Printing large digital photos the right way

printing large photos the right way canon printer pixmamg6320

So you want to print the digital photos you took with your camera, and you want to print them nice and large. Heck, maybe you want to blow them up and turn a blank wall into a mini gallery. Before you start printing, you need to make sure your images are suitable. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Megapixels Matter

Just because an image looks sufficiently big onscreen doesn’t mean it’ll translate the same way on paper. A 2-megapixel-resolution image, for example, will only go as large as 4 x 6 while keeping the best quality intact, even though that image might look great on your monitor. If you try to print an image larger than allowed, you’ll get something that’s pixelated and unusable.

It’s easy to determine the number of megapixels of an image and how large you can print it. First, find the dimensions of the image. You can find that through a program like Adobe Photoshop or the properties menu of the image file. Next, multiply the height and width, and you’ll have the answer. For example, an image that measures 4608 x 3456 equals 15,925,248 (in pixels), which is roughly 16 megapixels (one megapixel equals one million pixels).

Now, to figure out the print size, divide the width and height dimensions by 300. Why 300? That’s the number of pixels per inch (ppi) (also a type of resolution) that’s suitable for high-quality printing. From our last example, a 4608 x 3456 image will yield a 15 x 11 print. A 640 x 480 image then, well, you can forget about printing it larger than 2 x 1 inches.

Some places may refer to ppi as dots per inch (dpi). Although they are technically different, many places use them interchangeably. It’s a confusing topic, but just remember to keep it at 300 where you see dpi or ppi; if your image has a 72 dpi resolution, you will need to increase it with photo editing software (make sure you deselect the “resample image” box). If your software doesn’t offer such fine-tuning (some just offer “best” or “normal” as options), just remember the math we mentioned and you’ll know how large you are supposed to go.

If you are willing to sacrifice a bit of quality in order to gain a larger print size, you could cheat and lower the resolution, but check the final print quality to see if it’s to your liking. The lower the resolution, the larger the print size, but quality suffers.

So, you can see why megapixels matter. Simply put, the larger the megapixel, the larger you can print your images.

Keep Your Images Large When Photographing

You can set your digital camera to record in various sizes from large to small, or high to low. Some will even shoot high quality, uncompressed RAW images (versus the standard compressed JPEG). Saving your photos as small as possible takes up less room on a memory card, but with high-capacity memory cards available for cheap, why would you? Use all the megapixels your digital camera can muster. As we just mentioned, the more megapixels in an image, the higher the resolution, the better the photo will look.

Don’t Use ‘Image Resize’ to Enlarge a Photo

printing large photos the right way imageresizePhoto editing software like Adobe Photoshop let you resize an image. It’s fine to make a photo smaller, but you should never use this feature to make a photo larger. Doing so will only turn your photo into something heavily pixelated.

There is software, however, that’s specially designed for photo enlargement purposes. One is SmillaEnlarger, an open-source application that’s available for free. It has many happy users, so give it a shot. It won’t cost you anything to experiment.

Use a Scanner to Enlarge

printing large photos the right way epson scannerIf you have a flatbed scanner or if there’s one built into your multifunction printer, you could enlarge an image by scanning it. This is ideal for enlarging old photographs or digital images that are too low-res. Before you begin the scan process, adjust your settings to scan at 600 dpi and save it as a less-compressed TIFF file (versus JPEG). You now have a higher-resolution image that you can print larger than the original.

If you are enlarging a digital image, print it out first at the highest resolution and at the maximum size (see above) on good quality paper, and then scan it.

Use a Commercial Service

Okay, this might be the lazy way to enlarge a photo, but it’s convenient and practical, especially if you don’t have the equipment to do it at home. Plus, it’s handy if you want to print a photo larger than what your home printer can output (large-format like a poster or canvas print, for example). Whether it’s your local Costco, Walgreens, or FedEx Office, or an online service like Shutterfly or Snapfish, you should make sure the image file you’re giving them is at the highest quality.

Share your photo printing tips in the comments.

Home Theater

How to wall mount a TV: Tips and tricks to cut down on frustration

This how-to guide includes a video on how to wall mount a TV, along with other tips and tricks about the process. Step by step, we'll take you through what you have to do to successfully get your TV on your wall.
Home Theater

Why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.

The magic hour creates magical photos. Here’s how to capture dreamy stunners

The golden hour, aka the magic hour, is a special time for photographers that happens twice a day. Here are some simple tips for making the most of this time to capture stunning portraits, landscapes, and the like.

Free yourself! How to unlock a phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Do you want to know how to unlock a phone through your carrier or a third-party service like DoctorSIM? Regardless of which way you want to go, we've compiled a list of requirements and methods for doing so.
Home Theater

Is bigger really better? How to figure out what size TV you need

What size TV do you need? Here are a few tips for picking the right size, including where to find a TV’s measurements, ideal viewing distance, and picture quality versus size. Not sure what to look for? This guide is for you.
Smart Home

Give your Keurig a cleaning to get the coffee you deserve. Here's how to do it

No one likes a dirty, scaled, or smelly Keurig, but how are you supposed to clean them? Before you throw yours out the window, here is a quick guide on scrubbing your machine and getting your morning coffee back on track.

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Buying Guides

Zoom, prime, wide, or telephoto? Here’s how to pick your next camera lens

Want to upgrade your camera lens, but not sure where to start? Our camera lens buying guide takes you through the world of interchangeable lenses and helps remove a little of the intimidation that comes with buying cameras lenses.
Movies & TV

Did I really watch that? Here's how to delete your Netflix viewing history

Everybody has some skeletons in their streaming closet, but you don't have to live with them if you don't want to. Learning how to delete your Netflix viewing history is easy, and we're here to help.

Here's where to find Xur and what he has for wares this week

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

PDF to JPG conversion is as quick as a few clicks with these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.

Gmail's unsend email feature is one of its best. Here's how to use it

Everyone has sent a message they wish they could take back. How great would it be if you could undo that impulsive email? If you're a Gmail user, you can. Here's how to recall an email in Gmail.

How to change your Gmail password whenever you want in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.

Lost without Print Screen? Here's how to take a screenshot on your Mac

Whether you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts or applications such as Grab and Preview, this guide will teach you how to take a screenshot on a Mac. Once you know how, you'll be able to capture images within seconds.