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Quick Specifications for Digital Images

Information for the BC Community

Goya: Ventura Rodriguez

For Large, Uncompressed Master Image Files:

For Images To Be Displayed On A Monitor Or By Projector

If you are photographing or scanning with no intention of creating a large, uncompressed master file, you can set your imaging device to create much smaller files intended only for display. If you have master files of images that you wish display, you can create "derivative" files that will be better suited to this purpose. Your imaging device may have come with software that will allow you to make the necessary transformations to your file. If not, you can use Adobe Photoshop software, which is available on the Macintosh computers in the Slide Library. Adobe also offers a software package called Photoshop Elements, which includes all of the most commonly used capabilities of the full version of Photoshop at a much lower cost. If you'll be doing a lot of your own imaging work, you may want to consider purchasing Photoshop Elements (or another digital photo editing program) for your own computer. PicMonkey offers free, web-based image-editing for most routine tasks. If you are a Windows person, you can download the photo-editing software FastStone for free.

When transforming files, keep in mind that you should NEVER increase the size of an image from its original dimensions. An image file is comprised of a certain number of pixels. When you increase the dimensions of a picture, the pixels in the original image are pulled further apart, and the spaces in between filled in by your imaging application's interpolating algorithm — mathematical "guesswork" that results in a poorer-quality image (see How Can I Determine How Big My Image Is?). The specifications below assume that you are creating new images, or creating derivatives from a larger image.

For Images To Be Printed

This is not an area in which I have much expertise, but I know enough to recommend that, if you're preparing images for publication, you check with the publisher to determine required specifications. Cambridge University Press, for example, has its guidelines for submission of electronic images posted online. I would also recommend that you contact BC's Media Technology Services' Photography department (x28677), as they undoubtedly have experience preparing images for publication.

The following specifications are for casual printing needs — things you're printing using home or office printers. If you're using a printing utility that came with your imaging device or printer, it may make the appropriate conversions automatically. If you have the documentation for the printer that you'll be using, check to see if it includes recommended specifications for printing images, and use those instead.

Other Useful Links

Creating/Processing Digital Images: Some Considerations

Working with digital images

Creating digital images (external website; advice on file format, size, etc.)

A few scanning tips (external website)

Image quality: Resolution vs. pixel dimensions (an external site that addresses common misconceptions regarding resolution)

Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines (external website)

Robert: The Pont du Gard near Nimes

Images courtesy of Saskia, Ltd.
Top: Francisco de Goya, "Portrait of the Architect Ventura Rodriguez (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm); Bottom: Hubert Robert, "The Pont du Gard near Nimes," 1786 (Louvre, Paris)