How large can you print?
Have you ever wondered how large you can print a photo without sacrificing quality? As you might imagine, there are a number of factors to weigh before answering your question:
1. What type of camera did you use to take the photo? (cell phone camera, small digital camera, DSLR - digital single lens reflex camera)
2. If you took the photo using a DSLR camera, what sensor were you using (APS -C, Four Thirds, or Full Frame)?
3. What was your camera's megapixel size and more importantly, did you have your camera set on the highest quality setting?
4. Is your photo in sharp focus and not even slightly blurry/out of focus?
5. What ISO setting did you use to take the photo (100, 200, 400, 800 etc.)?
6. How large a photo would you like to print?
7. Will you be printing on paper (glossy, textured, matte, or printing on canvas?
8. What will be your typical viewing distance?
9. Did you crop your original image or keep the original size?
As you can see, there are a number of factors that will affect the over quality of your photo and how large you can ultimately print. So let's take a look at these so that we can determine the largest print size.
Cell phone cameras and small (pocket size), digital cameras use a very small sensor to record the image, so assuming the photo is in focus and you didn't use a high ISO rating over 400, I would estimate the largest size you could print with acceptable quality would be an 8x10 photo.
Let's say you created the photo using a DSLR camera using a Four Thirds or APS-C sensor (most common), the image is in sharp focus, the camera was set up to shoot in the highest resolution, you didn't crop the image and you used a lower ISO speed of 100-400, then please note the following estimated maximum sizes for producing good quality photos ( note I didn't say perfect quality - 300 dpi, but rather good/acceptable quality):
8 - mega pixel: 11"x14"; 12 mega pixel: 16"x24"; 16-18 mega pixel: 20"x30"; 24 mega pixel: 24"x36"; 40+ mega pixel: 30"x40"
Large prints are typically hung on walls and viewed at a distance, which allows for the larger sizes. Glossy paper is the most likely to show lower resolution, so you may want to print on a textured paper, matte paper or on canvas.
If you own a full frame camera, even if the mega pixels are 18-24, you should be able to print up to 30x40 with good quality due to the larger sensor size.
Ron Bowman, NH Landscape Photographer