Image Size, File Size and Resolution. Confused?

It can be very confusing trying to understand the significance of image size, resolution and file size, and how they relate to each other. Throw in pixel densities such as DPI and PPI as well and you could be forgiven if your head starts spinning.

It helps to start with the basic building block of any digital image – the pixel.

A pixel is a dot. It’s a single point of light that has two main properties – colour and brightness. You’ll find these pixels everywhere – on computer monitors, TVs and mobile phones, for example. When you combine these pixels in to rows and columns you can form a picture. These rows and columns of pixels can also be arranged on an image sensor in a camera to capture images. If you have an arrangement of 3000 columns and 2000 rows of pixels, you can form an image 3000×2000 pixels. We could refer to this as the image size or image dimensions. We could also describe it as a 6 megapixel image (3,000 x 2,000 = 6,000,000). This is what we call image¬†resolution. You could also think of it as quality. A higher resolution image has more pixels, producing a higher quality image. More pixels means more picture information.

As well as image resolution, you might also come across screen resolution and print resolution. These refer to the density of display pixels on a screen or printed matter. Typically a computer display will have a pixel density of 90-100 pixels per inch (PPI). Printers on the other hand will pack 300 pixels in to an inch – and will refer to them as “dots” not “pixels” – so you will hear about print resolutions of 300DPI or 600DPI (higher and lower values may also be used). Obviously, the tighter the dots or pixels are packed together, the higher the image quality. If we display our 6 megapixel image on a monitor with a pixel density of 100 PPI, it will have a displayed size of 30 ¬†x 20 inches. However, if we print the same image on a 300DPI printer, it’ll only be 10 x 6.6 inches.

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The Funeral

The idea of photographing a funeral may at first appear to be somewhat unconventional. After all, grief does not make a pretty picture and why would anyone want to record such an unhappy event anyway? Well, the reason I was asked to cover a funeral recently was because the deceased had close family in Australia and New Zealand and were unable to attend the event. I was approached to provide a photographic record of the day and provide an online slideshow of proceedings so that those who were unable to pay their respects in person could get an idea of how the day went.

One of the first things to establish from the client is exactly what they want, and just as important, what they don’t want from the coverage. For this particular assignment I was given a pretty free range, with the obvious commitment not to intrude on grief or picture sobbing friends and relatives. It is also very important to be as discreet as possible.

As with many such assignments, where you’re providing a photographic documentary of the day, planning is key. Before the event I visited all the locations and met some of the key players, such as undertakers, priests and gravediggers. My plan was to cover the day from the moment the hearse left the undertakers through to the wake following the burial. I visited the funeral director to make them aware of my engagement and to discuss timings. I also visited the church to meet the priest and to get an idea of the layout of the church so that I could establish the best positions from which to take photos so as to get the best angle and make the most efficient use of light. It also helps to think about how and when you are going to move about the church quietly and discreetly during the service without becoming a distraction. I then visited the graveyard to view the location for the burial and introduce myself. Obviously the sight of someone with a long lens photographing a burial is going to arouse suspicions so it’s important that key people are forewarned as to what’s happening.

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