Photoshop Tips: How Big Can I Print?

6/27/2014 1 Comments A+ a-

Last Week – Follow Up

Last week I discussed aspect ratios when printing and I said that you should pretty much always expect to crop at least a little when printing.  Someone asked about doing custom print sizes.  If you find a printer that will do custom print sizes then that would eliminate the need to crop your photo.  However, if you are framing the photo, you would need to have a custom frame ordered as well.  This can get pretty expensive, but possible.  This brings to mind printing on canvas, which eliminates the need for a frame.  Most canvas printers have standard sizes/ratios that you have to crop to.  However, you can find some canvas printers out there that can do custom sizes.

How Large?

The other main question folks have when printing is how large can they print.  The answer to this question does not have a definitive answer.  Much depends on personal preference when it comes to sharpness.  You lose sharpness (resolution) the larger you blow an image up to print.  Two things to keep in mind are:

  • The dimensions of your digital image
  • PPI (pixels per inch, or resolution)

Image Dimensions

Each camera will have different image dimensions depending on the number of megapixels, etc.  My Canon 6D shoots at 5472 x 3648 pixels.  Based on last week’s discussion, if I want to prepare an image for an 8x10 print, I’ll need to crop my photo.  Cropping obviously reduces the dimensions of my photo.  The more I crop a photo, the more blurry it will look when I blow it up super large.


In very simple terms, this is the amount of clarity or sharpness your photo has.  Photographers vary on what they say is the minimum amount of resolution you need when printing.  Some say you need as high as 300 ppi (pixels per inch).  Others say that they print no higher than 240 ppi and often go lower than that.  Really, the resolution you want will depend on what the print is for.  If it’s for a huge billboard, people are going to be pretty far away from it so you can get away with a lower ppi.  If people are going to be inspecting the print up close and personal, then you might want 240 ppi.  I would say that a good rule of thumb is to be somewhere around 200 ppi.

The Bottom Line

If you know your image dimensions and the minimum resolution that you are willing to tolerate, then it’s just a matter of math from there.  Take my picture (uncropped) at 5472 x 3648 pixels.  Say I am willing to go with a 200 ppi resolution.  Then I just divide my picture dimensions by 200. 

5472 / 200 = 27.36
3648 / 200 = 18.24

In other words, I could print my photo at a size of about 18x27 inches.  As that is not a standard print size, I would want to crop my photo first to the desired ratio, and then recalculate.

Phtoshop and Lightroom can help you do these calculations.  Below is a picture that I have cropped to a 4x5 ratio.  Its dimensions are 4194 x 3355 pixels (just trust me that it is 4x5).  At a 4x5 ratio, the standard sizes that I can print are 8x10, 16x20, and 24x30.  So how large can I print this without losing too much resolution? 

I’m using Photoshop Elements, but this is similar for Lightroom and other programs.  Under the “Image” tab on the top menu, I go to “Resize” and then “Image Size”

As you can see from the picture above, if I print an 8x10, the resolution will be 419.4 ppi.  This is way higher than the 200 ppi rule of thumb that I discussed earlier.  We can go bigger! 

So I just type in a 20 where the 10 inch width is and everything else recalculates automatically for me.  It says that a 16x20 inch print has a ppi of 209.7.  Right in the sweet spot. 

I was printing this on a canvas for a customer and I knew that 16x20 was going to be too small.  I really wanted to go at least 24x30 inches.  Again, changing the width to 30, everything else calculates (see below):

At 24x30, the resolution is now only 139.8 ppi.  I was worried that the resolution would be too low, but knowing that size was an important factor, I decided to print the 24x30 anyway and inspect for quality before delivering to the customer.  When the print arrived, the resolution quality looked great to me especially knowing that the print would not be viewed up close with a magnifying glass.  Success!

