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Here’s Why Size Matters | Print Resolution Explained in 5 Minutes

By Shivani Reddy on January 7th 2017

Dots per inch, dpi, ppi, dots per inch, points per inch, lines per inch – these are all such confusing and often misused among designers, photographers and printers alike. Thomas Kuoh breaks down just how imperative print resolution really is, especially if your camera has enough megapixels to handle larger sized prints.

how big is big enough?

Most of our images are being consumed on digital platforms: mobile phone screens, computer monitors, iPads, etc. So the idea of print is already one that has, overtime, become extinct but has slowly been regaining its popularity in the past year or so. While wedding photographers are creating facets of their business model to create printed works of art for their clients with companies like BayPhoto, commericial photographers still have the on-going struggle of printing for large scale platforms such as billboards.

[REWIND: CREATING 2 COMMONLY USED EXPORT PRESETS IN LIGHTROOM]

You can think of all the print metrics as the same thing – they are all singular points of color data. Here is a breakdown of how many dots per inch are required for each of these media platforms:

  • Billboards = 15 dpi
  • Screens = 72-100dpi
  • Magazine = 150dpi
  • Fine art print = 240dpi
  • Retina Screen = 300dpi

Kuoh does a phenomenal job in describing how perception plays into print sizing, highlighting that the larger an image is, billboards and bus wraps for example, the further away a person will stand to inspect it. It’s a common misconception that upon seeing a smaller file size photographers assume that the image isn’t the correct resolution, but it all depends what you are printing or exporting for. If you need help setting up Lightroom Export Presets to speed up your workflow check out this helpful article.

Source: ISO 1200

Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

3 Comments

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  1. Ruben Bl├Ždel

    A magazine is not 150 ppi, but as with all CMYK-printing it is minimum 300 ppi ! – 150dpi will give you soft images and artifacts that look like a mix of moire and jpg noise

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  2. Victor Meyer

    Great article, had people asking for prints but wasn’t sure how big I could go. This helped a lot.

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  3. Poul-Werner Dam

    Well – it needs to be said though, it’s ppi not dpi :-)

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