Hang It Up

The Devil is in the Digitals!  

By Deborah Shaw

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist - Volume 16, Issue 4


When we submit artworks for jurying, we really do want to have our work accepted. Although each jury is different, one thing remains the same: the odds of having artwork accepted increase when materials are properly presented and artwork is shown accurately in the digital file. I decided to run the numbers for the entries for Green Currency, to get an idea what proportion of files were arriving according to submission standards, and were professionally presented. The numbers were surprising. Drawn from the submitting artists, the following stats outline the issues: 

60% provided files well photographed or scanned and according to the specified standards of 300 dpi (or dots per inch, sometimes referred to as pixels per inch) x 8” high, or by previous standards of 360 dpi x 8” high. I accepted either jpeg or tiff files. Current standards specify jpegs, but we will accept tiffs in the future. These numbers indicate that fully 40% of entries are out of spec in some way, meaning many artists don’t understand the standards. 

30% had one or more files improperly sized. Often when three submissions were presented, there were three different file sizes. 

10% provided files with poor image quality, including artwork shown out-of-square, photographed with reflected center flash leading to a haloed image, photographed in mats and/or frames, or with typing added to the image area. Some appear to have been digitally manipulated with poor outcomes. 

75% of artworks juried in arrived meeting all specs. This may imply that there is an advantage to understanding and meeting the specifications. 

With most art exhibitions requiring digital entries, it is important to understand these criteria. 

Incorrect File Size: Let’s try to address file size, the criterion most frequently out of spec.  Continuing with the Green Currency entries, I received files ranging from 192 kilobytes (1 KB = 1000 bytes) to 197 megabytes (1 MB = 1 million bytes). A  192 KB file is too small to judge accurately.  A 197 MB file is enormous and can wreak havoc on some computers trying to open it. For all those out of standard, the exhibition organizer must resize them to fit the standard, if possible. This is time consuming.  

How to get the correct file size? The first and most important action is to take your work to a professional digital photographer or scanning service.  If your artwork is scanned at 100 percent of size (which is a good idea),  this can result in a very large file, which may need to be reduced for submission. If you provide your professional with our file specifications at the same time, they can provide an additional file that meets the submission standards:  a .jpg or .tif, 300 dpi, 8” high, which usually results in a file of between 10 MB and 20 MB in size. It’s easy for them to do. 

Often a submitting artist has little or no computer file editing capabilities, such as PhotoShop, Illustrator, Corel, or other similar program.  Some image opening applications show the compressed file size for a quick view, so how do you tell whether your file is the correct size? ASBA Computer Consultant, Deb Shaw, came up with a very simple solution. Check to see the height of your file in pixels. It should be 2400 pixels high - a 300 dpi file x 8” high. Any operating system will show how many pixels are in your image.  

To do that, follow these guidelines: 

Windows: go to Windows Explorer or Internet Explorer, right click on the image, then go to Properties. 

Mac: open the file in Preview, go to Tools and click on Get Info. 

Both operating systems will show: 

- File Name 

- Document Type: Should read .jpg or .tif. 

- File Size: A file of 10 to 20 MB is expected, however, some programs will show a compressed file size of around 2 MB for a file that is really 10 MB. This can be puzzling. 

- Image Size: This is the key number, it will show pixel dimensions. The first of the two numbers is the height, and that is the important one. It should read 2400 x whatever number of pixels are contained in the width of the image. 

- Image dpi or ppi: Should read 300. 

Of course, a good file starts with a good photograph or scan. The size of the file won’t correct for a poor, home-made photo, taken with an on-camera flash, out of square, and out of focus due to slight camera motion. In the next Hang It Up column, Deborah Shaw will address artwork scanning/photography for image accuracy 

  • Left: A portion of an artwork submitted correctly sized and scanned (8”High x 300 dpi). Note the crisp details. The image on the right was incorrectly sized (4”High) although correctly scanned (300 dpi). Note the extreme degradation of the image in it when enlarged to match the image on the left. Note: This image was submitted perfectly! However, It was manipulated it to illustrate issues with scanning.