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There are some photos that either surprise you with how well they came out or capture a special moment that you never want to forget. On other occasions, you might be putting together a photography exhibition or creating a poster, or larger scale prints, to hang on the walls of your home or workplace. In these cases, knowing how to enlarge a photo without losing image quality is an essential skill to have as a photographer.
Enlarging a photo, or ‘blowing it up’, is the process of increasing the size of an image from its original format of capture. This does come with problems though; the main one being the loss of quality during the enlargement process, if it’s not done correctly.
Why Is Quality Loss An Issue When You’re Enlarging A Photo?
When you change the size of an image you will either expand or shrink the pixels that make up the picture as you do so. A ‘pixel’ is a tiny area of color in an image which makes up the whole picture.
This means that if you shrink a photo you will reduce the size of the pixels in the image and therefore you won’t lose any quality. On the other hand, if you enlarge the same image, the individual pixels will become larger and will reduce the overall quality of the image. It will become less sharp, blurred or ‘over-pixelated’.
However, there are ways that you can enlarge your photo without losing quality. There are always limits to how much you can enlarge an image before you start to lose picture quality although there are still ways to mitigate this as well if you plan ahead and make a few changes to the settings you’re using on your camera.
How To Optimize Photos For Enlargement?
If you know in advance that you want to enlarge the photos you are taking then there are a few simple things you can do to help you avoid quality loss in the process.
- Use A Good Quality Digital Camera: If you have a digital camera you should certainly use this over your smartphone. Although modern smartphones produce pretty high quality images, a purpose built digital camera, particularly a newer model, can still outperform them on image quality. To make sure you simply need to check the megapixels on both devices to see which is higher; and once you know which is higher use that one for photos you want to enlarge.
- Shoot In RAW: When you’re using your digital camera it’s always a good idea to shoot in a RAW format because the camera gathers more information for the image than with a standard setting. The downside of this is that your photos will take up more space on your memory card but if you’re intending to enlarge the images then it’s going to be worth it. Alternatively, if you want to use the Jpeg mode then just ensure that you’ve set it to the highest possible settings. This will give you more pixels per inch and therefore, allow you to enlarge the prints without losing as much quality.
- Reduce The Noise Levels When Taking Your Photos: You can help to eliminate the ‘noise’ levels in your photos by shooting in a low ISO setting. Any noise in your photo will be exaggerated in an enlarged photo so trying to keep it to a minimum while shooting will improve the quality of the enlargements. If you are taking photos in bright conditions with a low ISO you can also reduce the camera’s shutter speed to compensate for the low ISO. Just remember, it’s always easier to use a tripod when shooting at lower shutter speeds because you’ll avoid getting shakes in the image which will really stand out in any enlarged photo.
Enlarging Your Photos Without Losing Quality.
To enlarge a photo you will need to use some post production software, of which there is a wide range of choices. The most commonly used software is Adobe Photoshop although there are other good alternatives that are used by editors and photographers around the world. Different software’s have various pros and cons that should be considered; with some being simple and user friendly while others are more complex and designed mainly for heavy duty post production.
Programs For Enlarging Your Images – Paid And Free Options.
There are many free and paid options for enlarging your photos. The following are a few that you should consider:
This premium software is not free but it’s well worth the cost since it has a huge range of features and incredible functionality that’s equal to any professional studio. Resizing images in Photoshop is pretty straightforward so you should have no problems getting to grips with the process.
Photoshop’s ‘Perfect Resize’ feature helps you by automating the process of enlarging an image for you. This function will resize the image for you without losing image quality and alert you if quality is going to be lost.
To use this feature you need to click on ‘File’, then ‘Automate’, and then choose the ‘Perfect Resize’ option. This will open in a separate window where you can select from a series of templates for resizing or, alternatively, you can input your own desired dimensions for the program to work with. Once you’ve selected the dimensions that you want to be resized you just click on ‘File’, then hit ‘Apply’ and your image will be resized for you in a matter of moments.
This excellent free software can be an extremely useful tool for photographers who want to quickly resize their images. This multimedia software is a great choice for resizing your images although you need to be aware that it’s only available for Windows computers.
Irfanview’s interface is a little bit dated but it’s still a highly functional tool which works quickly and smoothly. The capabilities of the software are not as good as some of their competitors but as a free option it’s very good. It’s also worth noting that the software is only free for non commercial use so really it’s designed for hobbyists as opposed to professionals.
To resize an image using Irfanview you first need to click the ‘Image’, then choose the ‘Resize/Resample’ option. The resize screen should come up and allow you to select the dimensions that you want to enlarge to in the ‘Set Image Size’ option. Lastly, you press the ‘Resample’ button. You should also select the ‘Apply Sharpen After Sample’ option as well because this will help to retain the image quality following its resize.
GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is undoubtedly the leading free alternative to paid options such as Adobe Photoshop and over the years it’s come a long way, relying on open source programmers and designers in its construction.
It’s resizing tool is quite limited though and so you’ll only want to use this for relatively small image enlargements. To resize your image select ‘Image’, and then choose ‘Scale’. You can then put in your chosen dimensions. Lastly, you can click the ‘Quality’ option and choose ‘Sinc as Interpolation’ and ‘Scale’. Your image will be quickly resized for you without losing quality in the process.
How To Enlarge Old Photos That Are Not Digital?
Enlarging photos which are not stored in a digital format can be tricky and you might wonder if it’s even possible, however it’s easier than you might think. The first thing you’ll need to do is to get your photo into a digital format. To do this you can simply use a home scanner.
A standard home scanner should capture around 1200 DPI but you should also be able to adjust the resolution settings on your scanner to ramp them up to the maximum for scanning an old photo. This means you can easily get a high enough quality for resizing on your computer before reprinting them at a larger scale.
Once you have enlarged your image on the computer you should always produce a few test prints before you send off a large order! Otherwise you might find that the photos that you had planned to hang on the wall of an exhibition aren’t up to scratch.
Enlarging Photos Without Losing Quality Is Easier Than You Think – Either For Free Or By Using Paid Software.
There are some photos that you’ve taken which really deserve to be seen at scale! It’s always great to enlarge photos to hang on your walls at home or at the office, and if you’re planning to put on an exhibition then it’s absolutely essential! Once you’ve found the right software for you and are used to the interface you’ll be able to enlarge batches of photos in no time.
This will help you to get more exposure for your work and enjoy the best photos that you’ve taken. Enlarged photos make a fantastic gift for friends and family and are a wonderful way to create lasting memories for yourself and others.