Size & Proportion

Each publisher has specific photo guidelines regarding the size of the photo that will fit their publication best. For example, let’s say a publisher wants photos that are 600 pixels by 600 pixels minimum, 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels maximum. 

The below photo is 2000 pixels by 1000 pixels. That means it’s too big and will need to be edited.

If an image is too big, you will need to crop or scale the photo in an image editing program to the appropriate size. You can use free online tools like Pixlr or a desktop tool like MS Paint to resize.

If an image is too small, DO NOT increase the size. This will lead to a decrease in quality. It’s better to find a bigger photo and crop it to the correct image specifications.

BAD:

The above photo was resized from 300 pixels wide to 1000 pixels wide. As you can see, this lead to a decrease in quality. The image appears blurry and pixelated.

BAD:

The above image was not resized or cropped properly. This resulted in President Obama looking unnaturally thin.

BAD:

Similarly, the above image was not resized or cropped properly. This resulted in President Obama looking unnaturally wide.

Collages

Every featured image for every assignment should be unique. Do not re-use an image you already used somewhere in the article as the featured image.

Instead, a featured image should tease what a reader can expect when they click on the article. If you’re clever, the title and the featured image work together to surprise the reader so that they have no choice but to click through to see what the heck the article is talking about!

For example, if you’re doing an article about Celebrities Who Smoke, would your featured image include well-known celebrity smokers, or would you throw in a surprise, like Hayden Panettiere?

What?! The girl from Remember the Titans? Noooooooo! 

The best way to make a collage quickly is by using www.fotor.com, a free online app that specializes in collages.

When you go there, you’ll see this screen:

Click that big “Collage” button in the middle.

Upload your photos on the right (you can use photos you already used in the article), select how many images you want in the collage on the left, select the format on the left, and when you’re done dragging and resizing images into place, click that “save” button in the middle and download the photo.

Voila.

Blurred Borders

Sometimes, the only photo you can find and use is way too small or is a portrait when you need a landscape. While we advised above to not blow up or stretch the dimensions unnaturally, so what do you do to get a desired photo to the size you need?

First off, DO NOT add black, gray, white or transparent borders to the photo to “trick” the platform. Editors can see this, and will send the article back for a photo revision.

If you really want to make an attractive image in about the same amount of time it takes to slap ugly black borders on either side of the picture, you can use https://pixlr.com/editor/ to add a blurred border instead.

First thing’s first. Check the client’s image requirements and make sure your original photo falls within them. I resized this photo of Hayden Panettiere in MS Paint to be 400 x 600 pixels, assuming the client requires images that are 1200 x 600 pixels.

Next, create a new document in Pixlr with the dimensions you want your final image to be. Remember that for this example, we’re going for an image that is 1200 x 600 pixels.

With your new document created, go to “File,” then “Open Image” and open the original Hayden Panettiere photo.

Select all of the contents of the photo (CTRL + A), copy them (CTRL + C), click to your blank document and then paste the contents in (CTRL + V).

In the Layer panel on the far right, right-click on “Layer 1” and select “Duplicate Layer.” You should now see three layers in the layer panel: Background, Layer 1, and Layer 1 Copy.

“Layer 1 Copy” will auto-select once it’s created, so click “Layer 1” again to select that layer. Go to “Edit” in the toolbar and click “Free Transform.” You’ll then see a box around the image of Hayden Panettiere that you can drag and manipulate.

Hold down the “Shift” key and drag one of the four corners. Holding down “Shift” keeps the image’s proportions intact. Pull the image until it’s large enough to fill the canvas, leaving no white space. Press “Enter” to save your changes.

You may need to repeat the process of selecting “Edit” and “Free Transform” again if you dragged the corner off the screen and still need to make the image bigger. Do so and press “Enter” again to save your changes.

Make sure “Layer 1” is still selected. Then go to the toolbar and click “Filter” and then “Gaussian Blur.” Set the blur amount to somewhere between 50 and 100 -- whatever looks good to you. Then click “OK.”

By now, the photo should look pretty solid. Click “File” and “Save,” ignore the other settings in the “Save” window and just click “OK” once you’ve selected to save it to the Desktop.

Voila. A 1200 x 600 .JPG of Hayden Panettiere, now with a blurred border added.

Adding a blurred border might take some getting used to, and you certainly won’t have to apply this method every time. But if you run into a snag with an image and this is the only option, this is the easiest way to do it quickly.

Memes

Sometimes, you might decide to create your own memes for a specific entry or assignment. The fastest and easiest way to do that is https://imgflip.com/memegenerator.

At the top, you’ll upload your image, and in the fields, you can add your text. You can also move the text manually by floating your cursor over the photo. 

If you click “More Options,” a drop down will let you change the settings and font size, as well as keep the final meme the same size as the photo you uploaded (this is VERY important, as imgflip automatically shrinks memes).

You will have to click “Private,” and then click “Generate Meme” to download.

Each meme created by imgflip will have an imgflip watermark on the bottom left. You can quickly crop this out separately, or leave it. Leaving it looks slightly tacky, but it’s nothing to get bent out of shape over.

Miscellaneous Resources & Conclusion

If you really want to up your game and check out tools that allow you to pixelate faces easily or create GIFs, you can check out this blog post from Presto Media.

Images can be touchy, but remember that you can rely on Presto Media’s editorial team to help you navigate this aspect of our work. We have a lot of experience using photos in digital publishing, and can help you on a case by case basis if there is any doubt over images. 

If you have any questions about fair use images or specific questions about an assignment, please reach out to the editorial team on Slack.

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