Why your images may not sort correctly

If you have ever had to fight with a list of image file names in a folder that wouldn’t stay sorted, you have to blame Bill Gates.

When Bill was writing the DOS operating system for the first PC, to save time he used the old “8.3” file naming specification: eight characters (no punctuation or spaces), a period, and three characters on the end to tell you what kind of file it was. So for years, files could only have names like Lotus.exe (an executable program) or data.dbf (a database file). If you tried to name a file Aunt Millie’s 80th Birthday Picture #2, the computer would refuse to open the file.

But the worst part of 8.3 file names was that PCs sorted files according to a strange rule where numbers came before letters, and “11” came before “2”. For example, say you had four files on your computer in the order you want them printed in LabPrints:

  1. Page 1.jpg
  2. 2.jpg
  3. 11.jpg
  4. Back page.jpg

LabPrints will store them alpha-numerically, so what you will get is this:

  1. 11.jpg
  2. 2.jpg
  3. Back page.jpg
  4. Page 1.jpg

Notice on the screen on the right. I made this as an experiment. You can see four files alphabetically sorted in Windows on top, and the exact same four files sorted alphabetically in DOS on the bottom – both on my PC! Although Mac people have never had this limitation, us PC folks have been fighting with it for years.

If you are a Mac user, you have a different set of problems that you don’t even know about. Mac files are stored in 2 parts: the file itself, and a hidden file that has the real file name, the extension, what program opens it, etc. That’s why when you copy just the image file from a Mac to a PC, the PC can’t open it. Newer Macs have solved this problem by including a check box that you should use that makes sure the files can be read by both Windows and Mac.

So what’s the solution? My suggestion is, when naming lots of images, put a number in front, and pad it with zeros so they line up. Then the rest of the file name can describe the image. For example:

  1. 001 Front cover.jpg
  2. 002 First page.jpg
  3. 003 Mother Father.jpg
  4. 004 Bride.jpg

Obviously, you only need the extra zero if you have more than 99 pages. However, these images will always sort correctly, no matter which computer (or CD or DVD) you save them on.

A couple of other “rules” for file naming that will make your life simpler:

  • Keep file names short. “Katrina and Jeremy Dompulskis Wedding on December 12 2009-001.jpg” is so long it will always be abbreviated when it  is viewed.
  • Don’t use punctuation. “Bill and Martha’s Wedding @ 1:00p.m.” will work on a Mac, but not a PC.

So what’s an easy way to rename files? Both ROES and LabPrints have automatic file renaming built into them. If you’re looking for something that can batch process images, try Bulk-rename. I was able to rename this sample group of four DSC files automatically less than 10 minutes after I installed the utility. Best of all, the basic version is free.

3 Photo Book Design Mistakes We’ve All Made

If you’ve ever designed a photo book with a dust cover you can appreciate how small changes to fonts, rules, overlays, and drop shadows can have a huge impact on the finished design. What looked good on the screen may not look quite right after printing.

This is because, unlike photographs, photo books (and post cards, business cards or any other press-printed products) must be cut and trimmed after printing. This results in pages and prints that are close – but never exactly – the same size. Combine this with double-sided printing, folding, stapling, binding and die-cutting, and even more layout problems can arise.

Below are three design mistakes we’ve all made when laying out photo books and other press-printed products. Avoid them, and every design you create will look better for it.

1. Backgrounds that don’t go up to the edge of the print. “Back in the day” we all sold bordered prints. In modern design, background colors and images are always printed to the edges (called full-bleed printing). For press-printed products like photo books, the paper edge is trimmed to create the same full-bleed effect you get with a photographic print. However, if the image doesn’t go all the way to the edge, a thin line of non-printed white paper is left. The only way to fix this is to trim the entire photo book shorter than the shortest page.

  • Solution – Unless you’re printing an image in the center of a white page, cover the entire background.

2. Elements that are too close to the edge of a print. Text, logos, graphics, borders, and drop shadows that are too close to the edge of a print “look funny” and in some cases can be cut off.

  • Solution – Graphic elements should always be at least 5% of the image size away from any edge. For example, on an 8×10 layout, 5% of 10 inches is 1/2 inch. This means nothing except the background should be closer than 1/2 inch from the edge. On small items like wallets or business cards, never put an element closer than 1/4 of an inch from the edge.

3. Elements on or near a fold. In ROES we sometimes assume that the blue “safe lines” on a product are exactly where the fold or edge will be, and push elements up to them. Actually, they are only an approximation to remind you that any parts of the photo like heads or feet outside the “safe lines” may be cut off or wrapped around the edge in the finished book.

  • Solution – Don’t put text, borders, pinstripes, key lines, heads or feet up against safe lines.

Avoid these three design mistakes and your designs will look better to you – and your customers.

Send Big Files the Easy Way

Need to share a great full-res digital photo, a PDF proof book or Adobe PSD layout? Attaching files larger than 1Mb to an email has a 50-50 chance of getting through. Either the receiving mail server mysteriously deletes the email, or it locks up the other person’s computer while they wait for the file attachment to download. Even if it finally gets through, it isn’t polite to lock up someone else’s computer.

Here are 2 FREE solutions:

Dropbox. Up to 2GB of file space for free, but you need to register and install the application.  I recommend Dropbox for collaborating on images or sharing with other photographers, clients, family and friends.

WeTransfer. You can send up to a 2GB file for free, and you don’t even need to register! They will email you and anyone else you list a link to download the file that is good for 7 days. I recommend WeTransfer as a quick way to get a big file to a client or for a print ad, for example.

Of course, when sending images to JD, always use the JDLab2You file upload or LabPrints.

When video and photography meet

(c) 2009 Chang W. Lee

Video will never replace photography, but could the combination be a new product for you?

Chang W. Lee, senior staff photographer at The New York Times, has made a video that combines the storytelling of great photography with the visual interest of video and sound. The first of his series “The Jazz Singer” (3:45 video) is the result.

Lee is not the first photographer to combine photography and video. Ken Burns has turned it into an art form so unique that after directing several PBS documentaries (Baseball, Jazz, The Civil War) his style is now referred to as “the Ken Burns effect.” Ken talks here about how his passion for photography shapes his films.

  • Have you considered offering videos with your photography?
  • Do you think it could profit your business?
  • Are you losing business to (wedding) videographers?

I’m interested in your comments. If you have produced any videos, send me a copy or a web link to the video, and if possible, I’ll share them here.

While you will never be able to frame or display a video, the ability to offer them as an add-on sale to your customers could be an exciting new way to grow your photography business.

Slideroll lets you make web slideshows for free

SliderollSlideroll is a photo slideshow maker that you can use to create slide shows with your photos. It lets you publish your slideshows on the internet, put them on your website, MySpace or YouTube, or e-mail them to clients. Click here to check out the Slideshow Creator demo. It’s kind of fun.

Think of all those Ken Burns documentaries he does for PBS. Yeah, it looks just like that.

SliderollWhat I like is that with Slideroll Videomaker, you can turn your slideshows into flash videos that you can easily post on your website. What a great way to add some visual interest to an old website for a minimal expense.

Did I mention it was free? I haven’t figured out is how they offer this kind of stuff for free yet, but it’s pretty cool that someone does.