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How to prepare your images
for the ZAPP digital jury system*

*Recently new image specifications have been added to the ZAPP web site. The new size they are specifying will put artists at a disadvantage in the jury room. DO NOT FOLLOW THE NEW INSTRUCTIONS. The original ZAPP size of 1920x1920 pixels with rectangular images masked in black will always present the best (and properly sized) images to the jurors. Especially since you'd be competing against over 500,000 properly prepared images already in the system.

Read the last paragraph of my review of the 2010 Cherry Creek jury and call me if you have any questions. 412-401-8100

How to prepare your images for the ZAPP digital jury system used by shows like Cherry Creek, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Lakefront, Uptown, Bayou City, St. James Court, Fort Worth, ArtiGras. the ACC shows, and La Quinta. OVER 300 SHOWS AND COUNTING.

Read my instructions for preparing images for Juried Art Services

Also print out the Elements workflow from the seminar page.
Between the two, they give a fuller picture of what is possible

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If you don't feel capable of doing it yourself
-I meet all show deadlines even if your slides arrive the same day-

Image requirements for the ZAPP art show jury projection system is a high resolution baseline JPEG sized 1920 x1920 pixels at 72 PPI (pixels per inch. and a file size of not more than 1.8 megabytes. To prepare your images properly, all work in your image editing program should be done while working on the images in an uncompressed format like TIF. In the following steps we'll walk you through the preparation and resizing to end up at the required size.
I firmly believe that nothing is as important as the images you submit for jurying, whether it be 35mm slides or carefully prepared digital files.

A paper on the pros and cons of doing your own digital editing

The Workflow
1 - First we opened the camera original and immediately saved it as an uncompressed TIF. You never want to work directly on a JPEG file, because every time a JPEG file is resaved, it looses quality. Only save your image as a JPEG as the very last step before you send it to the show. We then worked on our image at full resolution until it looked as close as possible to the original. Then we resized it to 1920 pixels long dimension at 72 pixels per inch (see Photoshop's image size box below). We then saved the file under a new name so as not to overwrite the original full size image.
In reference to the term "working" on it. All digital image files need some post processing. Even those taken by professional photographers need to be post processed to look exactly like the original. In most cases that might mean adjusting for accurate color and exposure, and correcting for anything that might have been set incorrectly in camera at the time of exposure. This is where the magic happens and all creative decisions are made. The rest of the work flow is straight forward except for the amount of compression needed for the target file size, which is dependent on the amount of detail in the image. I show many before and after examples at the seminars I'm offering.
In the seminars, Iíve suggested a workflow and have given visual examples that focuses on using Levels (under Image>Adjust) to set a black and white point which gives the image proper contrast. Using the outer sliders in the Histogram, move them slightly towards the center where to where the actual data starts. Because itís a real time preview, youíll see the contrast in the image change as you move the sliders. The second important tool is Hue and Saturation (under Image>Adjust). You can increase the saturation of the overall image or choose an individual color to focus your adjustment on. After youíre satisfied that the image looks like the original art, save as the full size original in an uncompressed format, like PSD (Photoshop file) or TIF. That will become the master to which you will go back to make future changes as needed. All future saves will require you to modify the file name so you donít overwrite this full size version.
If youíre working in Photoshop Elements, I have a detail workflow for download on the seminar information page.

Original photo resized in Photoshop
to the long pixel dimension of 1920 at 72 PPI
as you can see in the image size box below

Photoshop's Image Size dialogue for the above photo
Look at width (long pixel dimension), height and resolution
Make sure Constrain Proportions is checked
so the image is sized proportionally

2 - We next added BLACK BORDERS to our image to make the final size 1920 pixels square. If you are using Photoshop or Elements, make sure that black is specified in the Canvas Size dialogue box. This will insure that when projected, only the image will be seen by the jurors. This same example applies to a vertical image also. The only difference would be the black borders on the left and right, compared to the top and bottom in the image below.

