Pixels, Image Resolution, and Print Sizes   

    The quality of a digital picture is largely dependent upon the number and size of the digital camera pixels contained
    in the image. The image resolution is simply the information about the pixel density of the image. Higher resolution
    images can be printed to larger sizes with less loss of image quality than low resolution images.

    For reference purposes, there is a photo enlargement chart further down on this page that will give you an idea of
    the best image resolution needed for various photo print sizes. It can be helpful if you are thinking about ordering
    enlarged  prints or canvas prints of your pictures from an online printer like Shutterfly.com or Mixbook.

    However, it is probably a good idea to first read the following information on pixels, image file sizes, and image
    resolution. That way, you will have a better understanding as to why certain images should only be enlarged to
    certain print sizes.

    What are Pixels?  The word Pixel is a shortened and combined version of the words Picture and Element. Every
    digital camera contains a device called the image sensor which has  millions of light capturing cells. The light  
    captured at each cell location is called a digital camera pixel. For the record, there are one million pixels in a

    Digital SLR cameras like the Nikon D5300 have larger image sensors than a digital compact camera like the Canon
    Powershot ELPH 130 HS or a camera phone like the Samsung Galaxy S5. The larger sensors found in Digital SLR
    cameras produce larger pixels which leads to higher quality images. However, the image sensors found in the other
    types of cameras produce great images for the average photographer.

    The colors and light intensity for each of the millions of individual pixels appear to be blended together when we view
    them as a printed picture or on a computer screen. Picture 1A below is an ordinary picture taken with a compact
    digital camera. Picture 1B shows a portion of picture 1A  with the pixels greatly magnified and exaggerated so that
    you can see how pixels form an image. However, there will be thousands or millions more pixels in an area equivalent
    to picture #1B  when you take your pictures.

    Image File Size: The file size of an image is expressed by the total number of pixels in the width and height of an
    image. For instance a file size might be written as 3,456 X 2,304. That means there are 3,456 pixels in each row of
    pixels in the image from left to right, and 2,304 pixels in each column of pixels from top to bottom.

    To find the total number of pixels in an image, just multiply the number of pixels in the width of the image by the
    number of pixels in the height of the image. (3,456 X 2,304=7,962,624 ) Usually the total amount of pixels is rounded
    up or down  to the nearest megapixel. So in this case the image might be called an 8 Megapixel picture although it
    does not contain a full 8 million pixels.

    Although digital cameras are often marketed with emphasis on the total number of megapixels available for an image,
    they all have settings which allow the photographer to take pictures with smaller file sizes. That feature can save
    space on your cameras memory or in your computer hard drive.

    Also, images with smaller file sizes are easier to send and download when using email or social media. Taking
    pictures at different file sizes will make more sense as you continue to read about image resolution and print sizes.

    If the pictures you have already taken are large files, many photo editing programs have functions which allow you to
    reduce the size of an image file. Adobe Photoshop Elements is the best known photo editing software from which you
    can change file sizes as well as enhance and/or fix your images.

    Image Resolution: In general terms, image resolution refers to the amount of digital information contained in an
    image file. A picture file size of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels will have a higher image resolution than a file size of 2,000 x
    1,500 pixels. Higher resolution pictures will be sharper, clearer, and more accurately reproduced when printed.

    More specifically, image resolution refers to pixel density in terms of Pixels Per Inch (PPI) rather than the size of the
    whole image file. PPI is the number of pixels contained in one square inch of an image file. Computer screens are
    able to show clear and sharp images at low screen resolutions such as 72 PPI or 96 PPI.

    If you will be taking pictures that are intended for on screen viewing only, you can set your camera to a low resolution
    setting like 2 or 3 megapixels. The images will look fine on a computer screen. Taking your pictures at a higher
    quality setting like 14 megapixels will not make the image look better on a 72 PPI computer screen.

