Print Resolution: Myths & Misconceptions

What is an appropriate resolution to print your images?  How many “pixels-per-inch” do you really need?  The answer is really tied to another question, “How good is your eye-sight?”

It stands to reason that the closer you are to something the better you can see any fine detail.   And, you likely wouldn’t argue that for large prints, most viewers will tend to step back to view them.  So, it stands to reason, since we will tend to hold small prints close to view them and stand back to view large prints, it will be worthwhile to produce small prints at high resolution. But, creating large prints at that same high-resolution with will be somewhat pointless; if you can’t see it, why print it?

Large prints require lower resolution than smaller prints to appear equally sharp at normal viewing distances.  A “normal viewing distance” is about twice the length of the print diagonal.  When we do the math, we can calculate a set of preferred image resolution settings for prints of different sizes.  I cover this in more detail in my course “The Art of Printing and Selling Your Art”, but suffice it to say, if you are shooting with a camera of between, say, 20 – 24 megapixels, and your print resolution falls between 180 and 480 pixels-per-inch at your chosen print size, you’re good to go.

Now, for years, a contrary idea has been floating around: “You should only print at 360 ppi!”, or “You should only print at 300 ppi!”  So, who is right? Is it different resolutions for different print sizes, or the same for all sizes?  Turns out, they’re both right, and they’re both wrong.  Read on.

So how do you find the resolution of your print?

In Photoshop, open the Image Size dialog (Image>Image Size) and uncheck the “Resample” checkbox.  Enter the dimensions of your intended print in the width and/or height fields.

Image 1

If the resulting number in the “resolution” field is between 180 and 480, you have enough pixels to make a finely detailed image.

If you are printing from Lightroom: in the Print module, first layout the print at your desired size. Then deselect the “Print Resolution” checkbox in the “Print Job” tab and look in the upper left corner of the print layout window.  The Dimensions of your print and print resolution are displayed there.  If you are between 180 and 480 ppi: you’re good. 

Image 2

(Note: if you don’t see your print size and resolution in the upper left corner of the screen, open the “Guides” tab in the Print module and check the box marked “Dimensions”)

Image 3

But wait, there’s more!

To understand the next step, I must digress for a moment and describe what happens when you connect your ink-jet printer to your computer and turn it on.

When you turn on your printer, it goes through a startup and self-test routine.  If everything appears OK, it reports to your operating system (MacOS or Windows) saying in effect, “Hi! I am an Epson model xyz (or Canon, or …).  I require image data at “X” resolution.”

For Epson printers, X = 360 ppi, for Canon printers, X = 300 ppi.

Now whenever you send an image to your printer, if your print resolution is not exactly 360 ppi (or 300 ppi for Canon), the print pipeline of your operating system will interpolate the image data to 360 ppi (300 ppi for Canon).  The problem is that your OS uses a kludgy interpolation method that is not nearly as nice as that which Photoshop or Lightroom can do on their own.

Image 4

So, for this reason and this reason alone, in Photoshop first determine if you have sufficient “native” pixels in your image file to print at an appropriate resolution for the size of your print — deselect the “Resample” box and ensure you are between 180 and 480 ppi, then re-select the “Resample” box, and set the resolution to 360 for Epson, or 300 for a Canon.  If you don’t set it here, your operating system will do it for you anyway, and we don’t want that to happen since your print quality may suffer.

Back in Lightroom: once you determine you have sufficient native pixels for your intended print size, re-check the “Print Resolution” box in the Print Job tab and set the resolution to 360ppi (300 for Canon)

Image 5

There is a special case when the Image Size dialog ends up with a resolution greater than 360 ppi with some current generation printers; but I will leave that for the course.

– BPSOP Instructor: Mark English

Mark Teaches: 

The Art of Printing & Selling Your Art

After the Click: Refining Your Vision in Lightroom & Camera Raw


Shooting After Dark: It’s all about the light!


Eastern Point Lighthouse in Maine


Those five magic words sum it all up for me with photography: “It’s all about the light!” Whether sunrise to sunset, the light is the key. But truth is, with shooting after dark, it is also all about the light! I think I have always been infatuated with shooting after the sun goes down but things have changed so much, especially when digital cameras arrived many years ago. Playing around and experimenting with different light sources can open up a whole new world with shooting after dark. With your LCD screen, you can instantly see how your nighttime endeavors are working.

In this article, I wanted to talk about some of the different ways to capture images using different lighting ideas and methods and the endless possibilities that await anyone who has a desire to shoot after dark. I have always experimented with so many different techniques and taught many different courses specifically on shooting after dark and I hope to show what you can achieve out there and why you might want to choose one method over another.

