember how I said PrntScr is your friend? That’s because this same process of PrntScr and Paint can be used for lots of things.

For example, I’ve taken screenshots of websites in order to record how my my story was displayed. Websites change constantly and while the text of stories is often archived, the design of how they were originally displays often are not. So PrntScr is a good way to save what a website looks like, especially for documentary purposes or for a portfolio.

One last note: There is an alternative to PrntScr and Paint if you’re using Windows 7.

Windows 7 has a Snipping Tool. Here’s how to use it.

Get the screen the way you want and use the start menu to search for “snip.” (Just type it into the box.)

Your screen will be lightened and a little Snipping Tool box will pop up. Your cursor will look like a plus sign. Use that plus sign to draw a box around the part of your screen you want.

The Snipping Tool will automatically show your image in its own window and you can save the file from there.

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