Don’t Pay For Plain Pixels!

“Don’t Pay For Plain Pixels”, otherwise known as “Buying smart”.   I’m talking about trying to keep your spending smart by not buying more image than you need, in particular when it comes to a white background.

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Very popular on microstock sites, including iStockphoto, is the “isolated”, “isolated on white” or “cut out” image, such as the one below:

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I’ve put a 2 pixel border around the image so you can appreciate the white area.  This image was originally shot on a Canon 5D, at the full pixel resolution of 2912 x 4368.  This is a smaller version, but the same aspect ratio.  By the way, you can find this image on iStockphoto here.  As you can see, I’ve filled the frame pretty fully with the model.  I’ve not added any more area than the camera originally captured, nor have I cropped any pixels from it.  I think this image provides plenty of “subject” real estate for use – ie. there are a lot of useful pixels in the image.

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Imagine, however, I decided to shoot this horizontally, putting the model on frame left.  This might appear useful to a designer, with lots of room for copy or text on the right, but that is something easily added (I’ll show you how, below).

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As you can see, if I uploaded the original, uncropped, straight from the camera version of this image to iStockphoto, while it may look nicely composed in the search thumbnail, over half of the image is nothing but white pixels, something easily added by a designer.  Essentially, you are paying for pixels that have no value to you.

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Now, I’m not saying that subjects should be cropped within 3 pixels of the edge, but I think we can see where some cropping is necessary to ensure buyer value.  In fact, iStockphoto does reject some images with too much white space.  However, some do make it into the collection with too much white space in frame (IMO).

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However, your design may call for white space in a certain area, relative to the subject.  It’s easy to add white space to your image using Photoshop (or any other program – the idea is the same).  For example, you could use the free online graphic tool “Phoenix” by Aviary.  It has the canvas function mentioned below, although the process is slightly different.

  1. First step, open your image.whiteSpace_3
  2. Under “Image”, go to “Canvas Size”.whiteSpace_4
  3. “Canvas Size” will show you the current dimensions of your image.  For the clearest (to me, anyways) way to increase space, change the second pulldown for width and height to “pixels”.  You can now tell Photoshop the new image width in pixels.  Let’s say “400”.  But before we hit “OK”, we need to click on the leftmost, middle box in the bottom graphic.  This tells Photoshop, in the new, larger canvas, where to stick the old image.  We want it smack to the left, so we click the left middle box.  Any of the left boxes would work, since we aren’t changing the height.  Lastly, change the “Canvas Extension Color” to white, so the added pixels will be white. whiteSpace_5
  4. Hooray!  We now have our new canvas, with plenty of copy space to the right of the model. whiteSpace_6
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The point of this post is that you should make sure that you get the best value for the credits you are spending.  Given the choice between two similar images, see which one gives you the most useful pixels to work with.

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