Which image size do you need for your project?
A few days ago, I tried to find out how much licensing a single image at different microstock agencies would actually cost me. In the process I figured out that all agencies have slightly different offers in image size.
As you can see from the image above, the new and coming agency Stocksy United is offering four sizes ranging from a large web resolution to a X-Large version that can be used as a double page spread in a high-gloss magazine. In typical microstock agencies, you can find images at up to 7 (!) sizes, among them sometimes even upscaled versions (which means you pay for pixels that are not really there) – well, the intention is clear: A bit of confusion might make you pay a bit more than you actually need. 😉
Electronic Uses: Website, Facebook Header, iPad Apps?
Many of today’s uses are electronic only. The image is being shown on a website, maybe as a header image or to illustrate an article. Electronic screens used to have a far lower resolution than a printed magazine could use – and there is no direct connection between the image resolution and the size of the display! Just imagine that almost any TV screen you can find at a shop will display HD videos, it does not make a difference if your TV has 20 inch or 50 inch, all of them will show the same 1920×1080 pixel.
The same is true for computer monitors and how a website is being displayed: No matter if I look at my blog on my large iMac screen or on my iPad, the screen looks the same even with a four times bigger display.
For many web uses, the smallest size available at the microstock agencies will be sufficient. Basically all uses that are not a background or big header: Small article illustrations, banner ads or the categories of your website, most of them will not need a larger image. You can see the original size of an XS image on the left, this one is scaled at the size as offered by Fotolia and iStockphoto – both Dreamstime and Shutterstock are offering the same image in a slightly bigger size.
The second size (mostly called “Small”) is already too big to be fully shown here within the text. You have to click on it to see the image in 898×535 pixel as my blog software automatically reduces it to the maximum width of 720 pixels:
The largest size that appears to be useful for electronic uses would be what most microstock agencies are calling “medium” size. In the case of this image as found on Fotolia, the size would be 1786×1064 pixels. You can click on the image below to see how big this image actually looks on your screen:
If you click on the image, you will most likely find it fills your whole screen, so the most likely uses for this size is to be in the background of your webpage – or today one of the typical uses is for an iPad or tablet app. Those small devices actually provide some of the largest screen resolutions available on the market, so to use the full resolution on these devices you might want those large images to show without blurring effects.
So this size of an image can hardly be used in unchanged form – actually in most cases, the license will prohibit an unchanged use. The size is good enough to be printed already, agencies (and the photographers they represent) do not want this size to appear freely on websites, so third parties could easily download and use it without paying for a license.
But also in many cases, the agencies’ license will allow a way to use these sizes as well – as long as you use the image in a changed form! In most cases, agencies will already be satisfied if you put your own company logo or other design elements on top of the image. The main reason is to protect the original image from misuse by third parties and putting anything else over the original image will provide some security and traceability already.
Print Uses: Small Ad, Magazine Title, Bill Boards
I will talk about print uses, what 300dpi means, which size you need for large bill boards and other projects in a second article soon.