What Is The Right File Size

Posted on 8/11/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



August 11, 2000

What's the right file size for a digital file? Is it 30MB, 40MB, 50MB or more?

Bigger is better!!

The problem with this logic is that a lot of us are making a lot of money

licensing rights to 18MB PhotoCD scans through PictureQuest.com, Workbook.com and

other sites where for the most part the standard file size available is a PhotoCD


Why Scan Small

Why would you scan on PhotoCD rather than generating a large drum scan? Cost. A

good quality PhotoCD scan can be had for $1.50. Drum scans start at about $15 if

you are doing great volume and go up from there. NancyScans offers a high quality

100MB RGB drum scan for $40. Add keywording to these costs and Getty Images says

it costs them $45 per image to prepare an image for on-line search. Corbis says

their costs are over $50 per image.

Let's assume that on average the keywording will cost $5 per image. Add $1.50 to

that and you have total scanning and keywording costs to prepare an image for

on-line of $6.50, not counting administrative overhead. Thus, for the same money

for every 100 images Getty Images shows clients, you can afford to show them a

selection of 690 images. If you can cut those keywording costs a little the

ratio gets even more attractive.

One things Getty and Corbis can not do, given their strategy of scanning

everything to these extremes, is offer a broad cross section of images in every

subject area. They must be sure that every image they select for scanning will

sell many, many times in order to recover their costs.

There are clients who want, and will pay good money for, images that are not in

this high demand.

Digital Cameras

Also keep in mind that in the editorial area more and more images are being shot

with digital cameras. Photographers who have just returned from the Republican

National Convention report that it was hard to find anyone there using a film

camera -- everything was digital.

In today's editorial market these cameras offer many advantages. Does the fact

that the file sizes are relatively small mean that none of these images could be

considered for anything but editorial uses, or that they should not be made

available in on-line stock databases?

Stock is not just for the major advertiser. There are many uses for stock images

other than full page magazine ads.

The Nikon D1 produces a file size up to 15MB -- smaller than the PhotoCD 18MB.

Photographers have reported that they have taken these D1 files, interpolated them

up to between 25MB and 50MB using Genuine Fractals and had the resulting images accepted

into the core files of major stock agencies. This has happened despite the agency's

insistence that they must have drum scans of everything.

Do Clients Need Large Files?

An 18MB file is sufficient to reproduce an image 6.5"x10" at 300 DPI. A huge

percentage of uses are smaller than this. Some customers are now saying they need

600DPI files. At that resolution they can still reproduce 3.4"x5" from an 18MB

file. If the customer must have a larger file it would seem to make more sense to

scan-on-demand to the file size needed, rather than spending the money

to drum scans thousands of images that will never be used at anything

larger than 1/4 page.

Some believe that to be in the market at all you must be able to satisfy every

whim of every customer. These are the same people that used to say that everything

had to be shot on 4x5 chromes, or duped up to 4x5, or they would not sell. Others

managed to develop some good businesses by delivering only 35mm originals and dupes.

In the long run insisting on large files of everything available for purchase

doesn't serve the customer any more than it serves the agent or the photographer.

Customers will end up getting less choice because the costs of large scans will

force the agencies using such strategies to limit the number of images they can

make available. At the moment many agencies have gone the large scan route. But

one competitive option is to offer a better selection by using less expensive

methods to produce the initial file for preview -- just like those who began

delivering 35mm's instead of 4x5's.

Won't Customers Get Upset?

People ask, "Won't customers get upset and never use us again, if they can't

get the file size they need, instantly?" In my opinion that won't happen if

it is clearly explained to the customer, at the moment they select an image, what

file size is instantly available. If the file size is not large enough for their

current project needs, and they can't wait, then they know they must

choose a different image.

Copyright © 2000 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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