Week 8: Selfie/Self-Portrait

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1955 VM1955W03420-05-MC

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1955

DISCUSSION: The selfie! In context of the previously discussed topics, we will discuss how the self-portrait functions as a portrait, a likeness, a performance, and a lie. Instructor presentation on self portraiture in art history, and contemporary forms of the self-portrait. How is a self portrait unlike or like a “selfie”?

STUDIO:  Short instructor presentation on sequencing and editing photographs for a final portfolio. Students can use this time to edit photographs, ask questions, work on portfolio, etc.

ASSIGNMENT: Students will make 3 self portraits of themselves. Prepare a portfolio of final images to show for the last class. Email instructor images for printing.

"Traditionally, the portrait is typified by the notion that people can be represented by showing aspects of their 'character'. We understand the portrait differently. Instead of fixity, to us it represents a range of possibilities which can be brought into play at will, examined, questioned, accepted, transformed, discarded. Drawing on techniques learned from co-counselling, psycho-drama and the reframing technique we began to work together to give ourselves and each other permission to display 'new' visual selves to the camera." 

Rosy Martin and Jo Spence

Elisavet Kalpaxi, “Self-portraiture: on photography’s reflexive surface

Self-portraiture and its connotations are frequently employed in recent art photography, especially images that are obviously constructed to suggest a narrative and comment on earlier traditions in art. However, such self-conscious works seem to relate to a tradition of photographic self-portraiture that emerged historically, more as a solution to photography’s ‘authority consciousness’ than as an indication of any underlying psychological causes. Early photographers, such as Hippolyte Bayard and Oscar Gustave Rejlander, used self-portraiture to prove that their images were ‘made’ and not ‘captured’. Accordingly, recent self-portrait artists, such as Anna Gaskell or Anthony Goicolea, continue a legacy of ‘image-making’ and communicate with art audiences through an established vocabulary.

This distinction between unpremeditated and constructed responses to photographic self-portraiture is further amplified through the growing culture of the selfie, with camera phone photography now occupying a space equivalent to what was previously perceived as a more indexically loaded, amateur response to photography that became popular in art from the late seventies onward.


How is a self portrait unlike or like a “selfie”?

What is a self portrait? How can the self be best represented?

How does the self-portrait functions as a portrait, a likeness, a performance, or a lie?
















WEEK 7: Documents

Sophie Calle,  Exquisite Pain, 38 days ago  (1984–2003)

Sophie Calle, Exquisite Pain, 38 days ago (1984–2003)


DISCUSSION: How else can a likeness be constructed photographically? We will discuss the conceptual portraiture of artist Sophie Calle to unpack the use of the “document” as an equivalency for a portrait. Students will be asked to discuss potential creative uses of documents in context of the photographs they have created thus far, and how this might change/elevate/alter the way a viewer interacts with images.

STUDIO ASSIGNMENT: Students will photograph, scan, and interpret the documents they have brought in to class with their previously made photographs (as diptychs, didactics, collage, etc.). Examples of these will be shown in class and discussed.

ASSIGNMENT: As in class, students will be asked to interpret a series of documents either representative of themselves or someone else (as a portrait) and interpret these photographically, pairing documents with portraits. (8 images total)

Sophie Calle,  What do you see ? A Lady and Gentleman in Black. Rembrandt , (2013). Colour photograph, text, frames.

Sophie Calle, What do you see ? A Lady and Gentleman in Black. Rembrandt, (2013). Colour photograph, text, frames.

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Defining “Readymade” from Tate Museum

The theory behind the readymade was explained in an anonymous editorial published in the May 1917 issue of avant-garde magazine The Blind Man run by Duchamp and two friends:

Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, and placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.

There are three important points here: first, that the choice of object is itself a creative act. Secondly, that by cancelling the ‘useful’ function of an object it becomes art. Thirdly, that the presentation and addition of a title to the object have given it ‘a new thought’, a new meaning. Duchamp’s readymades also asserted the principle that what is art is defined by the artist. Choosing the object is itself a creative act, cancelling out the useful function of the object makes it art, and its presentation in the gallery gives it a new meaning. This move from artist-as-maker to artist-as-chooser is often seen as the beginning of the movement to conceptual art, as the status of the artist and the object are called into question. At the time, the readymade was seen as an assault on the conventional understanding not only of the status of art but its very nature.

