Digital Photography Takes Root
by Naomi Buckman
Everyone knew it was coming and now evidence proves it has arrived.
Digital photography has been around since the early 1980s, but
it is today's digital camera that has caused the photographic
revolution that is currently sweeping through gardening publications.
In researching this article I contacted a number
of magazine and book publishers. Majority of the publications
currently using digital photography agreed that a 3.3 megapixel
camera is the bare minimum, but bigger is always better. Most
publishers said that they require between 300 to 350 dpi (dots
per inch). This is not a concern when using a 3.3 MP (or better)
camera at its highest resolution since the necessary information
for quality printing will already be contained in the original
The publishers generally preferred only the camera's
original file be submitted - no cropping, sharpening, color or
tone adjusting, or embedding profiles and watermarks. Although
the photographer is the artist, most corrections done on the photographer's
PC will not correlate with the publisher's PC. For those photographers
who are darkroom magicians (example: combining parts of two or
more images to create one image), some editors did say that "image
magic" might be acceptable if the details were worked out
ahead of time.
All images should be an uncompressed TIFF or RAW
file. Publishers need the highest possible image quality. Even
the lightest JPEG compression will have a small amount of quality
More photographers and publishers are using File
Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers to transfer images online. A photographer
can upload images to an editor's FTP site or a photographer can
have her own FTP site that an editor logs onto and downloads images.
This service enables editors to approve layouts quickly via the
Out of the twelve publications I contacted, only
Better Homes & Gardens magazine published by Meredith Publications
does not use digital photography. Mark Kane, the executive garden
editor, informed me that they are currently discussing digital
photography, with great enthusiasm for using it coming especially
from the art directors, but he feels that digital does not yet
match the quality of film.
On the flip side I talked to Book Design Director
Matt Strelecki of Meredith Publications. This division of Meredith
has been using digital photography since 1984 and a large number
of the Home Depot books that it publishes are shot digitally.
Matt stated, "Lets face it, nobody publishes film, we all
publish separations. If I didn't have to look at another piece
of film I would be the happiest guy on earth." He manages
100,000 stock images at any given time and believes if Meredith
went all digital it would be a tremendous space, time and cost
Others also see the advantages of digital. This year Sunset Publications
will be following in the footsteps of Fine Gardening magazine
by converting to all digital in-house photography. Both publications
feel the pros far outweigh the cons with digital.
Paul Tukey, editor and publisher of People, Places & Plants
gardening magazine declared, "Any publisher who believes
digital is not here yet is just not paying attention."
Picture editor for the Chicago Tribune and publisher
of Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Bill Aldrich, said, "The
images that these digital cameras are turning out are profoundly
sharper than anything you could do with film."
One aspect of this new technology that needs to
be ironed out is color management. Gwen Steege, editor of gardening
books at Storey Communications, feels that with digital images,
unlike slides or prints, there is nothing tangible to use as a
color reference once the images go to the printer, thereby making
color management that much more difficult.
Another issue brought up by Giles Prett, staff
photographer at Storey Communications, is that digital cameras
produce RGB (red/green/blue) images while most publishers print
in CMYK (cyan/magenta/yellow/black). He feels that the conversion
from RGB to CMYK should only be undertaken by experienced color
management professionals to avoid problems in the final image.
The publishers I interviewed are using Cannon
D30, Canon D60, Nikon D1x and Nikon D-100 digital cameras for
in-house photography. Phase One & Kodak digital backs are
also being used with medium format cameras.
During the past few years digital photography
has quietly taken a firm root hold in the publishing world. It
is in the years to come that we will see the lush top-growth and
fruit it will bear.
About the Author:
Naomi Buckman is a horticulturist, writer/photographer,
awarded the 2002 Garden Globe Award of Achievement for photography
- newspaper and the owner of an award-winning garden design &
creation business in Jackson, NH. Her online photographic galleries
can be seen at: