Optimizing Digital Image Resolution

Pixel editing software makes it possible to radically alter many characteristics of digital images, which include the size and color of pixels and your image's contrast and sharpness along with many other qualities.

But in this sense, bit depth and resolution can be considered Core Digital Values because the only time it's possible to establish these qualities is when the image is captured, either by a digital camera or a scanner. This is because bit depth and resolution are functions of the amount of memory your scanner or digital camera commits to actually gathering visual information from your subject, and once the subject is out of sight this is no longer possible.

Digital editing software provides you with very tempting options for increasing the resolution of digital images if you discover that the resolution is too low after your image has already been scanned or captured. This is called "interpolation."

The problem is that when you interpolate you are asking the computer to mathematically simulate visual information that it can't actually see. This always results in a noticeable loss of image quality.*

Understanding how to optimize a digital image's resolution begins with having a very clear idea of how you ultimately intend to display your photograph. The optimal resolution for an

*This principle only applies to bitmapped or rasterized images that are made from image pixels.Vector-based images can be scaled to larger sizes without a loss of quality. See the Glossary for definitions of these terms.

image that will be displayed on the Web is very different from one that you intend to print with an ink jet printer.

The more thought you give to this decision at the beginning of the process, the more you are likely to avoid painful choices in the end.

For this reason our next cardinal rule is: Capture or scan at resolutions and bit depths based upon the type and ultimate size of your final image and never interpolate unless it can't be avoided.

The following steps will show you how to optimize your resolution for different digital outcomes.

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