What’s your resolution?

Get it? New years…print versus online resolution…you know…it’s… Fine, maybe it’s not that funny, but being confused about resolution isn’t funny either.

Unless you’re good at math (and can accept formulas without having to know why it works), resolution can be really complicated and frustrating so I’m going to cut it down to size as much as a mere non-math-brained-human can.

All of the confusion, every bit of it, comes from the fact that image size can be defined in so many ways including:

  • Image file size (measured in KB, MB, or GB and relating to how much digital space it takes up)
  • Physical dimension (how big the print is or can be, most often measured in inches like a 4×6, 8×10, 11×14, 16×20 etc.)
  • Pixel dimensions (how many pixels are in the image’s width and height)
  • PPI (the resolution of a file measured in pixels per inch and different from the pixel dimension number)
  • DPI (the resolution at which a printer will print a physical image. You’ll often hear people saying a file has to be saved at 300 dpi to print properly)

So. Brain numbing, right? All of those things are interwoven with each other and there are all kinds of formulas out there that will let you use one number to figure out the other numbers. But, all you really want to know is if you can print your picture at the size you want to print it, right?

In general, you want your image to be:

  1. High resolution (meaning that the PPI is 240 – 300)
  2. A large file size (the larger the file size, the more pixels it will has in it. This is the worst possible way to measure an image, but it’s a down-and-dirty-fast-quick-figure way to guesstimate)

If you have an editing program like Photoshop, you’re golden. You can get all that information from one (okay…two) clicks and get something like this:

But what if you don’t have access to that kind of software?? What now?? Nothing to worry about. You will need to find out what your pixel dimensions are. That’s usually stored in the file information so try this:

PC – right click the image and choose “properties”. You’ll probably see a whole whack of information including pixel dimensions, file size, and maybe even resolution. Look for pixel dimensions and write them down.

Mac – right click (or cmd+click) and choose “get info”. You’ll have a small window appear that has all of the image information including pixel dimensions. Find that, write it down.

Here’s why you wrote it down…when I was doing research for this blog post I came across this extremely handy dandy online converter that will help you figure out just how large you can print your image using the information you get from your dimensions data. You can find it right here!

All of that grief, those math things, the numbers, the stress, the worry, the wonder…all gone by typing the dimensions into a calculator. Amazing.

If you have more questions about resolution and printing, you should consider looking into our Lightroom Class, and/or our Shoot! Print! workshop.