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Digital photography may save you money on film, but prints - especially enlargements - are still an expense. Whether you're printing at home (usually 8-1/2" x 11" or smaller) or using a lab or online service for your digital enlargements, you still have to pay for the materials... and who can afford to pay for an enlargement they can't use?
But there's an easy way to avoid disappointment - and wasting your money - when you want an enlargement from your digital photographs.
Open the picture in your image editing software and reset the image size to the enlargement size you want. Then reset the number of pixels per inch down until the file size is the same as the original. For example:
If you have a digital image that's about 10" x 6.7" at 300 ppi (pixels per inch), and you want a 36" x 24" poster, resize the shorter side to 24" (being sure your "Constrain Proportions" box is checked).
Your original file size should have been about 17.2 Megapixels (Mp). Lower the resolution from 300 until you have approximately the same file size. In this case, resetting the resolution to 83 ppi yields a 17.1 MP file.
With your picture resized, tell your imaging editing software to show the photo at actual print size. Yes, only a portion of it will be on the screen, but you can scroll to see the rest.
Scroll all around the resized photo. Is the image on your screen acceptable? If so, then your enlargement probably will be, too. But if not, you've just saved yourself the cost and frustration of enlarging a photo that won't look good as an enlargement.
Photo printers have come a long way in the last few years. Nowadays, you can get great quality digital prints from printers costing $100 - or even less. But most home printers have one major drawback.
You see, very few home printers can handle images larger than 8-1/2" wide. While some printers can go beyond 11" long - typically to 14" or 17" - that 8-1/2" width is a stopper.
So, if you're looking for enlargements of 8-1/2" x 11" or less, your home printer will probably do a fine job. But if you want anything larger than 8-1/2" x 11", you'll have to get them from an online seervice or digital photo lab.
However, there's one other important consideration before you send that digital picture out for a poster-sized enlargement. And that's resolution.
The general rule of thumb is that digital files will look acceptable as long as you have at least 250 ppi (pixels per inch) in the finished print. For example, a 3-Megapixel image (2000 x 1500) will only produce about an 8" x 6" print before it begins to look grainy. But a 5-Megapixel image (2500 x 2000) can be comfortably blown up to about 10" x 8".
Of course, you can still have a 24" x 36" poster made from your 5-Megaixel digital photos, but don't expect the poster to be tack sharp.
Digital cameras and large-format ink-jet printers have made poster-sized prints easier and cheaper to produce. Here's a tip that will help you avoid expensive disappointments with your super-sized prints:
Typically, photos are mounted on a lightweight foam board using a spray adhesive. The process takes some practice - especially with poster-sized photos - so you may want to leave large mounting jobs to professionals.
But mounting offers some real benefits. First, it makes displaying or framing big enlargements and posters easier. It also avoids the wrinkles and creases that often occur when poster-sized prints are stored rolled up. Plus it makes storing and transporting your photos easier - they lay out flat, and can be placed atop one another easily.