When I am planning to shoot after dark, there are so many options and some might work better than others. You can for example; shoot the Milky Way without any light on the foreground and the Milky Way and night sky become the only real light source in the image. You could also try different lighting techniques for the foreground that might add a completely different effect to the image of the Milky Way. Shooting after dark opens up a whole new world and experimentation really is the key. A lot of trial and error can add up to some great techniques that can really change your attitude about bringing out that camera after dark.

Some of the different ways to shoot After Dark can include:

  • Light painting
  • Moonlight
  • Overexposure
  • Artificial light sources like mercury vapor, etc.
  • Car headlights
  • Car trails
  • Lightning
  • LED Light Panels
  • Cities and architecture

The sky really is the limit and I wanted to show some different examples on why you might want to try different methods and also open up your mind to trying different things after dark like car trails or lightning. So many different things that you can do after dark but also different techniques to give you different results. You will get out what you put into it and eventually, you will have new ideas to try in many different locations, anywhere in the world!

The Ubein Bridge in Burma at sunset

The Ubein Bridge in Burma at sunset



The definition of photography is actually “painting with light” so I guess we have all been “lightpainting” since we started shooting. I have been experimenting with different light sources, and playing with lightpainting for as long as I can remember. I’ve tested out an incredible amount of flashlights  and light sources throughout the years and they can really be a complete game changer for your images. If you haven’t tried to use different flashlights in some of your images after dark, it is something that can be a total game changer. One important note to remember: try and always lightpaint from the side as frontal lighting is way too flat!

A few weeks ago, a friend and I shot Cathedral Rock and the Oak Creek River, where I live here in Sedona. I wanted to test out a new flashlight and do some light painting and also shoot a similar image with only the moonlight. We were in complete darkness when we arrived at 10:30 PM by the river and we set up to do light painting with my new light. When we finished those images, I shot star trails until the moon came up and then I changed my exposure and only shot by moonlight. So I actually came away with three different shots that night but my main test was comparing light painting against moonlight and what a similar shot might really look like between both light sources.

Below are both images, the first with only lightpainting and the second with only moonlight. I used a layer mask to paint in the moonlight on the second image so you could see exactly the difference. They both look pretty cool and this turned out to be a good eye opening test for us! The third image is one with star trails and only moonlight, which I also like.

Milky Way and lightpainting above Sedona

Milky Way and lightpainting above Sedona

Milky Way and moonlight above Sedona

Milky Way and moonlight above Sedona


Star trails and moonlight above Sedona

Star trails and moonlight above Sedona


By comparing the first two images above, you can really see the difference between using a flashlight compared to using the moonlight. I knew by getting there before moonrise, that I could try both of these techniques from the same location. That is something that I love to do as its sometimes hard to know which camera technique might be better for a particular image. Sometimes I prefer light painting and sometimes I prefer the moonlight or another technique.

The next image, is another one I did here in Sedona in the exact same way, but in reverse. I went out with a friend around 1am to shoot Cathedral Rock, from a different vantage point, and we shot first with moonlight and then left our cameras in the same place until the moon went down around 2:30am and then we shot the Milky Way. Later, when I worked on the images, I layer masked them together in Photoshop. I knew with this setting that I could never lightpaint the red rocks nearly as good as the moon could light them. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that the moonlight will work better than any kind of light painting.

Moonlight and Milky way above Sedona

Moonlight and Milky way above Sedona

In the image below, also in the red rocks of Sedona, I planned on capturing a panorama of the Milky Way, just before the moon went down, so that I could get beautiful moonlight all across the red rocks. The moon was less then half full and if the moonlight is not too bright,  you can combine everything in the same shot so that you don’t have to do any layer masking and do multiple images. It is also crucial that the moonrise or moonset is as far away from the Milky Way as possible. Moonlight by the Milky Way can ruin the image. Milky Way panoramas require more work but I love capturing them as all of the work is worth all of the effort!


Milky Way panorama and moonlight above Sedona

Below are more examples of lightpainting only, where it was completely dark out except for sometimes possibly distant lights. The only real source of light was my flashlight and sometimes the light painting can be for the main focal point or can be just for the foreground. I have many kinds of flashlights with different power intensities and color temperatures and finding the right one for a particular image is key.