If you would like to see a short video tutorial on this topic, Scott Kelby has a great 2 minute summary:

Wrap Up

In summary, while there is no definite answer on how large you can print something, hopefully this discussion has helped you understand the relationship between the dimensions of your image and the resolution.  Knowing a rough rule of thumb for your target resolution (remember the 200 ppi general target) you should be able to make an informed decision on how big you can print.

Next week we’ll discuss some more useful editing tricks in Photoshop Elements that might make your life a little easier.

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Take a Better Snapshot

6/25/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Yes, I said snapshot.  Seriously people, you cannot be posing and setting up every shot you take of your family and friends.  If you are, stop it.  The whole point of capturing a moment is to capture the moment.  The point is not to re-create the moment so that it looks more like Pinterest photo you pinned three months ago.  That said, there are some ways to make your snapshots fabulous.  Let's explore a few:

1. Remove the clutter.  Take a moment to pick up the clothes off the floor or put some toys away.  Move the trash cans and yard tools.  These things will create a distraction and take the focus off of the subject.  Sometimes this simply cannot be done without missing a moment.  Don't worry too much about it but clean up the background when you can.  You can also use framing and composition to remove clutter with your camera.  This leads to tip #2.

2. Get closer.  However close you are, half the distance.  What are you photographing anyway?  Not the background or the 20 other kids on the playground.  Get close to your subject.  This allows you capture emotion that you won't see from a distance.  It eliminates distractions and clutter and focuses on what's most important.  You'll want to remember details like freckles and kool aid mustaches.

3. Change perspective.  We all walk around looking at things at eye level every day.  It gets boring. Imagine what things must look like from the height of your children.  Much more interesting I'm sure.  Get down on their level and shoot up.  See it how they see it.  Hand them the camera and let them take the shot.  See yourself how they see you.  Or get higher.  Climb a ladder or stand on a rock.  Having your subject looking up gives a different look altogether.  Grown ups love this perspective because it is very slimming.  Just change it up. 

4. Find the good light.  If you are not planning and posing a shot you need the light to be in your favor.  Outside snapshots are pretty easy.  Just find spots that allow your subject to look at you without having to look into the sun.  The shade of a tree or the side of a structure are great options. Or put the sun behind them.  Inside may prove a little trickier.  If you want to avoid using a flash, and trust me you do, keep the windows open. Raise the blinds, pull back the curtains, open the shutters.  Let in as much light as possible.  

Just a few small changes and bit more attention to details can make great photographs out of everyday snapshots.  Just make sure you are taking them.  Don't wait until you think you have the technique down.  You'll learn as you go and probably have some fantastic happy accidents along the way.

Lightroom: Develop Effects

6/24/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Post 27

Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®


Another Summer Movie Day

Horay! I like movies.

Last post we covered a quick vignette tool in the Lens Corrections section. Today we dive in to even more you can do with vignetting.

Which One Which One

Want more options for your vignettes? Close Lens Corrections and go down to Effects. Click on the arrow next to Effects to bring up Post-Crop Vignetting. Chose High Priority, Color Priority or Paint Overlay. Each of these will give your image a different type of vignette.

Getting In To It

Now use the slider to determine the Amount of white or black to apply to the edge of your image. Change the Midpoint for vignette thickness. Roundness determines how wide or narrow the shape of your vignette will be. Feather changes smoothness or abruptness of the edge of the vignette. You can also add Highlights or shadows within the vignette section of your image.

Lightroom / Develop Module / Effects / Post-Crop Vignetting Tool

Another Wow

As you can see, Lightroom's vignetting options are extensive. How will you use vignetting for your images?

Next Post: Using Grain in Your Images

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Photoshop Tips: Printing and Aspect Ratios

6/20/2014 1 Comments A+ a-

Editing Tips

When it comes to printing there are two questions that come up all the time:

1: I want to print an 8x10, but the edges are being cut off.  Can you help me fix my photo so that I don’t lose anything when it prints?

2: So how large can I print this?

