Photographs for RadCom and the RSGB website

We greatly appreciate photographs sent in for publication in Around Your Region, and to accompany articles. Here are some guidelines to help your work appear at its very best.

Photos must be at least 1024 x 768 pixels (higher resolution is better), in sharp focus, adequately lit and not noisy (grainy). Any modern mobile phone is capable of taking photos that easily exceed these requirements – just make sure the lens is clean immediately before use. Preference is given to good quality, interesting images of club activities.

We recommend you always take several photos of the same subject and then select the best. When checking photos onscreen, always zoom right in to confirm that the focus is spot on and the image hasn’t got ‘camera shake’ – often, photos look OK when viewed small on a mobile phone or camera screen but are in fact quite badly out of focus and/or noisy when examined full size. If in doubt, take some more photos and send them all.

Although it sounds odd, if you are photographing people on a sunny day, use your camera’s flash (if it has one) – it brightens up people’s faces and makes them stand out better from the background. (Mobile phone LED ‘flash’ is not normally powerful enough to do this).

Please send your photos as a full resolution attachment to your email. Don’t accept your email program’s offer of making the images smaller! Please do NOT embed images in emails, Word documents or anything else: we really need the highest possible resolution, unedited, as the native file, with no overprint, annotations, or cropping. We can even handle many of the native RAW formats if you have those files available.

Example bad and good technical photos.

Example bad and good technical photos of the same item. The only change is a sheet of white paper over the clutter, but it makes all the difference.

Please make sure the background is as uncluttered as possible. For technical stuff, putting the subject on a piece of white paper (as in the example on the right), or perhaps a clean, unpatterned shirt, a plain tablecloth or a plain bed sheet works wonders.

Please make sure the things you photograph are well lit, ideally without shadows, and that your photos are in sharp focus. Diffused lighting is best (eg outside on an overcast day). If you’re using a ‘proper’ camera then make sure it’s at least three times the width of the subject away from it – use zoom to make it appear the right size. This avoids the odd bulging effects that you get when taking a photo too close to the subject. Most things can be photographed well by simply putting them on the floor in a well-lit space (use a plain background, discussed above) and then simply standing over the object with the camera pointing down from normal head height, using the camera zoom to make the item appear a reasonable size.

It is very useful if you can keep a wide, clear margin around the subject, ie don’t have it running right up to the edge of the photograph. Even a 10-20% margin means we get a lot of flexibility in how we crop the image for publication. The example photo of the microphone above does not have anything like enough margin around it.

Don’t be afraid of sending us lots of photos – more than are needed for the article. That means we can select the best for publication, and it’s always useful to have some spares for things like the contents page, website, social media etc.

Please send us the highest resolution you can get from your camera. If you are sending lots of photos it often pays to use a free file transfer service like Dropbox, jumbomail.me or similar (we have no particular favourite). They let you upload big photos separately from your email, meaning there’s less likelihood of things bouncing. (The RadCom editorial mailboxes can accept emails of up to about 50MB but your ISP may not let you send mails that big).

If you have manual control of the camera settings, it’s usually worth setting the ISO sensitivity near its lowest (thus reducing image noise) and using a suitable aperture for a depth of field that ensures the whole item is in focus. (For DSLRs, don’t stop down much below about f/11 otherwise diffraction effects will cause the image to look very ‘soft’, however deep the focus may be in theory). A combination of low ISO and small aperture may well call for a tripod to avoid problems with camera shake. One tip: if you use the self-timer when the camera is on a tripod then you can avoid even the small amount of camera shake from pressing the shutter release.

How JPG damages text

How JPG damages text (click to enlarge)

For ‘line art’ (particularly screendumps, graphs etc), NEVER EVER SAVE AS JPG. The example (right) shows how badly text can be affected by the JPG compression algorithm. JPG is designed for – and works well on – photographs, but is very poor at handling stuff with straight lines. It also significantly reduces the colour resolution, which makes screendumps and so on look really awful when they’re printed in a magazine no matter how good they may look on your monitor at home. We recommend saving these files as PNG or other format that supports lossless compression (eg TIFF). A number of free software packages are available that will screendump, edit images and save in different formats. Use the highest screen resolution you can, and have the window as large on the screen as possible. The more pixels the better! Never, ever save a screendump or line art as .jpg – once it has been saved that way you cannot reverse the damage. 

Finally, it is essential that you are either the originator, copyright owner, or have the written permission of the copyright owner for all images that are included in the submission. (An exception is that if you are creating a work for publication in RadCom or RadCom Plus you can re-use images that have been previously published in any RSGB publication). Images downloaded from the web, with very few exceptions (such as explicitly public domain images from Wikimedia Commons) generally cannot be used. Be VERY VERY CAREFUL if your photos include identifiable children: you MUST make sure you have their parent or legal guardian’s permission before submitting their likeness for publication.