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Cream of the Crop: cropping and resizing > Resizing Digital-Camera Photos

Resizing Digital-Camera Photos

If you’re used to resizing scans, you’ll find that resizing images from digital cameras is a bit different, primarily because scanners create high-resolution scans (usually 300 ppi or more), but the default setting for digital cameras usually produces an image that is large in physical dimensions, but lower in ppi (usually 72 ppi). The trick is to decrease the size of your digital-camera image (and increase its resolution) without losing any of its quality. Here’s the trick.

Step One.
Open the digital-camera image that you want to resize. Press Command-R (PC: Control-R) to make Photoshop’s rulers visible. As you can see from the rulers, the photo is just a little more than 23.5″ wide by just over 18.347″ high.


Step Two.
Go under the Image menu and choose Image Size to bring up the Image Size dialog shown at right. Under the Document Size section, the Resolution setting is 72 pixels/inch (ppi). A resolution of 72 ppi is considered “low resolution” and is ideal for photos that will only be viewed onscreen (such as Web graphics, slideshows, and so on), but is too low to get high-quality results from a color inkjet printer, color laser printer, or for use on a printing press.

Step Three.
If we plan to output this photo to any printing device, it’s pretty clear that we’ll need to increase the resolution to get good results. I wish we could just type in the resolution we’d like it to be in the Resolution field (such as 200 or 300 ppi), but unfortunately, this “resampling” makes our low-resolution photo appear soft (blurry) and pixelated. That’s why we need to turn the Resample Image check box off (it’s on by default). That way, when we type in a resolution setting that we need, Photoshop automatically adjusts the Width and Height of the image down in the exact same proportion. As your Width and Height come down (with Resample Image turned off), your resolution goes up. Best of all, there’s absolutely no loss of quality. Pretty cool!

Step Four.
Here, I’ve turned off Resample Image and I typed 150 in the Resolution field for output to a color inkjet printer. (I know, you probably think you need a lot more resolution, but you usually don’t.) At a resolution of only 150 ppi, I can actually print a photo that is 11.307″ wide by almost 9″ high.

Step Five.
Here’s the Image Size dialog for our source photo, and this time, I’ve increased the Resolution setting to 212 ppi for output to a printing press. (Again, you don’t need nearly as much resolution as you’d think.) As you can see, the Width of my image is no longer 23.556″—it’s now just 8″. The Height is no longer 18.347″—now it’s 6.231″.

Step Six.
When you click OK, you won’t see the image window change at all—it appears at the exact same size onscreen. But now, look at the rulers. You can see that it’s now 8″ wide by 6.231″ high. Resizing using this technique does three big things: (1) It gets your physical dimensions down to size (the photo now fits on an 8 × 10 sheet); (2) it increases the resolution enough so you can output this image on a printing press; and (3) you haven’t softened, blurred, or pixelated the image in any way—the quality remains the same—all because you turned off Resample Image.


Do not turn off Resample Image for images that you scan on a scanner—they start as high-resolution images in the first place. Turning Resample Image off is only for photos taken with a digital camera.



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