Monday, June 18, 2007

Layout Software

Create a polished and professional presentation efficiently with specialized software

Layout Software For a pro, presentation is everything. Just as a finely crafted portfolio case adds value to your images, a little design work with page layout software can show off your photography in the best possible light. With programs such as Adobe's InDesign or Quark's QuarkXpress, it's simple to put multiple images on a page, add your company's logo and include additional text if appropriate to your pitch.

Many of us already have layout software on our hard drives; Adobe InDesign is included in its Professional Creative Suite, for example. Regardless of which brand you use, these dedicated programs provide excellent solutions for creating layouts. You'll soon discover that a little time learning how to use a layout program will pay off handsomely.

Layout software is designed to do just that—lay out your images and text, precisely as you'd like them arranged. Because the programs aren't meant for heavy optimization of the images themselves, the software can use a “proxy” image. These are flattened, lower-resolution versions of your original images, and using them for layout has several advantages.

The first, and most obvious, is that the screen redraws quickly. You can move around multiple images, scale them and make other changes all in real time. You'll appreciate the difference when you work with a number of images all at once, or when the original file sizes are large, as with layered Photoshop files or very high-resolution images.

Because you're working on proxy images, you can feel free to resize them all you want in the process of obtaining a final layout—no pixels are altered until you're ready to print. Once your layout is complete, the software will tell you the images' exact dimensions, making it easy to change them to that size and perform sharpening.

Another important aspect of the page layout software's use of proxy images is that you can save multiple versions of your layouts without consuming vast amounts of hard drive space. The layouts link to the images placed in them, instead of incorporating the image data itself, so file sizes run just a few megabytes—even for large posters. This allows you to experiment even more freely and lets you design specific versions of your layout for different purposes without getting bogged down.

Layout software really shines when you add text to your images. The programs provide you with optimum control over the look and feel of your type so you can place it exactly as you need to without unnecessary fuss. Creating large drop caps, setting up double columns and making type flow around objects within your layout, for example, are all simple tasks that can be used to create an eye-catching and polished look.

Unlike image-editing software, all of your text can exist on a single layer. That makes arranging different text elements simpler, as you don't have to click on each separate layer before working with its type. It's a great timesaver when you're altering one grouping of type in relation to another.

Applying similar-looking type to all of your portfolio images will help unify your entire presentation by giving your portfolio a more consistent feel; so will a “trademark” border treatment. That unifying consistency is easy to achieve—once you've decided on the look of your presentation, you can use the layout software to create “styles” that incorporate all the settings you'll use for your type, including the various fonts, sizes, colors and more. The styles also include the settings you used for rules, or lines placed near the text to highlight it, as well as all the settings for image borders.

When you see how much style you can generate and how much you can make your work stand apart from the competition, the benefit of using layout software becomes obvious. The work that gets noticed is the work of the photographer who gets the job.



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