Over 90% of the autographed items in my collection are photos. They’re inexpensive to print, lightweight to carry (or ship, for you TTM collectors) and display well. And if you find yourself needing an item in a hurry, you can send a file down to the local photo shop for pickup in an hour. Easy, right? So how do I explain all the blurry photos, weird print sizes and illegible signatures that plagued my early collecting years? I’ll do my best so you don’t make the same mistakes—because sometimes you only get one shot.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION
This photo shows terrible pixelation because the resolution was too low for a print this size – and it was only a 5×7! (Click to enlarge.)
The number one error I made when printing photos was choosing images with a resolution too low for the desired print size (I typically print 8×10). I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking resolution down technically (you can check out Wikipedia for that) but it’s basically how much information and detail is contained in your image. A low-res image may look ok as a 4×6 print but blow it up to 8×10 or 11×14 and you’re going to see jagged lines and blur as all those tiny pixels are being magnified. You don’t want your image to look like a screenshot from an old Nintendo game (or Minecraft for you younger collectors). As a rule of thumb, you want to use the highest resolution image you can find.
You’ll see resolution displayed in a width x height format (e.g., 2400×1600), meaning the image contains 2,400 pixels across and 1,600 pixels in height. So we know bigger is better, but usually I’m challenged with an image that falls in a middle range of resolution. Is 800×600 enough for a high-quality 8×10? Is 1200×800 enough for an 11×14? In almost all cases, I don’t have time to wait for the print to come back and make adjustments (and trial and error is costly).
The folks at Adorama (home to Adoramapix.com, my favorite online printer) wrote a post on Pixels and Printing and I pulled out their size guide which I think is a great reference point (I added the 16×20 specs).
|File size required for Print (MP = megapixels)
||720×1080 – 0.75MP
||960×1440 – 1.4MP
||1200×1800 – 2.2MP
||900×1260 – 1.2MP
||1200×1680 – 2MP
||1500×2100 – 3.15MP
||1440×1800 – 2.6MP
||1920×2400 – 4.6MP
||2400×3000 – 7.2MP
||1980×2520 – 5MP
||2640×3360 – 8.9MP
||3300×4200 – 13.8MP
||2880×3600 – 10.4 MP
||3840×4800 – 18.4MP
||4800×6000 – 28.8 MP
Do the specs in the first column mean you won’t see any pixelation in an 8×10 print using 1440×1800? No, but it will probably look pretty good. If you’re going after a coveted signer and/or paying for a signature, using the best resolution will ensure you won’t have any regrets.
Ok, so now you’ve got a better understanding of what size images you need. How do you find them?
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND KEYWORDS
There are a number of online resources for locating that perfect image. Let’s start with the legal ones.
[click to continue…]