(This text has appeared on the South Coast forum dinghysolent and will also be placed in the next Journal.)
I'm very conscious of the fact that the last three Journal cover photographs were taken at Coniston Water. I do check a range of members’ images available online, especially in the albums on dinghysolent, as a matter of routine before selecting the best shot available, but downloading pics from albums on Yahoo these days is often problematic.
I'm going to attempt to turn a problem into an advantage. If you think you have a good cover shot, email it to me at a resolution of at least 4MB, preferably higher (no need to go into double figures). If the shot needs drastic cropping, a higher resolution of 6MB or better is needed.
To make it worth your while, I will create a regular page of readers' photographs in the Journal so that good also-rans will be published as well as the single cover picture. Explain the subject in sufficient detail when you send it.
These points need to be kept in mind:
• The space that has to be filled on the cover is basically a square. This does not necessarily exclude the popular 'letter-box' frame which we often choose on today's cameras and phones, as long as the 'live' subject can be cropped out of the frame without losing anything essential or drastically reducing the resolution.
• Look at small thumbnail versions first, or scale down the size of your image on the fly. You need to sense that there is a good balance between the various elements in the shot before anything else. There has to be a certain boldness and simplicity to the subjects in view, so a picture packed with people and boats will rarely be satisfactory. Imagine looking at your photograph on the cover as the magazine lies on a table on the other side of the room. Would it make you walk over and pick it up?
• Keep your camera set at a high resolution. Cards are cheap today considering their capacity. Install one in your camera that has an excellent capacity – or do your housekeeping regularly and delete shots you have downloaded. All of my photographs that have appeared in the Journal – or on its cover – over the last three or four years have been taken with my little waterproof Pentax, in which the resolution is set at a never-changing 12MB. It is also set permanently to take wide 'landscape' shots, so I can crop out a subject or keep a panorama. It contains a 32GB card, which means I never have to worry about it becoming full. When sailing, there is never a convenient time to make adjustments to camera settings unless you are in a boring flat calm and looking for something to do.
• While supplying a list of captions with your photographs is fine, it is even better to change the name of your shot from something like IMG1050110, which means nothing to anybody, including you, and may even clash with other photographs on your computer hard drive with the same name, to text that explains the subject. This title can be pretty long – and should include your name or initials. Change only the text to the left of the stop! Retain such as .jpg, .tiff, and .pdf.
• If I were to time myself, I guess that once I have seen a photo I want, it rarely takes more than 5 minutes to place it on the cover of the journal. If you send me a low resolution shot and ask me to email you for it in high resolution if I like it, the time has gone up to anything over an hour. Usually, I pick up your high resolution image from your email and drop it into Photoshop to see if it can be enhanced. Then I change the mode from the usual RGB colour to CMYK (necessary for pro printing) and drop it into the InDesign doc which is your current journal. I will have retained the previous cover as a template, so all I need to do is place the new shot over the old one and tailor it quickly to the same size, then delete the old one.
• Regarding 'enhancement' so you can do this yourselves, I invariably look at: brightness, the balance between dark shadows and highlights, and natural colours. We have now reached a marvellous time in photography when an image can be produced so perfectly on a high-end smartphone, never mind a camera, that even photo-freaks who drop huge RAW images into their programs and tinker with them for hours are finding, to their dismay, that some phones and cameras have already done it better than they can manage. We need to use this advanced technology that is, paradoxically, so simple to use.
Examples: The two shots of Shipstall Point in DC238, pages 23 & 24, by Liz and Roger respectively, were great photographs that could not be used on a cover because the subject matter is spread out horizontally; however, they have come into their own when placed at the top and bottom of pages, because they are so wide I was able to bleed them off the edges of the paper. Photographs like this are always in demand for that reason – but are not suitable for the cover.
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