Aspect Ratios

Let’s start with the first question.  To do this we need to understand aspect ratios.  The aspect ratio is the relationship of an image’s width to height.  My digital camera takes pictures with an aspect ratio of 4:3.  By comparison, an 8x10 photo has an aspect ratio of 5:4 (that’s simple math…10 divided by 2 equals 5; 8 divided by 2 equals 4).  It would be nice if they made the camera’s aspect ratio and all standard print sizes’ aspect ratios the same, but that’s not the case.  Even the most common print sizes have different aspect ratios.

Print Size             Aspect Ratio
4x6                       3:2
5x7                       7:5
8x10                     5:4
11x14                   14:11 (almost a 7:5 but not quite)
16x20                    5:4

So what does this all mean?  It means that if you send your photos off to be printed, parts of the picture will be cut off.  There is no magical way to fix this.  It means that you should crop your picture before having it sent off to the printer so that you can choose which parts are cut off and not leave it to fate.  It also means that you should compose the picture before you even snap the shutter keeping in mind that you might need to crop afterwards.

Below is an example of a picture with an aspect ratio of 4:3 that my camera uses.  Compare that to the picture showing how much will be lost when cropping it for an 8x10 print (5:4 aspect ratio).

To sum up, the answer to the first question is that you will most definitely lose parts of your photo when printing…probably no matter what print size you choose.  The sad reality is that there is no way of getting around this.  However, if you understand this ahead of time, you can plan ahead and make sure to factor that in when composing the photo.  That way when you go to crop your photo when prepping it for print, you can keep all of the desired elements in the photo that you planned.  Also, hopefully this discussion helps you know which ratio to use when cropping your photo depending on the desired print size.

Next week we’ll discuss the other common question when it comes to printing…“so how large can I print this anyway?”

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Lightroom: Vignetting in Lens Corrections

6/19/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Post 26
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Movie Day

Today we are trying some different instruction: We will see a very short movie. I find pictures and movies helpful for different things, and some times I have a preference depending on my needs. Most important to me when I’m learning something is that I get my information quickly and easily. Today’s few-second-long movie clip should help us do just that.

Sweet Little Vignette

Lens Vignetting (pronounced vin-yet) is where a dark edge appears on your image.  This “light falloff” occurs commonly in photography. To learn more about vignetting, what it is, what causes it, what it looks like in different lenses, and when and how to use it artificially, there is a great article at

Under Lens Corrections, you have the option to use the Lens Vignetting tool. This is quick add-or-remove access to a vignette. Use this tool to correct and compensate for your lens vignette, or add the vignette for image effect. Adjust the Midpoint to take the vignette closer to the center (-) or futher away from the center (+).

Lightroom / Develop Module / Lens Corrections / Lens Vignetting Tool

Penny For Your Thoughts?
What is your preference? Do you like written instructions with images like past posts? Maybe movie demos are your thing, or movies with instructions via sound? Or a mix? Would be great to hear back from you!

Next Post: Lightroom Develop Effects

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®
Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Protecting Your Memories

6/18/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

What do you do with the hundreds/thousands of digital photographs taking up space on your very vulnerable computer?  How do you organize them so that you can find them when you need them?

Let’s keep this simple. Because simple is good and makes it much more likely that you’ll actually DO it!  Here are 4 EASY steps to get those memories protected. (and free up some valuable hard drive space.  BONUS!)


1.    Hunt and Gather

a.    WHERE are your pictures?  Still on your camera? On your computer? Still on the memory card in the bottom of your purse? Photo-sharing website maybe? Bringing all of your photos together in one place will help with the next step.

2.    Make Some Hard Choices

a.    Digital photography makes it too easy to take a bazillion pictures.  Sometimes multiples of the SAME PICTURE.  It can get out of control pretty quickly.  Set aside some time to go through your pics and get rid of duplicates, blinks, blurs, and blanks.

