How Imagery Affects the Cost of Your Project

program for Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers' Conference

I recently finished my biggest hardcopy project of the season—a handout booklet for the 2012 Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference. At a whopping 76 pages, there were easily 40-50 images in the form of photography, ads and music (this year’s topic was heritage so many photos were vintage—very interesting).

Needless to say, this took a bit of time!

As she does every year, conference coordinator Kris Snyder did an excellent job of rounding up these images. And because she took the time to verify they were of correct format and resolution, she kept her project costs from creeping higher and higher.

Imagery plays a huge role in the efficiency of a graphic design project. If clients provide images that aren’t right for the job, I need to contact them, explain the situation and wait for them to send replacements. All the while, the clock keeps ticking ($$) and the project is stuck in standstill.

Here are instructions I give my clients at the start of each project. They’re kind of techie, but if you take note of them, they’ll improve the efficiency of your project.

Logos: The Right Format

Images come in two formats—vector and bitmap (raster). Professionally designed logos, technical diagrams and blueprints are usually created as vector images. This means they’re made with paths, or lines, and they can be enlarged to any size without distorting the image. Vector images are commonly created in design programs such as Illustrator, CorelDraw or CAD and have AI, EPS or SVG file extensions (here’s a complete list of vector file extensions).

Let’s say I’m doing a website for you. Or maybe a printed conference guide.

If your logo file has any of the extensions listed above, that’s the file to send me. I can easily adjust the size according to our needs and the image will look top quality.

vector image vs. bitmap image

A logo created and saved as a vector image has a transparent background.
A logo saved as a JPG image does not.

What if your logo file has other extensions, such as GIF, JPG, TIF, or PDF?

Yes, I can use it. However, I may not be able to increase its size. And depending on how the file was saved, it may not have a transparent background, thus limiting how we can incorporate it into your project’s layout.

While these non-vector files are workable (and sometimes can be converted to vector), they increase the time I spend on your project. If you’re trying to keep your costs as low as possible, contact your logo designer and ask for its vector files.

Photos: The Right Resolution

Remember, images come in two formats—vector and bitmap (raster). Bitmap images are made with a gazillion tiny dots, or pixels. All digital photography, whether taken with a digital camera or film (and then scanned), is bitmap imagery.

Resolution refers to the density of those dots. Resolution is an important consideration for every job. It’s the main determinant of the image’s quality and success.

Let’s once again use a website and a printed conference guide as examples.

If I’m doing a website for you, your images will be online and we’ll measure their resolution in pixels per inch (ppi). Online images only need to be 72 ppi. You can send me images in 72 ppi or higher, and I can easily compress them to the right resolution so they pop up quickly on your website.

A 72 dpi image, increased to 300 dpi without changing its dimensions.
At left is an image with a resolution of 300 dpi. At right is how the the same image
would look when professionally printed at 72 dpi. 

If your project is a conference guide that needs to be professionally printed, the resolution requirements are much higher. Here’s where you should pay attention because this is where incorrect imagery really bogs down a project.

Professional printers measure resolution in dots per inch (dpi) and they require a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. Anything less will produce a poor quality piece (in fact, in today’s highly technical printing world, an image with less than 300 dpi will automatically set off an error message).

So what if your image isn’t 300 dpi? There are ways around this if the dimensions of your image are large enough—dimensions in inches, that is.

changing a 72 dpi image to 300 dpi
The photo at left has a resolution of 72 dpi. If we increase its resolution to 300 dpi,
the dimension of of photo decreases proportionately, as shown at right.

Using graphic design programs, I can easily increase the resolution of an image to the required 300 dpi. However doing so proportionately decreases its dimension in inches. Say you send me a 10×10″ photo at 72 dpi. If I increase it’s resolution to 300, it’s dimensions then decrease to 2.5×2.5″.

That’s a big difference to keep in mind!

If you’re shooting photography specifically for your project be sure to set your camera at its highest quality setting. Your flash drive won’t accommodate as many pictures but that’s okay, you can deal with it.

There you have it, folks, a basic study of digital imagery. Are you still with me?!

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