Great tips for placing photos in your ebook

When formatting your ebook, photos are a must if you’ve written nonfiction. Pictures, maps and illustrations can add value to your book in a number of ways and unlike a paper book, won’t drive up the title’s price.

There are several elements to consider when placing a photo in your ebook, though. Among them are photo selection, using copies, format, dimensions, resolution, color, and placement in the text.

Let’s look at each one as going step by step through how to place a photo in your ebook.

Photo selection
A photo for the sake of having a photo doesn’t benefit the reader, so only select those that enhance the book’s quality. For example, the photo should illustrate a concept that otherwise is difficult to visualize. In my hiking guidebooks, that might be a trail map or a picture of a rare flower that can be seen along the path. A photo also could provide additional but relevant information that wouldn’t appear in the text. For my books, this might be the view from a vista or a trailhead sign that misspells the trail’s name (which can be pointed in the caption).

Never use the original
Always work with copies of your original photo. Should you crop or accidentally delete the original, you then limit your options for using that picture in your book. Place the copies in a new folder so you do not confuse them with the originals.

Photo format
Photos can appear in a number of formats. The most widely accepted format in ebooks is a jpeg (.jpg), so convert all of your photos to that type. Portable network graphics (.png) also are widely used but still not universal. Never use photos that are bitmap (.bmp), vector (.eps or .ai), Photoshop (.psd), or raw camera (RAW or Exif) files.

Photo dimensions
A photo has height (how high it goes vertically) and width (how long it goes horizontally). You want your photo to at least be the size of the ebook screen. The short side on a few ebooks is 1600 pixels, so that’s probably the smallest you want the photo to go. Unless you’re offering some kind of photo where details are important (such as a map) so that the photo that can be enlarged on the screen, there’s no need to go much larger than this minimum size.

Use photos that are 300 dpi (dots per inch). This ensures they will appear in your ebook at the highest quality possible. Photos smaller than 300 dpi will increasingly appear pixelated the closer you get to 1 dpi. And there’s no real benefit in going more than 300 dpi unless someone is reading your book on a 30-inch monitor.

Use color
Color photos in a paper book greatly raise the production costs and so ups the price you must charge readers; this is not so with ebooks. So why not use color when you can? Most people only expect to see black and white photos if they are historical (pre 1960s) or if it’s intended to be artistic.

How to place them
Once you have a jpeg photo that is the correct size and dpi (and in color if possible), you’re ready to place it on your MS Word document. Begin by setting the manuscript in single space mode. After the last line of text that you want the photo to appear after, hit ENTER key twice. Insert the photo there. On the line below the photo, type the caption/cutline. Use a different font and point/font size than the manuscript’s main text to help distinguish it; italics often is all you need. At the end of the caption’s text, hit ENTER twice and continue with the manuscript’s main text.