Philadelphia Water Color Society

Digital Entry Preparations

As an artist taking the very best photograph of your artwork is a requirement. Nearly everything is online: show applications, (and often the shows themselves), websites, social media and many online sales venues.

In addition, online show applications typically have a set of digital requirements. For example, entry for our International Exhibitions are as follows:

  • Digital entries must be saved in JPG format with a resolution of (at least) 300 dpi.

  • The image size should be 1200-1500 pixels on the longest dimension with a maximum file size of 5 mb.

Phone or Camera?

The quality of an image taken with a phone or tablet can be inadequate for your purposes. However, the following phones may be able to produce high quality images:

  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 12
  • Google Pixel 5
  • Huawei P40 Pro. 5G, 50MP imaging and 50x zoom
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

Unless you have spent an enormous amount for one of these phones, it is safer to go with a digital SLR (or mirrorless) camera to photograph your artwork. Cameras like the Nikon D50 are capable of superior quality photography. Make sure you check to see if your device can take a high resolution image. 

The next important thing is your skill at photography. The two most common mistakes are poor lighting (getting the right lighting on your subject) and an unsteady shot. Lighting is critical but the advantage of good lighting can be ruined by camera shake (camera/lens image stabilization helps but is no substitute for a steady shot).

What is DPI?

DPI stands for Dots Per Inch which technically means printer dots per inch. Today it is a term often misused, more accurately PPI, which stands for Pixels Per Inch. A digital photo would be a high-quality photo with at least 300 ppi (or dpi) image which is referred to as a high-resolution photo. By the way, the most common format is JPEG (or JPG).

Look out for these Errors

  • One common error is to download your photos to your computer, do a little bit of editing with the photo software you have, and then re-save the image. Some software will default to saving at the quality it received the photo, but most has a default JPEG quality setting, often about JPEG quality 75. That will degrade the image. So even before you learn how to properly save JPEG images, is to ALWAYS work on a COPY of your image, never the original (keep your originals safe and untouched). A JPEG saved at lower quality cannot regain its original quality. If you take a JPEG that has been saved at quality 72 and re-save it as quality 100, it will still be at quality 72. 

  • Another error is to rely on built in software to email images. Most such software will reduce the image size by both re-sizing the image and reducing the JPEG quality to get the image down to a reasonable file size for emailing (this is also common with some standard MAC image software).

Some Tools and Links

How to Photograph Your Work presents a number of videos on using their service to manage your submissions at One of these, also shows you how to photograph your work. It's also available on YouTube:

Digital Image Preparation using Photoshop Elements 

This video and PDF download by Linda A. Doll is available at the National Watercolor Society:

Digital Image Preparation using GIMP

GIMP is a free, full-featured Mac or Windows application for editing images. It's available at Their website also has tutorials and an online user manual.

The follow are some step-by-step instructions for using GIMP to create an image that is suitable for digital entry (i.e., 1200-1500 pixels on the longest dimension, 300 ppi and with a maximum file size of 5 MB).

To open the file:

  1. Click on File
  2. Click on Open
  3. Click on Pictures
  4. Click on Folder (the folder that holds your appropriate jpgs)
  5. Click on JPG

To resize an image:
  1. Click on Image

  2. Click on Scale Image

  3. Adjust the resolution to desired dpi (usually 300)d, then adjust pixel height and width (e.g., 1950 on longest side)

To Export an image:

  1. Click on File

  2. Click on Export As (use the Export AS to rename your jpeg)

  3. Update File Name and highlight
 Click on Export (lower right)

  4. Export Image as a JPG (this is new dialogue box)

  5. Click on Quit

  6. Click on Discard Changes


  1. Click on File
  2. Click on Overwrite FirstName_LastName_ArtworkTitle.jpg,  A box will come up – “Export Image as a JPEG”
  3. Click on Export
  4. Click on File
  5. Click on Quit (which will exit out of GIMP)

Overwrite is good to use so that you don’t accumulate multiple images with different resolution. AS you become comfortable with GIMP you can overwrite your newly formatted
 jpeg for the next show that may have different requirements.

Go to your picture file folder and right click the image that you just edited. Scroll down and click on Properties (all the way at the bottom of the drop down). Click on Details. The pixel height and width should be displayed per your changes in GIMP. You will be checking for correct file name, jpg format, resolution in dpi, and pixel height and width.

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