Veterans Tribute


Here’s an idea for your newspaper that can garner some good community mojo and maybe bring in some revenue at the same time: A special section saluting military veterans.

HA VeteransMy newspaper has done this for quite a few years now, and it continues to grow in popularity. We accept submissions from the public to create individual tributes to veterans — living, dead, currently serving, doesn’t matter — which are then published together in a special section run on Veteran’s Day.

Each tribute is one column wide by 3 inches deep, and we get six rows per page (with a header for each branch of the military). Last year, we had two 10-page sections, which included a front and back cover for the first section, and a front cover and back page for the sponsors for the second section all in process color. The tribute pages themselves were in black and white. We had a few fillers here and there, but we had over 500 veterans featured, a record for this publication.

This year, we are using InDesign’s Data Merge function to put it together. It makes for more work now, but it will pay off in the years to come.

In years past, we would build each veteran’s tribute as a 1×3″ InDesign document, print proofs of each, make corrections and place each on the full-size page document. All the individual ID docs would be copied from year to year, but their photos would be kept in the first year they appeared. That could make for a mess if a reader wanted to make sure we had their veteran’s photo, or if the link somehow got broken.

Data Merge will make it much more organized. It is a little more work to go find each photo and place it in one folder, but from year to year, we’ll use the same folder and same data base and have it in one location on a server instead of a different folder for each year. Corrections will be made in the database.

One of the pages from last year's section.

One of the pages from last year’s section.

We also redesigned the look of the individual tributes, and I like them better. They’re not as dark, so I think the photos will stand out more.

The photo size is also larger so we can show more than just the face. Some of the photos we get aren’t portraits but rather the serviceman (most are men, especially before the 1980s) in his environment or posing for the camera, his uniform hat a rakish angle. It gives you a sense of who the person was at the time of the picture, I think. We even have a handful of photos from WWI and even the Civil War.

We do start advertising about taking the photos at the beginning of October, but there’s still some time to get started on a project like this if you haven’t before. Give it a try. Our readers love it.

Design challenge — Part I

Illustrator, InDesign, Tips

On Thursday, one of the ad reps walked into our work area and asked “Who wants a challenge?” I wasn’t busy, and I’m always willing to try and stretch my design wings.

One of her clients wants to sponsor a calendar of local events for the summer, and had given her a similar ad from another paper as an example. He wanted it exactly like that ad, in fact. Challenge accepted.

I knew it wouldn’t be difficult for me to recreate the design — most of it could be done in InDesign with fairly simple tools and features. The challenge would be to make it easy for anyone who didn’t create the ad to update the text easily. That’s best accomplished using style sheets.

But first, the actual design, step by step. There’s lots of work involved, so I’ll break this up into different parts.

Our ad rep thought for our paper, this ad would work best as a 4 column by 15 inch ad, so I created an InDesign document to that size. Then I set some guide rules for the top section, where the client’s content about their business and a small testimonial ad are on the sample ad. I did the same for the box on the bottom.

Then I went to Illustrator to design the background for the top section. I started with an orange box with radial gradient. There’s a faint starbust in the sample ad. Now, there are plenty of tutorials of how to make a starburst in Illustrator, and it’s fun to do, but I found one on Metro that I downloaded awhile back to save time on designs like these. I copied and pasted that into the Illustrator document, put it on its own layer, resized, changed the color and dropped the transparency.

For some texture, I keep some images of old papers handy on my desktop. I grabbed one that I thought looked good, sized it and placed it where it looked most interesting, then dropped the transparency on it, too.

Draw a box to create a clipping mask, and then drop into InDesign.

In the next post, I’ll continue with some of the small design details. If you have questions or need more detail on some of the steps, let me know in the comments.

Photo tips for real estate agents (and others)

Photography, Tips
"Nice garage, where's the house?"

“Nice garage, where’s the house?”

One of my goals with this blog is to create an exchange of ideas and tips that those of us in smaller markets might not otherwise have the resources for. But, the first tips I’d like to share aren’t so much for the designers as for the people they might work with, the advertisers who provide their own artwork.

Not to pick on any one group of people, but, well, you real estate agents could especially use some help. Most of the time, real estate photos in the newspaper are going to be small enough the flaws in the photo won’t be so noticeable. But if people are looking at it online as a PDF they can magnify, or if the photo might also be used in a higher-quality publication or online, those flaws will show. So let’s take the best picture you can to start with.

Any business owner who wants to provide their own photos of their products, or ad sales people who occasionally take pictures for their clients’ ads, might also find these tips will make your ad designers happy.

• This first tip might sound painfully obvious, but I bet a lot of people haven’t done it: Read the manual for your camera. You don’t need an expensive SLR with lots of bells and whistles to take a decent picture, but you should know how to use what you have. How many times have you been taking pictures and you know there’s a setting that will help with the lighting situation you’re in, but you can’t remember where to find it? You waste time pushing buttons, going back and forth on the screen displays and finally just say the heck with it and take an awful picture. Read your manual with your camera in your hand. Get to know those settings and what they do. If you don’t have a manual, you can probably find it for download on the manufacturer’s website. If you have a specific question about how to do something, type that question into your favorite search engine (ex: “How do I set shutter speed on my Cannon Powershot?”)

Take the photo at a high resolution. Newsprint is not the best medium for photography (a photo editor I once worked with described it as “printing on toilet paper”). Even if the photo is going to be only about an inch wide, a high resolution image will help us make it as clear as possible. Set your camera to shoot at least 300 pixels per inch. Even better: Ask the publication what resolution they would prefer. They might even help you set that on your camera if you don’t know how and ask real nice. And maybe offer them cookies.

Don’t stand directly in front of the house. One of my co-workers recently opened a photo from for a real estate ad and said something like, “Nice garage, where’s the house?” It was one of those newer houses that have the double garages sticking out further than the front door (Personally, I think they look like pig snouts). About a third of the house wasn’t even in the picture. So look at the angle you’re taking the picture from. Make those pig-snout garages more of a background. Show that curb appeal!

Know where the sun is. Professional photographers will tell you the best time to take outdoor photos is generally the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. That’s probably not real practical for your schedule, but follow it as best you can — until mid-morning and late afternoon. No matter what time of day, though, be aware of where the sun is in relation to the house. Are there dark shadows hiding the house? Is the sun creating a harsh glare on the camera lens? If so, find a different angle to shoot from or wait for a better time of day.

Get the vehicles out of the driveway. Your vehicle, the seller’s vehicle, whatever. I want to picture MY vehicle in that driveway, not see someone else’s. Especially if it has a business logo that’s visible.

Don’t include the date/time stamp. If you don’t know how to get rid of that, see the first tip. If you still can’t figure it out, at least provide plenty of foreground so we can crop it out.

Feel free to leave any more tips or ask questions in the comments, and thanks for reading.