The Curse and Joy of Digital Photography
The advantages of digital photography far outweigh the old print or slide (transparency) format. But it also means they can be created by anyone with a camera or cell phone, and that often means ill-composed and poorly lit images. But even those images can sometimes help illustrate a story. But when going to press, nothing can overcome low resolution, no matter how it looks on your computer screen. Understanding that will help the process enormously.
There was a time that we could hand the printer a photo, and a board with a black square on it, they would perform magic by melding the two. Then thanks to modern technology we could design our books using either Quark Xpress or PageMaker. Our photographers would send us several rolls of film that we would have developed into slides, and we would search for the best images using a magnifying loop and light table, then send off our choices to a digital imaging company who would develop and transfer our choices to a compact disc. We would then drop the chosen images into our designs.
Digital cameras have replaced cameras that use film, and have certainly made our design life better. For you, the client, we want your books to be vibrant, and really good photography accomplishes this. The higher the dots per inch (DPI) the better quality. A professional photographer will ensure that the images that go into your book will not only be the correct resolution, but the composition of the photo will illustrate your story in the most wonderful way.
PageMaker has morphed into a program called InDesign and is the industry standard for book design. At the end of the design process we go through a prepress process to make sure that all of the images that have been placed in the design will pass muster when it is sent to the printer. If you, the client, didn’t use one of our photographers, and you supplied your own images, don’t be surprised if we come back to you and say the resolution of an image is not enough to be printed in your book. We try to catch that up front and then have to relay to you the frustrating news that it won’t work—which sends you scrambling for a replacement.
When you take photos in the future, think about possible uses down the road, and shoot with as high of a resolution as possible. They can always be downsized if they’re too big—but there’s little that can be done to magically make them bigger.