Resizing Digital Photos Print E-mail

The computer-related question that I'm asked most often is "How do I change the size of a digital photo?" I've decided it probably makes sense for me to invest the time to address this issue in a little more organized way. I'll try to strike a reasonable balance between over-simplified explanations and pure techno-babble.





There are several reasons why it sometimes becomes necessary to downsize a photo before uploading it to a website.


  • Computers configured to host websites (“web servers”) are usually rented by companies like Go Daddy and Yahoo on a monthly or annual basis. The website owner is actually purchasing shared access to the computing power, specialized software, disc space and high-speed internet connections of those servers. But affordable web hosting plans come with certain restrictions, notably limits on traffic volume and the amount of disc storage space used.
  • Keeping this allotted disc space issue in mind, consider the modern digital camera. When set on the highest pixel dimension (which, unnecessary as it usually is, almost everyone does) these cameras will produce images that are easily 3 or 4 megabytes in file size for each photo. That's big — and when displaying photos on a computer monitor, completely inappropriate. Photos with resolutions that high are required for quality printing, not displaying on a website.
  • To illustrate the above point, consider the fact that all Windows-based computers display graphics at 96 pixels per inch, no matter how large or costly the attached monitor may be. (Don't confuse screen size, screen resolution or dots per inch with this number; those measure quite different things.) These images which are 3,000+ pixels wide would require over 30 inches of screen width to display! And anyone with less than a 30-inch screen (practically all of us) would not be able to see the whole picture without scrolling back and forth.
  • There's also the problem of a user having to download a file that large, sometimes via a not-so-great internet connection.
  • The real bottom line here is . . . if a significant number of users were to upload 6 or 8 photos of 2-4 megabytes each, the allotted disc space for the website would quickly be exceeded, resulting in extra charges for the operator.


So for all these reasons, there's a need to limit the size and quantity of photos that users can upload. The current limit on this website is (20) photos of no more than 1200 x 1200 pixels, or a maximum file size of 2.5 megabytes each. That's MORE than big enough to show off any car in superb detail.





Having explained (possibly over-explained) the problem, let's talk solutions. But please understand this is NOT intended to be a step-by-step tutorial on resizing photos. There are too many user hardware/software configurations, too many program choices and too many differences in skill level to even attempt that. (Plus, it isn't all that complicated!) I'm simply pointing you toward some of the many free tools available.


Also, I'm purposely disregarding high-end graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, Adobe Fireworks, Corel Paint Shop Pro, etc. If you're already using software of that capability, you probably don't need to be reading this article.


Any list of programs that can re-size photos might be divided into two categories:


1. Software that's installed on your computer

2. Websites that do it for you online





These are all free programs which can be downloaded and installed by you.


  • Before you do anything, don't overlook software you might already have. If you've purchased a printer from Dell, HP or others, it typically comes with at least a basic photo editing program. Any of these editors will allow you to easily re-size photos. They'll also enable image cropping, correction of lighting and color problems, etc. I've seen very few amateur shots (including my own) that couldn't benefit from a little editing. For example, if that photo of your prized possession is two-thirds grass, or mostly sky, crop it! At the same overall pixel dimension, the car itself will now appear larger and show more detail.
  • Do a Google search on “free photo resizing software” and you'll find dozens of possibilities. These are mostly limited-purpose tools that resize, and in some cases perform other simple editing or organizing functions. I spot checked six or seven of them, and they all seemed to work reasonably well. Download and try a few out until you find one you're comfortable with.
  • There's one free program that provides much more functionality that the others. “Picasa”, now owned by Google, is pretty much the gold standard in this category. Go to http://www.picasa.google.com/ for a demo, or to download it. However, keep in mind that with greater capability comes a steeper learning curve. Picasa is certainly not difficult to master — but if you're looking for the absolute simplest solution, it's a lot more than you need.





As with the programs you install and run locally, you'll also uncover a myriad of free web-based tools in your search. The concept here is simple. You don't need to install any software on your computer. Instead, you go to one of these websites and using a standard browse box, point to the photo on your computer you want resized. The website's graphics engine processes it, and you download the modified photo.


There's not much more to say about this method. These websites typically don't give you much control over the output settings, etc., but it gets the job done in just a few seconds.





  • Most digital photos need to be downsized to display properly on a computer monitor (or be e-mailed). You can do this in either of two ways: use freely-available software that's installed on your computer, or utilize a website that does the resizing for you.

  • In either case, you probably will need to read and follow a few simple instructions, at least the first time through. For those who “never read a manual”, see the next point.

  • We all need to know how to do this because . . . we're not in the 1980's any more — and it's not that difficult.


An important reminder:  Regardless of how you chose to resize or otherwise edit your digital photos, NEVER discard or overwrite the original image. Make edits to a copy, using a different file name than the original (-1, -a, -small, -edited, etc.) Any photo editing program can sometimes produce unwelcome results, so you'll always want the original available to start over, or to edit differently for a different situation.


I hope this information was helpful.



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