Have you come across an image in your digital library you’d love to print and frame, but you are unsure what size to go for? It’s a fairly common issue because not every size can be printed from any photo.
Standard framing sizes cover various print size options, but what you’re best with depends on where you intend to place the printed photo once it’s framed.
For placing on a shelf, desktop, or a side table, smaller frame sizes such as 4x6, 5x7 and 8x10 can look terrific. When you want the frame hung on a wall, provided it is going to be a standalone piece and not part of a larger display, the 8x10 may be a little too small that would end up with far too much space surrounding it making it look isolated. Modest size frames for wall displays tend to start at 11x14 and go larger from there.
To get a feel for the size of print that would be best for your photo, consider the intent of the print. If you want it printed and framed to display on a shelf, under 8x10 may be more suitable than a larger frame. For hanging on a wall, larger frames are, more often than not, a requirement so that the print stands out when it’s on display.
Accounting for mount sizes
For the best protection and better display options, it’s always worthwhile to invest a little extra for a mount to keep the print separated from the glazing in the frame. As a rule of thumb using the standard frame sizes, the size of the frame should be one size up (at least) from the size of the print. That’s to say that if you order a print size of 4x6, you’d want the size of the frame to be at least 5x7. The unused space will be taken up with a picture mount creating a border around the print while keeping it away from glazing. It is possible to go a couple of sizes up and use different mount dimensions such as a double mount with a narrower or wider border creating some visual changes to the display. An example would be going narrow on the top with a wide bottom border which can alter the aesthetics when viewing the print. It’s also possible to use your mounts to add a signature to the artwork without putting ink to the art itself.
Determining How Big You Can Print Based on Image Resolution
The majority of digital cameras (even the ones on your smartphone) are capable of taking print-worthy photos. How printable depends on the sensor and the viewing distance the print will be viewed from.
The majority of quality prints are done at 300 DPI (dots per inch). However, the picture quality needs to have enough megapixels in the image to achieve a quality print that doesn’t appear pixelated (tiny squares visible when you look at the photo).
In general, the lower quality the sensor is on the camera that captured the photo, the smaller an image you’ll be able to print. Generally, a 3MP sensor can capture enough detail to print a 7x5 photo without pixilation. Increasing the print size for the same photo to 10x8 with a 200dpi print quality would result in slight pixilation, which may be okay if the photo is going to be viewed from a distance, but that’s rarely the case on smaller pictures.
For larger frames suitable for large digital prints, the ideal camera sensor would be 6MP and above, preferably 8MP. A 6MP sensor could make a photo printable with good detail at 10x8”, whereas an 8MP camera sensor would be able to print the same quality at 300dpi at 12x8”. And if you were to size up to account for the mount size, an 11x14 frame would allow for a couple of inches border size around the print, which could also be used to add some complimentary colour surrounding the photograph while adding an extra layer of protection.
Need to know how to work out the megapixels of your image?
A megapixel is roughly equal to 1 million pixels, so that’s the number to divide your total pixel count by to work out the ideal size to print at.
On your computer, (if the image is on your phone, connect it via USB to a PC or laptop) navigate to the images folder, open the image you want to print, right-click and select properties. Click the details tab, and you’ll see the number of pixels for the height and width. Multiply the two numbers together, then divide by 1,000,000. As an example, an image with 2048 pixels in height and 1536 pixels wide, when multiplied gives you a total megapixel count of 3,145,728. Divide that by 1,000,000, and you get 3.146. Rounded, it’s been taken with a camera using a 3MP camera - enough detail to print 7x5”, and possibly frame with an 8x6” frame with a mount.
It should be noted that when viewing images online - whether in a search engine or on a website – they are optimised for online viewing and rarely can be printed with quality. If you take a look at any of our stock photos, you’ll notice they look top quality on your screen, but they cannot be printed without the original file. To print them, we use the high-resolution original image files. Online photos tend to be under 0.3 megapixels, therefore unprintable. It’s the same with photos you upload to social media. While editing the photos is an option, the best prints are obtained from the original photo and not copies downloaded just by saving the image to your phone or computer unless it’s an original image file sent to you by the person who took the photo.