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The Plastic Senior: Enhance Beauty Without Over Processing

Cover Photo

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Photographing Seniors is by far my favorite thing to do. I love their energy, willingness to try new and crazy things, fun personalities, and their hope for the future and what is to come after High School. Their Senior Year is such an exciting time in their lives, and I love to be a part of it.

Most Seniors exude a self confidence that really shines through in their photos. Some don’t, and it is my job to help them look their best, feel comfortable during the shoot, and to realize through mind blowing images of themselves, that they are beautiful or handsome. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately among photographers. It’s a trend that is destroying the self-confidence of young women and men alike. I know that we want our subjects to look flawless, and that we can do that in post processing. Photoshop is an amazing tool, but we all know it can be taken too far.

The Backstory

Recently, I had a young lady call me in tears. She had her Senior Photos taken by a well know local photographer. You know, the photographer we all want to be when we grow up with the arsenal of equipment, shiny studio, and hundres of thousands of dollars in yearly sales revenue. The girl was upset because she didn’t want to sit for photos again because she thought she was fat, and her mother was making her call me and schedule a session. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “So she’s a little heavy. I can disguise that with a bit of creative posing and good lighting.” I assured her that I would make her look beautiful in her photos, and scheduled a free consultation with her and her mother the next week to get an idea of what she wanted from her Senior Session.

When I arrived at the consultation, I was shocked. The girl was BEAUTIFUL! I’m not saying that not every girl is gorgeous at whatever size they are, but this girl is 5’8”, and she couldn’t have weighed over 115lbs. She was tall, thin, athletic, and gorgeous. It didn’t take me long to figure out why she was so apprehensive and insecure. She showed me the photos from her previous Senior Session with the aforementioned photographer. I was shocked. The images looked like her, but they were an overly perfect Stepford Wives version of her. Not a hair was out of place. Her skin looked so perfect that it looked plastic, and he had thinned her face, narrowed her hips, reduced the size of her nose, and increased the size of her breasts. I’m sure he thought he was simply enhancing her natural beauty. However, what he really did was take every bit of self-confidence she had, and turned it to insecurity. Was she not good enough just the way she was?

Examples of what not to do.

Here is an example of over processing an image to the point of destroying a girl’s self esteem.  The first image is straight out of camera.  The second is the same image.  I thinned her face and arm, reduced the size of her nose, whitened her teeth, liquified her eyes to make them bigger, and smoothed her skin to a perfect plastic appearance.  Not horrible, but really, it looks nothing like her at all.

Straight out of Camera 

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Insanely Over Processed: Do not do this!

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Here is an example of processing the correct way.  I left everything about her alone.  I just slightly smoothed her skin, sharpened her eyes, and enhanced the colors a bit.  That’s it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Had she had a small blemish on her forehead that could be cloned out, but her skink was pretty flawless.  My basic rule of thumb is that I correct anything that will go away in the next 6 weeks (blemishes, scabs, scrapes, etc.) and I very slightly soften those that are permanent (scars and birth marks are usually just lightened a tiny bit if they are red. If not, I just smooth them the tiniest bit.)

 

Real Perfection- Beauty is enhanced, not created!

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The point of this segment is this: DO NOT TAKE POST PROCESSING TOO FAR! You may think that you are helping your client out by perfecting them. And trust me, there is nothing wrong with blemish removal, slight skin smoothing, and a little liquefying here and there if there is a bulge in clothing or on an arm. However, your client wants photos of themselves or their family, not some insanely perfect version of themselves. Real people, especially High School Seniors, are amazing just the way they are. It is our job to enhance their natural beauty and help them see themselves as beautiful, no matter their size or shape.

 

Atina is the owner of Atina King Photography located in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  She loves to focus on photographing High School Seniors in urban environments throughout Arkansas.  She resides in Fayetteville with her husband Jonathan and their two small children.  Her work can be viewed on her website at Atina King Photography.

 

Think Outside The Box … USE THE BOX in Your Photography

Box story

Creative photography assignments usually come from “thinking outside the box.”

