The Science of Photo Resolution

What are the best dimensions to print my photographs in?

In the digital photography world, DPI stands for “Dots Per Inch.” This is a way for us as photographers to measure resolution. Having more pixels in your pictures means they will come out very crisp and clean!

In other words, having a higher DPI means better resolution.

The only time we talk about DPI is when we’re printing something! The DPI in a photograph correlates to the size you print something in.

For example, if I have a picture on my computer that is 2,400 pixels long and 1,500 pixels tall, it doesn’t have a DPI yet. When I want to print this picture, I need to consider how crisp I want it to be, “how many dots goes into the picture,” or how high of a resolution I want.

For a good quality print, 125 DPI is recommended. The maximum resolution possible is 300 DPI.

So, if I want my picture to be a crisp as possible, I divide my pixels by 300!

2,400 pixels divided by 300 DPI = 8 inches.

1,500 pixels divided by 300 DPI = 5 inches.

Now I know the perfect size to print my pictures in if I want maximum resolution! You can certainly print them smaller if you want, but the “crispness” of your pictures max out at 300 DPI on the average printer. (There are super fancy printers that exist which can print as high as 600 DPI, but chances are, you have the average printer.)

Now, let’s say I want my picture to be bigger than 8 x 5 inches. I know they won’t have the maximum resolution, but I do know they’ll look pretty good if it has a resolution above 125 DPI. To print the largest size possible while maintaining a good resolution, I’ll divide my pixels by 125.

2,400 pixels divided by 125 DPI = 19.2 inches.

1,500 pixels divided by 125 DPI = 12 inches.

And now I know the biggest size I can print my pictures without making them look terrible!

Long story short:

300 DPI is the maximum obtainable resolution and 125 is the minimum DPI you want for a quality print. If you want crisp pictures, print smaller until your DPI maxes out at 300! If you want big pictures, calculate where your resolution starts to degrade (around 125DPI) by dividing the number of pixels of your image by the desired DPI.

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