Resolution: How Big Will It Print?

Most of the time, we can go about our photographic lives and rarely concern ourselves with resolution. Our photos mostly appear on screens, which are all lower resolution than the images our cameras, even camera phones, capture. It is when we need to print a photo that we must take resolution into consideration, as depending on the size of the print, the photo may not have enough resolution for a high-quality print.

Understanding resolution can be tricky. It involves math and some new vocabulary. Fortunately, the math is not too hard, and we’re glad to assist with helping you determine the optimal print size for your image. Email or call us 877-947-1539 with your resolution questions!

 

What is resolution?
Before we define resolution, another term must be defined first. That term is “pixel.” A pixel is the smallest individual dot on the viewing or capture device. For the fans of trivia, the word “pixel” is derived from the combination of the words “picture” and “element.”

A simple definition of resolution is this: resolution is the number of pixels and how closely together they are arranged in the image. 

Resolution is stated in points per inch (ppi.) A high resolution image is considered to be 200-300 ppi at the final print size. 

 

How big will it print?
To determine the maximum print size, you need to know the pixel dimensions of the image. You can easily find the pixel dimensions in Photoshop, by going to Image: Image Size. 

Below are examples of two images, and their Image Size dialog. The first image is from a 24-megapixel cameral. The second image is from an 8-megapixel camera phone. The 24-megapixel camera has 3 times as many pixels (24 million vs. 8 million), so it should be no surprise that at any given pixel per inch setting, the 24-megapixel camera image will be roughly 3 times larger than the phone image, which is the case here at 268 square inches for the camera image and 88 square inches for the phone image.

24 megapixel camera at 300 ppi
24 megapixel camera at 300 ppi
8 megapixel camera phone at 300 ppi
8 megapixel camera phone at 300 ppi

 

The next question is, “What is the MAXIMUM size this will print?” 
Before that question can be answered, there’s another factor to consider: viewing distance. Smaller prints are generally viewed at arm’s length (12-18 inches) or closer, and require higher resolution due to the closeness to the print and ability then to see detail. Larger prints are generally viewed from much farther away (3-10 feet), and therefore do not require as much resolution due to the extra viewing distance reducing the ability to see detail. For example, a print which will be viewed from one foot away might require 240-300 pixels per inch resolution, while that same image viewed from 5 to 10 feet viewing distance might only require 120-150 pixels per inch. 

Using the same photos as above, the 24-megapixel camera image can be printed 50 inches by 33 inches at 120 ppi.

d600_120dpi
24-megapixel camera image at 120 ppi.

 

And the 8-megapixel camera phone image can be printed 27 inches by 20 inches at 120 ppi.

8-megapixel camera phone at 120 ppi
8-megapixel camera phone at 120 ppi

 

There you have it. A very brief introduction to resolution, and determining maximum print size based on your source image pixel dimensions. We’re always glad to lend a hand with helping you find the best size print for your image. Please email or call us 877-947-1539 today  to see how large your image will print!