Why High-Res Photos Are Important For Print

High-res vs low-res photo
Anthony Tripi - Graphic DesignerWritten by: Anthony TripiGraphic Designer

Here’s why those photos you found on Google probably won’t work in your brochure. It’s all about “resolution”. The resolution (aka “quality”) of a digital image determines how blurry it’s going to be in the printed piece. The internet only needs low-resolution photos. They look fabulous on a computer screen and they allow websites to load fast because the file size is low. A printing press or desktop printer on the other hand, requires higher-resolution photos for your brochures, magazine ads, etc.

So what IS “resolution”? I’m glad you asked. I’ll do my best here to enlighten you as simply as I possibly can.

What makes up a digital image?

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that a digital image is made up of tiny little squares of color called “pixels”. Generally speaking, the more pixels there are in a photograph, the higher the resolution is and the sharper it will be if the image is printed. Similarly, when an image is printed the image is actually made up of tiny little “dots” of color. Unlike pixels, they’re circles instead of squares. But the same concept applies; the more dots or pixels you have in the image, the sharper it looks when printed. In printing, the standard for resolution is called dpi (dots per inch). When it’s still digital, the resolution is considered ppi (pixels per inch.) Dots and pixels are so small that they aren’t supposed to be visible to the naked eye. If you were to zoom in closely, you’d see that they transition smoothly to make up the clear photo you see at full size. The more pixels or dots per inch a digital image has, the larger the file size.

Why can’t I use an image from the internet for printing?

Some online images are large enough to use in print, but the majority just won’t work. Let me elaborate. The more pixels or dots per inch a digital image has, the higher the resolution, and high resolution photos take up a lot of file space. As far as the internet is concerned, low resolution photos look fine and they load faster than high-res images, so naturally that’s mostly what you find online. A standard print-quality image is 300dpi and a standard internet image is 72ppi. So photos that look great on your screen might look terrible in your brochure.

Where to get high-resolution photos

1. Take them yourself (cheapskate) - This option really depends on your professional abilities. It surprises us at how many people think of themselves as semi-professional photographers. Well they do own an expensive camera and they get a lot of likes on their Facebook pics. But odds are, if you’re reading this article you’re an amateur shutterbug at best. So unless you want your brochure to look amateur, move on to #2. At Avenue 25, we know some really great photographers that can capture just the right mood and vision needed for your business. A cost comes with that, but a highly beneficial one. Their work is exemplary and high quality.

2. Stock photography (lazy bones) - Stock photos can be purchased on the internet for anywhere from $5 to $5,000. The price depends on numerous factors such as the quality, whom you buy them from, the rights they give you, etc. Stock photos are a great resource, but should be used sparingly and only in certain circumstances. You always run the risk of looking generic, or worse yet, your competitor starts using the same stock photos on his website or brochure. We see it all the time (eye-roll).

3. Hire a photographer (worth the money) - Let us qualify this with, it’s worth the money if you hire the RIGHT professional photographer. Like many professions, photographers specialize in certain types of shots, from architectural to fashion to outdoor. The cost/benefit ratio finding the right photographer is enormous. A photo shoot might cost you a few grand but the shots can make or break your project. The right photographer and crew can deliver shots conveying the right mood, color, lighting, perspective and most importantly realism of your business or product that sets you above the rest and helps to anchor your brand. We work with a lot of photographers and can identify the right one for your project and budget.

Hopefully, I’ve provided you with a better understanding of image resolution.   It can be confusing, which is why it is always a smart move to consult with a professional. At Avenue 25, we work with images all day long, and pride ourselves on making our clients look their best in any and all media.