Not today…  Today we’ll teach you how to photograph “inside the box” and keep things fun and creative at the same time. This has been one of the most widely requested tutorials from our Facebook Group members. So have fun with this and come share your results too!

* Disclaimer – the box concept is shown on Pinterest, and we are not aware of the original creator of the concept. There are several unique ways to do it, if you cannot build your own box, such as using large moving boxes. 

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Creating a “White Box” Composite Photograph

Creating this composite image is done in a series of steps beginning with getting it right in camera, choosing the right lighting, maintaining a consistent look to the image, and compositing in Photoshop.  This blog post will take you through the steps needed to create the final image of separate images of family members in the final composite above, including building the White Box.

 

Getting it Right in Camera and Using the Right Equipment

Creating the composite box series is simple as long as you get it right in camera.  You will use Manual settings so you can select an aperture large enough to ensure everyone in the image stays in focus – usually around F9.  The shutter speed will need to be below your camera’s sync speed – usually 125-200.  One thing to avoid is a high ISO because you want to avoid noise in the image.  I suggest a camera setting of F9, ISO 100, 125-200 shutter speed.  You can try the different settings once you have the box and lighting set up.  Select what works best for you and your setup.

In the image below, you can see the umbrella sits about 12 feet in front of the box, which gives me a good even light and reduces shadows on the back of the box.  I have tried other lighting, including 2 speed lights with soft boxes, but the light was not even enough for me.  You can only see part of the box because I have a small apartment, so space isn’t really an issue.

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My Equipment List

  • Camera with Manual Settings (F9, ISO 100, 125-200 SS depending on camera)
  • 24-70 lens set at 70 mm
  • Tripod
  • 400 watt Studio Strobe with 7 foot shoot-through umbrella on full power
  • Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom – and Photoshop
  • Large White Box (see directions below for building)

Maintaining Consistent Image Capture and Development in LR, ACR, or Photoshop

There are a few things to keep in mind when developing your images in LR, ACR, or Photoshop.  First, and most importantly, you need to maintain white balance.  If your camera is set to Auto White Balance, the camera can change depending on the colors worn by the subjects or the toys or props in the White Box.  Fixing color-casts in Photoshop can be time consuming, so prevention is key here. MCP Bag of Tricks has a wonderful reflect color-cast vanisher that I normally use this for faces to remove color-casts, but it works perfectly to remove color-casts from the White Box. That same Photoshop action set also has a Bleach Pen action that works great with white objects!

Next, the camera should be set on a tripod so every shot is exact.  Double-check that your camera is straight on the tripod and not tilted.  Having a consistent capture in your camera makes the compositing process easier, with less hassle, and quicker to complete.

Lastly, the lens selection is important because you will need a lens wide enough to shoot a 4×4 foot box, but with little cropping in post-production.  I use a 24-70 lens set at 70 mm.

Building the Box

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The White Box is a cube that measures 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep by 4 feet tall.  It was constructed with ¾ inch plywood and screwed together.  The outside of the box, facing the camera is framed with 2” x 2” wood.  The paint is a white matte latex paint.  You may need more than one coat of paint. After a while, the wood can warp so fixing warping in post processing may need to be done.

The White Box sits on a 2 foot high pedestal to lift the White Box up for ease of people when they hang their legs over the edge.  I had a set of wheels put on the bottom of the pedestal for ease of moving it from room to room because it is quite heavy and I have a small apartment. I’ve painted it a few times because of marks made by shoes.

 

Taking the Images

After setting up the box, lighting, and camera on the tripod, I take several shots to double-check my settings.  Then, I begin capturing my subjects in all different poses, faces, and shapes.  After the session, I select the ones I want to use.  Have fun with it – try different poses, faces and make different shapes with arms and legs, the ideas are limitless…shoot RAW!!!

 

Compositing the Images

Begin with opening all of the photos you wish to use in the composite in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.  You can use 3, 6, 9, or even 12 in one image! For this instruction I have used 4 images.  All the edits in ACR can be selected at one time and it will sync.  This is helpful if you need to do a contrast/color change because all of the changes can be applied equally to all of your selected images. You don’t want one photo to be darker or lighter the rest. Sometimes because of bright colors of clothing or toys it can cause a color cast inside of the box, you can use MCP Bag of Tricks in Photoshop to remove reflected color casts on faces and the inside of the White Box.

