VOLUME 31 / NUMBER 3 / 2005 



by Bobb Sleezer, RBP, FBCA

The Journal of Biocommunication - a simple title for a document that represents the writings of a diverse group of eclectic, creative individuals and professions. For those of us earning a living in the various communications specialties which give life to this publication, “The Journal”, as many of us affectionately call it, is a critical point of reference from which to learn about one another and how we communicate using the tools at our disposal. Our publication has changed before us and because of us, from a quarterly hard copy to an electronic version, with updates as they become available. It has been transformed by virtue of changing technologies into an effective communications tool in our early 21st century, creating a network for understanding and sharing of our various skills, levels of knowledge, and the tools and applications we rely upon to create the finished products we are asked to produce. Now, more than ever before, our Journal is a living mechanism for information sharing, one that each of us should utilize, and to a degree, depend on to effectively communicate within the profession of biocommunication.

So how do we, as visual presentation specialists in an electronic world, know what one another is trying to communicate with the digital images we generate? Illustrators are at home with CMYK and offset presses; photographers create with RGB in several flavors of sRGB - Adobe sRGB(1998), Bruce RGB or ProPhoto RGB just to name a few - along with a multitude of paper, inkjet and thermal dye transfer options to create display prints and digital presentations. Video production specialists rely on green sync for color reference, and those of us in management are happy with whatever gets a high quality product out the door on time that satisfies the client. We all use different digital processes, vendors, operating systems, image capture and image output devices. Concepts, ideas and techniques are expressed in one digital language, but often seen or heard with another. With all we do, is there a standard of digital imaging communication that we can use as a common language?

Actually there is, and that is the focus of this issue’s TechBytes. Recently a symposium of eleven international photo trade organizations compiled a set of fifteen guidelines for digital imaging, along with several Best Practices documents. It was brought to our attention by Jim Koepfler through the BCATalk listserve. Fortunately, Jim saw it for what it was worth, and sent it on for the rest of us to benefit from. Let’s take a closer look. It all started with the following press release a little over a year ago:

Media Contacts:

Richard Anderson
(410) 532-7470

David Riecks
(877) 646-5375


NEW YORK (Oct. 21, 2005) — The Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines officially become a public document today during PhotoPlus Expo at the Javits Center. And public they are, available for all to see – and download – and use without charge at www.updig.org.

The 15 Guidelines – along with accompanying Best Practices documents – aim to clarify issues affecting accurate reproduction and management of digital image files. Although they were created from a photographer’s perspective, the group has worked hard to incorporate the concerns of everyone involved in the process of reproducing digital images. Anyone working with digital images should find them useful.

The guidelines have three primary goals:

  • Digital images look the same as they transfer between devices, platforms and vendors.
  • Digital images are prepared in the correct resolution, at the correct size, for the device(s) on which they will be viewed or printed.
  • Digital images have metadata embedded that conforms to the IPTC standards, making the images searchable, providing usage and contact information, and stating their creators or copyright owners.

Much Accomplished in a Year

The effort to help bring order to the exchange of digital image files got off the ground just one year ago at PhotoPlus, when leaders and representatives of nearly a dozen photographers groups from around the world gathered for a “Digital Summit.” They agreed the Guidelines and Best Practices were needed and should be easy to understand, offering options for different workflows, aimed at different outputs – from HiFi color printing presses to online media.

Several folks stepped forward to help craft the Guidelines, and before long the group had established an online forum for communications. By early in 2005, the group agreed on the name Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines, and draft ideas were circulating. David Riecks, who was serving as the Digital Committee chair for ASMP and an authority on image archiving, created and hosts a website for UPDIG.

By spring, Richard Anderson, now a national board member for the American Society of Media Photographers, had stepped in to organize and write The Guidelines. Greg Smith, Business Practices Committee chairman for the National Press Photographers Association, helped Anderson edit the documents, and others contributed critiques and ideas. ASMP’s Peter Dyson crafted a draft web version of the guidelines, which later grew into the current web presentation and downloadable PDF.

A year after its birth, the group has invited several photographic vendors to join the discussions, as well as representatives from photographic agencies, graphic design groups and more. While determined, for the time being, to remain an informal group, UPDIG is interested in feedback from all concerned about issues of digital imaging file exchange. Please send ideas and inquiries to info@updig.org

Member Groups

Organizations currently represented on the steering committee for UPDIG include:
ACMP (Australian Commercial and Media Photographers)
AIPA (Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association)
AOP (The Association Of Photographers)
APA (The Advertising Photographers of America)
ASMP (The American Society of Media Photographers)
ASPP (American Society of Picture Professionals)
CAPIC (The Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communication)
EP (Editorial Photographers)
PPA (Professional Photographers of America)
NPPA (National Press Photographers Association)
SAA (Stock Artists Alliance)


At the time of the release, David Riecks, who is the Chairman of the ASMP Digital Photography Standards and Practices Committed stated the following: “Anyone in the process of switching from analog to digital photography, or looking for guidance in shooting digitally should check out the new Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines that are available from http://www.updig.org. These guidelines are the collaborative result of a coalition of eleven of the world’s premier photo trade organizations, and can be viewed online or downloaded as a printable PDF.”