Conversations: Text and Image, The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College

“Placing words and images in the same perceptual space is not as easy as it looks. The artist has to keep track of four phenomena, not just the apparent two. First, the words have accepted, coded meanings and contexts that affect what we see in the adjacent images. Second, the words invoke mental images that might also conflict with what we see. Third, images have meanings and contexts that may alter our engagement with the adjacent words. Fourth, images can call up words in the mind of the viewer. The coordination of image/word/word/image is not easy, but the more difficult it is, the more possibilities present themselves for qualifying or clarifying the larger world.”


How can a portrait be constructed photographically? Is this a likeness, or something else?






WEEK 6: Equivalents



DISCUSSION: Can a portrait be made of a person, without photographing that person? Today in class we will discuss Alfred Stieglitz's “equivalent” photographs and introduce the idea of using a photograph of an object, landscape, or space, to signify a person.

STUDIO: Using their photographs made last week, students will choose five photographs which could be “equivalents” for a person they have made a portrait of in the course of this class (or for themselves). Working in class, students will show these images to the class for further discussion on how non-traditional images can stand in for, or elevate, a series of portraits.

ASSIGNMENT: Students will be asked to make a series of photographs inspired by the notion of Stieglitz's equivalents. Additionally, students will be asked to bring in “documents” (books, papers, poems, notes, etc.) for the coming week. (5 images total; 15 documents)

Alfred Stieglitz,  Equivalent  (1926)

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent (1926)

Equivalence: The Perennial Trend
Minor White, PSA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963

When a photographer presents us with what to him is an Equivalent, he is telling us in effect, "I had a feeling about something and here is my metaphor of that feeling." The significant difference here is that what he had a feeling about was not for the subject he photographed, but for something else. He may show us a picture of a cloud, the forms of which expressively correspond to his feelings about a certain person. As he saw the clouds he was somehow reminded of the person, and probably he hopes that we will catch, in the expressive quality of the cloud forms, the same feeling that he experienced. If we do and our feelings are similar to his, he has aroused in us what was to him a known feeling. This is not exactly an easy distinction to make so maybe we can repeat. When the photographer shows us what he considers to be an Equivalent, he is showing us an expression of a feeling, but this feeling is not the feeling he had for the object that he photographed. What really happened is that he recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state or place within himself. With constantly metamorphizing material such as water, or clouds or ice, or light on cellophane and similar materials, the infinity of forms and shapes, reflections and colors suggest all sorts and manners of emotions and tactile encounters and intellectual speculations that are supported by and formed by the material but which maintain an independent identity from which the photographer can choose what he wishes to express.

The power of the equivalent, so far as the expressive-creative photographer is concerned, lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed. The secret, the catch and the power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities. Or to say this in another way, in practice Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer's expressive purposes. He may wish to employ the recording power of the medium, it is strong in photography, and document. Or he may wish to emphasize its transforming power, which is equally strong, and cause the subject to stand for something else too. If he uses Equivalency consciously and knowingly, aware of what he is doing, and accepts the responsibility for his images, he has as much freedom of expression as any of the arts.

To be concrete, and leave off theory for a moment, we can return to the photograph of a cloud mentioned above. If we question the photographer, he may tell us that it stands for a certain quality that he finds in a specific woman, namely her femininity. The photograph exhibits softness, delicacy, roundness, fluffiness and so corresponds to at least one feeling or emotion that he has about her. If we ask why he does not photograph the woman herself directly, he may answer that she is hardly photogenic, or that he wishes to establish a certain aesthetic distance between his direct feeling and his outward manifestation of it via the photograph. And this is pleasant—as we all know, too intimate a photograph of a person frequently gets in the way of the viewer's enjoyment.

Founded on the belief that colors, shapes, and lines reflect the inner, usually emotive "vibrations of the soul”, Stieglitz began photographing cloud in the 1920’s—which he termed Equivalents—as a method for equating photographic content to conceptual idea.


Thinking about our discussion last week on “stereotype” or predisposed “bias” in portraiture—what did this week’s assignment reveal to you?

Considering the photograph as a document, and the photographer’s ability to impart significance through this action, what are you signifying in your day-to-day photo making? (IE; what are you looking at and documenting?) Why do you think you were compelled to make these images?

What sort of personal, narrative, aesthetic, or emotive themes are emergent in the photographs you made?

Are we ever photographing the-thing-itself? Or are we always creating “equivalencies” when we make images?

How can a photograph of an object, place, natural element, stand in for a person in a portrait? What is that intellectually asking the viewer?






