Top Photo Enlargement Tips 2018-02-20T22:28:58+00:00

Top Photo Enlargement Tips

Need to enlarge an image? Massive, crisp photo enlargements using today’s high-resolution digital cameras can be used in stunning ways, from custom vehicle paint jobs to wall murals and huge posters. The following six tips will assure eye-popping results when enlarging images, and are useful considerations as you work with digital pictures for any purpose:

1. Consider “forced resolution” techniques.

Ever have an image that is 72 or 96 dots per inch resolution you’ve been told isn’t good enough for printing? Would you like to be able to increase the dots per inch (DPI) resolution while keeping the photo the exact same size?

Forced resolution technique

The old way to do this involved a rather crude technique of repeating tiny enlargement procedures of 10% to an image in Photoshop or other photo editing software. Sophisticated photo enlargement software produces much crisper results than Photoshop photo enlargement techniques by using advanced photo interpolation algorithms during enlargement.

The basic procedure is to:

  1. Note the original size of the image before doing anything;
  2. Instruct photo enlargement software to resize the image to a specific resolution rather than a specific size or percentage enlargement;
  3. Choose a simple interpolation algorithm or enlargement engine similar to Photoshop for downsizing the image;
  4. Resize the image back its original dimensions that you wrote down in a second operation.

This provides an image that can look indistinguishable from the low resolution 72 or 96 dots per inch image that you started with only now it can be printed.

Full article: “Forcing Resolution Into Images.”

2. Image resolution matters.

Speaking of image resolution, make sure to obtain the highest resolution image you can. The “forced resolution” technique above will not work for massive enlargements. To get eye-popping results images need to be at least 200 dots-per-inch (DPI) for purposes of enlargement; 300 or more DPI is even better. What exactly does this mean?

Digital images such as graphics on a web page or photos from a digital camera are all made up of pixels – “picture elements” – tiny units of picture information. Every image on your computer is represented by this colored grid of pixels.

Low and High Resolution Comparison

Digital cameras record pixels, scanners convert paper prints into pixels, photo-editing software manipulates pixels, computer monitors display pixels, and printers print pixels onto paper.

Computers use pixels to measure instead of inches. Printers use inches to measure instead of pixels. Therefore an image on the screen can appear very different than the same image when printed.

Pixels transform into inches through what is called “resolution,” – the number of pixels per square inch on a computer. So DPI or dots-per-inch is an expression of the resolution of an image. Resolution allows you to transform pixels into inches and back again.

Some photography shops have huge machines that are hardware photo enlargers. They look like giant microscopes, some taller than an average person. Try to think image resolution in terms of what you would need to enlarge a photo with one of these expensive hardware photo enlargers. You would need a beginning photo print that had a sufficient record of the detail in the image – that had sufficient image resolution. If you took an image below 200 DPI to a hardware photo enlarger you would not get satisfactory results even on the highest machines. Internet images or otherwise low-resolution photos don’t have enough tiny dots that make up the picture. Before enlargement, this is the most important consideration. Remember, no hardware photo enlarger or any photo software can enlarge what simply is not there.

Read more: “Image Resolution 101 – How and Why to Change Resolution in Photos and Images.”

3. Avoid lossy formats.

Many photo software editing programs give you certain options when saving JPEG (or JPG) images. You can choose the “quality” or “compression” amount of the image as you save it. But what does this really mean?

TIFF and JPEG resolution representation differences

The JPEG image format is a “lossy” image format. This means saving in the JPEG (JPG) format always attempts to take image information out of the image. Image quality and resolution are never improved using JPEG. Even saving a JPEG image using the highest quality setting (least compression) drops information from the photo, though the lost information will be in the brightest or least noticeable areas. Opening a JPEG and resaving a JPEG will accumulate loss in the photo.

JPEG compression works by examining pixel brightness, then assigning that pixel a “score” on a scale of -1024 to +1024. JPEG compression (“optimization”) works according to brightness – not by color. Compression is greater in brighter less visible areas of the image and less in darker areas. JPEG compression uses a complicated mathematical formula that operates on 8×8 blocks of pixels to score brightness. Magnifying jpeg images clearly reveals these blocks.




Why is this important? Many people think JPEG images are great for printing (and enlarging) because they often look very good on web pages or in photo directories. Remember though that JPEG was developed for use on the web, where file size considerations are very important. Before the web, back in the days when glossy magazine type printing was the primary media, graphic artists had little use for GIF or JPEG images all images were printed. So, when choosing which format to save your images to, consider what you are going to use the image for – if it is for printing or photo enlargement, GIF or JPEG formats should be avoided, and TIFF or possibly PCX should be considered as better (less lossy) alternatives.

4. Increase memory on your computer.

Computer memory is relatively inexpensive these days and will make your computer run faster anyway. This is very important for photo enlargement purposes.

Computer memoryPhoto enlargement is not like any other computer operation.  It can be extremely memory consuming as the computer must hold:

  • the image itself plus …
  • the photo enlargement program, and …
  • the completed photo enlargement …

… all in memory at the same time. If the beginning or original image is at all sizeable, as it should be if you’ve made sure to choose a high-resolution image in a non-lossy format, memory quickly becomes a consideration to successfully enlarge an image. Make sure your computer has as much memory as possible.

5. Sharpen image, even if not enlarging.

Every digital image can be improved by employing the software version of sharpening procedures photographers have been using for decades. A procedure called “unsharp mask,” and most photo editing software has this ability. This procedure will make any photo sharper.

Sharpened image of China without enlargement

The simplest explanation of the unsharp mask sharpening procedure is to copy the image you want to sharpen, make the copy slightly more blurry then blend the two back together. This produces what looks like the faint ghost of the original image and is then used as a filter or “mask” over the original image to make it sharper. Click here for the simplest definition of how to use unsharp mask settings.

6. Use software for photo enlargement.

Use software for photo enlargement. There are many programs available that edit photographs that range in price from free and online offerings to relatively expensive. Even the most expensive photo software programs have limitations regarding photo enlargement. Photo enlargement in Photoshop, for example, provides rather crude and simple methods for enlargement. This is because Photoshop and other photo editing programs are for just that, editing. Photo enlargement is not editing, it is an operation performed on an entire image and does not change the content of the image. Read more about Photoshop photo enlargement.

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