Digital Imaging: The Beginning

The first step to your success is getting good, reproducible digital images of your work.   One side benefit is that digital images are easy to shoot and edit yourself, once you have the right equipment and information.

The first thing to know is that the ability to market and sell your work in different formats with digital images is tremendous.  Social Networking is one good example.  Images of your work will be viewed 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and be working for you even when you are not.  This means that your images will say more about you, your work and your level of professionalism more than ever.  So be very picky because your images must be perfect. There is, honestly, no excuse for a bad image. If you don’t want to do it yourself then hire the right photographer.  Even then you will want to be able to shoot good photos because you won’t want to miss an opportunity just because your photographer isn’t available. The following terms and information will also help you to speak to your photographer so read on!Pixels
Digital Images will look like beautiful, seamless photos until you blow them up on your computer.  If you blow them up all the way you will see that they are made up of thousands of tiny little squares. These squares are known as pixels.  Each square is assigned a color number, known as a Hex number.  Hex numbers are made up of six digits and give the computer instructions about how to present them on your computer.  Remember that no color is perfect.  Computers are back lit so it may show up slightly different on different screens.  There is no way to control this.  It’s not such a huge difference that you have to worry about it tremendously.

.tif or .tiff or Camera Raw
Initially all of your images should be shot in this format. It is the best high resolution format because it has the most pixel colors to choose from.  In the Millions of Millions.  This does make it large format, so you will want this only for yourself.  You will send this format to someone only if requested and usually a printer or manufacturer.

.jpg or .jpeg
This is the most popular image format because it’s known as a lossy compression. Almost every grant, exhibition opportunity, application and social networking platform you send or use will require this format.  A lossy compression means that every time you save it you will lose pixels.  Compression means that the image is faster loading. The color choice in pixels isn’t as high as a .tif but it will more than suffice.  Tip: When you do save it most photo editing software will give you an option to save it on a low to high scale.  Make sure you always save it on the highest setting.  You will lose fewer pixels.

This is an image that should only be used for a low level animation.  For example making something in your image move back and forth.  This image format is not good for still images because it has only 256 colors to choose from so it is not ideal for art.

This is a relatively new format and is so much better for artists because it is a lossless compression. It also has millions of colors to choose from.  Being a lossless compression means that you won’t lose pixels when you save it.  The word “compression” means that it’s fast loading.  Not many people are asking for this yet so you might want to stick to using .jpg’s for opportunities and applications.  You can use the .png with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, etc. and on your website.

This is important to artists.  You will have more options on the computer and they will be confusing.  The one that you really have to remember is RGB. This is true of the screen and printing.  RGB means Red Green Blue.  This is associated with the Hex numbers I spoke about before.  The Hex numbers are six digits that look something like this #00FFCC.  The first two numbers are Red.  The second two numbers are Green and the last numbers are Blue.  The reason there are letters is that this format needs to choose from 14 single digits.  So the internet and computer uses 0-9 and A-F.  This last part may be too complicated for you but you just need to remember what Red Green Blue is.

.dpi or .ppi
These terms are interchangeable. .dpi means dots per inch.  .ppi means pixels per inch.  .dpi is a term who’s origins are in hard copy printing (magazines, newspapers, offset printing) and means just what it says.  Hold a loop or magnifying glass to a full color magazine and you will see that it is made up of hundreds or thousands of little dots in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  The more dots the higher the resolution. Sound familiar?  That’s because your ink jet computer printer works the same way.  It sprays dots of the above mentioned colors.  Again the more dots per inch the better.

Printing vs. Screen
For any image that you see on a computer screen it should be 72 dpi.  If there are fewer dots per inch it should be faster loading and harder to reproduce.  It is the standard and all entries should be sent this way unless requested.  If you are printing something or something is being printed for you (say in a newspaper article or catalog or postcard), your image should be 300 dpi and up.  It makes sense that the more dots you have the higher the resolution.

TIP: Always view your images (and try to view them projected) before you send them to an opportunity or with an application.  You want to be confident that they will look good to a jury or viewer.



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