Misinformation: Printing Tech

For photographers who are most interested in making quality prints that will hold up to close inspection, a good rule of thumb for determining how big you can go is to multiply the pixel resolution by the horizontal and vertical inches of the final print size that you’d like and multiply those numbers together, finally dividing by one million for the megapixel size. For a 13×19-inch print at 200 ppi, the formula would look like this: 13 x 19 x 200, which equals 2600 x 3800, which equals 9,880,000 pixels. Divided by 1,000,000, the number becomes 9.8 megapixels, which means you need more or less a 10-megapixel camera to produce a 13×19-inch print at an acceptable 200 ppi.

By cheating ppi (or dpi when outputting to a print), or in other words, manipulating the pixels (or dots) per inch in an image, you have another good way to get a size boost in exchange for losing a little detail. The Nikon D3X and Sony A900 at 24.5 and 24.6 megapixels, respectively, for instance, can produce a high-quality, 300 dpi print at about 20×13 inches, but when you reduce to 200 dpi, you gain approximately a 50% increase in output size to 30×20.5 inches. Rarely will you want to go below 300 ppi when making a high-quality print, but many photographers realize that some loss in resolution, provided they have a great initial capture and meticulously edited final image, will be worth the gained size. Billboard and super-graphics manufacturers bank on the fact that most viewers won’t be closer than 50 yards or so, and they make use of large grain that looks perfectly acceptable from far away.

Available software is doing its best to increase these sizes, too, with exceptional up-rezzing ability from Photoshop and onOne Software’s Genuine Fractals 6 and sophisticated noise-reduction software like Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0 and Noise Ninja from PictureCode. If you have a firm understanding of all of these properties, you can produce some great results. What’s more, if you also have great lenses, an amazing camera with a large sensor and ample resolution, you can perform the same tasks with top-of-the-line imagery for truly larger-than-life results.

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