Tech Talk is my semi-regular blog post to teach you some of the technicalities or specifications that will make your book perfect in print and divine in digital form.

How DO you get quality photo reproduction in print?

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as taking a photo with your phone or scanning low-quality photos that would come out pixelated (otherwise known, by me anyway, as “looking rough.”)

Digital print makes producing a book affordable for small quantities, unlike traditional offset print where it is put on a printing press.

There are technical considerations when replicating photos in a book.

I’m going to assume that your book will be printed digitally. 

The resolution (or “dots per inch,” also known as dpi) needs to be preferably 200dpi. No less than 150dpi if at all possible! Otherwise, you will get pixelation or the “jaggies” and your final printed photos will be very poor quality.

If it IS going on a traditional offset printing press, then it needs to be approximately 300dpi.

But if you’re considering offset print, then it is SERIOUSLY best to hand your project over to an experienced book designer. Technical specifications here are very precise and need a skilled hand to manage. 

Otherwise, your book may go belly-up on the press, not print properly, and cause a lot of headaches for you as well as the printer. It will also cost you unnecessary money – and quite a bit of it too!

Resolution and final printed size is a tricky sliding scale. 

Preferably leave your photos as large as possible while maintaining the ideal resolution. There is a Resample button when you resize images in Adobe Photoshop that makes this easy.

Believe me, leaving the photos large and at a good resolution will make your designer’s life much more pleasant! It gives them room to move when resizing the photos for final reproduction and you get a better quality book. Win-win!

Onwards! If your photos are to be printed in colour, the colour model should be, ideally, CMYK. If you leave them in RGB colour, then the average digital press will automatically convert it to CMYK for you.

However, you won’t have control over the resulting colour. 

Colour photos are best balanced and adjusted in software such as Adobe Photoshop (or similar – I hear that Adobe Lightroom is very useful too although I don’t use it). Once it is converted to CMYK, then you have the power to precisely fine tune the colour.

Colour adjustment is a specialised field because what you see on screen is not what you will EXACTLY get in print. 

Allowances need to be made for the printing process and an experienced designer will know what to do here.

Grayscale or black-and-white photos are a bit easier to handle. They can be converted to grayscale and the gray balance can be adjusted. 

The whitest areas should be no less than 3% black and the darkest areas no more than 97% black. Otherwise, these areas will go to pure white or solid black and not reproduce so nicely when printed. This also applies to colour photos, for the CMYK settings – 3% dmin (“dot minimum”) and 97% dmax (“dot maximum”).

The resolution for digital eBook photos is lower as it is only displaying on a screen. 72dpi is the standard, although I prefer to set this at 96dpi.

Again, leaving the photos large while still at a good resolution is the ideal path to take. Your designer will professionally resize them to suit your finished book.

The colour model should always be RGB for digital reproduction, whether the final published photos are to be in glorious colour or simple grayscale. RGB is the standard here.

I hope you find these tips useful. My wish for you is that you may create a GORGEOUS book with STUNNING photo reproduction!

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