While much can be said about the content of photos
for promotion, I'm concentrating here on the form. In today's constantly
changing digital landscape, I'm frequently asked questions about new methods
of producing and providing images. Hopefully, this will answer some
questions of yours.
Black-and-white and Color
Plan to have both black-and-white and color images in your promotional kit. Despite the move to digital, 8x10 glossy black-and-white photo prints are still the standard of the industry. And color is increasingly important.
While newspapers once printed in black-and-white only, most papers, even small local ones, now print in color. Often, the section of the paper most likely to print your image - Weekend, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment, or whatever it might be called - prints only the first page in color. The editors are in need of interesting, high quality photos. So while you might otherwise end up one column wide on page 27, a good color photo could put you life-sized on the cover! Doesn't matter who you are. The photo editors just like nice photos.
I shoot only color negative film these days. There's so much information on a piece of film. And I need images I can exhibit at poster size. But a good professional or high-end consumer digital camera is perfectly adequate for promo photos and small posters.
From my film I make high-quality scans, and convert
to black-and-white when needed. Invariably, if you shoot some shots in
color, and some in black-and-white, you'll end up with a great black-and-white
shot you wish you had in color.
Preparing Black-and-White Glossies
These can be made in one of several ways. I open my photo in Photoshop, convert it to greyscale from color, and optimize the image for reproduction. I then re-size the image to about 8.75" in height. Using the "Canvas Size" option, I then add a 1/4" border to the top and sides, and one inch to the bottom.
Next I add a text caption to the bottom. Some folks add only their names. Others add the whole encyclopaedia: Name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, web page, e-mail; their agent's name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, web page, e-mail; their manager's name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, web page, e-mail; their record label's name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, web page, e-mail; their publisher's name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, web page, e-mail... You get the message. And, of course, a nifty logo or two.
I suggest keeping it simple: a name and basic contact info for more information. And, of course, a photo credit for the photographer. One thing to keep in mind is that these photos are often posted in the window of the storefront venue on Main Street. Do you really want some drooling slob walking up and saying to himself - "hey she's cute. And she's got her phone number here."
Some folks like to provide both horizontal and vertical images. This may help you get published at those times when a newspaper or magazine has room for only one or the other. I'm not sure the odds justify the cost of routinely sending out twice as many pictures.
You might also consider splitting an 8x10 into two smaller photos. Just remember, since each photo will only be roughly 4x5, use less complex images, and understand that they may not be reproduced as large as an 8x10.
Once the page is complete, you can save it as a tif image.
Another option is to prepare the photo in image
processing software and import it into a page layout program such as InDesign
or Quark, where you can add the type and borders.
Printing 8x10 Glossies
Next you need to choose a method of reproduction. You will be tempted by offers of cheap litho prints - thousands for pennies a print. These photos are made on a printing press, and are not meant for reproduction. A few people will tell you they reproduce just fine. Great. Send them to those people. But lots of folks just won't print them. Do you really want to take that risk?
The traditional method of printing promo photos is the contact print. First, one good quality print is made. Either a traditional photo print or good quality digital print will work just fine. The original print can include the caption, or a separate layout with caption can be provided. A full-sized negative of the image is made, and another high-contrast negative is made of the caption. These two negatives are then stripped together.
These are called contact prints because the negative is placed in contact with a large roll of photo paper, and light is shined through to expose the paper. The prints are not as good as prints made in a photographic enlarger. Cheaper paper is used, and the prints tend to lack definition and contrast. But the cost of photo prints made using an enlarger would be prohibitive in quantity, and these are a reasonable compromise.
Another method is to make prints on your computer printer. The quality can be top-notch. But paper and ink is expensive. The ink tends to smudge on glossy paper. And each copy takes forever to print.
Sometimes I make small quantities on my Epson to hold me over, making sure to use high quality inks and papers to minimize problems.
