A major oversight I often see with many photographers is how they're delivering final images. I'm talking about sizing for different uses, naming of files, the medium in which they're sent and the ease of how clients can access them.
So why does all of this matter? Simply put, I want all of my clients - be it a actor who's having new headshots, a commercial client who's shooting for an ad campaign or a business who needs images to use in their social media - to be able to access and use the images i've created with the least possible resistance. There's also benefits for me in sizing my work for specific purposes, but more on that later.
After any post production has been completed on a set of images there's a little extra work involved in prepping the final images for delivery - what I like to call 'the last 2%'.
This should really go without saying, renaming files is an easy step and there's no excuse for missing it. A client doesn't want to look through their finished, colour graded, retouched images and see a list of indecipherable names i.e. img004100, img004106, img004145 etc...
My approach is to rename files dependent on the client, for an actors headshot session it would be pretty simple - the actors name followed by a 3-digit number i.e. Dan_McCann_001. Another example might be a commercial client where each scene or setup is given it's own name i.e. DiCE_creative_development_001 or DiCE_Creative_Team_001 etc... this makes it simple and straightforward for the client to know which image is which just from looking at a list. Naming files in this way also makes them searchable, giving benefits online but also searching through a folder of images.
There are plenty of ways to do this, photo management software like Capture One, Lightroom or Bridge have a built in tool but OS X's automator can also be pretty handy for renaming batches of files.
Depending on the use, images can be tweaked to best suit their purpose. You'd be forgiven for thinking 'bigger is better' in that a higher resolution image will look great no matter what, however, in many cases there's a fine balance between resolution so an image will look good, but won't take forever to download/render on a webpage.
So the target I'm aiming for when sizing my images for web is the lowest common denominator - Facebook. If an image looks good on Facebook it's likely it'll look good on the majority of websites and other social media services. When you upload an image to Facebook it has an engine that inspects the image and checks to see if it's under a certain size (pixels and storage) if it's over the limit it automatically gets thrown into a (horrible) resize engine that shrinks it down to a size better manageable by their servers. The problem tends to be that the resizing engine that Facebook uses is very generic, it gets the job done but tends to make a mess of it - leaving photos looking blotchy, blurry or muddy. Try uploading a pretty big JPEG file and you'll see what I mean. To sneak an image past the engine it needs to be under a certain file size and be on or under 2048 pixels on the longest edge, my workflow is typically:
- Open in photoshop
- Resize the image so the longest edge is 2048 pixels long, make sure you check resample and the option selected is "Bicubic Smoother (Best for Enlargement)" I know where shrinking the file but by choosing bicubic smoother it lets gives you more control over the level of sharpening applied.
- Apply an Unsharpen Mask through the filters, my 'go-to' settings are: 60%, 0.7px Radius and a threshold of 3 levels. I've found this to work well for my camera, subjects and style of images but you'll probably have to experiment with different settings to get something that works well for you.
- Save as JPEG (don't save for web! It's an old obsolete method) and chose a maximum quality of 7.
Saving for prints can be a similar process however, I always think that larger prints will be viewed from a distance where as smaller prints are more likely to be picked up and scrutinised for every detail. Because of that it's important to size the image to the relevant print size at the correct dpi but also to sharpen appropriately for the medium.
If i'm delivering images in different sizes for a client i'll make sure to organise them into folders that make sense i.e. optimised for web (2048px) - that way the client knows exactly where the images should be used for best effect.
The last thing to mention is the delivery method of how the images are going to be sent to a client. The majority of my work is sent via the web however, there are still occasions where physical media such as a disc or USB key is used. In most cases i'll simply ask my client how they would prefer to receive the images, if they're savvy or have experience sending/receiving large files they'll probably have a method they'll prefer. If not i'll suggest a few options dependent on the use of the images. There are a few delivery mechanisms I tend to use:
- Pixieset - I think this is one of the best gallery based delivery systems out there. There's some good tools to help organise work and allow clients to pick favourites then download either the full set of photos or individual images. It works pretty well on any platform and most clients just get it straight away.
- Dropbox - I used to rely on dropbox to deliver files a lot but I just don't find it to be as useful as I used to. When dropbox was first launched it was a service like no other but now there are so many more options out there. I sometimes use dropbox to send a large number of files to someone who might not want to download them all immediately but instead browse them on a device and download them later.
- WeTransfer - by far the easiest way to send large files up to 2GB's for free and up to 10GB for a yearly subscription. Whilst WeTrasnfer is great for sending larger files it does have one big downside - downloads typically only work on a computer so a client can't access the files on a mobile device, and there's no way to just view individual files or images - it's all or nothing so a client can't view the images before downloading all of them.
My strategy is usually to use a combination of these options, pixieset so images can be viewed immediately and WeTrasnfer so that different sizes of images can be downloaded.
So in summary I'd say this last part of a project is just as important as any other step in the post production process. It can be difficult to go from completing a creative job then switching to 'admin' mode to finish everything off, it's not the most interesting part of creative work but it has to be completed - if that last 2% isn't done then the project isn't finished.
Any questions just ask in the comments, that was a long post! If you made it this far, thanks for reading!