Photography Tips For Writers - Resolution,
Image Size and Format
© Melissa Barton
- All Rights Reserved
Once upon a time we just sent slides to editors. Now they want digital images at "300 dpi" as
"TIFFs" or "JPEGs." But what does that mean? Many of us have known the frustration of having large digital
files rejected because they weren't saved at 300 dpi. Sometimes editors aren't really sure how resolution and
print size work, either, and a simple change in resolution would make those photos suitable for print.
dpi - Dpi, or dots per inch, is similar to ppi, pixels per inch. Dpi merely indicates how many dots (pixels
on screen) will be printed. More dots per inch means more detail in the printed photo, so most publications require
digital images to be saved at 300 dpi. But be careful! A small image saved at 300 dpi may have less image
information than a large image saved at 150 dpi. This is why it's also important to know the image size.
Image size or dimensions - Image size in inches, centimeters, or total number of pixels per side indicates
how large the digital image will print on paper. Image size and dpi together form the image's resolution.
Resolution - Resolution is a measurement of how much detail (dpi) will be printed in an image of a certain
size (image size).
Resizing and Resampling Your Images in PhotoShop(tm)
Here's how to make sure your images are saved correctly. First, check the publication's guidelines. Most
publications will ask for a certain dpi, usually 300. You want to save your image at 300 dpi with the largest
dimensions possible. This can be done in many image programs, but Adobe PhotoShop(tm) is one of the most
1. Open the image.
2. Find the menu command that says "Image Size" (under Image: Resize).
3. Make note of the pixel dimensions (height and width). These will change when you change the dpi, but you
want to change them back so the picture won't be blurry.
4. Change number in the Resolution box to 300 (this is the dpi).
5. Change the pixel dimensions back to their original numbers.
6. The Document Size in inches (or centimeters) will now be smaller. Since this is the size the image will
print at, think about how large the photo will be in the publication. If the Document Size is very small, your
camera may not produce images suitable for print publications. Otherwise, you're good to go! Save the image and
send to your editor.
PhotoShop(tm) also offers a Batch Processing option that can help you fix the dpi and document size on
several photos at once to save time.
Finally, there's format. For the most part, authors don't need to worry about this, but some publications
have specific requirements, so it helps to be familiar with the differences between image file formats.
RAW - A special format used primarily by digital SLR cameras. RAW files are very large and rarely submitted
for publication directly. Most people who are not professional photographers don't have to worry about them.
JPEG or JPG - The most common image format, used by most consumer and "prosumer" digital cameras
("point-and-shoots"). JPEGs are "lossy," which means every time the image is edited and saved, some information is
lost so the file can be compressed. A JPEG file that has been saved many times starts to get pixelated "artifacts"
and the image will look fuzzy.
TIFF or TIF - Some publications ask for TIFF files, which are "lossless." TIFF files can be edited and saved
many times without losing information. They tend to be larger than JPEGs.
An image editing program like PhotoShop(tm) can be used to convert images from JPEG to TIFF and vice versa
using the "Save As" command.
Digital image resolution can be confusing for both writers and editors, but if you remember to consider both
the image size and dpi, saving your images correctly is easy.
About the author: Melissa Barton is a freelance writer, editor and photographer, specializing in science and
travel writing. Her credits include Geotimes, Transitions Abroad, Student Health 101 and other publications.
Visit her online at Rosetta Stones Freelancing (http://www.rosettastones.net).
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