Lightpainting only:

Lightpainting an old barn and tall grass in the Palouse

Lightpainting an old barn and tall grass in the Palouse

Lightpainting on my friends’ property in the Palouse

Lightpainting on my friends’ property in the Palouse

Lightpainting on the Devils Golfcourse in Death Valley

Lightpainting on the Devils Golfcourse in Death Valley

Lightpainting in an auto graveyard near Sedona

Lightpainting in an auto graveyard near Sedona

Lit by an iPad in Death Valley National Park

Lit by an iPad in Death Valley National Park



Sometimes, I like to include people in my after dark images and there are different ways to do that, usually with light painting. But I also like to use the light from a cellphone or iPad and you can come up with some pretty creative after dark images this way. The first image below was a two minute exposure in complete darkness at a junkyard. I positioned the two people just where I wanted them, while I had my headlamp on and then turned off my headlamp. I told them not to move for two minutes, which was not easy, but I knew in my head exactly what I wanted to capture before I set them up. I used a very low powered flashlight to paint them as low light is crucial with shots like this. It usually takes about 10 or 12 attempts before you get something you like, but the payoff is definitely worth it and I captured exactly what I had envisioned.

With the next image below with the young girl, we were in Death valley on one of my workshops. I placed her on a park bench in a perfect location and I lit her with just her iPad to illuminate her red fleece and her face. I knew how the shot would come out even before I took the photo. With enough experimenting, you can predict your results. And she got a pretty cool portrait from that fun night under the stars!

Stay tuned for Part II coming soon!

-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face


Editorialize Your Pictures

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 12.37.29 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-18 at 12.37.37 PM I don’t know about you but I like to have people stick around spending time looking at my photos. Now, I suppose there are photographers out there that shoot solely for their own gratification and never share their images for whatever reason. However, if we go on the assumption that photographers are artists that have chosen the camera as the medium, then it stands to reason that said photographers like to have people admire their work; I for one as an example.

Having said that, we can’t expect the viewer to spend very much time looking (unless they are wives, mothers, aunts, and sometimes even siblings) unless we give him something that makes it worthwhile; people just don’t have the time anymore.

One of the best ways is to add an editorial slant to your composition, and I talk about this a lot both in my online class with the BPSOP and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct all over the place.

Ok, so what do I mean by editorial? The word editorialize means to express or form an opinion; to ask the viewer to pose a question.

If you go to the post, you will see I have added a slide bar so you can go from one photographic thought to another. I shot the swing first by itself, then added one of my grandkids shoe. This concept is predicated on the idea of making the viewer an active participant. In other words keeping him involved will keep him around longer. This is about taking control of how the viewer perceives and processes information we give to him in the form of a photograph.

When you look at the swing by itself, you’re looking at a fairly interesting image mostly as a result of the dramatic way it’s backlit, the texture of the grass, leaves, and the shadow.

When you use your cursor to move the slide from left to right, it reveals an entirely different photograph. Simply by adding a red sneaker, I ask the viewer to raise a question. What question do you think it conjures up?

To me it asks: Why is that one shoe there? Why just one? Who does it belong to? What happened to make him forget or lose one shoe? Was he hurt? Is he going to into trouble? Etc.,etc.

So next time you’re out shooting take some props with you and try to add an editorial element. Remember that you’re an artist whose camera on a tripod is the same as a blank canvas on an easel; you’re a painter, so paint.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

Great Light

When does a used bar of orange soap reach a level of critical significance in the world of photographic image making?

My students and myself were unexpectedly presented with a chance to shoot great light of a simple bar of orange soap, atop a white sink, attached to a blue painted wall in Jodhpur, India. As we entered a small archway that led to a small courtyard, my eyes caught site of a small shaft of light raining down onto a bar of soap. Not just any bar of soap but an ORANGE bar of soap; orange, the color compliment to blue!

In a matter of seconds, the light was gone but not before it had been immortalized.

Yes, I LOVE to come upon “great light!”

But, I’ve never been a fan of the belief that when it comes to the creation of ‘powerful images’ that GREAT LIGHT is absolutely essential! The voice of great light can seldom rise above the roar of a bad composition. Whereas a well balanced composition can more than calm the voice of poor light!

In this case it’s fair to say that all of us, brief as it was, were able to combine great light and a well balanced and VIVID composition.

Nikon D500, Nikkor 18-300mm, ISO 400, F/11 @ 1/320 sec.

You keep shooting!

You Keep Shooting,

-BPSOP Founder – Bryan F Peterson

Bryan Teaches:

Understanding Exposure & Your DSLR

Understanding Color, Seeing Color & Composing Color

Understanding Close-Up Photography

Mastering Nikon Flash Photography

The Art of Seeing

Understanding Composition

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