When you have cute kids, it’s hard not to want to blow up every precious photo into a poster-size print.
After I had children, their photos became one of my favorite keepsakes, and my favorite gifts to receive and to give.
But how do you know which photos will hold up well when they’re enlarged, and just how large can they go? Thankfully, we have an expert to explain it all to us.
Our “Ask the Photographer” columnist (who’s also an Amelia Island Mama!), Boston Photography’s Kellie Boston, answers the question for us. ~ Mamamelia
Ask the Photographer
I asked the question on Facebook, “What would you like to know about photography?” This opened the slate up for anything!!! I received a couple of great questions and I hope to have great conversations to answer many of these over time.
How big of a print can you get from cameras with various megapixel size images?
This is a question that comes up all of the time and is always in the forefront for every photographer. When shooting, we often want to get the highest resolution image possible because this may be the one we (or the client) want to blow up to the “life-size” image.
1st off, what IS a megapixel? A megapixel is 1 million pixels…the tiny dots that make up an image once the light hits the camera’s sensor. In general, the higher the pixels per square inch, the higher the resolution quality: meaning less “grain”.
To achieve the best resolution, one wants to print their images at 300 dpi.
Another term….dpi=dot per inch….basically pixels.
There is some math involved to see if the image you produced can be made “wall size”. To determine the best resolution print, you need to:
- Determine your image size in pixels (typically in some photo editing software right click on the image…go to properties and look up image size)
- Divide each side by 300 (for optimal dpi) and see what size image you could print (e.g. for an image that is 4368 x 2912 pixels divide by 300 to determine you could optimally print a 9.7 x 14.5 inch print to get the best resolution).
To determine the megapixels for this image you multiply the length and height pixel numbers together and divide by 1 million. The above example would have had this image shot at 12.7 megapixels.
Does this mean that in order to print a 20 x 30 (typical poster size) you need a 54 megapixel camera? No…that is for “Optimal Quality.” You can lower your resolution standard to, say, 150 dpi and then a 13.5 megapixel shot will work.
Now with all of that confusing math, you may think your camera is horrible. Don’t beat yourself up… I do not have a 54 megapixel camera. There is so much more that contributes to great resolution. You can have a “Mac Daddy” camera and still get — for lack of words –“crappy images,” or visa versa. Resolution highly depends on the skill of the photographer, camera settings, exposure, printer, paper, quality of your lens, quality of light, etc… the list could go on.
So what do I recommend for the novice?
- Purchase the highest megapixel camera YOU can afford, because this does better your chances of getting great images.
- Learn how to hold your camera (this can change your quality dramatically).
- Educate yourself on how to improve your skills.
- For images you love and want to blow up, use a more professional lab….not the big chain kiosk, or the big-name online places. There are other labs that you can use to get more quality printers and papers.
Another quick secret: say you love a picture and want to blow it up, but the resolution is not the best. Turn it black and white, or if you like one of those “hazy-yellow” filters, do that. Those help cover up a lot of those resolution issues.
Kellie Boston is the owner and photographer for Boston Photography on Amelia Island in Florida. She can be contacted with further questions or to set you up with your own portrait session at email@example.com, www.bostonphotographyfl.com, www.facebook.com/bostonphotographyfl, www.bostonphotographyfl.blogspot.com, or 904-412-8178.
She also teaches photography workshops, classes, and provides individual lessons.