Selecting the Right Photo Size

Talking about photo sizes, megapixels, dpi (dots per inch), and ppi (pixels per inch) can become complicated, so we’ve tried to simplify the process. The terms dpi and ppi are often used interchangeably, although technically they have slightly different meanings. To make things easier, we’ll stick with dpi.

1. The first thing to ask yourself when choosing a stock photo is: What dpi is required?

If the photo is strictly for web use, both 72 dpi and 300 dpi are acceptable.

2. If there’s a possibility that the photo will be needed for printed material as well as web usage, then 300 dpi is necessary. This resolution gives enough detail to make the printed images look crisp and clear. (If you were to print a 72 dpi photo, you’d get extremely blurry shapes.)

3. As all of our photos are available at 300 dpi, now you must decide on the size you will purchase. Check the chart accompanying each photo for the estimated maximum print size recommended. For instance, on LookLagoon, a large size would produce a clear 8” x 12” printed photo, while an x-large size would produce an 11” x 16”. If you need something in between, then always choose the larger size.

This is also true if you’re using one printed size for a book cover, but you’re also thinking of getting a poster made. In this case, choose the selected photo in the maximum size offered, and you’ll be able to use the same photo for both printing purposes.

Tip for web usage: Be aware that when you upload a very large photo to some social media websites, they will automatically downsize your image (deleting pixels), using software that doesn’t understand which pixels to delete so as not to affect quality. The software won’t recognize that you might want to maintain that sparkle of sunshine on a lake, or the clear outline of a flower petal. What this means is that you should downsize and crop the image in photo-editing software yourself before uploading it, and not depend on the automatic software on many social media sites.

4. For extremely large sizes, print dimensions can also be found in the chart. For example, a supreme photo at 300 dpi would produce a print of approximately 13.3” x 20”. However, most printing houses do not print these poster-size images at 300 dpi. They often go to 200 dpi and sometimes even lower. Therefore, purchasing a supreme photo would actually get you a beautiful poster image of at least 20” x 30” if using this dpi. Check with your printing house for the dpi they use and the size recommended by them.

Tip: The general rule of thumb is that photos will get blurry if you try to “upsize” them from their original size. However, downsizing a photo with proper editing software should never produce blurriness. Therefore, if you’re debating between two sizes, purchasing the slightly larger photo for your needs will get you excellent results.

See our sizing guide for more info.

Image credit: LookLagoon.com