Photo Printing Tips: Create High-Quality Prints

Photo Image Quality Settings

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When you use a DSLR camera, the settings on the quality as well as size of images at the maximum level are not always the best. There have been specific situations in which setting the quality or size of images most properly requires more than just selecting the highest numbers of settings. For instance, if the camera is going to run out of the storage capability of the memory card, the image quality or sizes need to be lowered in order to provide enough storage. Or, in case that you’re intending to share a certain number of your images via email or social networks, the resolution should be set lower, so it won’t take a lot of time for uploading.

Photo Image Quality Settings

Photo Image Quality Settings

When you make adjustments on the shooting settings to gain the greatest photography results, you may easily forget to set one important part – it’s the photo quality as well the size at the most proper possible levels.

The following tips will be useful for selecting the proper settings for your different shooting needs.

  • If you have just had an upgrade from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR camera, you may not be aware of the differences of these two camera types in using the number of megapixels for measuring the image quality. Keep in mind that the number of megapixels does not always mean the same image quality. That is normal since DSLRs often have much larger image sensors than point and shoot models, hence the image quality of DLSRs is usually higher.  For example, with the same 10 megapixels, certainly the quality of a photo produced by a DSLR camera is better than a point and shoot model.
  • To check the current photo quality configurations in your camera, just hold down the Info button and the configurations will be displayed on the camera LCD. As an Info button is often available in a DSLR camera, if there is no Info button in your camera, you should check these settings through the camera menus. More common with recently released cameras, you can see the amount of resolution that you are selecting through the corner of the LCD.
  • You can usually select either RAW or JPEG i most DSLR cameras. If you want to edit the images yourself in the post production, you may prefer the RAW format because the file data have not been compressed. However, you should notice that there will be a need for more space to store this type of image while JPEG images accounts for a smaller space. And the RAW format sometimes cannot be displayed in some certain software.
  • In some camera models, you can choose one of a few available JPEG formats. The compression ratio is 4:1 for the JPEG Fine option, 8:1 for the JPEG Normal and 16:1 for JPEG Basic. The image quality is higher and the image size is larger when the compression ratio is lower.
  • For a lot of DSLR cameras, you are able to save images in both RAW and JPEG formats simultaneously. This is very nice for ensuring that you can achieve the greatest possible results. And I have to say it again that this will require much larger space for storing the image than just saving a JPEG photo.
  • In the camera’s settings, you should be caution that image size isn’t the same as image quality. The image size refers to the number of pixels of each saved photo, while the image quality is related to the size of those pixels. The common levels of the image quality are often “superfine”, “fine” or “normal” and all of the mentioned settings show you how precise the pixels are. The overall image will be better if it contains more accurate information. However, the image size is accordingly higher, and  more storing space in the camera memory card is required.
  • Several entry-level cameras don’t display the exact number of megapixels in the resolution amount of each image. Instead, it is referred as “small”, “medium” or “large”. The “large” size may lead to an image of 12 or 14 megapixels, and the “small” image size ranges from 3 to 5 megapixels. With some entry-level cameras, the number of megapixels is the only parameter  in the image size menu.
  • In addition, when you are shooting movies, a lot of the above same instructions are similar regarding to the movie resolution and quality. You will work with the menus of the camera to make the setting changes, which enables you to record movies in the quality as expected.

What Camera Resolution Do I Need?

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If you are using a digital camera to shoot photos, the shooting resolution can be selected to meet your photography requirements. The resolution can be lower if your purpose is just to share photos via social networks or send them via email. But the resolution needs to be higher so that you can make nice prints of photos.

To decide how much camera resolution which is finally needed, you need to know the printing size that you like to make. You can take the following table as a reference for determine the appropriate resolution.

Before seeing the relationship between a resolution amount and the sizes of prints, you should not forget that your image and printing quality do not only depend on the resolution. The following factors are also very important to help you define the look of your photos on paper or a computer screen.

