About 12 days left until the first possible day to start a SoFoBoMo book for 2009. I've been sharing some email with Brooks Jensen, the editor of Lenswork, on his experiences with using PDF for photography. He was kind enough to write down some of his thoughts, that you may find useful. Brooks has been using PDF for a while, particularly for the publication of Lenswork Extended and has some intriguing ideas.
Twelve Thoughts on the PDF for Photography
As a creative artist, I reflexively resist any time someone tries to tell me what to do—so this article is not that. On the other hand, I've learned that learning from someone else's experience can be a valuable way to learn, in and of itself. So, with Gordon McGregor's encouragement, I offer a few thoughts from my experience as the publisher of LensWork Extended relative to the new medium of PDF publishing. It will, of course, be up to you to decide whether to follow the suggestions or consider them rules to be broken—with vigor!
- Monitors are horizontal (more correctly, landscape orientation), and so, too, should be PDFs. It's a ridiculous waste of screen real estate to make a vertical (portrait orientation) publication in a horizontal world.
- Use Acrobat's "full screen mode" for PDF publications. Why clutter up the screen real estate with software menus, scrollbars, and other superfluous visual clutter in a presentation like a publication of photography that is supposed to be visually sophisticated.
- Speaking of remember navigation, that unlike physical books PDF is a nonlinear navigational challenge. There's no reason to think someone needs to view a PDF in page sequence—in fact there might be a great reason to assume that they won't. Be sure to take this into account when designing your PDF publication.
- In the nondigital world, it is universal that people will get close to a photograph or a book to see more details. In the PDF world, using the zoom tool, viewers can zoom in beyond anything imaginable in a photographic print. If you want them to have this ability, be sure to create your PDFs with enough resolution that allows people to zoom in without the images pixelating. Screens only need 72 dpi, but to allow for zooming, you might want to use 200 dpi instead.
- Unlike a physical book, PDFs don't have to consist of equal sized pages. Some pages can be vertical, some horizontal, some large, some small. What can you do with this idea?
- Obvious as it seems, PDFs are not books. It's best not to think of them as "digital books," but rather as their own unique publishing venue. So, think beyond the book; think audio, think video, think links, think links to the Internet, think layers.
- Speaking of layers, this is one of the most under-utilized and most interesting aspects of PDF publishing. If you create a layered document in InDesign, you can export the InDesign document to a layered PDF and then include hot buttons that turn off and on various layers. Think three-dimensionally.
- PDFs also break a temporal barrier. Unlike physical books, it's easy to update a PDF. Most commonly, updates would be some form of correction—fixing a typo, for example. But what about projects that incorporate a temporal update as part of the project? Maybe a story that unfolds over time? Rather than a publication date, what about publication range?
- Don't forget that the many sophisticated computer folks now use widescreen monitors—an unbelievable blessing for panorama format photography.
- Always embed fonts. Always embed fonts. Always embed fonts. If you can't embed fonts, convert them to outlines.
We are clearly in the early stages of learning how to use this new medium for the publication of photography, but what an exciting potential it has for the distribution of our work and for some very engaging and unique experiences for our viewers. For all you SoFoBoMo participants, good luck and have fun!