Size Your Images Correctly

Size Your Images Correctly

Over the past year, I have been contacted on numerous occasions by friends and clients who get very frustrated when they cannot get their photographs of trips, etc. to print correctly.  After my most recent call, it seemed to me that this is becoming a more common problem and would be a great thing to blog about.   Adobe Photoshop is a very complicated editing software program and there are specific things you should and need to know when it comes to setting up your images and being able to print them correctly.

The common thread in this frustration level appears when images are being saved incorrectly when it comes to their resolution.  Not understanding the what resolution means to an image can result in making it impossible to print.  I hate to say it … but in Photoshop, size does matter!

Since this is a pretty technical topic, I felt asking a Photoshop professor, John Whitehead, at the  Harrisburg Area Community College to be my guest blogger was the perfect way to go!  I am currently taking his course to refresh and hone my own editing skills.   Not only did he graciously write a wonderful educational piece but also created and YouTube video (you will see the link below) for those of us who find it easier to understand when we watch something!!

I know you will enjoy John’s very informative tips and techniques, which will no doubt help make your life in Photoshop easier!  – Please feel free to share this with anyone who would be interested!

Guest Photography Blogger – John Whitehead,

John Whitehead Images

Saving digital photographs is a very specific process. Even if you don't have Adobe Photoshop, you need to supply the right image format and size. There are many factors that go into preparing an image for the web so I will keep this simple and break this into two specific sections: files for print and files for web.

Files For Print

To prepare a file for print you need a large image size. The size is a combination of width, height and resolution. Width and height are simple; they are usually a ratio of how big you want the image printed. For example, 4 inches by 6 inches which is a 2x3 ratio. In this case, you would select your width of 6 inches and a height of 4 inches. The last and most important setting is resolution. The most common printing resolution is 300 pixels per inch or “ppi.” However, you should always ask what resolution the client or lab that is printing the file. For example, the lab I use is Modern Postcard, and they require 355 ppi. Knowing this ahead of time will give you the correct file size and optimum image quality when it is printed.

The second part of image preparation is saving as the correct file type. Usually, you will be using .tiff or .jpg.  Tif files are uncompressed files saving all digital information.  They will result in the best image quality and the largest files sizes. The “.jpg” is a “compressed” file format and will have a good image quality and small file size. Not all labs will accept .tif files because of their large size.  Also, know that when emailing .tif files, it can be difficult because they will exceed the maximum file size. If this case, you can use a free service like Dropbox, Google Drive or WeTransfer. Jpg files can usually be emailed to the client but check to see so you don't exceed their max file size.

Files for Web or Social Media

Files for the web or social media are very different than files for print. They use height and width in pixels instead of a combination of width, height and resolution. For example, an image for the web might be sized 300 pixels by 200 pixels. This is the same 2x3 ratio as above but sized for a very specific location. If you tried to print this image it would look pixelated and horrible. It is helpful when photographing for the web to know the exact size of the image before you start. This helps you shoot a nice composition for the correct ratio. For example, Revolution sliders, which is a word press plug-in that helps to display your images, uses a very long width and narrow height.  If you shoot full frame on your camera you will lose a large portion of the image.I heard somewhere that the optimum size for social media files are 2024 pixels on the long side but that could be totally wrong.

Another important aspect when it comes to all social media and web files is that they need to be converted to the color space sRGB. So if you are using Adobe RGB, Adobe 1998 or ProPhoto you need to convert the file to sRGB. When saving web and social media files, they are usually saved as .jpg or .png. The .jpg is the most common and .png is only used for files with transparent backgrounds like logos. For the purpose of this blog, I am only going to talk about .jpg since it is the most common file type.

Wikipedia -JPEG (/ˈdʒeɪpɛɡ/ JAY-peg)[1] is a commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically achieves 10:1 compression with little perceptible loss in image quality.

There is a program called JPEGmini. It will reduce you file size even more than the traditional .jpg file in Photoshop or Lightroom but keeps the image quality. It does work really good but the price is very high for the program. Watch it goes on sale once or twice a year. They also have a free version which lets you convert a few files a day.

Here is a link to a YouTube video I made to walk you thought the process with Adobe Photoshop.

Below I have listed my steps to process an image. *Note, I shoot my images in raw format. If you shoot jpg images, the process is a little different, and I have listed the steps for that as well below.

Processing a raw image

1.   Tone image

2.   Flatten image layers

3.   Change mode to 8 bit

4.   Size image as stated above

5.   Sharpen image using unsharp mask or smart sharpen

6.   Convert to the correct color profile

7.   Save image as .tif or .jpg

Processing a jpg image

1.   Tone image

2.   Size image as stated above

3.   Sharpen image using unsharp mask or smart sharpen

4.   Convert to the correct color profile

5.   Save image as .tif or .jpg


John Whitehead

John Whitehead Images