Photoshop Canvas Size Box
Make sure the Canvas extension color is black

The resulting picture after adding black canvas

3 - Convert to sRGB if you're not already working in that color space. This will guaranty that your images are seen by others as you see them to the extent that both you and the person viewing them are using a color managed system. At least you're doing the best you can. Since the images will be viewed through a projected LCD system, the default color space would be sRGB. Digital cameras capture and output in sRGB by default. Most working professionals use Adobe RGB as their working space so the file might need to be converted. I work in Adobe RGB so I would "Convert To Profile" and choose sRGB under the Image>Mode menu. Some graphics programs do not support color spaces, so I wouldn't worry about if it's not an option for you.
4 - Sharpen the image layer using Unsharp Mask. The amount of sharpening you give your image is relative to the amount of fine detail so I can't really give you any suggestions here other than to experiment. View the image at 100% in your editing program and make adjustments in the Unsharp Mask setting turning on and off the preview. When it reaches a point where you can just see the difference, that would look better than no sharpening at all.
What is Unsharp Mask and why not just sharpen? When an image is resized (resampled), it looses sharpness and Unsharp Mask can bring it back so it looks natural again. The sharpen tool is like sharpening with a sledge hammer while the Unsharp Mask finds the edges where different tones meet and increases the contrast. The effect is much more subtle which is desirable. If an image looks like it has been sharpened, it looks unnatural. What I do when using any sharpening tools is to duplicate the image layer and add the Unsharp Mask to the duplicate layer. Then using transparency, I can gradually decrease the amount of sharpness the image has until it looks natural viewed at 100%. Always work with sharpening tools after resizing to the final size the image will be used at. That would be 1920x1920 for the images to submit to ZAPP. And always view the image at 100% on your monitor when making sharpening decisions.

Two Up View of "Save For Web" dialogue box
You can see where I've added arrows to point out the four most important settings, 1- file format (JPEG), 2- Progressive NOT checked, 3- ICC Profile (sRGB) checked, 4- Quality setting, 5-Resulting file size

5 - ZAPP is looking for a target file size of under 1.8 megabytes. Using Photoshop's (and Photoshop Elements) "Save For Web" filter under the file menu, you can get a properly compressed Jpeg very close to the target file size through a simple trial and error process. Set Save For Web to show two views. It installs as a single view by default. Two views will give you a side by side comparison of the original and the compressed Jpeg so you can see real time what your image looks like as you change the compression percentage (quality) compared to the original. Save For Web offers 100 levels of JPEG compression so a more accurate choice can be made as to which gives the closest results but just under the target file size. You can do something similar using "Save As" (under the File menu), and save it as a Jpeg with a quality setting of approximately 10 or 11 out of 12. But you won't know what the resulting file size will be until after saving so I recommend adding the level of compression to the file name during the Save As process. That way you'll be able to compare file sizes afterwards. This method is also recommended for any graphics programs that don't give you a real time preview. Do not save the JPEG as progressive. The Roku only reads baseline JPEGs. In the Save For Web dialogue, make sure the Progressive box isn't checked. If you use "Save As", make sure Baseline is checked as the format option for JPEG.
Summery of Workflow
Convert to an uncompressed file like TIF
Do your image editing
Resize to 1920 pixels long dimension at 72 PPI
Add 1920 square black canvas
Convert to sRGB
Sharpen with Unsharp Mask
Save as a Jpeg at not more than 1.8 megabytes
If you save with a new name at each step you'll be able to go back and easily make changes if necessary
If you're in a MAC and relatively new to digital imaging, make sure to save your JPEGs with the three letter file extension so it can be read by ZAPP.
For example "image.jpg".
This workflow is also applicable to other image editing programs, like those we've listed below. Even PaintShop Pro offers a side by side comparison of the compressed Jpeg to the original. Most professionals use Photoshop. Elements (under $100) will do everything you need to prepare your images and is highly recommended. The interface is similar enough to Photoshop that you can easily obtain help.
Photoshop (WIN and MAC) $600
The standard in the industry. But most of the features are unnecessary for working on jury slides. That's why I recommend purchasing Photoshop Elements.
Photoshop Elements (WIN and MAC) $99 Version 6 is out and it includes a conversion to the sRGB color space
PaintShop Pro (Windows Only)
PhotoImpact (WIN only)
ACDSee (WIN and MAC)
An image viewing program so you can see your images on your own computer. I use it as an image viewer, not an editor though it has some editing capabilities. I use ACDSee for a slide show in my seminars
Irfanview (Win only)
A free image viewing program so you can see your images on your own computer without any additional expense. Not the best at editing but a good free viewer.
How to Prepare Digital Images for 35mm Jury Slides
A similar page with instructions on preparing digital images for jury slides and where to have the slides made.
Art Show Photography Forum
A forum we host for photographers doing art shows. Other mediums are welcome to join and ask questions about photographing their work for jury slides. Photoshop and Elements questions are also welcome, as are any art show questions.
Contents of this page, including all images is copyright Larry Berman  I didn't add a copyright to the actual images because it might be misleading to artists who are preparing their own images. Art shows are welcome to link to this page, or even copy the content provided they credit us and link back to this page or web site.

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