BA(Hons) Publishing
PUB 703 - Design & Production
Theme 2 - Photography & Illustration

2.1 Photography

We live in a visually orientated society. Ruth Schwarze states in her book "The Science of Creativity" that 78% of our perception takes place through seeing, 13 % through hearing and the rest through touching, smelling and tasting 20. A picture tells its own story. It speaks vividly, simply and quickly 8

Brief History of Photography 
What is a photograph? 

In 1837 the Frenchman Louis Daguerre perfected a technique to produce photographs on silvered, light sensitive copperplates - so called Daguerreotypes. This was the first widely-practised form of photography. Early in 1839 the Englishman Henry Fox Talbot published a process to produce photographs on paper. He also developed the Calotype on which the current negative-positive process is based. 

Until the late 19th century newspapers relied on woodcuts and copperplate etchings made from line drawings to illustrate their publications. Zinc-etching made it possible to reproduce a photograph with all its tonal values 21. This created a demand for photographs to illustrate news and for advertising. 

Commercial colour photography is about 70 years old. The archival properties of earlier colour photographs were not as good as their black & white counterparts and valuable historical information has been lost forever. 

Digital imaging is rapidly replacing film, especially for newspaper and magazine use. This makes the manipulation of "photographs" easy and the trustworthiness of newspapers and magazines will be put to the test in the coming years. 

Why use photographs in a publication? 
Photos might increase your readership and they can promote positive public relations 18. But they cost:

  • Money - for film, developing and printing, enlargements, etc.
  • Time - to be cropped and sized, captions have to be written, etc.
Always ask yourself - is there a reason for this photograph? Photographs create a mood, increase understanding and interest and convey a message. Avoid boring photographs. Mug shots (head & shoulders) are boring, action shots are much more interesting 17. In Photos of committees and groups all faces should be recognisable; if there is a choice between a bad photograph or none, choose none.

Photographs should:

  • be relevant (appropriate),
  • have visual appeal (impact) - subjects should be easy to identify, people cause emotional response, action aids to appeal
  • have design possibilities and
  • be of excellent technical quality 7
The equipment (the camera and the film) used by the photographer directly influences the quality of the photographs. For information on the different camera formats consult my notes "An Introduction to Black & White Photography and Darkroom Techniques". The filmspeed of the film used for a photograph determines the size of the grain. High speed films have coarser grain and a lower resolution than slow speed films. Coarse grain can however be used creatively.

Photographs submitted for publication can be divided into four main groups:

1. Black & white photographs

    • Physical quality:
      prints should be clean and dust-free, without marks from processing or otherwise or holes caused by staplers, pins, paperclips, etc. Small faults can be retouched.
    • Contrast:
      full range of tonal values should be present - from white to darkest black - pay special attention to highlight - and shadow detail. Remember - contrast increases during printing. Avoid photographs consisting of mostly gray tones without any whites and blacks. Make sure that the subject is suitable for black & white?
    • Sharpness (focus):
      Make sure that the important parts are in focus. Selective focusing can be used very creatively, but if the important areas in a photograph are out of focus it is useless.
    • Composition

2. Colour photographs (prints)

    • Physical quality:
      As for black & white prints.
    • Contrast:
      The contrast of a colour print cannot be controlled by the printer but is inherent to the film and paper used to produce the print.
    • Colour cast:
      Colour casts can be the result of incorrect printing or of the colour of the light source (colour temperature) at the time of taking the photograph.
    • Sharpness (focus):
      As for black & white prints.
    • Composition

3. Colour transparencies

    • Physical quality:
      As for black & white prints. Remember - any faults will be enlarged as much as the transparency.
    • Contrast:
      The contrast of a colour transparency is inherent to the film. The tonal range on a colour transparency can be as much as 500 to 1, whereas the range of printable ink is only 100 to 1 1. This means that the tonal range will be compressed during printing.
    • Colour cast:
      colour cast can be the result of the light source or incorrect handling and storage of the film prior to exposure and processing.
    • Sharpness (focus):
      As for black & white prints.
    • Composition

4. Electronic Images
There is a strong tendency to move away from film to digital imaging and the next few years will bring major changes for photographers and printers. Similar criteria as those for prints and transparencies do however apply to these images. Make sure that you receive the photographs in a format that can be handled by your system.


