Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category


GIF, JPEG, or PNG? Choose wisely

Taking Photos(Editor’s note: This post appears courtesy of Gateway Media Literacy Partners)

Seeing is believing, the saying goes. That phrase dates back to the 17th century, but it means more now than ever. Our image-driven culture places added value on what it can visualize at a glance versus what it can read. That’s why tweets are 35 percent more likely to be re-tweeted, Facebook posts are 85 percent more likely to be “liked,” and whole websites are 90 percent more memorable and clickable with meaningful images or graphics embedded in them.

Regardless, we tend to treat all visual content the same way no matter the source or purpose and have since the dawn of the browser-based Web 20 years ago. The result is an abundance of websites and social media loaded with images that appear blurry or ill-defined, that resolve too small or too large for the space allowed, or that hinder a browser’s ability to display a site quickly and effectively.

We never learned — or if we did, we keep forgetting — that digital image formats vary and each has a distinct, optimal purpose. Lacking an understanding of those purposes, we risk losing clicks, clients, and valuable attention.

So, resolve in 2015 to learn, remember, and properly use the three common image formats, denoted by their file extension names:

.GIF — It’s pronounced “jiff,” like the peanut butter, though some prefer “giff.” Either way, it stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and was developed by CompuServe in 1987 as a means of transferring space-hogging graphical files through slow connections such as. Animations, icons, line drawings, cartoons or any image with a limited color palette are better as GIFs because GIF permits certain colors to appear as transparencies instead of real pixels and can combine pixels of two colors into one to further reduce file size without diminishing image quality.

.JPEG (or .JPG) — This one, pronounced “jay-peg,” stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and as the name implies was developed chiefly for photographs. Created in 1986 by said group, JPEG is the standard file format programmed into most digital cameras and employs a complex algorithm to compress images for optimum Web display. Some image quality is lost during this compression; however, in order to simplify compression, JPEG robs from subtler tones the human eye has difficulty noticing yet preserves the more distinct differences between light and dark.

.PNG — Pronounced “ping,” the format with the full name Portable Graphics Network went to market in 1996 containing elements of both the .GIF and .JPEG formats. It was developed as an open-source substitute for .GIF and is optimal for working with complex graphical logos and large photographs that do not need much compression. However, PNG is relatively new and so its images may not display well or at all on older browsers.

Not all digital images are the same. Treating them as if they were leaves a bad impression with Web audiences. By being mindful of these formats and their principal purposes, you can rest assured that the first visual impression you make will be a good one.

Stop ignoring Instagram

BarsChristmas arrived early for Instagram. The photo- and video-sharing service announced this week that it reached a major milestone: 300 million monthly active members.

Not quite the audience of Facebook (over 1.4 billion), or Twitter (500 million tweets daily), but enough that journalists really ought to pay it more attention.

They don’t, or many of them don’t anyway, because Instagram still strikes senior scribes as a young people’s playground decorated with abundant square-shaped images of provocative selfies, tilted shots of half-eaten meals, and too many — way too many — artfully cropped portraits of people’s feet. Moreover, square images are rather confining for news photographers who prefer to see the world through a 4:3 aspect ratio.

After breaking down that huge membership number into digestible bits, one can understand the bias. In 2013, Instagram’s own research showed that 80 percent of users were under age 24, and over half of that group had yet to finish college. Among all teens, 30 percent consider Instagram more important in their social media lives than Facebook or Twitter.

But social media platforms age like the people who use them and, one hopes, mature. Between June 2012 and June 2013, Instagram’s member base doubled despite near saturation of the youth market. Growth in urban areas outpaced that of suburban ones. And the increase in the number of users who make at least $50,000 annually exceeded the increase among those who didn’t.

Besides, 300 million is a very big number — big like an oversized sofa in an undersized apartment. And journalists who just figured out Facebook or who just joined Twitter and cringe at the idea of trying to bend their minds around yet another hulking piece of technology must understand this.

They need to get over it and focus on one important point: By being the social hub for such large number of people who journalists and media owners still struggle to reach, Instagram serves well as a site for tracking the trends, comparing the perspectives, and monitoring the moods of a valuable demographic.

So, try these tips for optimal use of Instagram:

Follow the hashtags — Like Twitter, Instagram makes use of hashtags (words or unspaced phrases with a # prefix) that turn simple terms into searchable metadata. Users can compile lists from tags such as #Ferguson and #Ebola to sift for relevant content. And like Twitter, hashtag results appear in real time, so the newest content appears in the stream first.