  • Appropriate lighting
  • The quality of the camera lens
  • How much steady your camera is
  • Accurate auto-focus on the subject
  • Appropriate shutter speed, depending on a still or moving subject
  • The cleanliness of the equipment

One of the very important factors to decide the image quality as well as the print quality is the camera’s image sensor. It is common that the image quality will be better when the physical size of the image sensor is larger regardless of the number of megapixels that a camera offers.

It is also easier to make the purchasing decision on a digital camera if you know the sizes that you want for your prints. If you often want to prints photos at large sizes, a camera offering a very high resolution number should be considered. Otherwise, just a camera with the average resolution level is enough for making prints of small sizes occasionally. This helps you save a certain amount of money.

After seeing the following table, you will know how much resolution you’ll need for prints at the average quality or very high quality. You should not completely base on the listed resolution to make sure about the top quality at the listed size, but it give you the initial idea on how to decide the sizes of prints.

The resolution amounts equivalent to the different sizes of prints
Resolution Average quality Top quality
0.5 MP 2×3 inch N/A
2 MP 3×5 inch 3×5 inch
4 MP 5×7 inch 5×7 inch
6 MP 6×8 inch 8×10 inch
8 MP 8×10 inch 11×14 inch
10 MP 9×12 inch 13×17 inch
12 MP 10×13 inch 13×17 inch
14 MP 11×14 inch 13×17 inch
16 MP 12×16 inch 13×17 inch
18+ MP 13×18 inch 13×17 inch

Choosing Camera Resolution

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Camera Resolution

When transferring from a film model to a digital mode, it is common to a see the change that there is a variety of options regarding the image quality as well as the resolution you’re offered for shooting photos. There are at least five various different resolution levels in almost all digital cameras. The number can be 10 or more for some certain models.

Although the highest available resolution number has been always selected because you will find it easier to shoot photos with a high resolution camera, sometimes it is better to shoot a photo at the lower level of resolution. Below, I’d like to list a number of tips to help you choose camera resolutions and find out more about: What is resolution?

How to choose the right camera resolution

Both the image quality and the resolution can be controlled by using the menus of a digital model. To set the image quality, you can also select the aspect ratio as well, for example, 4:3 or 16:9 ratios.

  • In case that you want to prints your digital photos, it will be nice to shoot photos at the highest resolution. It is impossible to increase the number of pixels in your photos later if you have shot them already, right?
  • Even when you just need to print the photos at a small size, the high resolution is still better. You’re going to able to reduce the size of a photo without affecting its image quality. This offers you a result similar to zoom.
  • Don’t forget that when you select the highest level of resolutions, you’ll need more space for the photos in the memory card as well as in the hard drive. For example, if a photo of 12 megapixel resolution will account for 40% more storage space on a memory card  than with a photo of the 5 MP resolution. If you don’t make prints frequently, the medium resolution will be nicer regarding the required storage space.
  • The low resolution level is more appropriate for some certain purposes of using the photos. For instance, if you just want to share the photos online or via email and you don’t intend to make large prints, the low resolution is a nice option. These types of photos are very convenient because it helps save time in sending via email or downloading them from the internet. One typical example is the display of low resolution photos in websites and there is an image setting of the “web quality” in many digital cameras.
  • But I have to say that nowadays, there are an increasing number of internet options at the high speed, the low resolution has been less important than it was in some years previously. In the past, because of the internet access based on the web dial, it took more time to download a photo of high resolution. Now, the situation has been changed for a big number of broadband Internet users.
  • If you are still confused about the way you will use an image of a specific subject, you may select various resolution options and pick proper ones for each particular situation later.
  • Maybe the greatest advice here is that you should always capture images at the highest available level of resolution. While it is impossible to add more pixels to your photos later, you can lower the resolution by using a photo editing software to reduce the storage space on your computer and share the photos more easily via social networks.

 

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