Resizing photography for print

Part of making the transition from keen amateur to professional photographer is a working knowledge of how to edit and resize your images. Correctly preparing them for print is one of the best ways to ensure that all those rare moments you’ve captured are flawlessly recreated.

printed.com product executive, Jack Hughes, has worked closely with hundreds of professional photographers in the development of the Photography Collection and, combined with a wealth of print industry experience, is well placed to guide you through the beginner’s basics.

The first thing that will determine the quality of your printed photography is the size of the image itself. “In the same way that a piece of paper is measured in millimetres or inches, images are measured in pixels along their width and height. If you know how many pixels wide and high your image is, you can work out how good it will look at any given printed size,” Jack says.

He advises that finding the pixel dimensions of an image is easily done using a camera, tablet or smartphone. On most devices, you should be able to bring up the image details by selecting ‘show info’ or ‘show image details’ when you’re browsing shots in your image library or gallery. If you’ve already transferred your shots to a computer, you can still find this information by looking at the file properties.

The second factor you’ll need to consider is the resolution and viewing distance. “Resolution is the level of detail in an image and is measured in pixels per inch or PPI for short,” he says. “It is very common to see PPI referred to as DPI, but they are two different things entirely. DPI is short for dots per inch and refers to how many dots the actual printer lays down on paper and so is not an attribute of the original image itself.”

“It is important to try and understand that, until you actually print an image, it doesn’t really have a physical size or a ‘pixels per inch’ value, despite what your device may tell you. It is only when you select a physical output size that you can calculate how many pixels per inch there will be on your final printed piece and to get an idea of how good it will look.”

“Some devices will display a PPI value by default but this is effectively just ‘filling in a gap’ of information. Your device has no idea what size you intend to print your image and therefore can’t tell you how many pixels per inch it will have.”

The quality of your image will also be affected by the distance it’s viewed from. Jack advises that for larger prints, viewable from a distance, 150ppi is the industry standard. Smaller prints, which are more likely to be viewed up close, will print far more clearly at 300ppi. This is considered ‘true’ photographic quality.

“[ppi] is heavily debated in many online forums with differing opinions. The 300ppi recommendation is sometimes considered to be slightly out of date when it comes to photography because camera lenses and sensors have come such a long way and can produce much more detailed images. With a well taken shot on a good camera, it’s almost impossible nowadays to see the difference between a 200ppi and 300ppi image with the human eye.”

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Category: PHOTOGRAPHERS