Inklings Snap Happy

Getting the best out of photos in print

Here’s a scenario that’s all too familiar: You’re looking at your photo on your camera screen, and you’re looking at the same photo in your flyer or magazine, back from the press. On screen it seems pin-sharp; in print it’s grainy. It’s disappointing.

What went wrong?

In most cases, your picture just isn’t good enough to print at the size you want it. And you’ve been misled by its appearance on screen into thinking it is. Don’t worry too much though – pretty much everyone makes the same mistake.

We’ll get onto this in a minute. First though, here are two tips to help address the problem:


Make sure that your digital photo is the largest size and the highest quality that your camera can produce. Get those two settings right before you shoot and you’re well on the way.


Make sure that the image you send to your printer is the original! Unless you’re using a digital SLR, this should be a jpeg, transmitted at maximum quality. Lots of PC software will surreptitiously compress the image for easier handling, and will discard much of the essential image data that we need. Above all, we don’t want anything that has been posted to the Web. It will almost certainly be useless.

A little background

daisy pixels

Our eyes and brain have been conditioned to see a screen image as crisper than it is. In practice, the dimensions of that pin-sharp image that you see on screen will typically reduce by a factor of four when set for print. If your printer then is required to enlarge the image when preparing your artwork for the press, its flaws will become obvious.

The key is that the printing press requires images to be resolved to 300 dots per inch or more, whereas most screens will display at only 72dpi. The default setting for most pocket digital cameras and phones is also 72dpi or slightly higher, 180dpi in some cases. While this situation is gradually evolving, it remains true that print resolution is much higher than screen resolution.

You may be able to check how large your image will print at full size. If your software permits it, with your photo open select the ‘image size’ option and, with ‘resample’ unselected, change the image resolution to 300 pixels per inch. You may be surprised to see how small it becomes.

For more technical information go here