A Free Your Portfolio & You Article: “Art Images – Digital, Slide, & Print”

This article has been superseded by my new publication, Dealing with Photographs, Slides, Digital Images although this article is still available as a free download.

Photographs, Slides, Digital Images…

Color images of your work are essential whether or not you exhibit your work. Take pictures or scan anything you create because you never know when you'll need a reminder of what you made your first grandson, which design you used for your niece's birthday gift (and therefore, can't use for her sister!), or an image is needed of a creation that gets stolen.

And, one day, the bug will hit and you'll wish photos, digital images, or slides existed of some of the earlier pieces. If you exhibit, galleries, shows, businesses, and critique groups all want digital images, slides, or photos. Most people do not have the imagination to mentally picture your work based on a word description nor do they want to take the time. The image is your selling point and your history.

Do You Need Slides or Digital Images?

When you do plan to apply to shows, you must have quality images to send galleries and shows. Some exhibitions and galleries still ask for slides; most are asking for JPEGs (digital images). Newspapers, magazines, books, television programs, and the big art shows ask for publicity photos of the artist often enough that you will also need a publicity photograph of yourself. I have used mine in a few unexpected ways.

Some artists' reasons for keeping images of their artwork:

  • Documentation and records
  • Competition entry or jury slides
  • Distribution to galleries and for publicity
  • Internet
  • High-quality print reproduction for sale or portfolio use
  • Direct sale

Where do you get photographs done? Who does them? Is it really worth paying a professional? How many photographs do I need? Slides? Digital images? Color prints? Black-and-white? Why do I need them? What's a master? Where can I get reprints made? What's a TIF? JPGs? Why am I doing this at all???

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Slides are still being requested although at far fewer shows. For those of you who still have slide images, consider having them drum scanned onto a CD by a photo processing company.

Digital Images

Most galleries prefer to be sent digital images and almost all shows require digital images now. Digital images are also the easiest and cheapest (eventually) for you to have on hand. Yes, this means you must have a computer and learn some software.

Everything necessary for submitting digital images is available on the following free programs:

  • PCs come with two free image programs:
    • Paint
    • Photo Gallery
      • You will need to learn both as each has features the other does not.

  • Macintoshes come with iPhoto, which provides the same features as Paint and Photo Gallery

More powerful software which must be paid for includes:

  • Adobe Photoshop
    • It includes the features necessary for manipulating digital images just like iPhoto, Paint, and Photo Gallery and more and less.
      • More is more ways to manipulate an image
      • Less is that it does not help organize your images, which iPhoto and Photo Gallery do.
    • It is an excellent professional software-imaging program. It is also difficult to use right out of the box.
  • Adobe Elements
    • A stripped-down version of Photoshop if you prefer something with a little more power than the free programs.

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File Formats Used for Digital Images

Download a File Format Cheatsheet!

One bit per pixel
Uncompressed (saves as huge files)
Used by CorelDRAW, digital image processing software
Great program but rarely used due to the difficulty in sharing its files across software programs
Encapsulated Postscript Format
Used to store images so applications that work with Postscript can read and/or edit them
More closely related to TIF documents
Graphics Interchange Format
Designed to compress images to make them as small as possible
Internally compressed bitmap
Best for Internet use where quality is not an issue and you need a small file size
Joint Photographic Experts Group
Used extensively for photos used or sent on the Internet and continuous tone images
Very popular with Web designers
Internally compressed bitmap
Uses lossy compression
Portable Network Graphics
Ideal for when you really, really have to have an invisible background on the Internet
Bitmap image
Uses internal lossless compression
Created to replace the GIF format
Use with gray scale, RGB, or palette-based 24-bit RGB colors
Can’t be used with CMYK
Used with Adobe PhotoShop
Used for original images
Image data from a digital camera or scanner
Sometimes referred to as a “digital negative”
Not directly usable as an image until processed through an imaging software program
Standard file extension used when original photos first downloaded from a digital camera
Used for original images
Tagged Image File Format
Originally designed so images could be passed around to work with different applications
All popular image editing and e-publishing programs use this format
Internally compressed bitmap
Saves uncompressed using lossless compression
Best for printing onto paper

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Black-and-White Glossies

Black-and-white glossies are essential for newspaper publications. It's very handy to have several images (with good value contrast) in black-and-white 8"x10" glossies to help in promoting your work.