Week 5: Stereotypes in Portraiture

Richard Avedon,  In the American West  (1973)

Richard Avedon, In the American West (1973)

DISCUSSION: How is bias in portraiture conveyed? We will discuss incidental bias and stereotypes in portraiture using Richard Avedon’s In the American West as an example. Reviewing principles already discussed in class; the studio, implemented lighting, portraits of strangers, and portrait as performance, we will discuss the formal and conceptual veracity of Avedon’s portraits and how these images shape our worldview.

STUDIO: Using implemented lighting and white backdrops, students will replicate Avedon’s stylistic choices in groups during class, paying special attention to the physical implications this aesthetic has on subjects.

ASSIGNMENT: Students will be assigned to make as many photographs as possible, of whatever the like, over the next week.

Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own. ” – Richard Avedon

…Avedon’s most recent portrait effort, In the American West, published by Abrams in 1985, furthers that theme, once again by a characteristic emphasis at the end of the book. There, in studies of slaughtered sheep and steer, he insists upon such details as glazed and sightless eyes, blood-matted wool, and gore languidly dripping from snouts. As his father was the only unprominent person in the first campaign, so the animals are the only nonhuman subjects in the second. It’s as if Avedon were each time underlining his philosophy by breaking his category. Adjoining the guignol presences of the animals are ghoulish images of miners and oil-field workers, as befouled by the earth as the animals by their spilled entrails.

For Avedon’s program is supraindividual. He wants to portray the whole American West as a blighted culture that spews out casualties by the bucket: misfits, drifters, degenerates, crackups, and prisoners-entrapped, either literally or by debasing work. Pawns in his indictment of their society, his subjects must have thought they were only standing very still for the camera. Even those few in polyester suits who appear to have gotten on more easily in life are visualized with Avedon’s relentless frontality and are pinched in the confined zone of the mug shot. In photography, this is the adversarial framework par excellence. He could rely on knowledge of this genre to drive home the idea of a coercive approach (which he frankly admits), and of incriminated content. But why should he have imitated a lineup? And why, since this is his personal vision, should he refer to an institutional mode?

The blank, seamless background thrusts the figures forward as islands of textures of flesh, certainly, but also of cloth. Nothing competes with the presentation of their poor threads, nothing of the personal environment, nothing that might situate, inform, and support a person in the real world, or even in a photograph.



Split lighting is exactly as the name implies—it splits the face exactly into equal halves with one side being in the light, and the other in shadow. It is often used to create dramatic images.

To achieve split lighting, put the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of the subject, and possibly even slightly behind their head. Where you place the light in relation to the subject will depend on the person’s face. Watch how the light falls on them and adjust accordingly. In true split lighting, the eye on the shadow side of the face does pick up light in the eye only.



Loop lighting is made by creating a small shadow of the subjects noses on their cheeks. To create loop lighting, the light source must be slightly higher than eye level and about 30-45 degrees from the camera

In loop lighting the shadow of the nose and that of the cheek do NOT touch. Keep the shadow small and slightly downward pointing, but be aware of having your light source too high which will create odd shadows and cause loss of the catchlights. Loop light is probably the most common or popular lighting pattern as it is easy to create and flatters most people.



Rembrandt lighting is so named after the particular lighting style of the painter. Rembrandt lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek. Unlike loop lighting where the shadow of the nose and cheek do not touch, in Rembrandt lighting they do meet which, creates that trapped little triangle of light in the middle. 

To create Rembrandt lighting the subject must turn slightly away from the light. The light must be above the top of their head so that the shadow from their nose falls down towards the cheek (similar to that of Loop lighting). Not every person’s face is ideal for creating Rembrandt lighting. If they have high or prominent cheek bones it will probably work. If they have a small nose or flat bridge of the nose, it may be difficult to achieve.



Butterfly lighting is a portrait lighting pattern where the key light is placed above and directly centered with a subject's face. This creates a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly. It's also known as 'Paramount lighting,' named for classic Hollywood glamour photography.

Butterfly lighting is created by having the light source directly behind the camera and slightly above eye or head level of the subject (depends on the person). It is sometimes supplemented by placing a reflector directly under their chin, with the subject themselves even holding it



Broad lighting is not so much a particular pattern, but a style of lighting. Any of the following patterns of light can be either broad or short: loop, Rembrandt, split.

Short light is type of studio lighting setup where the face side which is further from the camera gets the main light. In this type of lighting setup, the side of the face which is toward the camera gets less light then the side facing away form the camera. It is often used for low key, or darker portraits. It puts more of the face in shadow, is more sculpting, and is slimming and flattering for most people.

