Working with Resolution on Your Nikon D60
Before you print your Nikon D60 photos, whether you want to do it on your own printer or send them to a lab, you’ll want to make sure the resolution matches your print size. Resolution, or the number of pixels in your digital image, plays a huge role in how large you can print your photos and still maintain good picture quality.
Consider the following pointers:
On your D60, you set picture resolution via the Image Size option, which you can access either via the Shooting menu or the Quick Settings display. You must select this option before you capture an image, which means that you need some idea of your ultimate print size before you shoot. And remember that if you crop your image, you eliminate some pixels, so take that factor into account when you do the resolution math.
For good print quality, the minimum pixel count is 200 pixels per linear inch, or 200 ppi. That means that if you want a 4-x-6-inch print, you need at least 800 x 1200 pixels.
Depending on your printer, you may get even better results at 200+ ppi. Some printers do their best work when fed 300 ppi, and a few (notably, some from Epson) request 360 ppi as the optimum resolution. However, going higher than that typically doesn’t produce any better prints.
Unfortunately, because most printer manuals don’t bother to tell you what image resolution produces the best results, finding the right resolution is a matter of experimentation. (Don’t confuse the manual’s statements related to the printer’s dpi with ppi. DPI refers to how many dots of color the printer can lay down per inch; many printers use multiple dots to reproduce one image pixel.)
If you’re printing your photos at a retail kiosk or at an online site, the printing software that you use to order your prints should determine the resolution of your file and then guide you as to the suggested print size. But if you’re printing on a home printer, you need to be the resolution cop. (Some programs, however, do alert you in the Print dialog box if the resolution is dangerously low.)
So what do you do if you find that you don’t have enough pixels for the print size you have in mind? You just have to decide what’s more important, print size or print quality.
If your print size does exceed your pixel supply, one of two things must happen:
The pixel count remains constant, and pixels simply grow in size to fill the requested print size. And if pixels get too large, you get a defect known as pixelation. The picture starts to appear jagged, or stairstepped, along curved or digital lines. Or at worst, your eye can actually make out the individual pixels, and your photo begins to look more like a mosaic than, well, a photograph.
The pixel size remains constant, and the printer software adds pixels to fill in the gaps. You can also add pixels, or resample the image, in your photo software.
Wherever it’s done, resampling doesn’t solve the low resolution problem. You’re asking the software to make up photo information out of thin air, and the result is usually an image that looks worse than it did before resampling. You don’t get pixelation, but details turn muddy, giving the image a blurry, poorly rendered appearance.