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Resizing Digital Camera Photos

If you’re used to resizing scans, you’ll find that resizing images from digital cameras is a bit different, primarily because scanners create high-res scans (usually 300 ppi or more), but the default settings for many digital cameras produce an image that is large in physical dimensions, but lower in pixels-per-inch (usually 72 ppi). The trick is to decrease the physical size of your digital camera image (and increase its resolution) without losing any of its quality. Here’s the trick:

Step One:

Open the digital camera image that you want to resize. Press Command-R (PC: Ctrl-R) to make Photoshop’s rulers visible. As you can see from the rulers, the photo is about 59" wide by 39" high.

Step Two:

Go under the Image menu and choose Image Size (or press Command-Option-I [PC: Ctrl-Alt-I]) to bring up the Image Size dialog. As you can see here, the Resolution setting is 72 ppi. A resolution of 72 ppi is considered “low resolution” and is ideal for photos that will only be viewed onscreen (such as web graphics, slide shows, and so on), but it’s too low to get high-quality results from a color inkjet printer, color laser printer, or for use on a printing press.

Step Three:

If we plan to output this photo to any printing device, it’s pretty clear that we’ll need to increase the resolution to get good results. I wish we could just type in the resolution we’d like it to be in the Resolution field (such as 200 or 240 ppi), but unfortunately this “resampling” makes our low-res photo appear soft (blurry) and pixelated. That’s why we need to turn off the Resample checkbox (it’s on by default). That way, when we type in a Resolution setting that we need, Photoshop automatically adjusts the Width and Height of the image down in the exact same proportion. As your Width and Height come down (with Resample turned off), your Resolution goes up. Best of all, there’s absolutely no loss of quality. Pretty cool!

Step Four:

Here I’ve turned off Resample and I entered 240 in the Resolution field for output to a color inkjet printer. (I know, you probably think you need a lot more resolution, but you don’t. In fact, I never print with a resolution higher than 240 ppi.) This resized my image to nearly 12x18" so it’s just about perfect for printing to my Epson Stylus Photo R2880 printer, which makes up to 13x19"-sized prints—perfect!

Step Five:

Here, I’ve lowered the Resolution setting to 180 ppi. (Again, you don’t need nearly as much resolution as you’d think, but 180 ppi is pretty much about as low as you should go when printing to a color inkjet printer.) As you can see, the Width of my image is now almost 24" and the Height is now almost 16". Best of all, we did it without damaging a single pixel, because we were able to turn off Resample, which normally, with things like scans, we couldn’t do.

Step Six:

When you click OK, you won’t see the image window change at all—it will appear at the exact same size onscreen—but look at the rulers. You can see that it’s now almost 16" high by almost 24" wide. Resizing using this technique does three big things: (1) it gets your physical dimensions down to size (the photo now fits easily on a 16x24" sheet); (2) it increases the resolution enough so you can output this image on a color inkjet printer; and (3) you haven’t softened, blurred, or pixelated the image in any way—the quality remains the same—all because you turned off Resample. Note: Do not turn off Resample for images that you scan on a scanner—they start as high-res images in the first place. Turning Resample off like this is only for low-res photos taken with a digital camera.

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