dpi, Oh My!
I have debated writing this post for two weeks, but in the end, I feel it's important that YOU, the consumer, know what I'm about to put down. I recently produced a large gallery wall for a client who had collected disks of photo files purchased from other photographers over the years. She had never printed the photographs and asked me to incorporate them into her gallery concept. I pulled the first disk out of the sleeve. It was cute, with a lovely branded and flowery label. I put the disk in the drive, opened the file on my computer...and my jaw dropped.
All of the images were saved at 72 dpi!!
What does that mean, you ask? It means she got hosed, Timmy.
Dpi stands for Dots Per Inch, meaning the number of tiny dots of color a printer puts down in each inch of printed image. Those tiny dots are the printed details of your photographs.
As a professional, I know that photos print best when they are set to 300 dpi. As a client, you trust that your photographers know this fact and will take care of all of these details for you. You are paying for their expertise. Otherwise, you'd just have Uncle Bob take your photos with his fancy camera.
Photo labs request a minimum of 200 dpi, but 300 dpi is preferred.
Images set to 72 dpi will only be printed with 72 dots of color per inch. When a JPEG is saved at 72 dpi, the data of the other 228 dots of detail-per-inch has basically been thrown away, deleted from that image forever. And just an FYI - changing the dpi in a photo editing program won't bring back those details.
So why does this matter? In a nutshell - it means your photographs are going to look like CRAP.
To give you a visual idea of what I'm talking about, here is 300 dots per one inch verses 72 dots. Which one do you think will have more detail?
The next time you get a disk of photos for printing, double-check your dpi.
You can do so by right clicking on the file and selecting properties.
In the properties window, select the details tab at the top. Scroll down the Image section, and there you will find the DPI number for the files.
What do you do if your photo isn't 200 DPI or above?
If you paid for digital files for printing or "reprint", call your photographer and ask for what you paid for – files for printing – at 300 dpi.
While there are a few more details that go into how your photos will look at different sizes, this is the first step to ensuring you get decent prints. Digital files for web and social media are just fine at 72 DPI, and this number doesn’t impact how your photos will appear on-screen.
My mission as the owner of Alex Shelley Photography is to ensure you get the best quality photographs of you and your family - no matter whom you choose as your photographer.