Communicating Lasting Impressions

Quick Guide to Preparing Photos for Print Publications and Web Content

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Strong visual images draw readers into print publications and web content. That’s why professional photography, either photos for print publications and web contentcustom or stock, is the preferred choice of marketing communications professionals when designing newsletters, brochures, annual reports, magazines, online content and other publications.

Sometimes, in-house or volunteer photographers are the only options. Regardless of where images originate, here are some guidelines for preparing photos for print publications and web content.

Choose the Correct File Extension
Beyond good photo composition and lighting, use the proper file extension to improve the way images look in your finished publications.

TIF, or TIFF, files are high-quality images that store all associated color and data information with the images. They are ideal for print publications and are easily converted to a smaller JPG format for use on the web. Because of their size, TIF files usually require special software for electronic sharing.

JPG, or JPEG, files are the by-far the most popular format. Data associated with JPGs is selectively discarded to reduce file size, resulting in reduced sharpness. Usually, this is minor even when high-resolution photos are needed (see next section). JPGs, while suitable for use in print publications and online, do not support transparency.

BMP files are fine in word-processing documents. They are not suitable for print publications nor are they web-friendly.

PNG files are low-resolution images suitable only for online use, not commercial printing. These images support transparency.

Use the Proper Image Resolution
Image quality is measured in pixels per inch (PPI). The higher the PPI, the more detail in the image. Print publications need 300 PPI, high-resolution images. For web content, 72 PPI, low-resolution images, are suitable. At our agency, we prefer 300 PPI images, as this allows the greatest flexibility for enhancement.

image resolutionTo find image resolution on a Windows operating system, right-click the file name and scroll down to Properties. Under the Details tab, look for the width and height, as measured in pixels. Even though Microsoft mistakenly uses DPI, or dots per inch, instead of PPI for image resolution, look at this number. To commercially print a 4-inch x 3-inch image at 300 PPI, the image should measure 1200 x 900 pixels. However, to use the same image online at 72 PPI, it only needs to measure 290 x 215 pixels.

Another way to find a high-resolution photo is to look for a file size of roughly 1 MB or larger.


Name and Organize Photos
In addition to consistent file naming, these practices can simplify production of print publications and web content:

Rename photos to show the person, group or event rather than using the default number assigned by the camera. Use “Rename,” not “Save As” to retain image data.

Organize and group photos in a logical way. Create folder names related to the topic (e.g. board trustees or winners of ABC award) or designated section of the publication and place corresponding images in them.

Prioritize photos. When designing annual reports, anniversary publications, magazines and larger publications, it’s nice to have multiple photos from which to choose, particularly if there are vertical and horizontal versions of the same subject. However, without image prioritization from clients, we select photos with the strongest composition and color.

With these tips for preparing photos for print publications and web content, prepare for reader engagement to soar.