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Understanding Image Resolution for Digital Photography & Printed Images

In the world of digital cameras and photography, the term image resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image. Sometimes referred to as pixel resolution, this technical term explores how many pixels are in a given photograph. So, what makes a photo a high-resolution image?  Wellwhen it comes to digital images, it all comes down to the pixels per inch!

If you’re not quite sure what image resolution is and why it is essential? That’s okay! In this post, we’ll provide a brief overview of image resolution. Just keep reading!

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What does the term image resolution mean?

Image resolution is a photographic term that is expressed as a horizontal x vertical measurement. For instance, an image resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixel dimensions indicates that the image measures 3000 pixels in width and 2000 pixels in height.

What are megapixels? Do megapixels matter?

When talking about image resolution, megapixels may come up. The term megapixels refers to one million pixels. Photographers and photo enthusiasts look at the number of megapixels a camera has to gauge how much detail it can capture. Generally speaking, cameras with high megapixel numbers can capture more detail and the images it produces have more pixels per inch. 

Want another way to look at it? Review the measurement listed above: 3000 x 2000 pixels. If you multiply those two numbers together, you’ll get the total number of pixels (or megapixels). 3000 multiplied by 2000 is 6,000,000 or more commonly referred to as 6 megapixels. 

Understanding Image Resolution for Printing Services

Whether you’re a novice or a professional photographer, understanding resolution is extremely important – especially when it comes to reproducing your photographs. The good news is that we put together a small guide for you. Use the information listed below to prep your image file for print.

DPI Determines Print Quality

Before we get into particular resolution info for printing images, it’s important to understand the term DPI. 

DPI, or dots per inch, is used to determine an image’s print resolution. When printing digital images for an offset press, such as for a magazine, a resolution of 300 DPI is usually required. 

To further explain, let’s look at our example again. An image with pixel dimensions of 3000 x 2000 pixels that need to be printed at 300 DPI would be 10 x 6.6 inches if printed at its highest quality. 

To determine this, we have to divide the resolution by the dots per inch. 3000 px ÷ 300 DPI = 10 inches in width. 2000 px ÷ 300 DPI = 6.6 inches in height. 

Note that while this calculation can help determine the highest quality output for an image, it does not mean that photographers can’t push the pixels a bit to increase the image size or image resolution. Adobe Photoshop and other photographic processing applications allow images to be resized. Just keep in mind that increasing the image height, width, or resolution may change the overall quality of the image. For small changes, the discrepancies in image quality may not be noticeable to the naked eye. 

Printing Images in Newspapers

Newspapers and newsletters are commonly printed on newsprint or another low-quality paper. So, the image quality of photographs submitted to newspapers is usually a little lower resolution than a photo that would be submitted to a magazine, for instance. For many newspaper publications, an image resolution of 200 DPI would suffice, especially for grayscale images. For illustrative work, a higher resolution may be required. 

Printing Photos on Billboards

Want to see your image blown up and placed on a billboard? The resolution requirements for printing on billboards are much different than what you’d expect for newspaper, magazine, or poster printing. While you’re usually working with a larger image, the file is usually a low-resolution image. Wondering why? Well, look at the physical size of a billboard?

In general, the larger an image is being printed, the lower the resolution can be. If that is slightly confusing, think about this for a moment: Large images are usually viewed at a distance, unlike the images on a computer screen or those printed in a magazine – so the pixel count wouldn’t have to be high to produce a billboard image of excellent quality. 

Printing Visuals in Magazines

Many magazines will require a high resolution, such as 300 DPI, to print images. While that is a general rule of thumb, some publications will accept lower resolutions such as 200-250 DPI for their printed content. 

For artistic publications, in particular, the resolution requirements may differ. Creative magazines and art books often require a higher pixel count, opting for print resolutions of 300-400DPI. 


These days, digital cameras can produce extremely high-quality, highly-detailed images. However, it is still up to photographers to pay attention to the individual pixels! 

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