All photos are not created equal. Aside from any artistic or sentimental qualities they may possess, the image resolution may range from very low to extremely high.
Usually, the naked eye can tell the difference between the two and you'll hear people throw around the terms "high-res" and "low-res," but there is a bit more to this concept and how it affects print quality when you go from digital image to a framed photo on the wall.
Upload a photo to print and frame now and we'll detect the resolution on the fly, or read on to learn more about the process from start to finish.
The inkjet printers we use to produce your photos (a Canon ipf9400 and a brand new Epson SureColor P9000) create prints by placing lots and lots of individual dots of ink on paper. When printed close together, our eyes perceive these tiny dots as one continuous image. So the more tightly together those dots are packed, the sharper the images look and the more blended the colors. "DPI" (dots per inch) is the measure of how many dots are contained per inch of printed material.
But unlike prints and their tiny ink dots, a digital image is a grid of tiny pixels, each representing a single color. Think of a pixel like a square dot -- zooming in far enough on any image will reveal these individual squares with no gaps between them:
If you right click to 'get info' on one of your digital photos, you should be able to get its dimensions in pixels. Here's what that looks like on a Mac:
To translate this into another term you may recognize, multiply the horizontal and vertical pixels to calculate the number of megapixels.
So in the example above, 3,264 x 2,448 = 7,990,272 pixels, or ~8 megapixels.
Put simply, an image with a lot of pixels is called high resolution, and one with with a low number of pixels is considered low resolution.
Tying it together
Okay, so we know that more dots printed per square inch (a high DPI) results in a sharper, better looking photo. It follows that the more pixels you have available to cram into each square inch, the smaller they will appear until they blend together smoothly.
This is where print size comes into play.
A high resolution image will print beautifully at a small print size because you are cramming so many pixels into each inch. But what happens when you make the print bigger? As you increase the size of the printed image, you have fewer and fewer pixels to pack into each square inch because the image is expanding but the number of pixels stays constant. At some point those pixels become bigger than the tiny ink dots:
How we handle your photos
The vast majority of photos uploaded to Level for printing and framing are of excellent quality. Any smart phone or point-and-shoot digital camera less than a few years old can produce images that print well up to 20" and sometimes higher, assuming a high degree of sharpness and focus in the photo.
When you upload a photo for us to print and frame, we analyze the aspect ratio and resolution on the fly to generate a range of acceptable print sizes to choose from. Once a selection is made and your order placed, we use software to resample the image up to 300 DPI for a super high-quality print. At this stage, we can see onscreen the exact print quality of each photo for the size ordered. If we spot any pixellation or noise, we will reach out immediately to request a higher resolution file or suggest a smaller print size. Once the photos are printed, they must pass a second eye test before getting framed as part of our quality control.
Recently, we've seen lots of people uploading enormous images, including professional photographers who shoot with DSLR cameras capable of outputting 100+ MB files. We just souped up our image processing so that you can now upload photos as large as 200MB with absolutely no limit on the number of megapixels. For anything higher than that or to submit other formats including TIFF, just get in touch and we'll provide a Dropbox link.
The end result
We're going to hand-craft a beautiful custom frame to order using all-wood profiles, museum-quality matting and crystal clear acrylic. We provide the same care and expert treatment of your photos to make sure the combination of the two turns out perfectly. Whether it's an iPhone shot of your pet going up on a gallery wall, or an insanely high-res photo you're printing and framing as an oversize statement piece, we have you covered.
If you have any questions about the resolution of your photo or which type of paper to select, please don't hesitate to reach out. You can contact us via the chat bubble at bottom right, or by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether it's a limited-edition print, kids artwork, or your own photos, Level Frames can help you custom frame it online. Join today for exclusive rewards: