Managing Digital Images

Managing Digital Images

Once you have quality images of your work, it is important that you know how to deal with them. Most applications will call for specific image sizes. Pay careful attention to these specifications. If you do not follow these rules, many places will disqualify you from the pool of applicants.

Resizing images: There are several specifications for images, and not all images are created equal. So what the heck do these terms mean?

raw file is the image as seen by the camera’s sensor. Think of it like unprocessed film.Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image. Rather than letting the camera process the image for you, turning it into a JPEG image, shooting in raw allows you to process the image to your liking. A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of a digital camera. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited. Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal color space where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a “positive” file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation. This often encodes the image in a device-dependent color space. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of raw formats in use by different models of digital equipment.

TIFF Files:  Large format for images, popular among graphic artists, the publishing industry, and photographers. Tagged Image File Format, abbreviated TIFF or TIF, is a computer file format for storing raster graphics images, popular among graphic artists, the publishing industry, and photographers. TIFF is a flexible, adaptable file format for handling images and data within a single file.  A TIFF file  can include a vector-based clipping path (outlines, croppings, image frames). The ability to store image data in a lossless format makes a TIFF file a useful image archive, because, unlike standard JPEG files, a TIFF file using lossless compression (or none) may be edited and re-saved without losing image quality. This is not the case when using  JPEG.

JPEG: one of the most popular formats for image sharing The term stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group who created the format. JPEG is is a commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically achieves 10:1 compression with little perceptible loss in image quality- which makes it the easiest way to share images through email and to post on social media and websites.

PNG: Portable Network Graphics  raster graphics file format that supports lossless data compression. PNG was created as an improved, non-patented replacement for Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), and is the most widely used lossless image compression format on the Internet.

*mny people use png and jpeg formats interchangeably. They are not the same thing- but are both highly useable by most platforms.

Here’s a super tech-y link which goes into great depth on this subject.

DPI vs PPI from 99designs: Though the terms DPI (dots per inch) and PPI (pixels per inch) both describe the resolution (or clarity) of an image, they’re not the same thing. PPI describes the number of square pixels that show up in an inch of digital screen (usually between 67-300). DPI, on the other hand, is a printing term referring to the number of physical dots of ink in a printed document. You will often see these used interchangeably. Again- they are not the same thing! Though- to be fair I think we have all gotten used to using dpi as a blanket term.

Saving and Organizing your images: When photographing your work be sure to take RAW files.  I recommended using the highest resolution available to you. Your camera most likely has several “image quality” settings. These settings directly determine the image size and resolution of your images.  Check the manual of your camera to find out how. If you hire a photographer, ask for the RAW images. Often, photographers will give you two sets of images, RAW or TIFF and jpegs.

A photographic image is a grid of dots (or pixels). Higher resolutions contain more pixels across each row and down each column of this grid. Lower resolutions contain fewer pixels. Image quality and resolution are directly related. Higher resolution means better image quality. Therefore, while you can alter an image from high resolution to lower, you cannot go back. I recommend storing RAW files or you large files both in a folder labelled as such on your computer and in some external source whether it be in the cloud, on a disk or external hard drive. Always preserve your originals.

Before you begin editing an image you should always perform a “Save As” and make a copy using a different file name. The new image will then become your working copy. Never change an original! You never know when you may need to go back to it at a future time. This way, any time you want to use your image, you can retrieve the highest quality file, create a copy and alter it from there.

There are many ways to organize your photos. I recommend finding a way to keep RAW, 300ppi and 72ppi files of each piece. Organize by piece, body of work, or file size. Once you choose one method of organization- stick with it!

Once you have taken your photos, you will need to save them in your computer or external hard drive.

1. Transfer the raw photo files to your image archive database *we will discuss some option below. You will probably want to peruse your photos and weed out any sub-par or blurry images.

2. Separate the good images by individual works. You might want to rename the files with the artwork’s inventory number and the word ORIGINAL.

3. Put the selected images in a Hi-Res Images folder on your computer. You might want to make a dedicated ORIGINALS file, nested in this Hi-Res folder. Once you have the original files in this folder you never want to alter them, ever. These are like your negatives, the ultimate archive of your work. Altering the images decreases the image integrity, and can lead to things like pixilation, interpolation, etc. When you need to color correct these files, resize them, crop them, etc., you will want to use the Save As feature and save these in a Lo-Res Images file nested in your Archive folder on your computer.

Additionally, you will want to save each image in your archive in the following formats:

Archival raw image (we addressed this before)

300ppi JPG file used for prints. Make sure it is no more than 8 x 10 inches. (This can also go in the Hi-Res images file). You will use these for your portfolio or send them to press that request images.

72ppi JPG file used for Internet images. Make sure it is between 1500 and 2560 pixels wide. (Save this file in your Lo-Res folder.) This size is also ideal to send via email for a quick reference. 72dpi is never recommended for printing due to pixilation and other forms of digital noise.

*A warning about iPhoto if you use a Mac. It is a good idea to disable the function that opens your images automatically in iPhoto, or change the settings in iPhoto to preserve the integrity of your images. If you do not do this, iPhoto will automatically convert your images to 72dpi ( lower resolution). If you do not know how to either disable iPhoto or change the settings, there are some great tutorials out there.

*I realize you may not have access to your work or the right tools for taking images of your work during Allen Term. Later in the course however, we will critique your image quality together so you can proceed once you are in the studio again.

Backing up your files!

It is of the upmost importance that you back up your files, photos or otherwise. There are of course many ways of doing this. Do not delay! I cannot emphasize enough how important is is to find a solution and stick to it. I can’t tell you how devastating it is to lose your files. Here are some options:

Physical Storage 

  • CD (not recommended as so few computers have disk drives)
  • flash drives (be sure to label these and keep stored in a single location.)
  • external hard drive
  • time machine

In the Cloud:

Okay Okay- I got it! Save the images and save them in multiple sizes! How the heck do I do that?

Editing Digital files: 

You need a good graphics program. The industry standard is Adobe Photoshop, which, sadly, costs a pretty penny. Adobe now has a subscription service for all it’s applications, which now run on the cloud. At least it makes it more affordable for artists. While graphic tools like Photoshop make it very easy to retouch images after they are taken, it’s always best to get the right shot the first time around. So make sure you have the right camera, lighting, background, framing, and formats for your photographs.

You should always be aware of an editing function’s impact on the resolution of your image. Cropping and resizing can have a negative impact on your resolution, and therefore, image quality. Resizing an image is possibly the most commonly used editing function. Resizing an image has a direct impact on image quality. Quality is typically not degraded when resolution is decreased (i.e. the image is resized smaller). But when increasing resolution one should be aware that image quality WILL BE degraded. In other words- do not make an image larger than it is- it will become pixelated.

What size should web images be? Typically 72dpi and about 1500 x 2560 pixels

What size should print image be?Typically 300 dpi or larger and at least 2MB

Digital Image Manipulation Software: There is a wide spectrum of software available from free open software to the very expensive. Most photo editing software will more than likely have similar functions and screens. One I highly recommend is The GIMP, an open-source (free) image tool with lots of useful features. Others include resizeimage.netPixlrSplashup and  image There is of course the Adobe software. This has several tiers and the software is very useful. Adobe Elements is a limited or simplified version and therefore far less expensive. Adobe Creative Cloud includes access Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign etc. by the way- you all have access to the Creative Suite as students! Again, up to you to decide. I would suggest that if you find yourself using these tools frequently, well, you get what you pay for…






18 thoughts on “Managing Digital Images

  1. I never thought about keeping your original photos the way they are and make edits on a copy. I can see how this would be incredibly useful and makes sense to always have copies of each step.

  2. I find it so interesting hearing about RAW files, because I only started encountering them last year, and I had absolutely no clue what they actually meant! It’s also vaguely terrifying that iPhoto resizes photos… how exactly do you go about turning that setting off?

    How do you deal with storing dozens of hundreds of files when you’re saving originals, edits, etc?

  3. I had never really considered the importance of how we dealt with our images. This helped put in perspective the purpose and importance of separating and categorizing various copies of images for their intended use. I’m also just as glad to have learned the importance of ppi and the purpose of having both Hi-res and Lo-res images at your disposal.

  4. 1. Rather than letting the camera process the image for you, turning it into a JPEG image, shooting in raw process the image.
    2. Use TIFF (pictures can be edited and re-saved without losing image quality)
     or JPEG for storage.
    3. Use raw files to photograph pictures. Photographers will give you two sets of images, RAW or TIFF and jpegs.
    4. Never change an original. Before you begin editing an image you should always perform a “Save As” and make a copy using a different file name.
    5. Stick with one method of organization.
    6. Formats: 300ppi JPG file used for prints. Make sure it is no more than 8 x 10 inches. / 72ppi JPG file used for Internet images and send via email for a quick reference.
    . Make sure it is between 1500 and 2560 pixels wide. 
    About Mac: disable the function that opens your images automatically in iPhoto, or change the settings in iPhoto to preserve the integrity of your images.
    7. Back up files.
    8. Image size: web images: typically 72dpi and about 1500 x 2560 pixels
    print image: typically 300 dpi or larger and at least 2MB

  5. When my last laptop died on me, I lost all of my photographs. It wasn’t fun. Now I make sure my photographs are always uploaded to some sort of cloud and as a backup backup I email copies of them to myself just in case. (although emailing photos to yourself does alter their quality I’ve found, it’s still a good backup in case all else fails)

  6. It is so important to have Raw files of your work. I want to edit and make prints of my work to sell, and to do so it is best to start with the highest quality image possible. Unfortunately, due to my lack of knowledge of Lightroom, the majority of my images are JPEGS. I did not have the raw images saved to my hard drive, but had them stored in Lightroom. While trying to clean up my hard drive, I deleted the Lightroom catalog that had all my images. Since I did not have those images saved to my hard drive, I no longer have them. Sadly, I have mostly jpegs, which limits the size and quality I can get out of my physical prints.

  7. Managing and utilizing digital images of my work has always been something I tried to avoid, mostly due to my lack of proficiency working with digital devices. Although, in the future I intend to make this proficiency a priority, as it is crucial to being a successful artist in this day and age. I have never really understood the differences between raw, TIFF, JPEG, and PNG files. I feel I now have a much greater understanding of the applications of these different formats.

  8. I found this very helpful with figuring out what kind of photo formats are what. I never knew what tiff actually meant as I have not worked with those kinds of files often. I have saved my images in a few places just to make sure I always have a copy of my images in case something crashes. I really recommend getting a flash drive to help keep track of images.

  9. Again, something I am very poor at in my artistic practices. My files often get cluttered or do not exist. I surely do not keep many images in different formats or different places simply because it is confusing and I have not had the need to. This offers good tips on changing the format of files, editing files, and storing files. The reading also goes further in depth into what these file types are and their purposes.

  10. I find this to be the most confusing part with photographing your work! It is really the conversion of dimensions that confuses me the most. We talked about this in person a lot because I struggled, but the tutorial you personally gave me in photoshop seems like the best, most convenient way to take care of that issue however! And I appreciated your tip to pay for the monthly subscription only for certain times when we need it most! Those are the tips most professional wouldn’t share so its nice to have some disclosure from you on these things.

  11. I really appreciated the explanation of the origin and purpose for each file type. I was just wondering what types of files are used in different applications. I’d imagine that different applications (i.e. design programs, 2D programs, print programs) all require different files. Which files do you see most often and in what format? Also have you found a file format that projects well on a projector?

  12. I didnt even know there were so many different types of file formats for images, not to mention all the uses for them. For example, keeping a raw of every image just in case. The explanations for what everything is and when it is best to use them specifically is also very helpful. My question entails in how to store these pictures. Would it be better to store different versions of the same image in one folder, or to have different folders for raws, TIFFs, and JPEGs, etc?

  13. I think the biggest take away I got from this is just organization. As a digital artist, I’ve worked a lot with adobe and digital programing, file types and sizes, but I always seem to either get confused about which file I used last in a project, which ones are larger/smaller etc.
    Is it necessary to save all stages of digital editing or just the original and the end result?

  14. I always knew that I didn’t really understand photography but this just proves that I need to gain a little knowledge and experience in the subject. Reading this article was like reading a different language for me
    Do you believe Is it nessicary to get Photoshop?

  15. I did not know what a lot of those terms mean and i realized my previous comment was answered by this reading. Do you know if the student Creative Suite works offline? Also what are your thoughts on Photoshop vs light room?

  16. I have always used jpegs for art applications. I learned the advantages of using a TIFF while editing to not loose quality.

    What are the disadvantages of a TIFF file. Are they generally to large to use for an application?

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