In an effort to help us all understand each other better – and save some time.
I have listed a number of questions I am often asked
- When seeking a quote what sort of things should I consider including in the brief to a photographer.
- This is all very confusing – how do I compare apples with apples.
- Why do I get charged extra for digital file conversions. I do not seem to need them when I take my own photographs on my own camera.
- Who owns the copyright to the photographs.
- What do I ask for when ordering digital files.
- What is the difference between a JPEG a TIFF and a RAW file and what does interpolation mean.
- Why do I need to have a special file prepared when I need a black and white image.
- I thought photography might be less expensive with digital – why has that not happened?
- Can you explain (in laymans terms) dpi and resolution, the difference between 8 bit and 16 bit, and RGB and CMYK.
- How should we handle talent and property releases.
A. When seeking a quote what sort of things should I consider including in the brief to a photographer.
When seeking a quote (or an estimate) or commissioning a photographer you need to make sure you ask all the right questions. The obvious – when, where, how etc. Other things to consider including are
- What quality of photography are we hoping to achieve – including examples of work at the level you are hoping for is handy. Be very clear about your objectives and what you are expecting as a final outcome.
- What are the deadlines, time lines etc and is the photography weather or seasonally dependent.
- Is this an estimate or a quote – my estimates are often given with a contingency – quotes are normally fixed unless the brief changes.
- Is this an important job ? if so request the photographer allows extra time to meet with you and have a look at the site or sites.
- What is the final use of the photographs,
- What size digital image files will I need, how many do I expect in the final delivery and how do I want them delivered.
- If you are working with a designer or Agency give the details to the photographer – it helps if everyone is on the same page.
- What needs to be included in the quote – travel, pre and post production, do you expect photoshopped images etc.
- If it is an industrial job will the photographer need any special training or access permits.
B. This is all very confusing – how do I compare apples with apples.
When comparing two (or more) quotes make sure you have asked all the right questions and have provided a written brief to all the photographers. Ask them to provide their quote in a form you can understand – it’s sometimes best if you supply a word document outlining the job and ask that the quote be submitted as part of this document, broken down into cost area’s you understand. It is essential that all the photographers are quoting on the same brief. Things to be specific about are
- How many images are you hoping for – specify the number of high res finished files.
- What origonal size files are you expecting – ask that you are not supplied interpolated files. Some jobs will need medium format back digital files to achieve the quality you need eg for high quality large stand up banners (image size over 2 meters) a file size of 300+ megabytes may be required. That will be very difficult form a 10 meg DSLR and you may be disappointed at the quality..
- Be precise as to what your useage will be and for what licensing time you need.
- Is the photographer paying all their own expenses eg, travel, location and talent fees,
- If talent is involved are you sourcing them or is the photographer.
C. Why do I get charged extra for digital file conversions. I do not seem to need them when I take my own photographs on my own camera.
Most professional photographers working at a relatively high level will shoot in the digital RAW format. When you use your own camera it is capturing the files as jpegs. Hopefully you have the camera set up correctly – if so the camera’s on board computer will process the jpegs.
These RAW files are the highest quality possible from the camera and are not of any use to anyone unless they have the right processing soft ware. The simplest way to explain it, is perhaps comparing it to when we shot on black and white film. A photographer shot the job, processed the film and delivered proofs. Once a selection was made you did not use the proof a print was made. The photographer did not deliver the negative. RAW digital files are like the negatives. the job is shot, and edit done, low res (often watermarked) JPEG’s (proofs) for selection are delivered on line, The selected images are then processed, colour and contrast adjusted, and a high res TIFF file or a jpeg is delivered.
Depending on what the image is to be used for will dictate what sort of file is delivered.
RAW digital files need to be spotted, have the colour, contrast adjusted and optimized for the requested use. Then saved in the required format. This can take, per file, anywhere from 5 minutes for a simple jpeg, to 30 + minutes for a 100 meg RGB TIFF file.
D. Who owns the copyright to the photographs.
Under Australian copyright law, as creator of the images, the photographer owns to copyright to all their images. This is true for all my work unless agreed otherwise before hand. I license my work as explained in the pricing section below.
E. What do I ask for when ordering digital files.
What size and type of file you need depends on what you are hoping to use the image for – eg a 200kb file may look good on the screen at 1000 pixels wide (about full screen on a 20″ monitor) @ 72ppi, but will not reproduce any bigger than a few centimetres on the printed page @ 300 dpi. You may have be caught with a small (or low resolution) file, had it printed and wondered why the image appeared fuzzy.
When ordering a file it is best to give the largest size you hope to use the image. If in doubt, ask for a 3 sizes,
- JPEG for full screen res (or a powerpoint) in the srgb colour space – approximately 1000 pixels wide @ 72 ppi,
- JPEG for repro up to A5 @300 dpi
- Highest resolution TIFF you can get from the file without interpolation.
F. What is the difference between a JPEG a TIFF and a RAW file and what does interpolation mean.
These are all common terms used when to refer to digital files. A brief explanation of each follows.
