Image Resolution & Pixels Explained Simply
What is a pixel?
A pixel is a single unit of colour used to create your picture. They are the smallest units that make up an image. Think of a pixel as building block, or brick. If you zoom into a photo as close as possible, you will see that your picture looks like a mosaic of tiny square bricks! Each brick is responsible for making up your total image.
Here is an image of the ocean that we have zoomed into, so you can see the bricks (or pixels):
Why are pixels important to image resolution?
Just like building a house, the more bricks used the bigger the house. So, the more pixels used also means a bigger image. If you want to enlarge your lovely photos, they will need to have enough pixels to do this nicely. If they don't the image will appear to be 'pixelated' or 'blurry'. More pixels = higher resolution, the same way more bricks = a larger house.
So how does pixelation or image blur happen?
If the image does not have enough pixels, then it's like saying we don't have enough 'bricks' to build a large house, we may only have enough bricks for say a small apartment. If a small image is enlarged, then each brick inside it becomes enlarged, making the bricks so big that each becomes noticeable. The image takes on a blurry or pixelated look as you can see the enlarged 'bricks', which is why the term has been called 'pixelation'. A low resolution image is an image with a low quantity of pixels.
Here is an example of a low resolution image that has been enlarged. You see all the square 'bricks' (pixels).
How can I avoid image pixelation / image blur?
To keep things simple, consider an image below 1 megabyte in size to be low resolution.
Option 1 = We can print a low resolution image at a smaller size to 'concentrate' the amount of pixels in that smaller space. This will give you a higher resolution.
Option 2 = Provide photos at least 3+ megabytes in size for all images A3 size and under. If the image you need is larger, please email us so we can check the resolution and see if we can enlarge it. We have special software we can use, however this does have limitations.
Pro Tip: Please see the handy table below. Check this to see how big your image needs to be, for the size you want printed.
Here is an example of the same flower. On the left is a photo taken at high resolution, and on the right is a photo taken at low resolution. You can see the difference when printed on the same size page. It appears pixelated / blurry.
How can I take high resolution images in the first place?
The new iPhone and Androids phones have amazing rear cameras which are capable of taking high resolution images of approx 8-12 megapixels. Before taking photos, please ensure your settings are set to high resolution. This may not be easy to navigate, so we suggest a quick google or youtube search on how to do this for your phone type / model.
If you want to get even fancier, digital and SLR cameras have even higher resolution and much better overall quality than phone cameras. If you have these taken at the maximum resolution of your digital camera can, the results can be amazing!
Pro Tip - Please take your photos in good lighting, preferably natural light. Photos taken in low light significantly reduce the pixel quality and the images may be pixelated when printed. Please also consider movement blur, which can occur if your hand is not steady while taking the shot. The actual photo will appear blurry, or even with a nice little surprise of your thumb sticking out over the lens (we are guilty of this too) 😃
Can you create pixels if I don't have enough in my image?
While there is special software we can use to enlarge an image, it has its limitations. An enlargement is only as good as the original pixel quality to begin with, as it uses the original pixels to 'make' more pixels or 'bricks' around it. If the image is dark and blurry to begin with, you will just get more darkness and blur added in.
I have a square photo, can you make it rectangle?
We can easily crop photos to fit into the shape you might need, however we cannot create pixels from scratch. For example, if I have a square photo I took for Instagram, and now I want to print it on a rectangle, it will need to be cropped or stretched out to fit into the bigger shape.
We can stretch it out, however it may not look good! Here is an example of a square photo stretched to fit into a rectangle.
Here is an example of a square photo cropped to fit into a rectangle. It's much better, but you do lose some of the photo.
We cannot create the 'missing parts' of a photo if they are not there to begin with. So please keep the shape of your photo in mind when taking pictures. Some popular shapes include landscape, portrait, square or panoramic. We can print all these types of sizes, just let us know what you need 🙌
Thanks for getting this far! While there is so much more technical detail that goes into image resolution including DPI (dots per inch) we didn't want to get too complicated with this guide. If you want to know more just contact us and we will be happy to send across other more technical articles to you. We hope you enjoyed reading this and if you have any questions just pop us an email x