Quite a news release, and certainly information worth further investigation. Sounds simple enough in principle, but when has anything to do with any imaging technology been simple in reality? The goals were clearly stated, but what would grow out of it? We have all taken on projects that seemed to take on a life of their own, demanding far more time and effort than estimated. In review of the guidelines the working group agreed to three primary goals for digital imaging:

  • That digital images look the same as they transfer between devices, platforms, and vendors.
  • That digital images are prepared in the correct resolution, at the correct size, for the device(s) on which they will be viewed or printed.
  • That digital images have metadata embedded that conforms to the IPTC standards, making the images searchable, providing usage and contact information, and stating their creators or copyright owners (Anderson, 2005)

Only one way to find out how successful the UPDIG committee was – head over to the website at www.updig.com and see what was accomplished both on-line and in the printed document.

Once there, it did not take long to realize that the information available was easily communicated in a standard language to any digital imaging profession. The site is filled with clear, concise statements that have further embedded links to aid in clarification. There are links, footnotes, source notes, and definitions for every guideline. If you ever had a question about digital imaging, you can find the answer here. The UPDIG group has successfully created a standard of communication for a multitude of visual presentation groups, and a standard that all of us could benefit from understanding and adhering to. From a concept adopted by the UPDIG Committee, it was the mission of the group not to invent something new, but rather to pull together the best of current technology. Clearly the committee adhered to that effort in a wonderful way. The set of guidelines provides us with a common ground to converse with one another, and accurately see exactly what each other is creating. Often, our most effective communication occurs when we look outside ourselves and see what others are doing.

While the available PDF is worth printing for quick reference itself, there is substantially more information located in the online version. Active links are present for many of the topics, providing further clarification and insight. This feature alone sets a foundation of definition and understanding for all imaging professionals.

As an example, if we look at color management (a topic which everyone has an opinion about) we can reach beyond the essential definition and expand into content and other resources which brings further clarity. On the UPDIG Guidelines Page, http://www.updig.org/guidelines/index.html, the first item is Manage the Color. Within that item line is an active link, ICC, that takes us to the website for the International Colour Consortium (www.color.org), with plenty of technical information to sift through. If you visit the ICC main page click on the link in the left column to ICC Specifications, then select the current specification. A PDF of 112 pages of color standards information is available for your use. Go back to the ICC main page, select the Colour Management Links option, and you have another extensive list of resources. Within that list, choose the link to http://www.freecolormanagement.com/color/links.html, and you will find a proverbial “pot of gold” at the end of the full color spectrum of color management! At this point on the UPDIG site we have gone through three layers of information, yet there is still more to access if desired.

Let’s look at an area that many of us have fought with over the years of digital imaging. Take the phrase, “To avoid problems with files that will be transferred across computing platforms…” Sound familiar? Well, in item seven of the Guidelines, UPDIG delves into this area with some basic information and another link, to an extensive resource titled as the Controlled Vocabulary Website. It takes us directly to a page titled, “Recommendations for Limitations on Image Filenaming” which now displays extensive in-depth information regarding filenaming, and another link within that information which takes us over to another reference source, “Filenames as a Strategy to Managing Your Image Assets” for more insight. This is an open door to other demanding areas of digital imaging, areas that require just as much attention to detail in building effective digital imaging workflow paths as well as fostering effective communication between digital imaging professionals. You could spend an hour or two just reviewing your procedures or learning how to improve them.

The amount of cross-referenced information that can be accessed by starting in the UPDIG Guidelines is astounding. The functionality has been constructed to generate multiple layers of information depth and branching, and clearly testifies to the extensive effort by the committee members to gather every resource available to establish these standards, guidelines and applications.

During a phone conversation with David Riecks, he stated that the concept behind the design of the guidelines was provided by George Fulton who suggested using the First Aid Triage method where a patient is progressively evaluated to establish a category of treatment. The guidelines follow a similar methodology in accessing additional levels of information about a particular topic (the patient) that further define the condition. It works beautifully.

When asked about the future of digital imaging and the role of UPDIG, Mr. Riecks commented. “It is not the intent of the committee to invent new standards or implement some new color workspaces. Rather, it is our intent to collect the best of the current technology and workflow methods for everyone to have access to. We are establishing individual working groups who will be evaluating specific areas such as monitors, archival workflow, and other topics of interest .”

Many of us have implemented standards of production for our workplaces, and some of our members have authored articles about the benefits of standardization in this or sister journals, long before digital imaging existed. The accomplishment of the UPDIG committee in establishing and defining this list of digital imaging standards is exceptional. The Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines list, along with the associated Best Practices: Tools and Methods for Applying Guidelines and the Best Practices: Applying the Guidelines to your Workflow should prove to be one of the most effective communications our organizations have shared.

Anderson, Richard, 2005. The Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines; www.updig.org.


About the author
Bobb Sleezer, RBP, FBCA
Bobb Sleezer is the Manager of Visual Presentation Technology within the Department of Academic Affairs at the Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware. He has been employed at several major universities and also in the private sector, working with digital imaging technologies.

Copyright 2005, The Journal of Biocommunication, All Rights Reserved

Table of Contents for VOLUME 31, NUMBER 3