What your photographer’s picture language means

A quick read on terms you need to know

Conversing with a photographer about what’s included in a booking can be confusing. Here are some terms and concepts that’ll help make sense of it all.

Image resolution: this drives whether an image is printable or can only be viewed electronically. Image resolution is all about a) the number of pixels per inch (ppi) in an image — the more the better — and b) the height and width of the image in number of pixels (px) — the bigger the better.

Most commonly, photographers deliver images that are either 72ppi (low-resolution pics good only for electronic or online viewing) or 240ppi or 300ppi pics (high-resolution and printable).

Printable size: To know how large a print in inches that you can make from a digital image, divide the image’s height and width by its PPI.

Example: An image with dimensions of 2400 x 3600 pixels and a PPI of 300 can make a excellent-quality 8″x12″ print. This is the natural print dimension of a photo produced by most professional digital cameras. The same image at 240ppi would make a good quality 8×12 print.

Native image format: this is the image format produced by a professional digital camera. The generic term for this is RAW file. Native-format images require conversion to viewable formats such as TIF, PNG, or most popularly, JPG. The aspect ratio of native images is 2:3. In printing terms, it’s 4×6 or 8×12. If you want an 8×10 or 5×7 print, the RAW image must be cropped to fit those sizes.

Watermark: a watermark is a semi-transparent mark placed on an image to indicate studio ownership. Sometimes, watermarks are striped through the middle of the image to make the image undesirable for online sharing or printing. Sometimes, a watermark is a studio’s logo discreetly positioned in a corner of the image.

Proof/proofing gallery: a proof is a low-resolution image, usually watermarked, and delivered to the client by way of an online gallery or through some other file-sharing means like Dropbox. Proofs are delivered for client viewing, on the condition that they not be printed or shared with others.

Okay, that’s enough jargon for now, and it’s enough to clear the way for an intelligent conversation with your photographer when you’re discussing what your pro might include or charge extra for.

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