Week 9: Printing, Dropbox and Task Management

To print or not to print

Greg Needham wrote a great article titled Print More over on Medium where he explains why he committed to printing more of his photographs in 2014. He says:

When we view photographs on the web, there’s always another photo right below the one we are looking at. Or there is a thumbnail gallery to the right, beckoning you to come click, see another, move on through the line. Consuming is fast and quick.

This is painfully true. The way I perceive a photograph in a book or a print in my hand is so different than looking at it online.

I recently noticed this while searching for John Loengard's work. I own a beautiful book of his called Pictures Under Discussion that I was reading a few weeks ago. After a while, I jumped online to see if I could find more of his photographs and I quickly noticed that while reading the book I stopped at every photograph for several minutes. I took it all in. I read the accompanying story. I immersed myself in his work. But online each picture got no more than a few seconds of my attention.

I'm going to join Greg and print more of my photographs this year. I want to create a few books as well.

Dropbox Terms of Service changes

Dropbox announced a change in their TOS last week. I'm not a lawyer and honestly don't understand exactly what it means to me. And since I'm in Australia it's even more confusing. I find these things extremely boring but people who's opinion I value have made negative comments about this change.

Here's how Sam Glover at The Lawyerist explains it in simple terms (in the comments):

Unless you opt out, you cannot sue Dropbox in court. Instead, you have to go to arbitration. Arbitration on its own is not necessarily horrible. But forcing every dispute into arbitration, where the arbitrators are mostly paid by the corporation, is generally regarded as anti-consumer.

Forcing you to waive class actions means that consumers will have no recourse as a group against Dropbox. Dropbox obviously likes this because, given the relatively low fees it charges, individual actions are not likely to be financially viable. Class actions are probably the only way consumers would be able to go after Dropbox.

You'll have to make your own mind about what it means to you, but if you want to opt out of the arbitration process you can do so here.

The Beginners Guide to Task Management

Very good article by Michael Hyatt on task management. I use a combination of OmniFocus and Evernote for this, whereas Michael uses Nozbe. But the principles he explains are applicable no matter what software you use.

Speaking of task management software, I've used OmniFocus for years and it's worked well for me. But I'm not sure what happened with version 2. A beta version was shown over a year ago when they did an event during Macworld but they put it on hold or changed direction shortly after that. I don't know what's going on and this article from Michael has me looking at Nozbe. It looks good so far. I've created a free account (up to 5 projects) to test it out.

How many megapixels do I need for a specific print size?

I get asked how many megapixels do I need for a specific print size quite often. It's a common question and it seems to be a source of confusion and frustration for many people.

The truth is that most modern cameras have enough megapixels to cover the print sizes most people would want, so my admittedly cheeky answer is if you have to ask, don't worry about it.

But this question seems to keep coming up. In the last few weeks I've heard:

  • How big a print can I make with my camera?
  • If I want to make an X size print, how many megapixels do I need?
  • Can I make A3 prints with my camera? (A3 is roughly equivalent to tabloid)

So, the short (and more polite) answer is if you bought your camera in the last few years, don't worry. You have enough megapixels for an A3 photograph, and probably even higher.

The long answer is, of course, it depends.

It's important to understand that the quality of a print is not based purely on how many megapixels your camera sensor has. Many factors influence the quality of a final print, such as:

  • Exposure
  • Focus
  • Lens quality
  • Digital Noise (from high ISO)
  • Sensor dust
  • Sensor size (or more accurately, pixel size) Post-processing (I use Apple Aperture for most of my work)
  • Ink and paper choice

As an example, I have printed photographs from my very old 6 megapixel Nikon D70s at 16" x 16" that look amazing. And this is a 10 year old camera! But I have also printed photographs from the same camera at 5" x 7" that look pretty average.

Megapixels definitely are not the be all, end all of print quality.

Another point to consider is viewing distance. You can expect the viewer to hold a 5x7 print and look at it up close, but you wouldn't expect them to do the same with a 40 inch one. Bigger prints are usually framed and hanging from a wall, where the viewing distance is a meter or more. Resolution is not as critical in this case. Think of a billboard up in the roof of a building. If you got close enough to it, say 30 cms (the size of a standard school ruler), you'll see the photograph is highly pixelated and blurry, but from farther away (the appropriate viewing distance), it looks fine. Consider the viewing distance when deciding on the print size and how many megapixels you might need.

So how many megapixels do I need then?

OK, if you want details, here we go. All things being equal, the table below will give you an idea of the maximum print sizes you can make from a given camera's megapixels.

File sizes are based on a 12 bits/pixel RAW file. Hi-Res Print are based on 300dpi, which is roughly the standard for "photo quality" prints. Normal Print sizes will give you a good print if you start with a good file to begin with.

MP RESOLUTION FILE SIZE HI-RES PRINT NORMAL PRINT
2 1600x1200 ~ 2MB 5" x 4" (13cm x 10cm) 10" x 8" (27cm x 20cm)
3 2048x1536 ~ 3MB 7" x 5" (17cm x 13cm) 13" x 10" (35cm x 26cm)
5 2560x1920 ~ 6MB 8" x 6" (21cm x 16 cm) 17" x 13" (43cm x 32cm)
6 2816x2112 ~ 8MB 9" x 7" (24cm x 18cm) 19" x 14" (48cm x 36cm)
8 3264x2468 ~ 12MB 11" x 8" (28cm x 21 cm) 21" x 16" (55cm x 42 cm)
12 4000x3000 ~ 18MB 13" x 10" (34cm x 25cm) 26" x 20" (68cm x 50cm)
24 6048x4032 ~36MB 20" x 13" (51cm x 34cm) 40" x 27" (100cm x 68cm)

In summary, if you have 5 megapixels (photos from your iPhone 4 for example) you can print 8X10 with pretty decent quality (assuming a well exposed and sharp file).

If you have 10 megapixels you can print an A3 size photograph at photo quality. Most modern cameras have at least 10 megapixels.

See? Unless you're planning to make huge prints, don't worry about how many megapixels you need!