3.    Organize (I know, bad word!)

a.    Be aware that this will take more time than any other step.

b.    Be aware that spending time on this step is SO worth it!

c.    This step is going to be different for everyone.  Your categories will mean something to you and may not mean anything to anyone else.  It’s okay.  Some people have folders for each child and a sub-folder for each month/year/milestone for each child.  If you don’t take a lot of pictures (liar) you may just want to create a folder for each year.

d.    Give each photo a descriptive name.  Get rid of the IMG_2384 label.  How do you know which picture that is without having to open it?  Try file names like: mallory11bday1.  I like to keep files I need to get to often on my desktop.  Other folders go to the “My Picture” file.

4.    Back Up!  Make Copies!  Do It!!!

a.    If you skip this step you might as well skip all the others!

b.    Burn a CD/DVD and label them.  Even better, make two copies and send one to your mom or a friend or relative. 

c.    Use an external hard drive.  This can be a flash drive or a desktop drive.

d.    Make prints of your favorites.  GET THEM ON THE WALL!

COMPUTERS CRASH ALL THE TIME!  Make sure that when (not if) yours does you still have your memories.

The Importance Of Self Portraits

6/11/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Let's face it.  Once we are no longer in our teens, not many of us enjoy being in photographs.  I've made a living out of being BEHIND the camera.  So why then am I writing a blog post on being IN the picture?  For future generations.

When my girls look at the pictures I have taken over the years they do not see many with me in them.  They find lots of pictures of themselves and plenty with their dad.  But where is mom?  Surely she was present for all of those events and special moments.  Of course she was.  Right there behind the lens. 

We all have plenty of reasons to not want to be in front of the camera.  No make-up, hair's not done, still have a few pounds to lose, really not dressed for it...blah blah, blah.  If we used the same criteria for our kids we would never take their picture either.  But if you really think about it, our family does not care one bit about those things.  They love us for who we are and they want to remember the moment with us there, in the photo with them.

It can be hard to hand the camera over to someone else when we have our technique just so.  But for crying out loud, give the camera to Dad every once in a while.  Who cares if the focus is a bit off?  Well, you probably do, but you need to learn to let it go.  It is far more important that your children be able to look back someday and see a family in the family photos.  Not just a bunch of pictures of themselves with no parents in sight. 

 Learn to use your timer.  A tripod is also helpful but not necessary.  You can always find a bucket or box or something else sturdy enough to hold your camera still so that the whole family can be in the picture together.  Make sure to take at least one group shot with everyone in it at every event.

And my favorite idea...let your kids take pictures of you for a change.  It's fun to see yourself from their point of view.  They will LOVE being the photographer and I promise that you won't care in that moment what your hair looks like.  The memories of these reverse photo shoots will be some of your very favorites.

Lightroom: Lens Corrections & Manual

6/10/2014 0 Comments A+ a-

Post 25
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Ready For A Good Time?

That is, with Lightroom, of course. Let's test what the Manual section of Lightroom's Lens Corrections does. In the Lightroom Develop Module, open the Lens Correction options by clicking on the arrow to the right, then select the Manual tab. Here you see Transform with these options underneath, accompanied by sliders:

Distortion, Vertical, Horizontal, Rotate, Scale, and Aspect

Here is what they do:

- Distortion

+ Distortion

- Vertical

+ Vertical

- Horizontal

+ Horizontal

- Rotate

+ Rotate

- Scale

+ Scale

- Aspect

+ Aspect

 Crop & Chop

Under your Lightroom Transform options, you will see a box next to Constrain Crop. If you are left with white space around the edges after your desired manual corrections have been made, click this box. Your image will be cropped to eliminate that unwanted white space.

Under Constrain Crop is a little section for Lens Vignetting. We will cover this next time, because they go hand in hand.

Now, I had a blast playing with this. You? And I actually get to use this for work. Score!


Next Post: Lightroom Vignetting in Lens Corrections

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on