How Much Resolution Do You Really Need?

Lightroom Library Filter ISO

Each year camera manufacturers are pushing the limits of sensor technology and the latest trend has been to increase sensor resolution to numbers that were considered unfathomable before. With full-frame cameras reaching 50 megapixels (MP) and medium format cameras pushing beyond 80 MP, we now know that the megapixel race won’t stop there and we will most likely be seeing cameras with even more resolution in the future. But the big question remains – how much resolution does one truly need today? Is 12 MP too little? Is 50 MP too much? While it is a subject that can be open to endless debates, I have been working on a methodology to determine the ideal megapixel range for one’s needs. In this article, I will share what I came up with and it will hopefully serve as a good guide for our readers in deciding how to address the megapixel quench. I highly recommend to read my camera resolution explained article as a pre-requisite to understand the relationship of resolution to printing, cropping, display size and to understand such terms as down-sampling in more detail.

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Camera Resolution Explained

Image Resolution Comparison

Although the megapixel race has been going on since digital cameras had been invented, the last few years in particular have seen a huge increase in resolution – we have seen everything from 41 megapixel camera phones to now 50.6 megapixel full-frame DSLR cameras. It seems like we have already reached the theoretical maximum for handling noise at high ISOs with the current generation sensor technology, so the manufacturers are now focusing their efforts in packing more resolution, while keeping sensor sizes the same in order to lure more customers to upgrade to the latest and greatest. In this article, I will try to explain some basic terminology in regards to resolution and hopefully help our readers in understanding camera resolution better.

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Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Cutter Review

Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Cutter

In the past we have been using a self-sealing cutting mat, Olfa knife, and a steel edge safety ruler to do all of our custom trimming of posters and prints. Fortunately the vast majority of our work has not required any custom trimming since we design all of our standard posters around 17” (43.18 cm) roll paper, and posters come off our printer trimmed to size and ready to ship.

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Is it Worth Buying a Large Format Printer?

Frayed Carriage Belt

For many photographers there comes a time when investments in equipment (other than buying cameras, lenses, and lighting) becomes necessary for the growth and profitability of their business. Depending on the nature and volume of their work purchasing equipment such as large format printers, laminators and trimmers can make economic sense. As the following photos indicate, printers are mechanical beasts and when buying one we need to plan ahead for the inevitable repairs. We don’t usually think of this type of issue up front when buying camera bodies or lenses, but it is an important one for large format printers.

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Guide to Photographic Photo Paper

Inford Photo Paper

Photographic photo papers are designed to produce a high quality image in an effort to best reproduce the photographed object. How good or bad the paper is at meeting this objective will depend on the type of printer, type of ink and of course the subject of this guide; the type of photo paper. In this guide we will explain the various considerations to take into account when evaluating your options.

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Impossible Instant Lab

Impossible Lab gif

Last week, The Impossible Project launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a printer that prints images directly from your iPhone’s screen to Impossible Project film, resulting in true analog instant prints of your digital images. Instead of simply viewing images on your phone’s screen or even sending them to a lab to be printed, the Impossible Instant Lab will use the light from your phone’s screen to expose a piece of film, which then becomes a Polaroid-style photo.

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How to Enlarge Photographs for Printing

Full Resize

A discussion on image cropping sparked up the idea to write this post after I exchanged a couple of comments in my “How to Photograph Birds” article with Tim Layton, who was concerned with cropping bird images and losing resolution for printing. He suggested to try to increase the size of cropped images with a product called Genuine Fractals 6, so that he could get to 8×10 or larger sizes. Since I have had experience with Genuine Fractals in the past and used it for some of my work, I decided to write a quick article about professionally enlarging photographs for printing, in addition to doing a comparison between the resize tool within Photoshop and Genuine Fractals 6 Pro.

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