On Jan. 5, John Vermilye posted in this blog an excellent article on digital camera resolution. John has shared a wonderful collection of photos at http://www.lakeshoreimages.com.

By contrast, I am very much an amateur photographer, and I have worked to help thousands of others to wade their way through the sometime complicated world of recording digital images.

From my and my wife’s perspective, a very tiny percentage of photos taken on our trips has ever been printed on paper. The same goes for a lot of our friends:

Jane and Glenn snapping photos
Our Friends Jane and Glenn Trying to Out-Snap Each Other

So I write this article very much from the perspective of an online Trip Journaler.

Travelers on the road have sometimes competing objectives: maximize photo quality; minimize the time to send family your photos; optimize your friends’ ability to view your photos; make best use of computer storage space.

This week and next, I will consider the quality of photos needed to make for good prints AND for great online trip journals.

Quality needed for prints

I have put several of my friends through what I’ll call the digital equivalent of Pepsi-Coke taste test. I have at my desk a 5 x 7 framed print of my son Robin eating spaghetti:

Robin Eating Spaghetti
Robin Eating Spaghetti

I’ve asked many people to guess how large the file resolution is: mostly they guess over 2 megapixels; in fact the photo is less than 300K, so it could have easily been taken with a one-half megapixel setting!

According to Hewlett Packard, if you print out 4×6’s, you need only 640 x 480 pixels to make a beautiful printed photo. This is less than one-third of one megapixel! Even for 5×7 photo greeting cards, you need 1152 x 864 pixels, still less than one megapixel. Nonetheless, HP says this: “It’s a good idea to use a higher-quality setting if you plan on printing larger-than-wallet-sized pictures.” They suggest a 1 MP setting for the small photos and 3 MP for the 5×7’s.

Note: these figures are for your average bear; if you think you might want to sell your photos or have them reprinted in a magazine, or blown up for a photo show, you’ll want to take much higher-res photos than that.

The point is that many – dare I say most – of us take digital photos at a much higher resolution than we need. In part, this is due to camera company advertising. The pitch is: why accept last year’s 6 megapixel camera when you can have 8 or 10 megapixels this year? Certainly, serious photographers want and need as much resolution as possible. But most folks can be very happy with much less.

Next week, I’ll discuss the quality of photos needed for your Online Trip Journal, and consider how to optimize your level of snap-happiness!

Dan Parlow

<Personal Travel Websites by RV.Net ; Online Travel Journals by MyTripJournal.com ; Explore Good Sam Club Trip Journals ; Woodalls Trip Journals ; Travel Journals by Trailer Life Directory ; Traveling USA Travel Blogs

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