David Riecks Photography

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Making digital submissions more secure

Or how to create a "wrapper"

There are a number of methods of getting your digital images to clients or end users, the methods outlined below will help you do so in a secure fashion, and perhaps save some download or transmission time.

Zip or Stuff?

The first question you should ask yourself is, "which compression format is used most often by my existing and potential clients?" Aladdin's StuffIt is in common use on the mac side. On the Windows operating system, PKZip or WinZip is much more ubiquitous. Ask your client if they have a preference for one format or the other, and if they already have the software to decompress the file.

StuffIt Expander is a free utility and will open/decompress StuffIt files, in addition to unzipping Zip files created by WinZip®, StuffIt or any other Zip utility. In addition it can handle BinHex, DD, GZ/TGZ, LZH, MIME, RAR, PF, and UUencode files. StuffIt expander now is also available for the Linux platform. On the windows platform, WinZip features built-in support for ZIP and CAB files as well as for popular Internet file formats such as TAR, gzip, UUencode, BinHex, and MIME. Support for ARJ, LZH, and ARC files is via external programs.

Some applications will allow you to create a "self-extracting file, but do some experimenting first, as these are often specific to a particular platform. Don't forget to talk with your client first before sending a file to find out their preference on file format and file transfer method. They may be using a PC, but if they plan on passing the file to their designer (who is perhaps using a mac), you might end up making the process more difficult rather than easier.

It IS how you make it small

With bitmap images the physical dimensions (height and width), resolution (pixels per inch) colorspace profile (icc tag) and IPTC info determine how much data you have to start with. But the amount your file will compress will depend on the type of file you are compressing, as well as what you have done to the file before compressing.

CMYK files are in "device specific" colorspace and take up one third more disk space as the same file in RGB colorspace. So ask the client not only what size image they need but also which colorspace they prefer. If the image has had sharpening applied (such as that from USM or UnSharp Masking) it may not compress as nicely (I've had images saved as LZW compressed RGB TIF's actually turn out larger than the uncompressed file on disk in some cases).

If you are sending a TIFF file, I recommend not using LZW compression. You probably won't squeeze out as much space when using ZIP or StuffIt compression to "wrap" the files, and may risk having the client not be able to open the file(s) unless they have the same imaging program as yours. If they are placing the file directly into a layout program there have also been some cases where the LZW compression can create problems during the print RIP (Raster Image Process).

You won't squeeze much more space out of Jpegs as they are already compressed and have already had data thrown away (Jpeg is a "lossy" format of data storage). If you are sending a vector file (illustrator eps files for example) you won't really get much more out of the compression process in my experience either.

The "wrapper" protects

One often overlooked advantage is that the ZIP or StuffIt "wrapper" prevents the header file getting stripped or corrupted when going through mail servers or when placed on some web or FTP servers. Another advantage is that it makes it possible to include several files within a single container for simpler downloads or attachments. You can also use this facility to include a "readme" file with the image that can contain the license and/or other information about the file and any limitations you are imposing in your licensing and make it difficult for the client to lose.

Create a "readme" file

Use the license language or "terms and conditions" from the back of your estimates, invoices, or delivery memos to create a "readme" file that spells out the rights you are granting for use with this submission. This might be the language from the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) Professional Business Practices in Photography publication, the EP (Editorial Photographers) forms, or the NPPA (National Press Photographers of America) website.

Write it as out in your favorite html editor and give it a name like "readme" or "license" and save with an ".htm" or ".html" extension (for crossplatform compatibility). If you have specific directions regarding the image(the image is unsharpened you will need to apply USM, etc) you might also put those in this file.

You could write a readme.txt file in lieu of HTML, but to make it work for both mac and windows you would need to save a copy as both a mac simpletext document and a windows notepad file; that's why I suggest using HTML.

Creating a "package" for submission

-Put your "readme" html document and your image file (TIFF, JPEG, etc) into a folder (I typically use the clients name). Drop and drag this on to your choice of Aladdin's Stuffit/Dropstuff, WinZip, etc.

-Use your choice of of file transfer to upload this ZIP or SIT file to a "hidden" or password protected directory on your website, attach it to an email, or put on a CD and snail mail.

Protecting your investment

You might want to try using a EP concept called the License Lock that works like a "software wrapper." Include the wording from the link above and your readme file in an email that explains that by decompressing the attached file, or going to the URL and downloading the compressed file and opening it, they agree to be bound by the enclosed terms and conditions. You provide a copy of the same which is included in the compressed file. When they Unstuff, or Unzip (extract or uncompress) they will have a folder with your image and the readme or license file together in one place.

Notify of compressed file via Email

If I am sending a compressed file I always let the client know this upfront and include the following in my email:

You will need Aladdin's Stuff-it or Stuff-it Expander in order to extract the files. This utility is available as freeware at: (http://www.stuffit.com/download.html). If you have this application already installed download the file ending in ".sit" and drop and drag the file on the Stuff-It Expander icon (or start the application and extract to open).

If you are using WinZip or PKZip substitute the appropriate words and URL.

©2001-2003 David Riecks, please do not distribute without permission from the author.

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This page last updated: 7-27-2003