Black & white and colour prints have an advantage above transparencies - they are produced from negatives and the prints can be manipulated in the darkroom - cropped for better composition, areas can be burnt-in or dodged for better tonal values. They should preferably be printed on glossy paper. Textured papers might reduce the sharpness of the printed image. Electronic Images can of course also be manipulated and saved in a format preferred by the printer.

Composition & Cropping

Pay attention to the following:

  • Horizontal - Vertical 
  • Perspective, space, three dimensional depth, volume
  • Informational value, size reference
  • Illumination, light
  • Lines, shapes
  • Texture
  • Symmetry, repetition, balance, rhythm
  • Sharpness - depth of field, movement
  • The golden section - see diagram on right
Most photographs benefit from tight cropping, eliminating everything that is unnecessary and distracting. Look for something different in the photograph and how to emphasize it. Sometimes the composition improves by "flopping" (mirroring) the photograph - this is not possible if there is writing or a well known object in the photograph. If an entire scene is boring, try a close-up.

Placing & Positioning:
Photographs become a tool to break the grey matter of text - they are stepping stones between stories. Rearrange a page to fit the picture if necessary - faces should look into the page and not out of it.

Special: The Photo Spread:
Avoid same size photographs, group photographs of the same subject.

Choosing and briefing a photographer
Photographers specialize - sport-, industrial, social-, portrait & wedding etc. Choose the right photographer for the occasion. Most photographers do most of their work in colour and not all are good in black & white photography. Find out whether the photographer has a studio. Disadvantages of location photography - unpredictable weather - This can lead to delays and increase expenses tremendously.
Explain to the photographer how the photograph will be used, decide on a visual style and the "mood" the photograph should impart. The final size of the photograph will influence the camera format chosen by the photographer and thus the cost of the shoot. Stay within the limits of your budget and deadline. Make your requirements clear and listen to suggestions from the photographer.

Consult legal directives about this.
A freelance photographer may own the copyright to all his work. Sign the necessary agreements with him before using a photograph.
Remember - people have the "Right to Privacy" and pictures can invade privacy. A "Model release" - A written release worded correctly, signed and witnessed is necessary before photographs of people can be printed.

1. Aldrich-Ruenzel, Nancy (Editor).1990. Designer's Guide to Print Production. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York.
2. Bivins, Thomas H. 1991. Fundamentals of Successful Newsletters. NTC Publishing Group.
3. Cotton, Bob. (Editor). 1990. The New Guide to Graphic Design. Phaidon Press Limited.
4. Curtin, Dennis P. 1998. A Short Course in Digital Photography.
5. Dalley,Terence. (Editor). 1980. The Complete Guide to Illustration and Design Techniques and Materials. Phaidon Press Limited.
6. Fincher, Terry. 1980. Creative Techniques in Photo-journalism. B T Batsford Ltd.
7. Garcia, Mario R. 1987. Contemporary Newspaper Design. Prentice Hall.
8. Harriss, Julian and Leiter, Kelly. 1977. The Complete Reporter. Stanley Johnson Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
9. Keene, Martin. 1993. Practical Photojournalism. Focal Press.
10. Kneller, Robert F. Black-and-White Printing for Reproduction Photomethods. Volume 27, Number 6. 
11. Lauer, David A. 1985. Design Basics. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 
12. Marshall, Hugh. 1989. Art-Directing Photography. Quarto Publishing plc. 
13. Mencher, Melvin. 1984. News Reporting and Writing. Wm. C. Brown Publishers. 
14. Metz, William. 1979. Newswriting: From Lead to "30". Prentice-Hall. 
15. Microsoft Encarta 
16. Paris, Philip. 1992. Trouble Shooting for Printers. A PIFSA Publication.
17. Radke Blake, Barbara  and Stein, Barbara L. 1992. Creating Newsletters, Brochures and Pamphlets. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
18. Sanders, Norman. 1983. Photographing for Publication. R. R. Bowker.
19. Varney, Vivian. 1977. The Photographer as Designer. Davis Publications, Inc.
20. Weber, Ernst A. 1981. Vision, Composition and Photography. de Gruyter.
21. Westley, Bruce H. 1980. News Editing - Third Edition Houghton Mifflin Company.
22. Zettl, Herbert. 1973. Sight, Sound, Motion. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc.


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  Introduction to Black & White Photography

   Helga Nordhoff        (012) 420-2638