Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Make prints from camera phone images, part of Mobile Photography Weekly.
- If you're like me, the camera you use most often is probably one of these, and if you shoot with it every day, you probably have a lot of interesting photos on your phone, and maybe even a few really good ones. Hi, I'm Sean Duggan, and this week, I want to talk about having prints made from your camera phone images. Because you know, as satisfying as it is to see our images on a screen, you gain even more satisfaction and enjoyment from your photography when you have good quality prints made. Now, speaking of good quality prints, I've had a number of prints here that I ordered from Bay Photo Lab, and I had a variety of sizes made 'cause I want to talk about just how large you can go when you have prints made from your camera phone.
So there are a number of variables that can affect the quality of an image once it's printed. First and foremost in terms of the camera phone is the hardware issues, and by that, I mean how many pixels does the image sensor in your phone capture? So my previous iPhone to this was an iPhone 6, and that was a eight megapixel sensor. This is an iPhone 7 Plus, it's a 12 megapixel sensor, and it captures images that are 4,032 x 3,024 pixels.
So let's just round that to 4,000 x 3,000. An image that is 3,000 pixels wide can be printed ten inches wide at 300 DPI, dots per inch. Now, that 300 DPI figure, that's just kind of a, an industry standard threshold for good quality in printed reproduction. It doesn't always have to be 300 DPI, and a lot of today's digital print processes can get by with 200, or even 240 pixels per inch. But as long as you have a camera that's capturing at least 3,000 pixels, you can just kind of use that as a rough figure.
You can easily have an 8x10 made with no upsampling, no upscaling of the image, or even up to a 10x10, or even 11x14, no problem at all. And, as we'll see here in a bit, you can even go larger. So, another thing that can affect image quality in a print is exposure. Was the image well-exposed? A well-exposed image is always going to look better in a print than an underexposed image, particularly an underexposed image where you have artificially tried to lighten it in post-processing software.
Because what happens a lot with severely underexposed images, when you lighten them, you tend to reveal things in the darker areas that you'd really rather not see in a print, such as the noise structure of the image might be really blotchy. There could be very uneven color or tonal transitions that were kind of hiding in the dark areas, but then since you lightened it up, they become much more visible. Might not be anything that is objectionable when you view it on the phone, but once you have a large print made, it's much more noticeable and therefore, not something you want to see.
Another exposure issue that could affect the quality in a print is if you're shooting in low light situations. 'Cause in low light, the camera's going to have to use a longer shutter speed in order to capture the shot, and that longer shutter speed could translate to some motion blur in the image. Whether that's from you just sort of slightly moving the camera when you took the picture, or perhaps there's a moving element in the scene and that translates to a little bit of blur there in the subject which, while it might not be objectionable on the small screen, definitely might not be something you want to see when you blow it up to make a large print.
So the final thing I want to talk about in terms of things that can affect print quality is post-processing. So the first thing to ask yourself is, "Have you cropped the image?" and if you have applied a pretty significant crop to the image, just realize that you are throwing away a lot of pixels that your camera originally captured, so you're going to have an image that is made up of fewer pixels than what the camera is capable of capturing. The other thing is that if you have processed it in an app that doesn't export the file at the full resolution that your camera created, that might result in an image that's smaller than you realize.
So for instance, I actually have a couple of images here that fall under that description. This one here was made in an app that does double exposures and I really like this app a lot, but one drawback is that the maximum size that it exports images is approximately 1,500 pixels square. So, this here, I made an 8x8 of it. It turned out fine, looks great, I'm very happy with it, but I would be a little bit leery trying to go larger. I probably wouldn't make a 16x20 out of this.
Maybe I would, I'd have to check it out, but it's something that I would keep in the back of my mind. This image here was made in an app that allows me to add textures, and this image here, the previous version of it only exported files that were about 2,500 pixels square. So part of that is, I think, due to the fact that a lot of textures come with this app and that's just the size that they chose to make the textures. So while it looks great as an 8x8 here, as a 20x20 inch print, or actually I think this is a 16x16 inch print, there are some areas here where the texture is not as sharp as the lighthouse here.
And again, that could be a result of the fact that the textures that are part of the app are maybe not quite as high-resolution. It still looks good for this type of an image, 'cause this is, you know, more of a composite. It's a, kind of a surreal image, a little bit more artsy, so it works for this. Here's another example of a big print. This is a 16x20, and this one turned out really good, another composite, an iPhone composite, all done on the phone, but this kind of gauzy, ethereal fabric coming out of the door was actually created in a fractal based app on the phone, and this is essentially a screen capture of what that app created that I then composited into this image.
And if you look close, it's not totally sharp here, but it works for the character of this particular image just because of the nature of the scene. So in terms of, just how big can you go? This one here is a 20x30 inch print. This is straight out of the iPhone 7 Plus. Just a little bit of color and contrast adjustments. I actually chose this image 'cause I was hoping to find an image that had a lot of fine, sharp details, and I was actually hoping to find some problems where, the size of the print would show in reduced image quality, but I was actually very surprised at how well this image looks.
You know, when I go in and look close, I'm very satisfied with it. You know, maybe if I was comparing this, apples to oranges, to a DSLR shot of the same scene at the same size, I would probably notice some difference, but up close and personal, this image looks really good as a 20x30. Very, very pleased with this. So as you can see, you can make really good sized prints from images on your camera phone. So start checking through your photos, and get those prints up on the wall.