A well-functioning image production process is an integral part of successful product information management. An exemplary image production process and optimal master format enable efficient administration and optimal utilization of the images.
As part of product information management, we always define the image production process and an optimal master format together with our clients. Regrettably, many companies still utilize outdated information in their image production processes, or processes that are meant for another purpose entirely. When high-class utilization of images in multiple channels is needed, this matter requires particular attention.
To start, it is essential to know the big picture and all the contexts where the images will be used. This article primarily examines the management of thousands or tens of thousands of images, where the choices are guided by e.g. as straightforward a workflow as possible and a high level of automation. In other words: how to achieve a good basic quality as (cost-)efficiently as possible. One of the greatest challenges in the pipeline between digital and print is color management, which sometimes makes choices difficult.
There is no one single configuration that would apply always and for everyone, but in the following there are a few tips to help you get started, at the very least.
1. Master format (for photos)
JPG or PSD. A minimally compressed JPG works as a master image for almost all purposes. It supports color profiles and clipping paths. If you need the following features in master images, it is recommended to choose PSD (Photoshop) as master format.
- You want to preserve the Photoshop features of the original, e.g. layers.
- It is worth your while to go through these carefully, so that the image works smoothly for all channels.
Original image size 5760 x 3840 pixels. The original image has a lot of white background. File sizes when image is saved in different formats:
The graph shows that, for example, using JPG (quality 10) in comparison to the original TIF gives up to a 99% reduction in file size.
2. Color space and color profile (for photos)
An RGB workflow enables high-quality image utilization in different channels. Today practically all images are photographed digitally, resulting in an original file in RGB mode. In RGB workflow the image is kept in RGB mode as long as possible. For printing purposes, the conversion to CMYK mode is done only for the material that is sent to the printing service, directly into the ICC profile that the service uses. All redundant profile conversions result in loss of image data, i.e. hues.
It is recommended to choose AdobeRGB or sRGB as master image ICC profile. It is usually a matter of taste, but Adobe RGB’s Gamut is slightly wider than sRGB’s. Browsers used to support only the sRGB profile, but today all the most common browsers know how to utilize also other ICC profiles, and color management works also within the browser. In this case it might be best to embed the profile into the image, resulting in slightly bigger file size.
3. Vector images and graphics
It is recommended to save vector images in AI (Adobe Illustrator) format or EPS format. The RGB instructions don’t necessarily apply to vector images. Logos, for example, use often spot colors, when the original color profile is to be left untouched.
Defining black in RGB -> CMYK conversions brings an extra challenge. For this reason graphics going to print are often produced and stored in CMYK mode.
The physical size of the master image, i.e. it’s dimensions, can be defined according to the largest known image size requirement. It is also possible to use the full-size original, but if, for instance, there are hundreds of thousands of products and product images, it may be wise to limit the size of the master image and thus optimize disk and data bandwidth usage. A correctly picked image format also helps in file size optimization.
5. As uniform a mass as possible
So that the processes for large numbers of images can be made as streamlined as possible, special attention needs to be paid that images from different sources are according to your instructions and in as uniform a format as possible. We do almost always help our clients communicate to their suppliers and partners about the used image formats. Photoshop automation can also help in harmonization of a large mass.
6. Utilization in different channels
Take into consideration all channels that are being used and how the images can be converted, as automatically as possible, in to the form required by the different channels. When e.g. PIM system automation is used to create versions of images for use in different channels, attention needs to be paid to, for instance, optimizing thumbnail image size (format, profile cleaning etc.). If web is the only channel, the process as a whole is a little easier to carry out. Then again, if one day there is a wish to use the images in print, the process built for web requirements may cause huge changes.
About the production processes
It pays to configure image production processes carefully. Also in this case a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Below an example of one image production process:
We are also glad to help with anything image related. Go ahead and ask more, and we can tune also your image production process up to its peak.
More image production tips: https://www.shopify.com/blog/75481285-6-steps-to-streamline-your-product-photography-workflow