This is a discussion that arises on forums from time to time. My method is by no means the only method, and it’s certainly not a very fancy method, but it works very well for me.
The Web Proof Basics:
So, you’ve taken photos for your client. Now you’re preparing stunning proofs which (you hope) will blow their minds, and prompt them to order dozens of prints – earning you a tidy profit.
Of course, you know there’s two important things to remember:
1. Convert the proofs to sRGB for best web viewing; and
2. Place your watermark prominently on the images as a basic safeguard against theft.
The third aspect to consider is size. You want the images large enough to be clear and striking, but not too large for people’s screens. There’s nothing worse than “Look, here’s a lovely photo of Grandma! And if we scroll across … here’s Grandpa!”
I’ve found that 700-800 pixels on the longest edge is a good size. (Don’t forget to sharpen after resizing for best impact.) Let’s say 750 pixels, for argument’s sake.
The Dilemma – Shape:
Ok, so your camera captures in 2:3 format, so your web proofs will be 500×750 pixels, right? Simple.
Alas, not quite so simple.
2:3 format proofs are great if your customers order 2:3 prints – ie 6x4s, 8x12s, etc. The prints they get are exactly the same as the proofs they saw.
But if they order 5x7s, or worse, 8x10s, the shape is considerably different – up to one sixth gets chopped off for print.
Um … ok, should you make your proofs 4:5 shape then, to match 8×10 prints? Well, no, because then you’ll have the same problem, but in reverse, if your customer orders 2:3 prints.
Do You Care?
You may be thinking “So what? My clients aren’t too observant or picky, they’ll be happy with whatever I give them.”
To be honest, you’re probably right, and that makes things easy. Thanks for reading this far.
But if you’re a nerd like me, you might be thinking about ways around this inconvenience.
Two Thorough Solutions:
There are two ways you could truly overcome this issue:
1. Provide several proofs of each image, at different shapes. This would remove any surprises, but it sure would be unwieldy! To be honest, the average customer wouldn’t know why you’d done it, and would just think you’d messed up.
2. Only offer print sizes that match the shape of the proofs. This might work – “You can buy prints at these sizes: 6×4, 6×9, 8×12, 12×18”. But it’s a bit restrictive, especially if the customer already has a 5×7 frame they want to use.
My Compromise Solution:
My simplistic solution has been to crop my proofs at 11:15 shape.
Why 11:15? Well, it’s the exact midpoint between the longest standard print ratio (2:3) and the shortest (4:5).
My reasoning is straightforward: Find the middle ground.
No prints will look exactly like the proof, but none will be wildly different, either. If you think people won’t notice a 2:3 turned into a 4:5, then theydefinitely won’t notice this.
Therefore, if I want my proofs to be 800 pixels on the longest side, I crop them to 800×587 pixels. Yeah, I know, I know, it’s a strange number.
A Note About Cropping:
Needless to say, I don’t crop my master files to this odd shape. In fact, I’m obsessive about not cropping them at all – every pixel is sacred. It’s just the proofs that I crop.
I generally crop in a little bit from the edge of the master file, even on a tightly-composed image. This allows me even more flexibility when I come to prepare the print files.
The 11:15 principle also applies to images that you supply to a customer on disk. Read my comprehensive article about this issue here.