Short lighting without and with fill.

Short lighting without and with fill.

Broad light is just the opposite of Short light. In the Broad Light setup, the side that is getting the most light is the side turning towards the camera. The reason this lighting style is referred to as “broad” is that it typically makes the face appear to be wider.

The side of the face that is towards the camera has the most light on it and the shadows are falling on the far side of the face, furthest from the camera. Simply put, broad lighting illuminates the largest part of the face showing.

Broad lighting without and with fill

Broad lighting without and with fill

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WEEK 4: Performance as Portrait: Studio Photography

Jo Ann Callis,  Performance , (1985)

Jo Ann Callis, Performance, (1985)

DISCUSSION: When does a portrait become performative? Is the studio like a stage? We will discuss the effect the studio has on the portrait. Short presentation on studio oriented photographers.

STUDIO: Students will be introduced to methods of lighting and studio set up, as well as alternative tools for implementing lighting, backdrops, in-camera tonal changes, etc.

ASSIGNMENT: Students will be assigned to make 2 “studio style” photographs (outside of class) using processes learned in class.

Cindy Sherman,  Untitled Film Still  (1978)

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still (1978)

Wilmer Wilson,  Study, From My Paper Bag Heart  (2012)

Wilmer Wilson, Study, From My Paper Bag Heart (2012)








Delaney Allen,  Blanc  (2017) from Artifact

Delaney Allen, Blanc (2017) from Artifact


DISCUSSION: Do portraits lie? Continued discussion on the ability of a portrait to convey the essential nature— or truest self—of its subject. Student photographs will be discussed in terms of their perceived emotional content, style, and aesthetics. We will discuss how formal choices (lighting, composition, color) alter the viewer’s experience of a portrait and can be used for dramatic effect. Short instructor lecture.

STUDIO: Continuation of last week’s studio activity in small groups.

ASSIGNMENT: Open assignment: students will be asked to make three portraits for next week, with special consideration given to the idea of creating a “lie”.

Winfred Noth, “Can Pictures Lie?” from the Semiotic Review of Books Vol. 6 (2)

There is little doubt that pictures can refer to something that does not exist or has even never existed, but do such pictures therefore lie? Surrealism has given ample evidence of paintings referring to mere imaginary objects. Consider, for example, Salvadore Dali's Burning Giraffe (1935), which shows a strange woman with open drawers protruding from her legs. We are hardly inclined to call the painter of this work a liar, but even the category of truth, at least in the positivist sense does not seem applicable.

Although it is clear that pictures can refer to factual reality and to the unreal, the question whether they can convey a truth or a lie remains disputed.

What is the semiotic potential of pictures? Can they express ideas that correspond to verbal messages at all, as the proverbial saying which states "Pictures can tell a thousand words", suggests, or is the semiotic potential of a picture inferior to the one of language insofar as a picture is necessarily vague and in principle unable to depict any truth about the world, as some logocentric semioticians claim? If pictures cannot tell the truth it should also be impossible to use them in order to convey a lie.

Let us begin with the semantic dimension of our topic. Photographs seem to be prototype of visual messages which are true because they fulfill the semantic criterion of correspondence to the facts. Under certain circumstances, photographs are even recognized by the courts as documentary evidence, which may replace evidence by ocular inspection or by verbal testimony.

A pertinent example is the legal status of a passport photo as a document for establishing the real identity of the person presenting the passport to the authorities. From the legal point of view, truth, in the sense of correspondence between a signifier and its referential object, can thus be derived from photographic pictures.

Semiotically, the correspondence of the photographic signifier with the object it depicts is grounded in what Peirce described as the indexical and the iconic nature of photography.

Photographs correspond to the depicted world by their iconic nature because, as Peirce, puts it, "we know that they are in certain respects exactly like the objects they represent." In addition to this correspondence by similarity, photographs also correspond to reality by their contiguity with the depicted object at the moment of their production. There is a "physical connection" between the signifier and its referential object since, as Peirce argues "photographs have been produced under such circumstances that they were physically forced to correspond point by point to nature." By this relation of productive causality, the photographic picture is defined as an indexical sign.

Family photos, which remind us of real situations lived in the past, press photos, which document a historical event, such as the Stalin-Roosevelt-Churchill meeting of Teheran in 1943, or scientific photos, which show a real world object in all its details, are typical examples of indexical photographic reference and iconic correspondence between the photographic signifier and its object which testify to the truth potential of the photograph.