 

Building the Composite

If the box isn’t completely straight use the perspective warp tool… Add guide lines by dragging a line from the ruler on top and on the side of the photo, line up the guide lines where the edge of the box should be then go to EDIT/PERSPECTIVE WARP and follow the steps to add the perspective points and manipulate perspective. I sometimes still need a small edit using the puppet warp to straighten the sides of the box.

 

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When items are outside of the box (arms or legs)  After the edits have been done, make a selection with the pen tool around the box and include legs or arms outside of the box and right click/make selection and feather 5px…press control/command J to make a copy of the selection, then the selection can be moved over to the new composite page. Photos that do not include anything outside the box can be simply cropped to include just the box.

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Make a New Page in Photoshop to Build the Composite.

  • Make a new page, I start out with a 40″ x  40″ 300DPI- sheet just to make sure I have plenty of space to work with.
  • Start dragging each image over to it (add guide lines to keep the images even).  With the page being 40×40 inch and dpi of 300 I don’t have to size the photos down to fit the new composite page.
  • When you have all 4-6-9 or even 12 images on the new sheet adjust the layers so legs are hanging over the next box and not cut off because they are behind it.
  • Line up the images so the frames are overlapping and not just side by side.  For example, if you place one White Box next to another White Box and both have a 2’ frame, you now have too large of a frame – so overlap the outside frame a bit.

Layer on new composite page:

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  • Make the frames for the separation of the boxes
    • Use the shape tool (rectangle) to make a thick line the thickness depends on your personal taste of how you want it to look, with the fill color close to the color of the White Box or whatever color you would like to try. I’ve seen it done in different frame colors for different occasions.
    • Place each line in between the rows of photos.
    • Placing the line in a box where legs are hanging over I turn the line into a mask layer so I can use a soft black brush to paint out the areas arms or legs are hanging over the edge of the box.

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Adding frames to separate boxes.

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And here’s other examples of a family collage.

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This composite is a lot of fun and takes the pressure off the problem of posing families.  The added bonus is that kids love playing in the White Box!

I am an American photographer based (at the moment) in Helsinki, Finland. I love my camera and the time I spend capturing the beauty of life around me. My husband builds government buildings all over the world so we move to a new country every 12-24 months and I have had the pleasure of seeing the different cultures and not only visiting exciting places but living in them as well. 

Photography has been something I could do anywhere and I have a wonderful supportive husband that has gotten used to a camera being attached  to me wherever we go. He has built me fun furniture, made me studios and even moved me to a larger apartment so I had extra room to do what I love. Recently I found a new passion in street photography while living in Finland and have joined a group called “Humans Captured” on facebook where we post photos of everyday people all over the world and include a back story about who they are and what their story is.

My website is Zeemanphotography.com and zeemanphotography on Facebook that I am still adding to. 

 

 

 

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7 Ways to Capture Emotion in Your Photography

juliaaltork

What separates a simple snapshot from a stunning success is the story the image portrays. I believe the most important element to be captured in a photograph is emotion. The more emotional the shot is, the more it appeals to our senses, and the greater the connection we feel to it. If a picture conveys emotion – whether it’s happiness, surprise, sorrow, disgust – it is successful.

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But how do you capture emotion with photography? First, you find a moment and then tell a story. For me, photography is all about capturing authenticity, movement, spontaneity, and mood.

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1. No “cheese”, please.

Emotions, by their very nature, do not follow static rules…..they just happen, based on what a person feels at a given moment of time. They are a complex and fluid aspect of the human condition, but capturing emotion can be especially tricky when people know they are being photographed.

The photos I often find myself most drawn to are the ones in which some emotion other than just happiness was captured. One mistake photographers often make is that they say, “Smiiiiile!”, or “cheese”, or whatever it is they say to force people to give any one constant expression. That is probably the last thing I want. Although, these shots can make for great memories later on, the mood is often masked with a fake smile or sometimes a silly face, maybe even a hand covering the mouth or eyes.

