Automator plugin for photos in reports

The reports I write for work usually include several photographs. I write the reports in Markdown, convert the text to LaTeX using MultiMarkdown, and convert that into a PDF using pdflatex. I’ve been planning for months to write a detailed post--or set of posts--on how I integrate all these tools to make my report-writing relatively simple and painless, but today I’ll just offer a simple Automator plugin I made to keep the PDF file size down.

The photos in my reports are typically taken by me with a digital camera. They’re usually 1-3 MB JPEGs, way more resolution than needed for a 3-4 inch photo in a report. Before today, I just included the full-sized photos in the report because it was the easy thing to do. It made the PDF of the report pretty big--tens of MB, usually--but since my clients usually want paper copies rather than computer files, the file size didn’t matter much.

The waste of space did bother me, though, so today I fired up Automator and created a Finder plugin that would cut down the size of photos before including them in the report. The workflow window looks like this:

You can click on it to see it full-sized. The “Get Selected Finder Items” action is in the Finder library, and the “Scale Images” action is in the Preview library.

I named it “Halve,” because it scales the image by 50% and saved it as a Finder plugin. Now I select the photos I want to include in my report, copy them into the report’s folder, and run the Halve command on those copies by

  1. selecting them in the Finder;
  2. right-clicking (control-clicking) on one of them; and
  3. choosing the Halve item from the Automator submenu.

Now these half-sized photos are what gets included in the report PDF and the file size is way down. I had expected a reduction to about 25% of the original file size (because the reduced photos contain one-quarter the number of pixels), but the savings is a bit more. The report I wrote today weighed in at over 25 MB with the original photos, but was less than 5 MB with the halved photos. Small enough to email comfortably if the client wants it that way, but with no visible loss of quality in the printed copy. And, since I was already copying the photos into the report folder so pdflatex could find them, very little change in how I work.