Nevertheless, everyone knows that photographic correspondence can be manipulated. The referential object may be transformed in the picture, and its viewers arrive at the illusive or deceptive impression of a non-existing object. This deceptive potential of the medium was recognized early in the history of photography and made use of in techniques, such as retouch, color filtering, solarization, double exposure.

By retouching, the signifier referring to an existing object could be made to disappear. By montage, a non-existing object could make its appearance on the scene. Thus photography became a medium which lent itself to manipulation, deception, fakes, and forgeries. The more recent developments in computer graphics, with the new possibilities of shape blending, distortion, simulation, and other modes of digital image manipulation have greatly increased this deceptive potential of the medium.

Chris Dorley-Brown,  High Street North & Cranbourne Road 19th April 2016 09:02am – 10:06am , from “The Corners” (2017)

Chris Dorley-Brown, High Street North & Cranbourne Road 19th April 2016 09:02am – 10:06am, from “The Corners” (2017)

Alexander Garder,  Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg  from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War,  (1865)

Alexander Garder, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg fromGardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, (1865)

“The image represents the tragic aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg (which caused the largest number of casualties of the entire war) by focusing on a single dead solider lying inside what Gardner called a “sharpshooter’s den.”

Later analysis revealed that he had staged the image to intensify its emotional effect. Though this practice was not uncommon at the time, its discovery made the photograph the subject of controversy. Gardner moved the soldier’s corpse and propped up his head so that it faced the camera. He then placed his own rifle next to the body, emphasizing the soldier’s horizontality and the cause of his death.”


Do portraits lie? If so, how?

In what ways can a portrait lie?

Is there ever “truth” in photography?

Other Sources:















Eva O’Leary, from  Spitting Image  (2017)

Eva O’Leary, from Spitting Image (2017)


DISCUSSION: Can a portrait ever truly capture the essential nature of a person? This week, students will discuss the emotional content of a portrait, using photographs they produced in the previous week as a point of departure for discussing the conceptual aspects of the portrait. In particular; students will be asked: Is there a screening of the self that occurs in front of the camera? Does a person project their notion or ideal of “self” to be captured? Or, is a portrait foremost an opinion of the portrait maker? Both? Short instructor presentation on photographers whose work illustrates these ideas.

STUDIO: Small in class “studio” photography activity. (Editing photographs, saturation, basic formatting techniques). Short time in lighting studio.

ASSIGNMENT: Students will also be assigned to make 5 photographs (outside of class), of one person, either familiar or a stranger, which will be shown and discussed at the start of the next class. Think of this assignment as a “mini series”.

National Gallery of Art: Modern Portraits in Photography

Like other traditional artistic genres, portraiture was radically transformed with the advent of modern art. Before the 1800s, portraits typically depicted a sitter's external likeness; they also indicated his or her standing in society through clothing, setting, or the choice of surrounding objects. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, however, many artists rejected surface impressions. They argued that to reveal a person's character, one needed to show normally invisible elements such as mood or state of mind. Furthermore, artists wanted to address the unnatural space of art—flat canvases, self-contained chunks of wood or stone—as much as the natural space of the sitter. From the 1890s onward unnatural colors, distorted physical features, and abstract or nonrealistic settings became hallmarks of portraiture in advanced painting and sculpture.

Photographers transformed the scope of portraiture as well, beginning soon after the invention of the medium in 1839. Small, inexpensive photographs, such as tintypes or cartes-de-visite, catered to a broadly held desire for individual likenesses, expanding the clientele for portraits from affluent elites to middle-class multitudes. Nor were people interested in seeing or owning just their own portrait. Studios such as the firm of Albert S. Southworth and Josiah J. Hawes, established in Boston in 1843, or the Parisian salon opened in the 1850s by Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon), vied to photograph famous sitters, whose portraits were then sold or reproduced in print for mass distribution. Wide circulation of these portraits created the thoroughly modern phenomenon of stardom, bestowing upon images of politicians, actors, and even bohemian intellectuals, such as the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire, the status of icon.

In the early twentieth century, artistically ambitious photographers drew inspiration both from advanced vanguard art and commercial portrait photography.


Can a portrait ever truly capture the essential nature of a person?

Is there a screening of the self that occurs in front of the camera?

Does a person project their notion or ideal of “self” to be captured?

Or, is a portrait foremost an opinion of the portrait maker?



To Begin: File > Open > Your Image File.tif

There are a couple of image functions that you should check before resizing your image. The first step once you have opened your image is to check your documents Image Mode.

