Long gone are the days of visiting the one-hour
photo-processing shop, taking a favorite photo print and tucking it into an
envelope to mail to friends and relatives.
Today, our photos are digital and we move our imagery
through the internet — for posting on social media, submitting to a print
publication, sharing with family and friends via email, or uploading to a
public photo-sharing site.
And there’s more to digital imagery than meets the eye.
Most importantly, there’s resolution. Digital images are composed of
thousands of pixels, and the more pixels there are in the image area, the
sharper the picture will appear at normal size. If you’re curious, zoom in
on any photo and you’ll eventually get to the point where all you see is
blocks of color. Those are pixels.
High resolution is more important if an image is to be
printed than if it’s to be viewed on a computer screen. Most images on the
internet have relatively low pixel counts, because images don’t need to have
high resolution to present good quality on your computer screen. Also,
smaller, low-resolution files download more easily and take up less digital
space. So what you see online is not necessarily what you’ll get when you
try to print that same photo.
Resolution requirements vary with what you plan on
doing with a photo. If you’re simply uploading to social media,
lower-resolution files work. When submitting a picture for publication in
your favorite magazine or newspaper, however, high resolution is critical.
The higher the resolution, the sharper the image will appear in print.
Figuring out the resolution of your image can be
tricky, especially if you’re not at a desktop computer when you’re sending
it. Photo-editing software programs like Photoshop can reveal the resolution
easily, but you may not have access to these types of programs. How can you
determine the resolution of your image before sending it to a publisher? The
easiest way is to check the size of the file itself. The more pixels an
image contains, the larger the file will be on your computer. You can check
the size of a file on a desktop computer by right-clicking on the image and
For print, the ideal file size is between 1.5 and 3
megabytes (mb). At less than 250 kilobytes (kb), it will probably only be
suitable for use on a screen.
When transmitting photos through the internet for use
in a print publication, sometimes difficulties arise in the method being
used to send the files. For example, sending photos through a smartphone is
quick, easy and convenient. But, depending on the type of phone you have,
there is a point at which you might be asked about the photo’s resolution.
If prompted, always select “original resolution” or
“actual size” if there is any chance you will want to print the photo (or
submit to your favorite publication). Also, keep in mind that any cropping
you do on your phone (or filters you apply) will also slightly reduce
resolution of a file, as will using a screen capture or saving the photo
from Facebook to your mobile phone.
While we’re on the subject of images, if you take a
photo you think other readers of Cooperative
Living magazine would enjoy, feel free to submit it to our Say Cheese
reader-photo column by emailing your original (highest-resolution) image to