Monday, 6 February 2012

The Pictures in My Book are Poor

Publishing an illustrated book on POD requires not only word-perfect text, but excellent quality images. Poor quality images can make a self-published book look amateurish. How does the writer ensure the images within the book are excellent quality?

Good Quality Images with Text

Creating a professional-looking book for print on demand (or POD) is crucial for sales. The proof copy of a picture book from Createspace or Lulu could reveal image issues not apparent onscreen. The causes of poor quality are numerous, but could be:

The image appears pixilated or fuzzy. This might be due to sourcing the images from a website offering copyright free images, such as Wikimedia Commons. Viewing images on screen may appear to have good resolution until panning in a little, where pixilation is soon apparent. Even an image of seemingly sufficient bytes in dimensions (around 2000 on either side) can be poor quality.

Images with less than 300 DPI (dots per square inch) may appear pixilated in print. You can check the pixilation by clicking on ‘image properties’ when viewing an image in Pictures. You can increase the DPI of your image with Irfanview (free imaging software) or PaintShop Pro. Look out for the ‘resize’ or ‘resample’ button on the tools bar of either.

Reason for Poor Images in Print

Poor images might also be due to the following:

The pictures taken are from a digital setting with low resolution, which might be caused by poor lighting or a fast shutter speed (for action shots). Camera shake might also be an issue. More about taking perfect pictures are covered in a moment.

When saving the book as a PDF, you might have selected ‘minimum size (publishing online)’ without realising. This selection will reduce the quality of your images. It is better to select ‘standard publishing’ (from print) when saving the book file for print.

The images might have been compressed in your book file with the aim of reducing the file size. Compressing images will degrade the quality of images, regardless of what you do to the images afterwards. It is better to delete the image from the word document and insert the image from My Pictures from scratch. Don’t compress images unless the book is to be published on Kindle.

Tips on Publishing a Book with Images

I prefer to use my own images within my picture book and therefore will take my own photographs or provide my own illustrations. If the photograph itself is of good quality, you will have less to worry about. For good photographs, ensure your have:
  • Good lighting. This is crucial. I avoid flash photography or artificial lights. Prefer a bright cloudy day. Nothing beats natural daylight.
  • Watch out for reflections and bright light fogging out an object. It is better to shoot back-to the main source of light. Avoid taking shots too near a bright object unless you want reflected light to soften harsh shadows.
  • Use the highest resolution setting. This can usually be found under ‘portrait mode.’ Avoid poor light settings and action settings unless the effect is intended. This will cause the photograph to appear grainy.
How to Take Good Photos for Picture Books

You don’t need expensive photographic equipment. A good digital camera will suffice.
Just action the following when taking shots for your book.
  • Hold the camera steady. Squeeze the shutter gently.
  • Take several similar shots to offer a choice, if some pictures don’t work out.
  • Try different angles and lighting for your photographs.
If illustrations or paintings are to be included in the book, I prefer to scan them, as white paper could create a misleading light setting and dark pictures. Set the scanner to at least 300 DPI.

Essential Image Software for Self Publishing

Even perfect photographs could be improved with a little tweaking. The following might come in useful:
  • If the photograph looks bleached-out or lacks contrast, increase the contrast a tad in Pictures. This will deepen shadows and bring out highlights.
  • If the colours are too garish, tone down the saturation.
  • PaintShop has an array of artistic effects if you want to give the image an aged look or emulate brushmarks. Remember to save the original image first.
Photo Editor for Print Books

Images might be poor quality when viewed in print: low pixilation, resolution or sourcing from the Net are common culprits. I prefer to provide my own images for my print books. Taking good photographs are possible with minimal equipment and with simple practices. Scanning is recommended if inserting illustrations or paintings into the book.

Tips on Publishing Picture Books for POD

How to format pictures with text
Bleed or no bleed for POD?
How to increase DPI of images in picture books
Beginners' guide to Createspace
Tips on writing novels

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