Not naming names, but we have friends with some serious camera issues. The photo sizes are coming out to 300 megabites, way too big for a photo, even in print. So here’s a primer for those who have trouble wrapping their head around stills shooting.
Unless you have a specific purpose to use Camera RAW, don’t shoot in it. Camera RAW is a great option for a professional photographer and professional graphic artist, but it’s a “fix it in post” kind of thing and overkill.
Play around with your camera’s menu and options for a bit, keep the manual handy in case you need to reset anything or explore other options. I keep our Rebel XT set for 3456×2304 pixels. That translates to 11 x 8 inches in print. I shoot in jpg format, which keeps the file sizes down to about 5 megabytes each. JPG is an easy format to work with, it’s easy to store, and translates well later into web. Simply put, this size and format plays well with others.
You’ll be working with two types of media, print and web. To simplify, think in dimensions of pixels instead of dpi or inches. Print will require images to range from 900 x 1200 pixels (3 x 4 inches) all the way up to 2700 x 3300 (9 x 11 inches). Most web graphics will be in the range of 640 x 480 to 1600 x 1200 pixels. For example, my monitor is 1280 x 768 pixels, and our HD TV is 1366 x 768 pixels.
Our friend’s graphics are about 300 meg per photo. That is way, way, way too big. This is how to bring them down in size. Start by bringing them down to print size. Open your file in whatever program you use. Reduce the size of the image by bringing the largest dimension down to 3300 pixels. Keep the “Constrain Proportions” box checked. This will keep from stretching or squashing the image disproportionately. Save as a new file in jpg format. When given jpg options, choose large file (12 on Photoshop’s scale of 1-12). The file size should turn out to around 5 megs. It’s OK if the file size turns out a little larger.
It will to take a while to get these photos chugged down. I’m honestly surprised his computer can handle it. Image files larger than 100mg really put a strain on a typical computer’s memory. Given the number of photos, you may want to restart the software every once in a while, and even reboot on occasion to clear out memory and cache.
Once that’s done, you can start working on web resolution images. Open the print size files, which will now be much easier and faster to open, and once again bring the largest dimension down to 640 pixels. Save in a different folder as a jpg, only this time use the option to bring the file size down to “medium” or 6 on Photoshop’s scale of 1-12. Once you go below 6 on Photoshop’s scale, you start to get “artifacting”, that watered down look when photos and videos are compressed.
We’ll often save files in two separate folders or label images separately. For example, we’ll have folders labeled “print” and “web”, or have the files saved as web_cat1.jpg, or cat1_web.jpg.
Now you’ve got basic blocks to work with for both print and web. This should handle 90 percent of your needs and give people something to work with if they need to push. If someone needs a larger size web quality image, you simply draw from the print images and scale down to the new specs. In addition, you can actually blow up the print size pictures a little larger, depending on the job. I’ve blown up images at 1500 pixels wide all the way up to 2400 without many problems.
I do recommend getting Photoshop CS. There are a lot of great tools in Photoshop CS, regardless of the version. Photoshop is a must for working in the big leagues, but that’s another article for some other time.