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Some clients send screenshots of images instead of the image file. Is there a reliable way to communicate that it would be easier for them, and for us, if they simply sent the image file instead?

I work in print (magazines) and I need as many pixels as I can get - screenshot are not only sent at 72dpi, but they often need cropping before they can be used.

This is an example, from a clients blackberry (personal imagery blurred out):

Screengrab of a holiday photo including phone UI

I have also received screengrabs from iphones, androids and desktop operating systems. In many cases the clients are clearly showing that they have access to the image they should have sent, and they have chosen to take a screenshot and to send that instead.

This is not a 1-client problem, I have this conversation with people regularly. On no occasion has a client understood what the problem is, and I have ended up getting their images printed, either very small, or very upscaled.

I communicate with clients by email, and sometimes verbally over the phone.

"Some of the images attached to your last message are screenshot/screengrabs, would it be possible for you to send the image file to me directly? instead of opening it and taking a screenshot. You can attach the .jpg (or whatever file format I see in the image sent) to your email and send it to me that way."

Any thoughts appreciated.

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    I have this problem all the time. I even received screenshots of images of physical photos taken in perspective. Or images of a screen displaying the image. It's an uphill battle. Image technology has been made accessible to the masses through apps on mobiles, but that doesn't mean the average user has any understanding of what a file is and where it is.
    – Wolff
    Nov 16 '20 at 22:06
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    I'd change your language as well.. rather than "would it be possible?" I'd use something like "Print production requires better quality images. Please send the original image." In other words, don't ask if they can.. explain they must.
    – Scott
    Nov 17 '20 at 12:43
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    Happens in science too. People send screenshots of a plot of their data rather than the original plot.
    – D Duck
    Nov 17 '20 at 20:42
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    My family ran a micropublisher for 10 years. We constantly had people sending screenshots and low-res JPEGs of images for their books. (a) They're not in production and they really have no idea what it takes to produce a good product and (b) cell phones have ruined the world. People actually think a snapshot on their phone sent by text messaging is acceptable because they do it all the time. Nov 18 '20 at 5:17
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    I often have a similar problem in the opposite direction when I am asked "Please send an image file" - "OK, how big do you need it?" - "300dpi" Nov 18 '20 at 14:58
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I simply state:

"Send me the absolute largest image(s) you have."

This, most of the time, gets me much better files. By specifically using the term "largest" it allows the client to interpret that how they wish -- whether they see "largest" as meaning biggest dimensions or most memory (MB) doesn't particularly matter. Either way, it helps avoid getting the 100kb 200x200px images. Often it means they send the ~8MP ~3MB image they happen to have.

If files are still subpar....

.... I'll explain more (print production requires more, web images are unsuitable, etc)...

.... and offer alternatives (purchase stock images, recreate images, etc)....

.....which customarily means increases costs....

..... suddenly I find clients more motivated to actually find larger images.

I don't really try to "convince" clients of anything. I state the facts -- send me resolution appropriate images or pay more for me to purchase/create resolution appropriate images. Or, realize the project will use very poor quality images.

If a client is not vested enough in their own project to heed my warnings, I can't force (convince) them to be vested. Any subsequent quality issues due to materials supplied by the client rests on the client (my contract states as much).

Even though I dislike it, I'll use the worst possible image if that's all they send and aren't willing to correct the issue. I simply make certain everything is in writing and they have been notified prior any reproduction that the quality of what they sent is substandard. I also notify them again in writing with any invoice that client-supplied images are/were below recommended and advised standards.


Note: My clients don't use messenger or SMS apps to send me anything - mostly because I choose specifically not to communicate with clients through these apps (for good reasons). My clients use email to send files or they provide links via things like HighTail or DropBox.

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    Simply avoiding WhatsApp may save a lot of problems. Sending uncompressed image files on WhatsApp is non-trivial, and most users have no idea how to do it (you have to send a document, then deliberately select sending a "document" while attaching the image file)
    – Nelson
    Nov 17 '20 at 7:12
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    I wouldn't know. I refuse to use messengers. I'm not an "instant-access-on-demand" service for clients. My time is valuable and I can't be interrupted whenever a client gets a whim. I use messengers like meeting calls.... scheduled and specific.
    – Scott
    Nov 17 '20 at 10:31
  • That note about messenger apps is great advice. I don't use them myself, just emails as stated; avoiding other means of communication is strong way to endorse the right kind of file transfers.
    – McKlatch
    Nov 17 '20 at 12:52
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    "largest? You mean I should take a screenshot with my iPad instead of my iPhone?" ;) Nov 18 '20 at 15:00
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    @HagenvonEitzen "Here's a photo I took of it on my TV screen" Nov 18 '20 at 15:40
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It's a never ending battle that you really won't ever win.

However I have found the simplest method is to begin by telling clients you can't use a screenshot for print. Don't sugar coat it. Don't apologize. Don't try to explain the technicalities (they likely won't understand anyway). Don't try to explain how to send an email attachment. Don't try to explain image file formats - all phones shoot jpegs/pngs anyway.

Be firm but polite

Some of the images attached to your last message are low quality screenshots/screengrabs. Unfortunately, we can't use these for print. We need the original image files from your photo gallery/camera roll to be sent via email to myname@mycompany.org

Thanks

Of course you can offer basic help if they don't know how to send an image, tell them to go into their phone's photo gallery/camera roll, and send the image from there via email. If they are still unable to do that, suggest they find a friend to help. Try not to get too embroiled in tech support. That's a whole other rabbit hole you don't want to go down if you can help it.