    On the other hand, it is absolutely necessary to set your camera to one of its highest quality settings if you are going
    to make enlarged prints of your images on photo paper. A picture taken at a 2 megapixel setting will make a very
    poor quality 11 X 14 size printed picture. If you have a 14 megapixel camera and know that you will be making
    enlarged prints from your images, use the 14 megapixel setting to ensure that you will get the best quality prints.

    If you you'd like to print your own pictures from home, the HP ENVY 5530 all in one printer will produce very good
    high resolution prints up to size 8.5 X 11. If you don't want to make your own prints or need high quality prints up to
    20 X 30 size, you can order them online from Shutterfly.

    When it comes to making prints from your images, you will often see the term DPI (Dots Per Inch) used rather than
    PPI. DPI refers to the number of dots of ink per inch used  by a printing device to produce a picture on photo paper.

    Calculating Maximum print sizes: As previously mentioned, to view pictures clearly on a computer monitor, the
    screen only needs an output resolution of 72 PPI or 96 PPI. However, in order for a printed image to be sharp and
    clear, the output resolution from the printer needs to be much higher. A printer output resolution from 140 DPI to 300
    DPI is a good range for making prints from your image files. (that is with 300 DPI being professional grade printing)


    The photo enlargement chart shown above will gives the approximate maximum print sizes (in inches) to which you
    may enlarge your pictures and retain good quality. Take note that the maximum print sizes listed are just guidelines
    and prints can be enlarged to sizes slightly larger than those listed.

    However, a 3MP image that is enlarged to 20 x 15.0 size will be a very poor quality print. Making prints smaller than
    the recommended maximum for the file size listed is not a problem. The prints will still be very high quality.

    The photo enlargement chart shows exact print sizes in inches. However, in reality those sizes are usually rounded
    off to match the standard printing paper sizes available. Some of the more common print sizes are 4X6, 5X7, 8X10,
    10X13, 11X14, and 16X20.

    It is actually pretty easy to determine the maximum print size you can make from your digital images. First you need
    to determine how many DPI (dots per inch)  will be used when the file is being printed. To keep it simple, lets say the
    printer output resolution will be 200 DPI. If your image file size is 2,000 X 1,600 you will be able to get a quality print
    size up to about 10 X 8.

    The math involved in coming up with that size print is to simply divide the number of pixels in the width of the file by
    the 200 DPI. (2,000/200=10). Next,  divide the number of pixels in the height of the file by 200. (1600/200=8). So
    there you have it. A file size of 2,000 pixels X 1600 pixels can be printed to make a good quality 10 X 8 photo when
    printed at 200 DPI.

    If you decide to make a print at 300DPI from the same image file, you will have a print with better resolution. However
    the maximum size for a quality print will be smaller. Lets do the math.... 2,000/300=6.6. Next, 1,600/300=5.3. So if you
    round the numbers out, the maximum standard size for that print will be about 5 X 7.

    Of course you won't have to do this type calculation every time you take a picture. Just keep in mind that when you
    are planning to take pictures that will be printed and enlarged, use one of your cameras' larger file size settings.
Picture 1A
Picture 1B, Example of pixels
    Photo Enlargement Chart
File Size               
Maximum Print Size
@200 DPI
Maximum Print
Size @300 DP
    1,600 x 1,200
      8.0 X 6.0
    5.3 X 4.0
    2,048 x 1536
    10.2 X  7.6  
    6.8 X 5.1
    2,592 x 1944
    12.9 X 9.7
    8.6 X 6.4
    3,072 x 2304
    15.3 X 11.5
    10.2 X 7.6
    3,264 x 2,448
    16.3 X 12.2
    10.8 X 8.1
    3,648 x 2,736
    18.2 X 13.6
    12.1 X 9.1
    4,000 x 3,000
    20.0 X 15.0
    13.3 X 10
    4,288 x 3,216
    21.4 X 16.8
    14.2 X 10.7
Original picture of flower
Example of flower showing pixels (pixelated)
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