Tips on Taking Great Photos for Print

Below are helpful tips for taking photos at your library--photos that will not only serve your library and local media but also can be readily used in CAL as well.

1. The Camera Counts. Almost everyone now uses a digital camera or has access to one. But all digital cameras (and phone cameras) are not created equal. Generally, those with a higher megapixel count will provide the clearest images with the best resolution. A digital camera of 7 megapixels or more should be able to take a photo with high enough resolution for print reproduction.

2. What’s DPI? For digital photos to be reproduced in print journals like, they must have a resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch) or higher. It may be hard to tell on your camera what the end resolution will be, but here’s a handy rule of thumb. Set your camera to take photos on its highest resolution setting. That’s usually the setting that will take the FEWEST photos. That’s one common mistake most libraries make; they set the camera to take the MOST photos, but those are generally too small to use in print.

3. Print vs. Internet. There are different requirements for photos used in print publications and on the Web. We cannot use photos downloaded from a library website unless those photos are high resolution (300 dpi or higher).

4. Composition Matters. When you’re taking photos at an event (such as storytime, book signings, etc.), keep an eye out for what would make a nice photo. Don’t just snap away. Consider that a photo with two or three smiling children will make a much better photo than a group of forty kids. While it’s important to take photos of the entire group to document the success of the program, snap a few close-ups of kids’ faces; these will often make the biggest impact, especially in a journal spread. Candid shots are especially good, too, such as catching the small child paging through a board book or building a block house.

5. Seek out Photographers. If you’re too busy the day of a library event to act as photographer, seek out someone who can and will document the event. This might be a willing parent, a library volunteer, or even a local high school or college student looking to get some photography clips for their portfolio. They will likely capture things you might miss or overlook during the event.

6. Get Permissions. In this day and age, getting permissions to take and use photographs of children is essential--both for libraries and for publications. CAL cannot run photos of children (with faces visible) without having a signed permission/release form from the child’s parent or legal guardian. Most libraries now regularly have such release forms available during events; if your library doesn’t, you may want to consider this. It’s easier to get the permissions during the event than tracking the parents down later. The release forms need not be full of legalese, just short forms noting that the parent/legal guardian (full name in print and signature) gives permission for the child’s (full name printed out) photo to be used in any publication/publicity connected to the library and its programs.

So snap away! Document those special moments at your library, and send them to us; we’d love to use them in an upcoming issue of CAL!