Preparing images for projection in photography club competitions

Earlier this year, I took a day out to attend the Focus on Imaging exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre, near Birmingham.  I spent a fair amount of the day on the Epson stand – some of which was looking over some great printers (a Stylus Pro 4880 is now on my wishlist) but whilst I was there I also had the opportunity to listen to two professional photographers sharing their experience with the audience.

The first of these was Mike McNamee, who spoke about preparing images for print and digital competition exhibition.  In this first post, I’ll look at digital competition entries and a follow-up post will concentrate on preparing images for printing.

(The steps described are based on Adobe Photoshop CS4 on a Mac but the settings should be the same for other packages, even if the methods are different – Photoshop users with Windows PCs should use Ctrl where I have written Cmd).

There are two common image resolutions used by photography clubs in the UK  – 1024x768px and 1400x1050px.  Therefore, when preparing an image for projection in a club competition, create a new document 1024 or 1400 pixels wide, and 768 or 1050 pixels high, 72 DPI (although this doesn’t really matter for projection) and 8 bit sRGB. Choosing the colour space is important as images submitted using another colour space (e.g. AdobeRGB), will appear desaturated when projected.  Optionally, save these settings as a preset:

Screenshot showing Photoshop CS4 (Mac) settings for entering projected images into UK photographic club competitions

Next up, take an image (pre-sharpened during raw conversion and left at full size), select the area you want to show in the presentation and, making sure the Move Tool is selected (V), drag/drop it onto the blank canvas (holding down the shift key whilst dragging/dropping will place the image in the centre of the canvas).

Because the source image will typically be much larger than the target, we need to resize it on the canvas. From the Edit menu, select Free transform (Cmd+T) and zoom out until the controls on the edge of the image are visible (a quick way to do this is to select Fit on screen from the View Menu – or Cmd+0).

Hold down the shift key and drag in the corners until the image fits on the canvas, then press Enter to leave a scaled image on the canvas.  Move this to the centre by selecting the whole image (Cmd+A), then making sure that the Move tool is selected (V) and clicking the Align vertical centers and Align horizontal centers buttons in the toolbar. Deselect the image (Cmd+D).

The image will probably look tiny on the screen by now, so adjust the view if necessary, and then change the background colour.  To do this, select the background layer (if there is one – if the background is transparent, create a new layer) then, from the Edit menu, select Fill (Shift+F5) and choose appropriate contents (generally Black), then click OK.

Screenshot showing Photoshop CS4 (Mac) settings for a black background fill

Some people like to add a keyline to their images.  To do this, select the image layer then, from the Layer menu, select Layer Style and Stroke… Pick a size (around 3px is probably fine), select Inside as the position (Outside will leave jagged edges at corners) and select the colour.

Screenshot showing Photoshop CS4 (Mac) settings for a 3px white keyline/stroke

We’re almost done now, but some clubs will require metadata (e.g. Author) to be stored inside the file.  From the File menu, select File Info… (Alt+Shift+Cmd+I) and add appropriate details (e.g. to the IPTC fields) before clicking OK.

Screenshot showing Photoshop CS4 (Mac) settings for adding/accessing file metadata

Finally, save the edited image by selecting Save As… from the File menu (Shift+Cmd+S) and pick an appropriate format (JPEG or TIFF).  Depending on the competition and the software being used, there may be a specific naming format required.

The final image, ready for projection (reduced size)

(The photographic image in this post is ©2010 Mark Wilson, all rights reserved and is therefore excluded from the Creative Commons license used for the rest of this site.)

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