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Printing At Higher Resolution

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  • Printing At Higher Resolution

    Hello everyone - I just signed up tonight for Retouch Pro. I have a question concerning printing resolutions. I currently use a Sony DSC-H2 digital camera, and it's default resolution setting (as far as I know the only setting) is 72 ppi. It's a 6.0 megapixel camera. My question is this: will increasing the ppi setting make any difference when I print the pictures off, or am I better off just leaving the resolution alone? Thanks for your help!

  • #2
    Re: Printing At Higher Resolution

    Hi Joeman, welcome aboard!

    Resolution from the camera is arbitrary and irrelevant. It's just a number plucked out of the air by the camera manufacturer. Sony has picked 72, Canon has picked 180 (on some of their cameras, at least), others have chosen 300, I believe. It's meaningless.

    What's important is the number of pixels your camera captures. Your camera is 6MP, so it captures roughly 6 million pixels - usually 2000x3000. So whether your file is at 72ppi, or 300ppi, or 846.712ppi, there's still 6 million pixels, and that's the important bit.

    Of course, resolution becomes important when printing, because the total number of pixels in the width of your file divided by the resolution gives the physical size. For example, your 3000 pixel file at 300 pixels per inch equals 10 inches. If you double the resolution, you halve the width ... if you quarter the resolution, you'll quadruple the width, etc, etc.

    300ppi is the usual resolution for print (although you can usually get away with as low as 200 without grief). So your 6MP camera can produce print files at 10 x 6.666 inches without having to mess with the pixels.

    What software do you have?

    In Photoshop's Image Size dialog, you can change the resolution from 72 to 300, with the "Resample Image" box unticked. You'll see your dimensions reduce as your resolution enlarges.

    However, if you turn "Resample Image" off when you change the res, you'll see your dimensions stay the same, and now your file size is much bigger. No longer is it a 6MP file, it's bigger. You've "resampled" the pixels - that is, you've enlarged the physical file, and Photoshop (or whatever software) has had to create new pixels. If you enlarge too far, the file starts to become blurry.

    Don't be afraid to enlarge, though. It's just a matter of sharpening after resizing (which is good practice regardless), to make sure your print is the best it can be.

    Well, I've waffled on a lot, I hope I've hit the mark. In short, your files should probably be 300ppi for printing (confirm with your lab).

    Photoshop (and probably other software) allows you to crop and resize in the same step. You simply enter the height, width, and resolution in the Options bar, then crop. Wonderfully simple!


    • #3
      Re: Printing At Higher Resolution

      Thank you so much. Your response helps tremendously. I have a follow-up question, though. What I am typically doing with my digital photos is cropping them using Photoshop's selection tool and setting it to fixed aspect ratio (4x6). Then I take the files to CVS (etc.) as the huge files with the 72 ppi resolution and print them off. When the printer scales the pictures down it does so almost perfect at the 4x6 ratio - when this occurs, is the machine automatically increasing the resolution? Or would it be better that I increase the resolution on my own (and ultimately shrink the picture size) before taking it there. Thanks again - I hope this question isn't redundant from your earlier response!


      • #4
        Re: Printing At Higher Resolution

        If you compare what the lab is presently doing with your files vs you doing it yourself, there'll be no appreciable difference - the result will be a 6x4 file at high enough resolution for printing (probably 300, like I said). So on face value, the answer to your question ...
        Originally posted by joeman7 View Post
        would it be better that I increase the resolution on my own (and ultimately shrink the picture size) before taking it there
        ... is no, there is no real difference.

        However, I always make my files the exact size and resolution before sending to the lab, for a couple of reasons:

        1. It means I avoid sending files that are waaaaay bigger than necessary. After all, if you're just getting 6x4s printed, you're effectively sending 500ppi files to the lab, 200 of which won't be used. So I make my files the correct size, simply for speed of uploading. (Mind you, our internet speeds here in Australia are dreadful, so we need to be mindful of this issue. I hope that you have much faster speeds where you are, so you don't have to worry.)

        2. Sharpening. This is the much more important issue. Sharpening is very dependent on resolution. A 300ppi file needs to be sharpened differently from a 500ppi file. I know exactly how much sharpening my 300ppi files need to look brilliant, so I'm not prepared to dabble in guesswork at other resolutions. Plus, for bigger print sizes, where some upsizing of the original file is necessary, I want exquisite control over sharpening to ensure best results.

        Like I said in my first post, I really think the Crop tool is the absolute best way to go. It crops, resizes and re-resolutions all in one step, then you sharpen and send.

        Edit: The gang over at POTN are much wiser than me, and can help a great deal with issues like this.


        • #5
          Re: Printing At Higher Resolution

          I think Damien has given you good advise.
          A few thoughts to add to the conversation...

          (a) Much depends on what print shop you will use. When using a consumer-level printers like Wal-Mart, Target or CVS we tend not to worry so much about preparing the images. Why?... well they tend to have lower quality equipment, perform less maintenance, and do very little hands on to ensure your prints are done right. They will also run all the images through the same process. I still resize the images though, because I simply don't want to waste my money or time.
          (b) While most consumer-level shops have printers that work in a CMYK environment, you do not have to convert your images to CMYK. They already expect to receive RGB images and do all the conversion for you. You also do not need to obtain a printer profile... in fact you probably can't find out from them what it should be.
          (c) When using a pro-level printer (including Costco) we tend to pay more attention to preparing the images. Why?... well they tend to have higher quality equipment, perform regular maintenance, and do a good job of inspecting your images to ensure your prints are done right. They will also ensure your images are printed correctly, not necessarily running everything through the same process.
          (d) All pro-level shops have printers that work in a CMYK environment also. However, again, you do not have to convert your images to CMYK unless that is your preference. They know to do all the conversion for you. If you prefer CMYK, then you can obtain a printer profile from them so you can soft proof your images before hand. They generally make it easy to obtain their profiles, one for each type of paper stock.

          Again, just some heads up... there can be a lot to printing at the pro-level shops. But, don't worry so much at the consumer level stores.