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Old 05-14-2005, 12:02 AM   #1
marlene
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Default Photo quality problems -- who's responsible?

One of my clients just had a job printed in which some of the photos don't look good. I haven't seen the printed piece (I was not involved in the project), but the client's main question is whether or not the printer should have noticed that some of the images were poor quality and informed the client, and/or fixed (or attempted to fix) the problems.

I've always figured it was the responsibility of the person doing the design/layout to make sure the images were okay. It's great if the printer does notice problems and let me or the client know, but I only expect the printer to notice if images are missing or something else very obvious.

And I am very grateful if a printer does let me know about a problem (e.g., I sent a job to press where one of the photos was not precisely fitted to the picture box, and there was a very thin white space between the bottom of the image and the box rule), but I don't take it for granted.

I can't imagine that most printers' prepress department have time to go through document files page by page and scrutinize the photos, especially in jobs that include dozens of them.

So, what do you expect from a printer? Should the printer be checking all your layouts for image quality?

mxh
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Old 05-14-2005, 03:29 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by marlene
So, what do you expect from a printer? Should the printer be checking all your layouts for image quality?
I expect it to be my responsibility, and expend a lot of energy in trying to get it right.

But most printers do pass an experienced eye over their work, and when they point out an error, I'm suitably grateful and grovel appropriately.

In general, working with printers on a regular basis, you build up a good working relationship. I imagine that they get pretty pissed off by designers who consistently expect them to sort out their errors, but in my exprience they will look after those who try hard to do the right thing but are still human.

A match print helps everybody.

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 06:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by marlene
… the client's main question is whether or not the printer should have noticed that some of the images were poor quality and informed the client, and/or fixed (or attempted to fix) the problems.
I would expect a printer I had a relationship with to let me know if the images were not up to snuff. I doubt any would try to fix a lousy image without being asked, though — aside from taking time, if it wasn’t successful, it might open the printer to charges of incompetence.

The designer must inform the client that a photo will not print well, that there are limits to what can be done with bad photos (especially jpegs of inadequate resolution, noise, and similar problems).

In the old days, you’d hire a photographer who would be responsible for delivering a printable print, film, or digital image. Increasingly, though, clients insist on providing their own images, so it becomes the designer’s responsibility to explain when they simply will not work.

It is a royal PITA, in fact.

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 10:56 AM   #4
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If the client or whoever dealt with the printer wouldn't pay for a matchprint or similar proof, it's their problem.

I'd hope that the printer would notice and point out any problems (and who knows, perhaps they tried to but the designer snapped at them or wasn't available to take the call or didn't return the call until after the presses had to roll in order to meet deadlines). For a big job, you'd think somebody from the client end would have tried to do a quick press check. Apparently not.

As KT mentions, so many people are doing their own photography and scans these days. Let's take that the next step: printers are probably seeing an awful lot of crap that clients (having a bad case of Ididitmyselfitis) think is just fine.

IOW, stuff that might have stuck out like a sore thumb ten years ago may be par for the course today. If the printer stopped production for every lousy image they see, they'd save a lot of trees. No paper would come off the press, no green federally printed paper would come in.

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 01:25 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
In the old days, you’d hire a photographer who would be responsible for delivering a printable print, film, or digital image. Increasingly, though, clients insist on providing their own images, so it becomes the designer’s responsibility to explain when they simply will not work.
One of my clients has been taking their own staff mugshots for their bimonthly magazine, and I've been complaining about the quality. They must have one of the very first consumer digital cameras ever produced - photos are 640x480 at 72 dpi, with no highlight or shadow detail at all, and artifacts everywhere. They also have a staffer who fiddles with JPEGs they get from advertisers before passing them on to me. I've been hinting that 'someone at the advertiser's place of business fiddled with that photo, and it's lost too many pixels to reproduce well'.

I offered to take new photos of as many staff as they could get together in one place, and on Friday they took me up on my offer. It was actually my first attempt at taking portrait shots with my Olympus E-20P (I usually take horse photos) and I'm thrilled with the result. The staffer who's been fiddling with the other photos in Photoshop was very dismissive of my camera, saying that he'd once had an Olympus OLR that had a flash that was too strong, but even he will be happy with the one I took of him - it shows up his three day beard beautifully, and there's no reflection from his glasses. <g>

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 02:30 PM   #6
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… even he will be happy with the one I took of him - it shows up his three day beard beautifully, and there's no reflection from his glasses. <g>
Oh — one of those Photoshop artistes! I know them well (it was the three-day beard that tipped me off; how do they maintain that, I wonder?)

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 02:48 PM   #7
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Oh — one of those Photoshop artistes! I know them well (it was the three-day beard that tipped me off; how do they maintain that, I wonder?)
Maybe they use a barber's blade. Isn't it a Number 1 or something that gives that extra-close crop of head hair?

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 03:44 PM   #8
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Anne:

it shows up his three day beard beautifully

That should please him, for that three-day beard effect is difficult to maintain. Mind you, it doesn't really go with spectacles.

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 03:55 PM   #9
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Anne:

it shows up his three day beard beautifully

That should please him, for that three-day beard effect is difficult to maintain. Mind you, it doesn't really go with spectacles.
These are rimless, and ever-so-slightly tinted. ;-)

   
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Old 05-14-2005, 06:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marlene
So, what do you expect from a printer? Should the printer be checking all your layouts for image quality?
No.

The printer does need to provide hi-res proofs that will show potential problems. We caught a bad image in the premier issue of our new magazine that way. But it's not the printer's fault.

In fact, we will no longer provide native files to our printers, just PDF. We expect our printers to have a PDF workflow. That way any problem is *OUR* responsibility.
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