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2. Capture the mood of your subject.

If a child you’re photographing is in a pensive, quiet state, capture that. If the child is bouncing off the walls, capture that. If your child is staring at you, annoyed and displeased, capture that. You don’t always have to place your subjects into a posed position that is traditionally photo worthy – the photos are always waiting to happen, just let them.

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 3. Anticipate a “moment”.

Unplanned shots are awesome. That’s the good stuff! When your subject falls over, looks up at an unexpected moment, or cracks up, make sure to capture it! Those are often the most beautiful, honest, emotional, moments.

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4. Shoot after the “moment”.

Some of my favorite shots of my children are the ones I captured right after the shot that they were expecting. This is when they let go of that breath they were holding in, relax the smile that could have been forced, and the moment when their body falls into a more natural, relaxed state.

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5. Look for and photograph moments in between poses.

We can give our subjects direction all day long, but there’s something wonderful about a natural pose…and sometimes those moments are only to be found in the “in between” moments.

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So always anticipate the next move, before your subject gets there. Keep your camera to your eye and continue to look for the natural beauty.

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6. The “eyes” have it.

The eyes are the window to our soul. If one had to isolate any single body part to openly portray emotions, it’s the eyes. Human or animal, eyes usually always convey what the subject is feeling. The intense focus in the eyes of an eagle or the soft warmth in those of your pet Labrador, or the myriad expressions of a ballet dancer, the eyes are the key to capturing the emotions felt by the subject. A raised eyebrow or a sideways look can sometimes say what a hundred words cannot. I love photographing my children because they are a bundle of emotions, they haven’t yet learned the art of faking, and you can literally see the “truth in their eyes”.

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7. Look for the details.

As photographers, of course we know emotions are conveyed by the eyes and face. That’s the rule. So break it! Emotions can also be conveyed by other features. Never underestimate say, droplets of sweat dripping down a face, the gestures made by hands and feet, or the posture of a spine.

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Don’t limit yourself by believing emotion can only be captured in the face, instead, experiment with a full range of emotional interpretations.

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The authentic and genuine expression of emotion is what reveals person’s soul, capturing that in a photo is what tells their story and should be the goal of every photographer. There is no denying it, emotion is beautiful.

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Julia Altork is a photographer living in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband and three children. You can see more of her work by visiting www.juliaaltork.com.

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4 Ways To Be Taken Seriously As A Young Photographer

If you’re a young photographer, or know of some younger photographers who have trouble getting taken seriously, here are some tips and tricks to getting the respect you deserve.  

1. Act Professionally

If you want to be taken seriously, you need to be professional. This component is involved in many aspects of the professional photographers life – from telephone calls to social media presence. Often times I will book a shoot with someone through e-mail and speak with them over the phone, but when I meet with them in person for the first time I can still see the initial hesitance in their eyes. I relieve this by continuing to present myself professionally (shaking their hand, keeping eye contact, dressing appropriately, etc.). It is so important for the client to have faith in you as a photographer so I find it crucial to attempt to wash away any doubt. Acting confident can also help to achieve this, so be sure to remind yourself that they booked you based upon your work – they booked you for a reason!

Social media presence is crucial to photographers. It’s important to set up a Facebook page, Instagram and other social networks specifically for your business. Keep your personal accounts separate. Even on your personal social media accounts, never to post anything offensive or immature. Even if you want to be yourself and have privacy, you need to consider everything you post, including comments, from the side of customer or potential client. They may stumble across it – so represent yourself well.

 

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2. Keep Your Brand Clean

On your business sites, such as your Facebook Page, post updates, recent photo shoots, and display your logo. While your brand may evolve, especially when you are young, you will want to make your brand recognizable. Try for consistency–see the black border with orange logo.  I place this on every photo. Also, work hard to maintain a sense of fluidity between your Website, Blog, Instagram, Facebook, and other places where you have a presence. While this can be said for any photographer, not just those of us who are young and starting out, it is even more crucial to gain and maintain respect.

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Continuing with the social media discussion, it is important to approach your photography pages as though you were the viewer, not the administrator. Would you want to see 15 Instagrams a day, and 20 status updates/photo posts? Probably not. This would clutter up your newsfeed and take the excitement out of seeing each post. Try to post when it you have something relevant to share but not so much that you overwhelmed your audience.

 

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3. Stay Organized

Staying organized is extremely important- and is often the hardest skill for younger photographers.  To combat youthful distractions, keep a planner and binder with you at all times. A planner helps keep track of photo shoots, and a binder helps with everything else.

When it comes to planning the hardest part is being honest with yourself. Don’t try to fit a million things into one day. If you do this, you’ll run yourself ragged, and it’s easy to end up running late or having to cancel on someone should one thing go wrong. And that is NOT professional. When too many things are stacked upon each other, the smallest glitch creates an avalanche on the rest of the day. The best advice is to cushion everything - leave extra time for travel and the unpredictable – this way you are prepared should something go wrong.

Keep all photo related materials together in your binder, including extra flyers and business cards, in case I am at a venue where people might be interested in my work. Also, have blank invoices, plans/shot lists for each photo shoot, and a price list of all your services and products so you don’t have to worry about telling someone an inaccurate prices. Keep examples of prints and some products in your binder too.  You never know when they will come in handy!

4. Be Confident

Staying confident when you are starting out as a young professional is much easier said than done. Sometimes it may seem as though you have been thrown into a shark tank and your just a little fish trying to find their way. I struggled for quite a long time with confidence in regards to my photography. I always feared that when people complimented me they meant that my work was “impressive for someone my age,” instead of accepting that it was just impressive. I never wanted to be talented for a 16 year old or 17 year old and so forth.  I wanted to be talented compared to anyone at any age. Remind yourself that photographers are booked because of their previous work. Clients see your photographs and desire something similar.

It’s easy to doubt yourself when you are shooting for free trying to expand your portfolio, but when someone is paying you, they pay you because they believe in you. If you seem nervous or doubt yourself, your client is going to begin to doubt you too. Smile, hold your head high, and do your best.

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It may be intimidating being the face of a photography business, but no amount of baby face can take away from the quality of work that you produce.

Bio: Mallory Robalino is a 20-year-old photographer from Long Island, NY. She specializes in sport, equestrian, and portrait photography. Some of her work can be seen at her website or her photography Facebook page: Mallory Robalino Photography.

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The Beginner Photographer’s Guide to Understanding Resolution

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It happens to everyone, and it makes us all crazy. You spend months honing your skill, shooting in manual, perfecting light, diligent editing and finally having an image you want to print HUGE for your living room…and then it arrives all blurry and you are crying in the floor. Oh, that was just me? Huh, well, moving on…

Through the graces of a wonderful human being and local printer who took pity on me and my obvious lack of knowledge, I was given a sit down course in making the transition from camera to print and it simplified my life greatly. No more worrying about cropping images before loading into ROES. Yes, you heard me correctly. So, how does that work? By understand the relationship between PPI, DPI and somehow…PSI.

1. Forget DPI for now.

This is for printers. Dots Per Inch. Of color of ink. This does not correlate directly to your photo resolution when cropping and resizing.

2. PSI…think of this as a typo…

PSI has nothing to do with photographs. PSI is actually a measurement of pressure, used for the air in your tires for example. Somewhere along the line, photographers started using PSI to mean *Pixels per Square Inch.*  Think of PSI as a way to confuse newbie photographers. Just don’t use it.

3. PPI. Pixels Per Inch.

This is what you are looking at when resizing and cropping your photos. Here’s the thing, looking ONLY at the PPI will CONFUSE you. Why? Because in most cases, your camera is taking a large image size at a lower PPI. For example…  21inx14in @ 240ppi OR 72inx48in @ 72ppiBoth these sizes, though they have very different PPIs, are high resolution images. In fact…they are nearly identical…wanna see?

Look at the top two numbers for the first image size, 21inx14in @ 240ppi…

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Now for the second set, 72inx48in @ 72ppi…

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The results:

Uhm, wait a minute…they are EXACTLY the same size!!! 5184×3456. Meaning they have the exact number of pixels in both images, despite their obvious size and PPI differences.