You might get the occasional client who really does want to know the technicalities of why you can't use a screenshot, and yes you can try to explain that the image will look blurry or poor quality if you try to print it, you might even want to show them an example you have previously prepared for just such an enquiry, but there's no point offering that information to everyone at the beginning of the conversation. Save that extra info for the inquisitive/difficult clients.

Another way of motivating the more difficult clients is to tell them that any extra work you may need to undertake will cost more money, and that quality results can't be guaranteed if the original high quality images aren't available.

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What is the best way to convince clients to send original image files instead of screenshots of images?

Just say it:

"Oh, btw. I need the original image. Send it by mail, not by WhatsApp."

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I have had this same problem for ages, too. Regular customers know the drill now, but I'm constantly trying to educate new customers. I tell them that if I use the low-resolution screen shot they sent me, it will look very pixellated (or "blurry,") and that for it to reproduce clearly, they need to provide a high-resolution file. Sometimes I even go so far as resizing the low-resolution file they sent to 300 dpi and the print size they want, to show them how awful it will scale, just to underline how important it is to have a high-resolution file. But it's a constant process.

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Depending on the relationship with your client you can find an analogy.


A client wanted to copy a website... without any FTP access.

The analogy was that instead of using the cargo elevator and a moving company we would be throwing all the furniture by the window.


If someone sends you a bad quality audio file, you could tell them that you can send it using two cans and a rope.


Yes, you could be technical... talking about losing information, compression, image files.

Yes, you could talk simply about quality. Either is the project a good quality or not.

But finding analogies and sometimes a bit of humorous irony works for me... Most of the time n_n

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    Got any example analogy for this specific scenario?
    – MaxD
    Nov 17 '20 at 8:56
  • You wanted a chair, but there's only enough wood for a tone block?
    – McKlatch
    Nov 18 '20 at 8:05
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    @MaxD how about “that's like an art exhibition moving to another city by telefaxing all the paintings to the new museum”? Nov 18 '20 at 11:45
  • yes @leftaroundabout, this is the way.
    – McKlatch
    Nov 18 '20 at 16:22
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You can easily spot a client who knows what to send, and what to ask for.

If you don't, or take on the work anyway, there is no "best way" to handle that after the fact.

This is supposed to be included in your craft that you have to guide your clients into providing the assets needed for the work. There are many technical things clients don't (need to) know about (vector files, resolution, font formats, bleeds, cmyk, rgb, etc).

It is your job to spot all the issues, explain on a case-by-case basis, every single time, and obviously, charge for your time doing so.

Yes, some clients will have a tough time following direction, and will keep sending inappropriate formats, etc. Then, you're free to just go with more experienced clients who don't need all this stuff explained all the time.

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Other people have given good answers about how trying to explain the technical details is generally a losing battle and what to do. But if you want to show people that screenshots are bad without going into technical details, you could create a 1 minute youtube video for your site that records the following: On a phone, open a good quality image and zoom in all the way on a very distinct detail. Now, zoom out and take a screenshot of the image. Open the screen shot and zoom back in on the same detail. Popup an image in the video so that they can see side-by-side the difference.

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    -1 for the YouTube reference (YouTube is OK but unnecessary), but it’s a great idea and I have upvoted. Nov 18 '20 at 12:21
  • @BrianDrake There are many alternatives. Which would you suggest?
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 18 '20 at 19:37
  • @wizzwizz4 I would not suggest anything in particular. Just say “video”. (You could even post the same video in multiple places.) Nov 19 '20 at 3:37
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In looking at what type of images your clients are sending, it looks like you’re mostly getting personal photos from people who do not / will not ever understand what it is that you need or why you need it. Essentially, your average non-graphics person, or most of the rest of the world.

This is the important thing to remember, people as a general rule will NOT admit to ignorance. If they don’t understand what you are asking, they generally will not ask for help. By telling them what you need and then giving them instructions on how to get it, you are giving them a way out without the back and forth and forcing them to admit it.

There are books worth of psychology behind this problem, so not something you can fix. But you can approach dealing with it differently.

I generally approach this type of problem with specifics. Instead of possibly risking a miscommunication from them not understanding or not using the same terms I am, I tell them what I need and give them a link to the best step-by-step instructions on exactly HOW to send me the files that I need.

For example, if I need packaged native indesign files, instead of saying I need supporting documents, fonts, photos, etc. I tell them that the best way is to use Indesign’s built in packaging tool, and give them a link to instructions on exactly how to use it.

The reason I give them links to instructions is because A) the sad truth is the general attention span these days is so short, if you put long detailed instructions in an email, most people will just skip it and get frustrated because they “don’t have time” to hassle with all that. B) there is generally someone out there who already wrote a how-to better than I could so why waste my time, and then the original author gets a hit on their site.

If it’s something like sending you a photo from their phone, from the screenshot you can generally tell what phone they are using, or at least what OS it’s from, so you could give them a link to something like “How to send a photo from your iPhone”. Most people actually have NO clue how to even find their photos in their phone, or how to access the menus to send them, but they know how to take a screenshot, and that the phone automatically pops up asking how they would like to send the screenshot, so they think that’s the only way to do it.

If it’s a photo that they have in Facebook or other social media. Odds are pretty good that they used the built in links and tools to upload the photo or directly took the picture there and have no idea how to get it back out. In that case, I would send them a link to instructions on how to do that from their phone or computer.

Hope that helps. Dealing with people so often becomes a lesson in psychology and essentially manipulation. The more you can understand the hidden subconscious things that govern most peoples behavior, the better you will understand how you need to communicate with them to work around that as efficiently as possible.

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  • Thank you for sharing this, well thought-out, answer
    – McKlatch
    Nov 18 '20 at 16:25
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    Thank you! This is 20 years of prepress condensed. LOL
    – Alith7
    Nov 18 '20 at 20:49

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