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Why you can't just 'shrink' a JPEG

Following a recent discussion on a forum which consists of mostly PR people, I was shocked to hear the treatment various PRs have at times given photos to make them suitable for email and publication - with no real regard to the effect the various treatments will have on the final image and image quality.

People were using a variety of applications such as Word, Picasso or Paint to 'shrink' or resize JPEG photos in an attempt to make them smaller.

Three basic facts you need to know:
Take care not to make the picture useless

Given that a typical news release is 50% words and 50% picture, I believe far more care should be taken to ensure that the photo is a suitable size, using a suitable colour model, and saved (ideally just the once) using the correct JPEG compression ratio. Many picture editors cringe at some of the photos they are sent for publication. And those photos will never get used. Given that the photo is such an important part of the news release, you can bet the PR's client is paying for the photography in the belief their PR knows what they are doing.

Of course the need for the PR, who in the main is an expert in words not pictures, to adjust the supplied photos should in fact be totally unnecessary - given that the photographer who originally supplied the images should have supplied them in formats suitable for the purposes they were required, and to cover all bases.

For example, by default, we supply each retouched image in three versions: a size suitable for standard media use, a smaller image sized for online/web use and a large one for print reproduction larger than the standard media version will allow, such as magazine front covers, double page spreads and banners. This ensures the image will be reproduced at its best given the final display medium.

If your photographer isn't doing this, ask them why not. Or talk to us next time.