The Photo Playbook
…contains a series of chats with experts across marketing, media and online, that seeks to help businesses make the best decisions with photography.
Today’s chat is with Vivienne Kane on the topic of Printing:
Click play above to listen to the conversation.
Below, are our top takeaway tips on how photography fits with printing.
Read on below for the full interview transcript.
Tip #1 The purpose of print is to entice the reader to want to take the first step with you.
Tip #2 Less words, more image, achieve more cut-through.
Tip #3 Imagery communicates the feeling you’re trying to create, and your messages.
Tip #4 Using appropriate and quality imagery means that the messages have much higher impact.
Tip #5 A single photograph that is really connected to your story can powerfully reinforce your brand by using it across a range of print products.
Tip #6 Copyright is an important matter – just because the image was found online doesn’t mean it is available for free to promote a business.
Tip #7 In an ideal world I would love to refer everyone to a professional photographer.
Tip #8 Image files need to be high quality, crisp and in high resolution at 300dpi.
Tip #9 A well-designed piece of print, with high quality professional images, that complement the design, is a job we absolutely love when it comes off the press, it’s exciting.
Tip #10 All the better if we are involved right from the start of the workflow process.
What do you do, Viv? We print for small businesses , helping them to effectively market with print. We print products that are either promoting their business, being used to inform their customers about what they do, or to help their customers. We print business cards, brochures, postcards, information booklets and training manuals. We print calendars for businesses as gifts (as a promotional tool) and for community groups, clubs and not-for-profit organisations. We print books for authors who are self-publishing.
Why do you love what you do? We love what we do because most of the people we work with are small business owners like us. We are in the same head-space as the people we are selling print to. If we can do our little slice of the exercise more effectively to create and higher quality, more effective print products, it helps them move further up the greasy pole and grow their business faster.
Who needs to consider photography in printing as part of their business? A very high proportion of the products we print have photographs as part of them because the print products are promotional items. Using appropriate and quality imagery means that the messages have much higher impact.
What are you looking for in a good photograph in terms of quality? If you use poor quality imagery you can really damage the perception created by your printed message. A lot of our customers are using stock images, which can be appropriate in certain circumstances, but you do have be judicious about what you use. Others are using poor quality images, which is often driven by cost considerations. At other times it’s driven by not understanding that a really good quality image could actually improve the outcome and contribute to more sales. In terms of specification, images need to be high quality, crisp, not blurred in high resolution.
Let’s spell out what high versus low resolution means: Take two identical cakes and place them side by side on a table. From above they look the same. Viewed from the side, on the left, one stands at 2cm tall, the other is 30cm tall. Now imagine they are photographs. The shallow cake contains minimal ‘data’ which we’d describe as low resolution, at 72dpi. This is the standard resolution for on-screen web and email use. The cake on the right is data-rich and called high resolution, at 300dpi. This resolution is needed for printing all physical things like brochures etc. This information is found in the ‘properties’ of your image file.
Do people try to use images they have taken from the web? Yes, and we find it’s like trying to stretch a rubber band past its capacity, it just physically doesn’t work. We need 300dpi files for printing to avoid the issue of jagged edges and blurred images. There is also the issue of copyright as a separate matter – that just because they found it online doesn’t mean they are free to use it to promote their business.
We’ve talked about the specifications you need, what about aesthetic quality? If their chosen image is detracting from the message, we will suggest that they look at other options for an optimal result. If they decide not to take our advice, we do what we can. We may have the equipment, paper and design, with skilled operators at each stage, but we can only print what’s given to us in the file. So if the quality of the image is inadequate, we can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Is the expectation that you can? Some people think that’s possible and we have to unfortunately disappoint them. There are some things that we can do in terms of file modification, but really, if it’s poor or low resolution there is nothing we can do about that. In an ideal world people would bring to us what we recommend.
Can you explain how a print result was supported by photographs? When businesses produce a brochure that introduces their business, explains the product or service they are offering, that focuses on imagery as one of the key elements when planning the message – and make the imagery, design and text support each other – those brochures get the message across more effectively. Less words and more image achieves more cut-through. We really like working with designers who think that way. Doing it well can get you much more emotional cut through straight away because these elements influence how you feel as the reader.
Yes, tell me more about the emotional impact and purpose of a brochure? A brochure should give the right first impression and make the reader want to know more. You make conscious decisions about its shape, stock and format. It’s got to attract your attention, and that’s where the cover image is really important in making you think, yes, I’d like to pick that up and read it. If they don’t pick it up, you’re not even going to get to first base. If you can’t make them want to take the first step then you’re wasting your time.
What sort of photography gets great results in relation to printing, in your experience? Photographs, and whether you use them or not, make a big difference between a powerful, effective brochure and one that ends up in the bin. I genuinely think having either professionally taken shots or having a designer/specialist help you to select the right stock image is really important. Imagery communicates the feeling you’re trying to create and the message you’re trying to get across. Imagery can bring the viewer into the story. Essentially, these things are telling a story about what your business can do for that person, and how that story will be relevant to them.
When do you want to see photography in your workflow?
That varies according to how the print job comes to us:
- Usually we get a finished file which then requires us to check what’s been given to us, the specifications of the image file and advising if there are technical problems.
- If we get involved earlier in the piece, where we are doing the design and layout, or we are working with the customer’s designer, it’s a case of liaising around what they are trying to achieve with it.
- If it’s an external designer, we can deal direct with them. So then it’s a requirement that the designer knows what we need.
- If we are creating the design and layout, we’ll look at what style of product is it, how will it look and feel, and what’s the key message.
Sometimes they’ll bring imagery with them, other times they don’t have images but know they will be needed. We have a budget discussion, and then we know whether they will use stock images or engage a professional photographer.
All the better if we are involved right from the start.
What type of photographs have you saying, oh Lord, what are we going to do with this? When they use smart phones, it’s a last resort. The technology has improved, and we do what we can, but in an ideal world I would love to refer everyone to a professional photographer.
What is the limit with stock imagery? If the image needs to be specific to them, a stock image is not going to do the job. They are professional, but they tend to be generic. You’re going to get a much bigger connection if the images are specifically relevant to your business and story.
Can you describe a situation when you’ve had a great print outcome? A well-designed piece of print, with high quality professional images, that complement the design, is an absolute pleasure. They’re the jobs we absolutely love when they come off the press, it’s exciting. We are the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle of something that looks really great, and highly likely to do the job for the business.
Can you give an idea of the actual types of printing, the full scope where a single photograph could be used across all the media? Business cards, marketing postcards, brochure, information booklets, presentation folders, books, proposals, catalogues, reports, calendars, posters, pull-up banners. A single photograph that is really connected to the story you’re trying to tell could really powerfully reinforce your brand by using it across all these products.
Any final take home tips or thoughts to share?
- If you’re going to spend time with a photographer or designer, talk to them, and to the print provider too so you understand your options and the process, right from the very beginning. That way you’ll avoid doing something that accidently gets in the way of a good result.
- The messages you’re saying online should reinforce the messages you print offline. The role of print is changing but it’s powerful because it’s tangible and it’s tactile. Use print to get the reader motivated to consume the information you have online. They definitely work as partners.
Where can we find you? At ExcitePrint we are online on Facebook and at our website www.exciteprint.com.au or 1300 907 399, and we are in Prahran, Victoria. We ship Australia-wide.