332 WHAT'S THE RIGHT FILE SIZE
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.
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.