Lesson:

You run into problems with resolution when you try to increase BOTH size and ppi at the same time. For example, taking an 8×10 @ 72ppi to a 20×30 @ 300ppi…is not going to work, but when going DOWN in size, you have much more leeway.To get a visual image of how this is works…think of it like this. You have 3 squares in front of you. Large, medium and small. In the medium square, you have 16 Lego bricks (don’t tell the children I played with their toys, then they want to play with mine!), your pixels, lined up in rows and they fill the square perfectly.
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Now, you can take these bricks and still fill the small square perfectly. There are even bricks to spare, but this smaller square is still nicely packed tight with bricks.
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But, if you take those same 16 bricks and try to fill the large square, you are going to have more space between them, more blank space showing through.

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Printing problems:

This is where your printing problems come in. As you try to use these same number of pixels to fill a large surface area, you are left with gaps. In order to fill those gaps, your computer is going pull from surrounding pixels sort of *guessing* what is needed to fill it up. This is where it starts to get *fuzzy* and not print well.

Okay now you are thinking…”so what does this mean when I crop and resize?” 

  • If I am taking an image that is the aforementioned 72×48 @ 72ppi, I can easily resize to a nice print that is 20×24 or other large size at 300ppi. Why? Because I am going down in physical size which allows me to use those extra pixels to fill up the resolution to 300ppi.
  • But again, I do NOT have to do this before I load to ROES. If I take my full size high res images, edit and save them just the way they came out of my camera (assuming I am taking RAW or high res JPEGS) I can simply load them into ROES and use their tools to do my cropping. The resizing will be done on the other end from my large file.
  • But their Q&A section says to resize to 300, right? Yea, I know… they say that because it is a frequently asked question, and they are answering based on the idea that you are going to do your own *pre-cropping,* in which case, they want you to do it at the right resolution. But if you just load it up and use their tools, all will be fine.

So now that you understand that, you find you have a slightly different problem…a client ordered a photo in different sizes, and while the small wallets look great, the desk print is slightly blurry and the wall print just looks bad.

  • This is normally more of an issue with your photo itself. It was probably slightly out of focus to begin with. But why do the smaller ones look okay?

Back to our squares…and now, that DPI I told you to forget temporarily. When printing, bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes you can get away with passing off a slightly not-so-perfect image off in a smaller size because smaller again means packing tighter. Now that we have moved over to the print side, we are looking at dots…as in dots per inch. ( Now this technically has to do with both DPI and PPI, but for the purposes of illustrating what’s happening, we are going with the dots).

With our squares again, we see what the image as an 8×10 looks like…

IMG 1131 600x400 The Beginner Photographers Guide to Understanding Resolution
pin it4 The Beginner Photographers Guide to Understanding Resolution

Now, if I go DOWN in size, I can almost make it look better overlapping those areas that were previously gaps….

IMG 1132 600x400 The Beginner Photographers Guide to Understanding Resolution
pin it4 The Beginner Photographers Guide to Understanding Resolution

So my wallet size actually ends up looking better, even though it is technically the exact same photo. And then when I take that *so-so* photo and go bigger…well….let’s not do that okay? It doesn’t end well.

{This is where I insert my disclaimer: Yes, those who have more in depth understanding of resolution and printing know this isn’t *exactly* how it all works, but for the purposes of helping beginner photogs understand what is happening to their photos, these visualizations work}

In the end if you have your camera set to take high res files, RAW or JPEG set to large file format…you are going to be just fine, no adjustment needed before loading to ROES, or even online consumer sites. If you MUST make adjustments, just be sure when you are done, your pixel dimensions, those numbers in the screenshots above, are in the THOUSANDS for good images, preferably the 5000×3000 range.

Kimberly Earl is the owner of K. Lynn Photography in Charleston, WV, a wife and mom to four kiddos. She has been snapping at the world since 1993 and been in business since 2007. You can follow her on Facebook, but she is currently on a short hiatus.

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