Depending on the frequency of posts, new content displaces old content quickly at the top of a feed, and Instagram’s search is not robust. For better searching, try using a service such as Gramfeed.

Explore communities — Large groups of Instagram users sharing similar interests often form communities around those interests, marked by single hashtags. Among the most popular communities are #ThingsOrganizedNeatly, #FollowMeTo, #Silhouettes, and Throwback Thursday (#tbt), which consists of users’ old photos posted on, well, Thursdays. (Note: Hashtags are not case-sensitive, but using upper case to show where the smushed words begin displays social courtesy.)

Check location settings — Instagram has a location service that lets users attach location tags, or geotags, to their photos. This is valuable during breaking news events; users can zoom in on the mapping feature to see who else has shot photos or video nearby and verify their locations.

Making videos on the go just got much easier

Software developer Adobe has simplified video production and editing for any journalist on the go who’s armed with an Apple iPad. The company officially unveiled today its new Adobe Voice app, a kind of PowerPoint on steroids now available for free at Apple’s iTunes Store.

Quite simply, Voice makes video possible without actually filming any video.

Through a simple step-by-step process, users simply insert their own photos or animation clips or download images from rights-free sources into a kind of storyboard template, then add text from a selection of more than two dozen preinstalled themes and 25,000 icons.

The app gets its name from the feature that allows users to then record narration by tapping the microphone icon at the bottom of each page as they assemble a scene. Voice also includes a music list to lay down an audio foundation.

Once complete, each video can be shared on social media, blogs, and websites, or uploaded for display on Adobe’s own servers, by tapping another icon.

Adobe predicts Voice could make the most noise at schools, where students and teachers can make quick videos without the hassle of complicated equipment or software. Net Worked however predicts a faster adoption by the public — and certainly by street journalists looking for yet an even quicker way to make a good first impression.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Videolicious is looking good to newspapers

Videolicious logoIn print journalism, video keeps elbowing into the picture. News sites once devoted to words now see film clips as essential supplements to written work.

At the same time, those sites are trimming or eliminating the staffers who shot and edited those clips, preferring instead to have reporters with smartphones take over.

But many reporters lack the knowledge or inclination to shoot video, because they either never tried or are reluctant to tackle what seems like an overwhelming new set of skills.

That’s why newspapers such as the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are trying Videolicious, an application for iPhone and iPad that simplifies and somewhat demystifies video making.

Videolicious creates video reports shot fresh with iPhone or iPad, or from clips and photos already in the device’s camera roll. Users can record a voiceover for narration with the device’s reverse-camera feature while splicing clips with just a screen tap.

The free version of Videolicious has a 1-minute video length limit, with a maximum of 20 separate shots per video, and storage at Videolicious.com for up to 20 projects. Pricing plans for $5 and $10 per month add features like longer video, more storage, a music library and commercial branding.

Videolicious debuted in 2011 and gained popularity among real estate agents to promote their properties. This year, the Post assigned about 30 of its staff to test the product. The Post-Dispatch recently began tutoring reporters and editors on it as well.

Poynter.org has a demonstration of Videolicious on YouTube.

 

David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Instagram now lets you embed photos, video on websites

Instagram logoInstagram expanded its image-sharing capabilities Wednesday.

The social networking service unveiled a new feature that allows Web embedding for user photos and video. Before Wednesday, most sharing outside Instagram was limited to other social sharing sites such as Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Twitter.

Now, users can find share buttons next to their images appearing on Instagram’s website. Clicking on the button, located just south of the comment button, opens a small window containing an embed code that can be pasted into blogs, Web pages and news articles.

Below that code in the same window is a publish button. The photo or video includes an Instagram identity wherever it’s published.

As for technical details, that’s all Instagram said about the new feature. The rest of the service’s news release Wednesday dwelled on content ownership, which Instagram insists will remain with the image’s owner.

“Your embedded photo or video appears with your Instagram user name, and clicking on the Instagram logo will take people to your page on Instagram.com,” the release said.

In December, Instagram changed its terms-of-use policy to permit all user content as fodder for “paid or sponsored content or promotions.” The only way to avoid this was for users to delete their accounts.

Subsequent outcry from privacy advocates as well as Instagram users forced the service to apologize and change the policy after one day.

Instagram launched in 2010 originally for Apple platforms but grew to include Android devices in April 2012. That same month, Facebook acquired Instagram for about $1 billion in cash and stock.

 

David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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