“The generations to come of age in the days of digital publishing and reading on screens have a much more complicated relationship with images. The human eye-brain system is capable of reading a large number of high quality images in a matter of split seconds, and this, alongside the hand-eye coordination—think about the pleasure of a touch screen versus inky newspaper pages—is rapidly developing to mirror our changing habits of consuming information. So much so that the contemporary heightened sensitivity to the way we read images can lead to an ability to, at times, ignore the quality of the images when inserted into a text, the way our brain glides over a typo in the flow of reading. The way we read images online is only one thing these magazines deal with in the process of publishing, but it is surely an element that dictates a large portion of the reading experience of these publications.
When requesting images for a print publication, some guidelines are quite clear: The digital image needs to be 300dpi, it needs to be of a certain size, measured in inches and centimeters rather than pixels, and (at least usually) the rights for it need to be cleared. Online publishing muddles all of these. While some of the publications contacted for this article attested that they have a photo editor or image editor (the leap to “image editor” in order to describe publishing in the online sphere is slowly being made. As Whitaker noted, “It points to an opening up of the field to include the non-photographic image”), their role is more curatorial than that of a traditional image editor. Are there any rules as to which images are published, the way they are retrieved, and their integration in the magazines? Surely, many images are harvested from a variety of online repository, Google Images being the obvious example. This nods to the flattening of the digital image in a complicated way. On screen, the different kinds of images—say, film stills, digital or analogue photography, digital renderings, and so forth—can be quite similar. While we are becoming increasingly visually literate, few are the people who truly interact with the distinction between the digital image and the physical print. No one is stunned anymore by the idea of a collector buying a photograph based on an image sent to him or her via email from a gallery. The printing process—moving from the screen to the physical object, that is—becomes a formality.”