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What does ‘high res’ actually mean?

What does ‘high res’ actually mean?

72dpi v 300dpi

High res, or to put it properly, high resolution.  It’s one of those terms we all think we understand, isn’t it?  We’ve heard it often enough and seen it written plenty of times, but when it comes to actually finding high res images, do you really know what you need to look for?

Why DPI/PPI is important?

Checking an image’s DPI (Dots Per Inch) or PPI (Pixels Per Inch)* is the most important and easiest way to check your image’s quality. You can do this by going into the ‘image properties’ option on your image viewer.  In Photoshop, this is done by clicking ‘Image’ on the top menu and then selecting ‘Image Size’ from the drop-down menu.

If you’re designing for print, the optimum size you want to go for is 300 DPI for print images. By using that as a marker, you can rely on the fact that your image will be sharp and therefore suitable for print.

If you go lower than that, your picture will not look as great as you want it to. It will come out blurry and pixelated, like the example on the left in the image I’ve posted. This is because there won’t be enough pixels per inch to fill out the image frame, so the computer essentially smudges the image to fill the space.

To put it into context, web images are generally sized at 72 DPI, this is because this low resolution works well on screens and it’s small size helps web pages load faster. For printed images you need to go bigger so it can be bolder.
It’s no good thinking “My image looks big enough on screen, it should be fine” – this is the elementary mistake we’ve all made, and it just doesn’t ring true – the image appears large on screen because it needs considerably less pixels to make up the picture.

* Don’t be confused by the terms DPI and PPI – they essentially mean the same thing, it’s just that some designers or printers will use one term rather than the other.

Take High Quality Photos

The quality of cameras in smartphones is improving all the time.  But since the lens on your phone’s camera is generally pretty small, it will never take in as much information as a good old SLR camera will.  As a result, using a decent SLR camera for your project will always give you far superior photography results. The knock-on of this is it makes your designer’s job far easier, and your work is done quicker and for less cost – bonus!

When in doubt, take photos on your camera’s best quality setting as a result.  And if you’re buying stock photos, always get the largest version of the shots you want.  The smaller ones are cheaper, but the smaller they are, the more you’re limited with what you can do with them.

Changing Image Size

It’s also important to remember that even if you have a high resolution picture and you want to change it’s size, this will affect the image quality. Even if you have a perfect sized 300 DPI snap, if you decide to increase it by 300%, the resolution will actually fall to 100 DPI, so always bear that in mind.
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