RAW – these files are the highest quality you can capture with a digital camera. They allow tremendous flexibility in post-production allowing you to change exposure, colour, contrast etc. You will need an advanced software program to read the files. Most photographers will not release their RAW files. These files generally have no compression.
TIFF – The ‘Tagged Image File Format’ (TIFF) is the industry standard for high resolution files. Once again, unless you have a pro version of Photoshop (or similiar) you may not be able to view these files. These files are preferred for all high end repro and are not suitable for web or screen use.
JPEG – The ‘Joint Photographic Experts Group’ is once agin the industry standard for compressed files. The file size depends amount of compression (or the quality) applied when saving the file.
Interpolation – Interpolation is a way of increasing the size of a digital file. Depending on the subject it can be very good – however with some types of subjects and subject matter – eg buildings with hard edges, the image can appear to become pixelated or fuzzy.
G. Why do I need to have a special file prepared when I need a black and white image.
All digital photography is captured in RGB colour. The example below illustrates why it is often best to prepare a file specifically for black and white repro. The two programs i use capture One and the latest version of Photoshop has special software built in to enable those who know how, to prepare a Black and White digital file to get the most out of a file as a black and white. It is often a more complex job than preparing a colour file. In this image we have two problems,firstly the colours (green and skin tones) in grey scale have very simliar values, it is also a very flat image , this is okay in colour but not so good in black and white.. The grey scale conversion is a straight conversion, the Optimised balck and whte has been processed to seperate the colours in black and white up the contrast of a very flat image.
|Colour||Straight Greyscale conversion||Optimised Black and White|
G. I thought photography might be less expensive with digital – why has that not happened?
A bit hard to give a simple answer, but in a nutshell it’s all down to work flow and economics.
Let’s start with economics. 15 years ago a professional photographer bought a camera system and it was good for 5 to 15 years depending on what style of camera system, eg a Nikon and a bag of lens were good for 5 to 8 years, a Hassleblad or a large format 5×4 10 to 20 years depending on use-age. I’ve been shooting digitally for 5 years now – in that time I have worked my way through 4 camera systems . I now run 2, a 12 megapixel Nikon DSLR and a medium format 22 mega pixel Phase One back. All in all I have invested well over $100,000 in the past 5 years on cameras, computers, scanners, software etc – I’ve lost count of all the workshops I’ve attended learning how to use the gear and spent over $30,000 just insuring it all. The life of a high end digital camera is a bit like a computer 2 to 3 years tops. One item, my Phase One digital back cost $36,000- and I still need a camera and lens for it.
On the work-flow front. While a client no longer has to pay for film. There are now hours spent in front of a computer editing and preparing files. In the days of film the photographer shot the job did a quick edit, delivered the film – then the client or the art-director did all the post production.
H. Can you explain (in laymans terms) dpi and resolution, the difference between 8 bit and 16 bit, and RGB and CMYK.
DPI and resolution – DPI (dots per inch / often referred to as PPI or pixels per inch) and physical size will dictate the file size.
For example, a file from my Digital SLR can be various sizes. Straight from the camera RAW file to an RGB TIFF, it’s a 35 megabyte file. This image would be suitable to run as an A3 printed at 300 dpi.
Following are the file sizes at different physical sizes and resolutions downsized from the original 35 meg file. Image quality would be suitable for hard copy repro eg a magazine or brochure – the last size is an image suitable for a Power Point show.
- Same image downsized to an A4 TIFF @ 300dpi – 22 megabytes
- Same image as an A4 high quality JPEG @ 300 dpi – 4 megabytes
- Same images as an A5 high quality JPEG – 1 megabyte.
- Same iimage as an A5 medium quality JPEG – 300 kilobytes.
- Same image as a full screen res low quality jpeg – 70 kilobytes.
It is generally agreed that a high quality JPEG (while it may be a much smaller file) is almost identical in quality to a TIFF file of the same file.
Difference between 8 bit and 16 bit – When we need to be working with the highest quality files we often work in 16 bit. This has the biggest colour range and bit depth. A 16 bit file cannot be made into a jpeg – You will need photoshop to open it.
RGB and CMYK
CMYK (cyan,magenta,yellow and black) is the standard for offset printing industry – it is a different colour space than RGB. The RGB file needs to be converted to CMYK by someone who has pre press skills. It is essential to know what sort of press the image will be printed on as well as the paper stock and ink weight to get the best repro.
RGB (red green blue) is the standard colour space when shooting digitally – these files are suitable for all computer screen use and most Inkjet printers.
For more precise information, have a look at
J. How should we handle talent and property releases
It is becoming normal when photographing any one or any thing (a house or a even a Public Building) for commercial use, to get a release form signed by either the person in the picture or the owner of the building. This way there can be no misunderstanding as to what the image might be used for then or at a later date. This will also often apply when Photographing employees for company documents and promotional brochures or the web.