Monday, February 25, 2013

What Is Resolution and Why Do I Care?

Thinking of scanning and printing old photographs? Want to avoid pixelated or blurry images? It's so important to make the right choices when scanning or purchasing a home scanner.

REMEMBER: You can't add more resolution, you can only take it away. 

Every digital image is measured by its resolution in dpi dots per inch. The higher the dpi of your file, the higher the resolution, and the more flexibility you have when printing the image. In most cases, you need at least 240dpi to print an image, although 300dpi is preferable and the standard size. This also means making sure the settings on your camera are at a proper resolution when taking new photos. When scanning printed photographs, the actual size of the scan matters, too. If you scan an image at 4x6 inches with 300dpi, you can never print the image larger than 4x6 inches. We recommend scanning images at a minimum of 8x10 inches with 300dpi. These files are usually between 1.5 and 3.5MB in size or larger.

Image printed at 72 DPI
Image printed at 300 DPI
While you may not want to print your images right away, it can be a waste of time and money to only scan images for online use at 72 dpi. Images for websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or your own personal or professional website, only need to be 72dpi. These files are usually between 120 and 400KB in size. In most cases, any image at 300dpi will be just too big to upload and overkill for websites. But remember, you can't add more resolution to your files in the future, you can only take it away. Re-sizing an image from 300dpi to 72dpi won't distort it at all. Distortion only comes when you try to increase the resolution. And trust us, it's disappointing. Just take a look at the photos to your left. The image at the top is what your photograph will look like if it's scanned and printed at 72dpi or photographed as a small jpg with your camera. The image on the bottom is what your picture will look like if it's scanned and printed at it's proper size, 300dpi — crisp, clear, and beautiful.

If you are not interested in hiring a bulk scanning company, we love the Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner. It's our favorite for a number of reasons: It scans slides and negatives of all different sizes. The outcome is crisp and the scanning interface is instinctive and easy to use, both in the professional mode as well as the home user mode.

Many of our clients ask us to create photo albums from their digital photos. We run into a roadblock when clients hand us images shot at the lowest resolution jpgs. You can usually only print these images at 3 x 5" or smaller.

The general rule for shooting is this: shoot at the highest resolution your camera allows and buy extra camera cards.

We always say that a $20 camera card is cheaper than losing the ability to ever print a photo from an important event or a once in a lifetime vacation!

Do you have recommendations for home scanners? Let us know your favorites below!

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