My favorite method of making promo photos today is to provide an image as a tif file to my photo lab, and have them make photo prints on real photo paper on their minilab machine from my digital file. The quality is great. The prints are made on color paper, so make sure your lab gives you prints that are neutral gray, without a brown or other tint.
If you do all the prep work ahead of time, the cost is competitive. But mistakes can be costly. You will pay again to have them done over. You can pay more and have the lab prepare the image. That way, once you've approved the output, it's on them if the final product doesn't match.
I usually order 100 prints at a time. Below
that, the price per print is high. Above that, you don't save much.
Images in Color
I don't make many color prints these days.
The cost of quantity color prints, either traditional or digital, is prohibitive.
And most people are happy to use a digital image. For the few that
do want prints, having a half dozen good quality 4x6 minilab prints on
hand should serve the purpose.
Digital files can be saved in various formats which are either uncompressed, or compressed to save room. Some compressed files are lossless, meaning that they contain all of the essential data. Other files are lossey, meaning that some information is compromised to save room.
For most purposes, the best quality digital files are tif files. Tif files can be saved either without compression, or with LZW compression. It is best to save tif files uncompressed. LZW compression saves little room, and some pre-press houses won't even accept LZW files.
If you're working on a Mac, files may be saved as either Mac tifs or PC tifs. I usually ask the recipient if they are working on Mac or PC so I know which type of file to prepare. A Mac has the versatility to open a PC tif, while a PC usually can't open a Mac tif. So when in doubt, you might want to send both, or send a PC tif.
For reproduction, a 300dpi tif, saved at the size the image will be reproduced at, will almost always fit the bill.
For use on a web page, a jpg is more appropriate, and small enough to load on the page quickly. I also e-mail jpgs to clients as samples or for reference.
But a jpg is not ideal for reproduction.
It is lossey, and deteriorates rapidly when resized and re-saved.
I have found, however, that a jpg saved at the highest quality setting
- at the size the image will be reproduced - is acceptable to many newspapers
and some magazines.
Some folks put downloadable files on their web pages to provide easy access to their images for promotion. Unfortunately, most of these are not nearly of good enough quality to use. Remember, you need either quality tifs, or best quality jpgs saved at 300 dpi at the size they will be reproduced. If you provide a 2 inch high image at 300 dpi, if it is reproduced at 6 inches high, it will fall to 100 dpi - not nearly enough.
A color 8x10 tif at 300 dpi will take up 20.6 MB.
A color 8x10 jpg at 300 dpi saved at a quality level of 12 will take up 5.5 MB.
A black-and-white 8x10 tif at 300 dpi will take up 6.9 MB.
A black-and-white 8x10 jpg at 300 dpi saved at a quality level of 12 will take up 2.6 MB.
An 8x10 black-and-white or color jpg is worth
putting on your web site for folks with high speed connections. You
might put 5x7 or smaller images on your web page for download. But
make sure these are labeled clearly so folks know they are not intended
for use as 8x10 300 dpi images.
Most of the images I send out for publication are sent as e-mails. I ask the clients what they need, and what their e-mail capabilities are. This way they get exactly what they need to fit their specifications.
Many folks, even with high speed connections,
cannot accept files by e-mail greater than 10MB. Some are limited
to 4MB. But a highest quality jpg, either sent by e-mail, or downloadable
from your web site, is do-able.
Images on CD
Another versatile option is to compile a number
of images and burn them onto CDs. This way you can include both jpgs and
Mac and PC tifs. You can include a variety of huge files (remember,
not everyone has the hardware to handle these), medium files, and web size
Or you might include these as part of a larger electronic press kit, along with video clips and all the extras. Just remember - it's useless to send a fancy DVD to someone who only needs an image and doesn't have a DVD player hooked up to their computer. When you can, it's still nice to communicate and have a personal connection.
And one final word of caution: While some of what
I've said may apply next week, much of it will likely be obsolete by the
time I hit the "send" button.
© 2 0 0 4 R o b e r t C o r w i n / P h o t o - A r t s