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Issue: 59 - Nov 15, 2013
You Don’t Need Photoshop™ to Use Images
By: Michael LoSasso
Shamrock Direct Media

Many veterinarians don’t use images at all, or use images that are not appropriate in terms of size, because image manipulation was not taught in vet school (and has advanced light years since then anyway) and because it is just one more thing to learn, and it can be complicated (especially if using sophisticated programs like Adobe’s Photoshop™).

Resolution

Resolution refers to the number of dots or pixels in your photo, generally in dots per inch (dpi). Higher resolution brings more detail, which means more data and larger files. If your project will be printed, such as a printed practice newsletter, or a brochure, choose the highest resolution possible (at least 300 dpi, 600 dpi if you can).

For online projects, such as websites, email, Facebook page posts or Pinterest, a resolution of 72 dpi is all you want. This is the maximum resolution of most monitors, and this will keep your files smaller, which mean they will load much faster.

Physical sizes

Certain applications require a certain size or proportion, and some (like your website) are very flexible.

Here is a general list of sizes for a variety of applications (as of July 2013):

  • Facebook timeline (the long, large photo): 851 x 315 pixels (an important note – while most posts or “status updates” that you create will only show up in the timeline of 15-16% of the people that “like” your page, changing your timeline photo results in a message that all of your fans will see)
  • Facebook profile picture: square, at least 180 x 180px (although Facebook will resize this to 160 x 160px)
  • Shared images on Facebook are also square (403 x 403px). While Facebook will let you re-orient the square and let you choose the part of your image that is used, you cannot enlarge your photo in Facebook (do it first on your computer if you want that earmite on the picture you took through the microscope with your iPhone to be full-size).
  • Google+ cover photos are 940 x 180 px, and the profile picture is 250px square.
  • For Pinterest users, a clicked “pin” will be scaled to 600x wide x however long (and long pictures are shared, or “re-pinned” more often). Remember, you can designate a hyperlink for each photo or video on Pinterest, and it won’t matter how often it is re-pinned, every single one retains the original hyperlink.
  • Email – if you are sending email, you generally want to keep the width of the entire piece 600px or less – for photos that accompany articles, consider a width of 200px (to a max of 300px). If the photo is the article (like the “What’s Your Diagnosis” picture), then just shy of 600px will work (575px works nicely).

How to do it

  • PC - If you use MS Office, then you should have an application called the Microsoft Office Picture Manager. This tool lets you crop and resize photos, as well as compress them (make a large resolution photo more suitable for use online). Always crop and re-size before compressing.
  • Mac – Mac users can take advantage of Preview, by highlighting the name of the file in Finder and pressing the spacebar. You can crop and resize photos easily in Preview.
  • PicMonkey.com – Yes, it has a funny name, but this free website allows you to perform very powerful edits to your photos quickly and easily. Crop, resize, even add text, outline certain areas (like that bladder stone on the radiograph), add borders, and even add your logo to images. You can also generate collages quickly from multiple images. No account creation necessary.
  • SnagIt – A popular tool from TechSmith.com, SnagIt allows you to capture images from any window on your computer (even if they run off the screen), and apply effects and text. SnagIt is a $49 download for Windows PCs or Macs.
  • Skitch – Skitch is a popular tool that was recently purchased by Evernote. It is a free application for Windows or Mac, and allows you to draw or add text or images to your photos.  

Phone apps

If you use a smart phone, chances are there are many applications available for photo-editing right on your phone, but these generally only allow special effects, not adding text or explanation to your photos.

Remember copyright laws

Copyright law protects any image you run across on the internet, so don’t just “save as” that image and think that you can use it on your website. Best practice is to use pictures you have taken yourself, photos submitted by clients, or images purchased at “micro-stock” agencies, like iStockphoto.com, shutterstock.com, or dreamstime.com.

Don’t let complicated software scare you away

As I mentioned, the thought of having to learn another complicated software just to add text to images makes most of us abandon that project before we even start, but it does not have to be that way. I dare you to open a browser window to picmonkey.com, and play around with one of your favorite photos. You’ll be amazed at what you can do, but take care, and don’t get addicted!