300dpi

5 September 2008

In the broadband age, how much bandwidth a picture attached to an email chews up probably shouldn't matter. But it does, especially when you've got PRs sending you, unsolicited, 5MB attachments.

It doesn't matter when I'm at my desk: the hard drive will take a while to fill up. But when you're on the road or abroad and trying to download page proofs over 3G at the same time those big emails come in, it makes a big, big difference. And for quite a few people who are on-staff at publishers, it's a problem. Because they all too often have just 50MB or 100MB in their server email accounts. Get a release with a 5MB attachment and you've just blown away 5 or 10 per cent of your storage allocation. So, guess which emails get deleted.

Even more stupefying is when you get a picture like this.

plantfull.jpg

Yes, the photo has been shot through a window so you get the benefit of the reflection in the image. But that's not the best bit. You see, we keep telling people that if they want to send images they should be 300dpi. Then we adjusted the advice because people would go into Photoshop and simply change the pixel resolution on their digicam shots from 72dpi to 300dpi. All you do then is make the physical dimension of the photo smaller. So, we said: "Make it the equivalent of a 7 x 5in print at 300dpi". That would sort it out, surely?

Um, no.

plantpic.jpg

From this detail at 100 per cent, you can see what they've done. They've taken a tiny, overcompressed JPEG and, in Photoshop, enlarged the image to a 7 x 5in at 300dpi and then, to cap it off, put it into the CMYK colour space and saved at Maximum quality. Bingo: instant 4MB file.

If nothing else, you get a visual lesson in what effect overdoing JPEG compression has on images. Just look at the ghosts you get around any moderately hard edges.

Believe it or not, the EXIF data for the photo says it was shot on a Canon Eos 1Ds. Yes, that's right. A proper camera. However, why they shot it at f/2.8 is something of a mystery given that, even from this bad a sample, hardly anything seems to be sharp. The bigger mystery is why someone took an 11Mpixel image, crunched it down to something like a 100KB JPEG, boosted it back to the 4Mpixel range, and then sent it out to a bunch of magazines expecting it to get used.

Sending JPEGs in CMYK, by the way, is generally a bad idea too because it practically doubles the size of the image and some image-editing software packages have been known to silently lose one of the colour planes, thinking it's just an RGB JPEG. That is, unless you like seeing pictures of purple people, because that's generally the effect you get.

1 Comment

It is absolutely amazing in a world with so much virtual storage for public access, that my compatriots haven't figured out how to use FTP for distributing large files.

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