Your Photos: Quality for what Purpose? The Upshot

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January 29, 2008

Here’s what I woke up to today. This only happens a once or twice a year in beautiful Vancouver, BC.:

Winter’s Day

I’m excited and rush to capture it on my trusty digital camera. Now, what am I going to do with this snapshot? Hmmm, if it’s like 99% of my photos, it will never be printed. But when I’m on the road, I do intend to upload ALL my decent photos – sometimes hundreds in one go – to my current Trip Journal.

In parts 1 and 2 of this article, I discussed how, in my opinion, amateur photographers often take much higher quality photos than they’ll ever need.

So, What’s the Upshot?

What’s your camera setting to be?? It really boils down to just a few options:

  1. If you want to preserve a high-quality version of every photo you take – just in case you may wish to print it later – you can:
    • take all your photos at a high-resolution , and upload them through the internet to a reliable source, such as your Trip Journal. This will keep you waiting, but you will get to keep a back-up copy of your very highest-quality photos which you can retrieve whenever you want; OR
    • use photo-editing software to reduce the quality before uploading it. Jon Vermilye described this process in his recent post, Changing Resolution. You then keep the original backup yourself on memory cards, your laptop, hard drive etc. (If you use the MyTripJournal system, you will find links to tips and editing software suggestions on your photo upload pages.)
  2. On the other hand, if you don’t want to wait around for uploading, nor fiddle with your photos after you’ve taken them, you can make a compromise. Set your camera to the lowest resolution that will still produce good enough small prints. These can be uploaded quickly. Then, if you see something really special that you think you may want to print on a 5×7 or larger, just adjust your camera’s setting to take a higher-quality photo that time.

My Personal Preference

I prefer the last option. This method allows me and my wife, Faye, to upload as many photos as we want on a daily basis as we travel. I don’t need to save extra copies or fiddle with editing software, unless I see a special shot.

What’s my “Lowest Acceptable Quality”?

This is a matter of personal preference. To determine the lowest acceptable quality to you, you will need to do some experimenting. Take a few different types of shots on your camera’s different resolution settings, then print them out in a few different sizes. Mark down which were taking at which settings. You then decide which is the lowest acceptable setting for everyday small prints, and what setting you want to use for the odd would-be masterpiece.

Then, start snapping!

Dan Parlow

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1 comment

  1. Dan:
    I think that’s bad advice. If you have your camera set to a low resolution and then have a fleeting opportunity to get the “shot of a lifetime” — you only have a low resolution version. You can never “upsize” the quality of a photo!
    I always recommend shooting the highest possible resolution in jpg format. Large memory cards are inexpensive. Storage on hard drives and DVD’s is dirt cheap. I’m sort of a “Blind Squirrel” photographer – take lots of shots and some of them will turn out great. The most time consuming process (other than the slow connections often encountered) is choosing which photos to post. After that it only takes a couple of minutes to resize them to internet quality. My camera jpg;s run about 4 megabytes each.
    As a result I have the best of both worlds: screen resolutions to post and share, and best possible quality for archive. On a trip I download my memory card each night to my laptop, and a portable hard drive. The portable saved my trip last spring when my laptop crashed in Mexico, and would not restart. Lost all the photos on the laptop, but the copies on the portable drive were still there. I usually also burn DVD’s every few days. You can’t have too many backups — from 20 years experience supporting computer users.