Doing your own thing... - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Doing your own thing…

George Cooper continues his series with a look at making good use of photos in practice

Here we are back again, looking at the art of photography. We’ve looked at some of the basics of digital cameras themselves, deciding that while today’s compact cameras have amazing functionality and are incredibly userfriendly and almost “instant on”, their inherent limitation is down to that very compactness.

They have a small sensor and, despite ever-growing numbers of available pixels and refinements in in-camera processing, the end product suffers from too much noise, or distortion, to be top of the quality stakes in terms of printing.

Video

For sharing with friends on Facepuke they are fine, and, in limited cases, they are useful for their video content for uploading onto YouTube. I have posted an edited version of a video of ants pinching some bread taken on my Canon Ixus 60 while on holiday in Northern Cyprus.

Having discovered YouTube for a bit of mischief making with our ceilidh band, I edited the file in iMovie on my Mac, added a weak imitation of David Attenborough and stuck it up for the world to see.

It is available at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=J6aVYmslPDY, or search for Freshacre and click on the ants.

The point about pointing you to that video is to highlight the simplicity of the system, and since the ultimate goal of this series on photography has always been to facilitate and encourage its use in your practice, it demonstrates how you could incorporate videos into your own website.

Ordinary mortals are limited to about 10 minutes worth of reasonable quality video – more than enough for you to include a video that shows your theatre standards, for example, or edited highlights of a bitch spay. When you upload a clip you have the choice of allowing the world to view your masterpiece, or to keep it private, letting only invitees to see it. You don’t have to link to YouTube, because you can embed the movie in your own space.

There’s plenty of food for thought there, and it all started with a compact camera – and how much better it would have been with a dedicated digital video camera, available for as little as £100. If your practice has already done video stuff, I would appreciate it if you’d send me the links to movies@freshacre.com and I will have a look, and discuss them here if it is appropriate in a future column.

Stills

There is much that can be achieved with digital still photography, and that is where we started, and that is where we will finish! When we looked at the various cameras and styles of shooting, we decided that the way to go for quality has to be with a digital SLR – a single lens reflex, where you look through a viewfinder held up to your eye and see (almost) exactly what you are taking the picture of.

This is in contrast to most compact cameras where you look at the LCD panel on the back of the camera at arm’s length. And with the ability to use specialised lenses you can ensure that the images you capture are in focus and properly exposed in every situation.

The pictures taken using an SLR will be much more suitable for producing brochures, either to be printed in-house or sent to a local printers. As a postscript to the video tale above, the situation is now confused further by the announcement by both Canon and Nikon of SLRs which can take video in addition to stills!

Since this series is dedicated to use in practice, we need to consider printing as much of our output remains in the printed domain. Not everyone will use the net as a means of finding information about their pets – but while on that subject, a quick aside from me. I believe that practice websites should be a resource for clients, so that they can use it as their route to all things “pet”. This does not mean that you have to write everything yourself, merely to contain links to sites where the content is deemed suitable by your team.

Printing

But back to printing. There are printers available to suit every occasion, from tiny mini-print-dedicated to ginormous lasers. Personally, I have three. I use an HP Photosmart which can print to A3 size – useful for posters as well as for making decent sized prints. I also have a wireless HP Deskjet which prints on both sides of the paper and is available to all computers at home wirelessly.

And finally I have a Xerox Laser allin-one unit which includes a plate glass scanner, a document scanner, and a solid ink printer. This, despite the industrial specifications, was only about £300, and uses solid wax pigment blocks with very little waste. It is cheap to run, prints both sides of paper, and produces a magical quality of finished product – ideal for in-house marketing.

For production of hand-outs it strikes me that it is eminently sensible and cost-effective to do this in-house. You can print just as many as you need when you need them, and you can tailor them to the requirements of the individual client. If you store them on your hard drive, it means that you can adapt them as and when circumstances dictate – and thereby keep things fresh and up to date.

Using printers available for next to nothing will give you a reasonable quality of printout; though using plain paper in an inkjet, printing photos will saturate and wrinkle the paper. That is why a colour laser is better, giving clean crisp images and text, and if the printer prints in duplex, then you can include more information and use less paper.

Software

You will need some sort of image editing software to adjust your pictures to suit your purpose – and there are many of these. The industry standard is the bank-breaking Photoshop, which, like Hoover, has entered the language as an entity in its own right. The full shebang costs high in the hundreds and is way too complex for vet practice!

Adobe publishes a so-called cut down version called Elements which is not only easier to use, but is also comprehensive. It has a number of easy options which take the hassle out of decision-making, and is probably the software of choice, for both PC and Mac computers, costing around £60.

There are a good many other packages to be found, and one company, Serif, based in Nottingham, produces a number of good value products. PhotoPlus manipulates images comprehensively, and that integrates with their Desktop Publishing product PagePlus. I have found their suite of programs to be both great value and everything I need to produce interesting documents and photos. Being a Mac man, I use the in-built iPhoto and Pages to good effect.

Adjusting images

No matter how good your camera and how careful your photography is, you will need to make some adjustments to the image before you print or publish it, e.g. crop unwanted elements out of the frame to make the object of the picture stand out. One of the most important messages in photography is to “fill the frame” and exclude unnecessary distractions. You will also want to correct the exposure ready to incorporate in your documents, and you may need to sharpen the image to give it more impact.

If your decision is to outsource your printing, you will need to adjust your images ready for the printing company. They will want 300dpi and they will generally want it in PDF format. All the software above is capable of doing just that, though it needs a degree of computer literacy to accomplish it.

The whole area of marketing using your own photos, videos, words and so on is one that can be extremely satisfying. It will help to bond clients to you too, and that, after all, is the name of the game in these straitened times. E-mail me on photos@freshacre. com or call me on 07702 222030 if you’d like some help.

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