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A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazine

A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazine - How to save your pictures and send to magazine and web publishers

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General Photography

Most magazines now accept digital images as so many contributors are wanting to use this modern method of photography. New skills have to be learnt and one of these is how to correctly submit digital images into a magazine for possible publication.
Words David Lloyd-Jones

As digital cameras become more and more popular, many readers and photographers are starting to submit their images to magazines for possible publications in digital format. It's only very recently that many magazines have actually started to accept digital images. One of the main reasons for this is not for the lack of well composed and news worth images, but for the fact that digital cameras in the past didn't have enough resolution and level of detail to reproduce well in a magazine. In fact, many excellent digital pictures have been rejected because of this simple reason. In addition, how digital pictures were sent to the magazine by photographers was another reason their pictures didn't appear in print. Poorly printed digital images, being supplied in the wrong format and those sent in by email were the main culprits.

However, both improvements in technology and the increasing digital camera ownership has lead to as nearly as many digital images landing on editor's electronic desktops as there are traditional slides and prints. Many photographers have been seduced by digital and many more will be as the cameras get better and better and the price comes down. Of course, there will always be the die-hard silver halide film users who will never ever be converted to digital despite being slight curious of this new medium (although they will never admit it).

In reality, the actually picture taking process is still exactly the same regardless of the type of camera you use - trekking for hours in the rain to that ideal location and the long trek back to the car afterwards. Its how you deal with the pictures afterwards, once your have returned home that counts.

Traditional film users develop their slide or print films either in their own darkrooms or by a commercial film processor. Digital photographers download their images into a computer. Traditional film users burn, dodge and use cropping techniques to improve their images, digital photographers use image software such as Photoshop to produce the same results. Of course, traditional film users frequently accuse digital photographers of manipulating their images, but that's what traditional film users have been doing since the dawn of photography in the darkroom with the use of airbrushes, selective cropping etc. Photoshop is a digital darkroom with all the tools that a traditional film user would have.

The only difference is that picture manipulation is a lot easier with digital and in the past, the misuse of this has given digital photography a bit of bad name. A well composed and properly exposed photograph in any medium doesn't need manipulating.

Up the resolution
The key to digital photography and getting your pictures into print is supplying an image to the correct pixel size and resolution in format that can be easily opened on another computer. For success you need to understand the customers (magazine editors) needs and requirements for submitting digital images. Many magazine now included brief information on submitting digital photographs in the content section. If in doubt, call or e-mail the editor and ask if the accept digital images and what size and format do they require them in.

A big no-no is to just send a massive 5Mb image to a magazine in on spec by e-mail. Not only does it take ages to send from your end, especially if your using a standard 56k modem, it also clogs up the publisher's e-mail and frequently many companies now have electronic security systems in place that halts and deletes unsolicited e-mails over 1Mg. Always get confirmation first before sending large images as attachments with e-mails.

Digital rule of thumbnail
If you want to send images by e-mail for a magazine editor to view, send small thumbnails of the images first. These should ideally should have a pixel size of about 120 x 90 (approx file of 32k) , which will give the editor a rough idea of what images you have. The editor will contact you if they interested in the high resolution image(s) and will advise you how to submit them into the magazine. They will normally prefer them to be sent in on CR-ROM disc, but may ask for them to be e-mailed if they are urgent. The only problem with e-mail is that a tiny fraction of the image's resolution and detail level is lost during the transfer of data down your telephone line.

Burning your images
They key to submitting digital images to magazines is to invest in a CD writer to 'burn' images on to a CD-ROM disc. Many new computers are now supplied with them as standard. The beauty of burning images on to a CD-ROM disc is you can send loads of images at their maximum resolution and level of detail. Blank CD-ROM discs can fit about 600Mb of images on them, which is 120 images, if they are 5Mg in size.

But hang on a minute, you might say, CD-ROM discs are 700Mb in size, what happened to the other 100Mb of disc space? Why can't I fill the disc right up? Simple, when you 'burn' files, regardless if they are images or not, a section of the CD-Rom disc has to have a 'lead in' and 'lead out' section. These extra files are vital as they allow other computers to read and access the contents of the disc.

