Pixels To Printing Tips
Over the 10 years or so we’ve been printing customer photos we’ve seen it all and so wanted to share a few tips to ensure you get the best print possible. With that said, you’re not on your own here at Bumblejax. We review every single file before going to print and make adjustments we know will improve the print without changing color. For example we might lighten, sharpen and denoise to make an obvious improvement. If we see any issue at all whether it be resolution, color, a typo, etc we always contact the customer. The process though really begins with the original shot so in this article we provide some things to think about before you capture the photo and move into editing, archiving and calibration.
Capturing the Moment
You may not get another chance to capture that special moment again so it’s critical to get as many pixels as possible from the camera. Many make the mistake thinking they can simply resize the photo in photoshop and print at whatever size they want later. While there are good photo resizing programs that can do a great job of allowing you to print a bit bigger than the original image allows, it doesn’t perform miracles and there are limits to that. With larger and cheaper storage options these days it makes sense to get the largest file possible.
- Make sure your camera is using the highest quality output setting if possible. If you can shoot in RAW format that’s always best.
- Phone cameras continue to improve both in MP output and more importantly sensor quality. That said they are still far away from a quality DSLR camera in terms of resolution at large print sizes. As a general guideline, the newest iPhones will max out anywhere from 30-40” in print size while a high-quality DSLR camera can print up to 60-70” and beyond as the quality of the camera increases.
TIP: the iPhone pano feature stitches many photos together allowing for a high resolution final pano image. We’ve printed a few of these up to your max width of 96”! So you can print big with the iPhone but it must be a panoramic shot.
- If looking for a good dedicated camera to buy don’t focus on megapixels alone. That’s the headline spec they use to sell the camera in many cases. More important is the quality and size of the camera sensors.
Post Processing, Calibration, Archiving
So you got the perfect shot. A once in a lifetime moment in time captured in pixels and safely sitting on your computer begging you to “please print me and display me in all my glory on your barren white walls.” You give in and say fine but “you’ll need some improvements first!” Careful here though..
- Always store the original untouched file in a safe place, preferably on a USB drive or in the cloud and not on your hard drive! We’ve heard too many horror stories of customers having computers stolen or crashed and losing years worth of photos. It’s too easy and cheap enough now to make sure those are protected.
- Only use a copy of the original to edit, print, share on social media, etc. Once you have your final edits done you can store that version on a USB or in the cloud as well Again, we’ve heard of people using social media like Facebook to store photos and deleting the original not realizing that the full resolution image is resized for the web and they’re unable to print it.
- Cropping: Also keep in mind how much cropping you’ll need later and avoid it as much as possible. Get the shot you want with the camera! Too much cropping = much smaller print size. Get the shot you want with the camera as much as possible.
- Only edit in RAW or as TIFF.. each time you edit and save a JPG it degrades the image. If your camera is outputting to a JPG convert to a TIFF first to do your edits. On the final save should be done as a JPG.
A Few Common Questions & Solutions
How do I know if my photo will print well at a certain size? The only way to tell is to view the photo at actual print size. No zooming into 100% doesn’t cut it. We use Photoshop for this and it requires an adjustment in your Photoshop settings. We can also do this for you if you’re looking to place an order with us. Here is a detailed article on how to make the adjustment in Photoshop so that you’re sure you’re viewing your photo at actual print size.
My print looks darker than what I see on my screen how do I avoid this? Many people view their photos at max brightness on their monitor but this not representative of a print. A quick way to better represent a print on your monitor is to reduce the brightness 40-50% and if it’s too dark you can lighten it up. We do this for our customers automatically, but you can check yourself by scaling back the brightness. The best solution is to use a pro quality monitor calibration tool such as Spyder. It will not only calibrate for color but for brightness as well.
Will the color on my monitor match the print I receive? Unless you are using a pro caliber color calibration tool the color can differ from what you see on your monitor. We calibrate on our end constantly and we print the true color. If you’re calibrated as well it should match up very well. We understand only those that are doing quite a bit of printing are going to invest the couple hundred bucks in a color calibration tool. Just know that our prints will look great and be true color but not match your monitor exactly.
For additional tips and details on getting the best print possible please see our printing guide.