A Niche is Supposed to be a Good Thing

Once upon a while back, I read and refrained from joining in on a conversation about required sizes of digital images for quality print.  One individual insisted that 300 dpi and 72 dpi are exactly the same thing and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Yeah.  I’ll let you absorb that for a moment.

Party B said “um… no” and proceeded to explain why.  Party A refused to listen, and Party C, on whose page this conversation was taking place, finally said “hey, let’s just cite artistic difference and end this”.  Wise party, that C.  C was wrong, of course, but at least the conversation ended.

It has recently been brought to my attention that someone of the Party A school is starting a magazine.  And their “niche” will be not requiring high-resolution images.

You need another moment to absorb?  Yeah.  I did, too.

Now, I could leave this alone, let it crash and burn under the fucktacular flame of failure that awaits it not long past the release of the first issue, but my concern about letting this “magazine” follow that road to inevitable ruin is that it will not go alone.  It takes a lot of people to make a magazine.  I happen to like the majority of the pinup models I’ve met, in person and online, and I don’t take kindly to the idea of anyone letting their own Grade A shitcompetence make any of those ladies look bad.

So, ladies, if you are reading this, a word of advice: Do not EVER let yourself be published by ANYONE who claims to not need a high-resolution copy of your image for print.


1) A large part of the confusion in situations such as these arises from a lack of understanding of what a high-resolution image really is.  A 300 dpi image is not automatically high-resolution, and a 72 dpi image is not automatically NOT high-resolution.  There are other factors that need to be taken into account.  And contrary to Party C’s above citing of artistic differences between the two, they are mathematic realities, not merely differences of opinion.  And dpi is not the most important factor.  The most important factor is the total number of dots, not how many happen to be displayed per inch.

Say you are prepping an image for a standard size single page layout.  An 8.5 x 11 inch page at 200 dpi, which is a good quality for print, translates to a total image size of 1700 x 2200 pixels.

If you begin with an image that is 300 dpi with a total image size of 2550 x 3300 pixels, you’re fine.  There are enough dots to get the job done.  However, if you have a 300 dpi image with a total size of 1275 x 1650, you have a problem.

If you have an image that is 72 dpi with a total image size of 7650 x 9900 pixels, that will translate to an 8.5 x 11 inch page at 200 dpi perfectly well.  You have enough dots to get the job done.  However, if you have a 72 dpi image with a total image size of 612 x 792 pixels, you have a problem.

Compression is not a problem.  Expansion is.

When you try to spread your 612 x 792 original image over what needs to end up as your 1700 x 2200 page image, what happens in this; you only have .36 of a dot for every 1 dot of image you are trying to create, and the rest has to come from somewhere.  And where it comes from is…

Guesswork.  Total guesswork.  Educated guesswork, true, of the type called “intuitive” and “content-aware” and all sorts of other terms of jackoffery that software marketing companies need to label guesswork so that it sounds like your computer actually knows what it’s doing.  But the bottom line is, your computer is making up content to fill 1 dot with only .36 dots of original information.  And the end result looks something like this:

Click to enlarge. Please. Click to get a better view of what happens when a computer has to make up 2/3 of your information.


Nobody is going to pay for that kind of crap print quality twice.  Not even my mother would pay for that twice, and she loves me and my work pretty much unconditionally.

2) Even when a magazine makes it abundantly clear that high-resolution images are a requirement for print, there are far too often instances of images being submitted, usually by models but occasionally by photographers too, that the person doing the submitting has no legal right to be submitting.

Usually, if a person is in possession of a high-resolution, non-watermarked copy of an image, it is an indication that they have the right to use it as they see fit, as long as proper credit is given.  Photographers are not in the habit of handing out print-ready files to models who don’t also have permission to submit them for print, and only the worst kind of fool would ever just post a file of that type where it could be downloaded by any casual Internet passerby.

So when Magazine A says to Contributor B “I need a hi-res image”, and Contributor B says “well I don’t have it and I can’t get it”, that should tell Magazine A something.  Specifically, it should tell them that Contributor B does not legally have the right to give Magazine A permission to print the image.

What this magazine is doing, other than creating crap-quality content, is opening the door for a flood of images that it has no right to use.  Oh, you say they’re going to get a release from both parties?  And what’s to stop Contributor B from just completing that themselves, particularly in an age of electronic releases where there is no actual live signature required?  And even if there is a live signature required, how do you know it’s actually the signature of the photographer, and not Contributor B’s best friend?  Anyone can tell you that you can stay in my house for a week.  Only I can give you the keys and show you how to work the coffeemaker.  Obtaining a high-resolution, non-watermarked, print-ready copy of an image is about the best assurance a publisher can have that everything is on the level legally.

But, if Magazine A insists on skipping lightly down this path of inanity, convinced that they are actually doing anyone a favor by saving them the “hassle” of obtaining hi-res files, how long do you think it will be before a lot of photographers get really pissed off because 1) their images are being used without their permission, and/or 2) the images are the aforementioned total crap quality, which does not do good things for anyone’s professional reputation?

Yes, it’s always nice to be published.  But do you really want to be published like that?