Picturing the outlook of an art director.
March 24, 2010 1:36 AM   Subscribe

The art director of a magazine I submit photos to seems to be rejecting my iPhoto adjustments in favor of the originals. Should I discontinue sending in the adjusted photos?

The photos are part of a photoessay on travel-related subjects. We're not talking National Geography here--the bulk of the pix are taken with my Nikon D40 camera and a zoom lens.

High-level tricks with Photoshop would go against the grain of the essay series (and magazine), so I shoot the pictures in raw and modify them with iPhoto. Usually, my adjustments are fairly basic. Typically, I click "Boost Color" on the Effects screen and then reduce the saturation a bit. Sometimes I increase the exposure on low-light photos. Then I export the raw photo into jpg and deliver the photo to the publisher.

It's hard to tell on the final, printed page, but it seems that the art director, in most cases, rejects my changes and returns the the photos to the original appearance for printing.

In the case of this magazine, have I committed a faux pas by sending in these iPhoto-altered pix? What's the proper protocol for submitting photos to magazines that rarely, if ever, publish heavily photoshopped pictures? Should I discontinue making changes, or is it okay to "brush up" the photos to make them more to my liking before I send them in? Finally, would it be better to submit the photos in raw format--and if so, how might I do this using iPhoto?
posted by Gordion Knott to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
So your question is: should you modify the photos before you send them, even though the art director wants the originals?
posted by devnull at 2:04 AM on March 24, 2010

Your client is telling you want he/she wants.

If you feel strongly that your version are better, then send both so that he/she can compare. But I'd do this only after asking the Art Director - in a non-defensive way - why he/she wants the originals.

If, after comparison, he/she still wants the originals only then you have the answer.

It could be any number of things: not-invented-here-syndrome; house style; an implied criticism of you. No point speculating. Just ask your client how you can better serve them and you should get an honest answer as to why they're making the decisions they are.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:50 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, why can't you just ask? It could be that they prefer the originals but it's easier for them to just hit reset each time than write an e-mail to you explaining that (especially if they are worried that you will take it as an attack on your sensibilities as a professional photographer -- they must be used to dealing with a lot of touchy freelancers even if you aren't one). An e-mail from you saying "Yo, I noticed you always seem to use the originals of photos I send, should I just not bother with adjustments from now on?" in a friendly, non-confrontational way might give them the perfect opportunity to say "Actually, that'd be great, thanks." Then both of your jobs will be easier.
posted by No-sword at 4:26 AM on March 24, 2010

They might have house style guidelines and / or colour calibration specific to their printers, both of which are better served by providing the orignials.
posted by jozzas at 5:02 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You really should be talking to the Art Director about this. Speaking as an Art Director, I like when someone calls me up and wants to talk about the project or get specs. It marks them as profession.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Before you speak to him, is it possible you're sending him the original files instead of the modified ones? (my iPhoto keeps them in separate folders)
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:41 AM on March 24, 2010

I am in complete agreement with everyone that says, "Just ask" (in an unassuming and non-aggressive way). I know that a few years ago I used to alter my photos quite a bit and didn't think I was being heavy-handed with the changes, but when I look back on them now I think, "Good lord, but that's kind of garish." It's possible that you can't see what you're looking at with the same eyes as your art director, so just ask.

Secondly, if you're sending them .jpgs and they're having to modify them, that's two edits to one photo, giving just a little more chance for artifacting and noise (if they're pushing around brightness / exposure levels) and everything else that comes with saving in a lossy format. Better to send them something they can use without having to edit a second time.

Finally, I take minor issue with the implication that Photoshop is only to be used to make photos scream in loud complex ways - chances are the "Boost Color" effect in iPhoto is more clunky than a few minor tweaks in some color balance / levels / hue & saturation adjustment layers. I mean I don't feel like you're knocking Photoshop as a program, just sounds like you are implying it's only to be used for "high-level tricks" when it can certainly be as subtle as a summer breeze.
posted by komara at 6:50 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you sure he's rejecting the changes? This could happen if he's using a color-corrected workflow to process his images, especially if you are not using tools that are calibrated.

Or, it could be the other way around...
posted by circular at 7:13 AM on March 24, 2010

Just ask him- He's either exhibiting a clear preference or he's experiencing a tech goof. Either way a quick e-mail will make both on you way happier.
posted by GilloD at 7:19 AM on March 24, 2010

You're probably sending the original files, not the corrected ones. If you were sending the corrected ones there wouldn't be a way to "undo" your color changes easily and get the exact original again. The art director is probably using what you're submitting, which are the uncorrected originals that you sent.

This. And what another commenter said about two edits increasing the chance of added noise and pixel disturbance in the photos.

Another thing is that you're viewing your modifications on your monitor and the chances are that the retouching can look very different on another monitor, and may look different from multiple monitors when compared to the final print. Because of these variations, it is necessary to talk to the art director to discuss format and requirements.
posted by Eicats at 8:00 AM on March 24, 2010

Former photo editor for a major newspaper here.

have I committed a faux pas by sending in these iPhoto-altered pix?

no, but why not send the originals? Some pubs have policies that allow the PE to do minor color correction on site.

What's the proper protocol for submitting photos to magazines that rarely, if ever, publish heavily photoshopped pictures?

It varies by pub. some editors will want the RAW files, others something else. The point is to dialog with your editor.

Should I discontinue making changes, or is it okay to "brush up" the photos to make them more to my liking before I send them in?

You're getting into tricky territory here. It depends on the pub. If you are doing commercial shoots for magazine advertising, then "brush-up" until your hearts content. If you are supplying photo-journalistic images to a news organization, send the original, unaltered file along with your color corrected file with a description of your post-processing.

Talk to your editor/AD about these issues - it's their job to answer these questions. They won't think less of you because you are asking questions. These are not stupid, newbie questions, they are legitimate and important questions that only your editor can truly answer.
posted by archivist at 8:01 AM on March 24, 2010

I noticed that photos that I was exporting from iPhoto with changes were actually going out as the originals, without cropping or anything. I think there was a setting under the export options. So, I suspect that you might not be sending what you think you're sending.

I also think you should talk to the Art Director and get this sorted out.
posted by amanda at 9:40 AM on March 24, 2010

I think you also need to lose a bit of your need for control here. You are submitting materials; they decide how they'll use them. You can submit an article and the editor will chop it to pieces, move paragraphs around, and rewrite the opening. Unless you're HST you're not getting final edit. Heck, it's often difficult for Hollywood directors to get the final say on their films.

To get paid, this time and next, you give them what they want.
posted by dhartung at 11:30 AM on March 24, 2010

Just out of curiosity, do you use a hardware calibrated monitor when you do your editing? If you don't who knows what your images are looking like when he's seeing them?

Also, as you look through back issues of the magazine, do you see published photos which tend to have a style similar to those you're tweaking? If not, you're just misunderstanding the style of the needs of this publication.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:41 PM on March 24, 2010

I should have added to my post above that on the relatively rare occasions that I deliver a job when I feel like a significant "look" I apply to pictures substantially enhances them, I also deliver more conventional "raw file to finished" versions of the images.

I don't loose any sleep over this when the more conventional versions are used.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2010

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