An image mode determines the number of colors that can be displayed in an image and can also affect the file size of the image. Photoshop provides several image modes: RGB, bitmap, grayscale, lab color, multichannel, and indexed color. Digital images for the web will almost always be saved in RGB mode and grayscale for certain black and white image conversion processes. (You can also desaturate an RGB image in Photoshop to create a black and white image).

  1. To check your image mode in Photoshop, go to Image > Mode. Select the RGB mode.

Bit depth specifies how much color information is available for each pixel in an image. The more bits of information per pixel, the more available colors and more accurate color representation. RGB images are made of three color channels. An 8‑bit per pixel RGB image has 256 possible values for each channel which means it has over 16 million possible color values.

2. To check your image bit size, go to Image > Mode. Select 8 Bits/Channel for web.

3. Now, adjust the resolution of your image in Photoshop by selecting,  Image > Image size.

When determining the correct size for an image intended for the web, the only numbers that matter are pixels (px). This measurement indicates how many pixels tall and how many pixels wide the image is. A pixel, in this case, is essentially a dot of color.

4. In the image size dialogue box select the arrow next to “Dimensions” and select the pixel mode.

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5. Select “Custom” from the scrolling menu next to “Fit To:”

6. Check the “Resample” box to ‘Automatic’ > Set the “Resolution” to 72.

**This should automatically adjust the pixel/width and pixel/height. (If it does not, make sure to select the chain icon grouping the width and height).

7. Close the dialogue box by clicking “OK”.

Generally, high-quality images saved for the web are 72 pixels per inch. Anything more or less than that will make the image way too big, or low-quality.

When it comes to image size, bigger isn't always better, as uploading larger images can affect site performance. Large, high definition images can have huge file sizes which cause delayed loading.

8. File > Save As > Your File Name

9. Format > JPEG > Select the “Adobe sRGB” color profile box

Save images in the sRGB color profile. If images don't look right on mobile devices, it's probably because they don't have an sRGB color profile and the image quality has been degraded.

It is very important that you save resized images as a separate file. Otherwise, you will degrade the size and resolution of your original image file. Images which have been sized smaller should NEVER be resized as larger, as multiple adjustments to your image size/resolutions will corrupt the integrity of your image quality.

Image file types for the web

Most images on the web still fall into one of three types:

  • jpg (or jpeg) = use for photos and images with a lot of different colors but no transparency

  • png = use for images with transparent backgrounds. Not rendered correctly in some older browsers like IE 6.

  • gif = not recommended. png is better. Never use for photos since the max number of colors is 256.

File Format Pros & Cons


  • can display millions of colors

  • best used for colorful photographs

  • doesn’t support transparency

  • quality decreases each time file is opened (lossy compression)

  • not suitable for icons and logos


  • 256 colors

  • supports transparency

  • used for icons & logos with few colors

  • similar to GIF

  • smaller file size than GIF

  • lossless compression (larger file than JPEG)

  • large file size for complex images (photographs)


  • 24 bit color

  • supports transparency

  • used for icons & logos with many colors

  • similar to JPEG

  • lossless compression (each time file is opened, quality doesn’t change)

  • larger file size than JPEG

  • large file size for complex images (photographs)


  • 256 colors

  • lossless compression

  • best used for small icons with few colors

  • best used for simple graphic images

  • supports transparency

  • supports small animations

  • larger file size than PNG



The three jobs of communicative art writing and making:

  1. What is it?

    (What does it look like? How is it made? What happened?)
    JOB 1: Keep your description of the artwork brief and meaningful. Look closely for meaningful details or key artist decisions that created the artwork, perhaps regarding materials; size; selection of participants; placement. Be selective; avoid over-indulging in minutiae, or producing list-like descriptions that are cumbersome to read and largerly inconsequential to job 2.

  2. What might this mean?

    (How does the form or event carry meaning?)

    Job 2: Join the dots; explain where this meaningful idea is observed in the artwork itself. Weak art writing and art making claim great meanings for artworks without tracing for the reader/viewer where these might originate materially in the work (job 1. ) or how they might connect to the viewer’s/readers interests (job 3.)

  3. Why does this work matter to the world at large?

    What, finally, does this artwork or experience contribute—if anything—to the world? (Or, to put it bluntly, so what?)

    Job 3: Keep it reasonable and traceable to Jobs 1 and 2. Answering the final question—so what—entails some original thought. And remember that the achievement of even good art can be relatively modest, thats okay.