Three methods yield black-and-white prints:

  1. Shooting a roll of black-and-white film
  2. Print from a high-contrast color print negative
  3. Convert a color digital image

Anne points out that a photographer can shoot both color and black-and-white rolls of film during the same photo session for slides. When you take an artwork in to be photographed or are doing it yourself, use up a roll of black-and-white print film and then print some black-and-white images of the art piece. Even if most of the roll is wasted, it is cheaper than not having any black-and-whites!

A black-and-white print can be made from a high-value contrast color print negative. You print can also create good black-and-whites from digital images on the computer when you need those. Adobe Photoshop is the best software to use to create the best black-and-whites from color.

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Color Prints

Businesses (and some galleries) like color prints because they can glance through them without having to fire up a slide projector or hunch around a computer monitor. If you are producing prints from color slides, the original had better be of the best quality or you can plan on spending a lot of money for custom prints (custom means they muck about with the color—they're beautiful pictures and VERY expensive). If you are using digital images, the size of your resolution will determine how large an image you can print.

Turn Slide Images into Prints

If the slide is fairly good, it can be enlarged/copied (they can tidy up focus and color a bit) on a color Xerox to whatever size desired at any copy shop, which has the equipment (Kinko's, OfficeMax, Rocky's Copies, etc.). The quality is pretty good and it is cheaper than prints.

Most copy shops will not let you watch and wait while they do the work so be sure to examine carefully each different shot:

  • Are the borders included?
  • Is the color accurate?

Make them re-do any that do not work for you.

Some scanners also come with a slide attachment so you can scan your slides into the computer; many of the photo processing companies will also scan your slides (they refer to slides as “transparencies”).

Be sure to ask for the drum processing for a high-quality, high-resolution image.

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Turn Digital Images into Prints

Computers allow you to resize your image(s) making this the most versatile media to use for art images. Always aim for the highest resolution image you can possibly afford.

Resolution is how many pixels are used to create the image. The more pixels used, the greater the number of color values that are possible. On the down side, a really high-resolution image translates into a really big file size. If you have a lot of images, you might want to consider a separate hard drive just for the images

A digital image can be tidied up similar to a slide image. BUT, first…

  • Store all original images in a separate “originals” folder (preferably your “originals” folder is inside your “images” folder
  • NEVER manipulate your original
    • NEVER manipulate a JPG file as each time you save the JPG, the quality of the image degrades
    • Ideally, save the original as a TIF, PSD, or RAW file
    • When you want to play, open the original file
  • ONLY play with a duplicated digital image
    1. Open an original image
    2. Duplicate the image
      • Adobe Photoshop allows you to duplicate the image (Image > Duplicate)
      • iPhoto automatically keeps the original image intact while you play
      • Photo Gallery is new to me and I haven't used it
      • Or, just do a Save As saving the duplicated original image with a different name

Play it safe, get in the habit of always duplicating your image before you manipulate it and never manipulate a JPG file (images sometimes “arrive” as JPGs; save them as PSD or TIFFs in your “originals” folder—and then play with the images).

You can do some sharpening, adjust the color and straighten the image, and you can crop it to eliminate any distracting elements. The same scrutiny required for color-Xeroxed prints should be applied to the images you manipulate—be sure the borders are there and that the color is accurate.

Hire a pro!
KD Did It will work with you.

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Photo of Kathy Davie

Kathy Davie is an editor, author, and artist with degrees in Technical Writing & Editing, Digital Media, and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing with an ongoing series of posts on Word Confusions, what’s Properly Punctuated, those tricky Formatting Tips, and the sleep-inducing Grammar Explanations. There is also an online tutorial on Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool.

And if you get too sleepy, explore KD Did It for various writing and editing services.

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