As with most things, its better to buy good quality blank CD-ROM discs, and another good tips is to buy the ones in the slim line cases, simply because they weight less and save on postage costs. A CD-ROM disc in one of these slim line cases, popped in to a padded envelope, is more than adequate protected.

Prints for the granny
In addition to images supplied on CD-ROMs, others send their digital photographs printed on photo quality paper. Unless you have a top of the range dedicated photograph printer fitted with the manufactures ink carriages and the proper photographic quality paper you're wasting you time and money. The average ink jet printer is great for printing out snaps for Granny and homework, but again, some of the resolution and level of detail is lost in the printing process. Even more detail is lost when your printed picture is scanned in by the publisher, further reducing the quality of the image.

Apart from the reduced detail level, the cost of printing off pictures with an ink jet printer is very high. Hands up has nearly paid as much as the printer cost for replacement ink jet cartridges? The cheaper option is to go for unbranded cartridges, but of course, these are rarely as good as the original manufacture's ones.

The best option in terms of both cost and guaranteed quality is to send the images on CD-ROM. You can a lot of large images on to disc and it cuts out the 'middle man' by supplying the images as computer file and not a printed image. In this format, the graphics department at a magazine can do more with your image than in the printed form, again due to the loss of detail.

Learning the new key words
Those switching to digital photography from traditional photography have to learn new words - words like megapixles (Mp), dots per inch (dpi), resolution, and JPEG. These are key words and the key to submitting your pictures to a magazine.

Size does matter!
The image's pixel dimensions are the best guide to working out the correct level of detail and resolution. The important factor is not the resolution of a digital image, but the level of detail it contains. Below is a simple guide to help you calculate the optimum image size for the appropriate job in question.

Pixel Dimensions (approx)
Thumbnails for Web pages 120 x 90
Images for Web Pages /Emails 640 x 480
Publication (quarter page) 1600 x 1200
Publication (half page) 2400 x 1800
Publication (full page) 3200 x 2400

Most of the small point and shoot two megapixel (Mp) compact digital cameras currently on the market can only produce 1600x1200 maximum image size, which is the standard 6x4in photo (although this figure does vary slightly between different makes of camera). These cameras are aimed at the happy snapper, who just wants to put pictures of the family on the net or print off small pictures. To really get images good enough for full page reproduction in a magazine, a 4Mp or 5Mp camera is need. These produce an 8x10in photo size image, but these digital cameras can cost 1000 and over. As you can see only the high-end digital cameras can really reach the level of detail required for a full-page picture.

However, all is not lost for those with smaller sized digital cameras. As you have probably noticed already most of the images in this magazine are not full page, in fact most are less that a quarter of a page. Images of 1600x1200 size are well within the range of the average digital camera.

Another problem magazine editors come up against is images supplied in a unusual format. To save problems later ALWAYS save images in JPEG format. JPEG or Joint Photographic Experts Group is the name of the committee that designed the photographic image-compression standard. JPEG format is optimised for compressing full-colour or grey-scale photographic-type digital images. The reason for using this format is that any computer system can open JPEG images. Remember, not everybody uses Microsoft's Windows, many magazine publishers use Apple Macs and some people are starting to use Linux systems. Regardless of the system used all will read JPEG files.

With recent improvements in picture quality and the advent of more affordable digital cameras on the market, many photographers are serious tempted to switch to digital. By learning new skills on how to correctly submit the images into a magazine, you will vastly increase your changes of see your pictures in print.

Some Do's and Don'ts of submitting Digital Pictures


A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo Make sure your images are to the correct pixel size.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo Make sure your images are to the correct pixel size.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo save in JPEG format.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo e-mail small thumbnails images first with an inquiry letter.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo clearly name image files on CD-ROM.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo use high quality ink and photo paper.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDo turn off time/date function as they difficult to remove from the image..

A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDont e-mail huge unsolicited images
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDont over sharpen images
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDont send hundreds of images - choose the best
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDont use cheap blank CD-ROMs, paper or ink.
A guide to how to submit pictures to a magazineDont send the cameras expensive storage media.

David Lloyd-Jones 2003 dlj@manx.net

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