These days, all digital cameras are capable of taking amazing images. Higher-end cameras now reach more than 20 to 35 megapixels and even the average camera phone can easily take pictures in the five to 10 megapixel range.
High resolution images are great for printing, but they aren’t that great for websites. Very large images take longer to load and consume a lot of bandwidth.
If you’re looking to make your pictures bigger or smaller, depending on your purpose, follow our advice below.
Making them smaller.
One of the more common tasks you may have to face sooner or later is resizing pictures for the Web. Shrinking an image is actually quite simple, especially if you have access to any of the several image editors available.
Step 1. Image editors
Even if each program calls it something different, the resizing tool is one of the basic features of any image editor.
In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, for example, it’s called “Image Size.” In GIMP, it’s “Scale Image.” In Picasa, it’s “Resize to.” In Paint, it’s the “Attributes” panel. These are just a few examples.
If you are using an editor not mentioned above, you should have no problem finding the equivalent tool in your program of choice.
To reduce the size of a picture in any of these programs, you are required to enter the desired width and/or height in the resize panel. Use pixels as your measuring unit for web images.
There are several actions, scripts and plugins, both for sale and for free, which automatically resize batches of images for the Web in just a few clicks.
With a little patience, you can also create your own. It will save you lots of time.
Step 2. Sharpening
Resizing usually blurs the image slightly, making it look less crisp. For this reason, after shrinking to your desired size, you should apply some sharpening.
However, you should try to keep the sharpening to a minimum or you will end deteriorating the image quality.
Step 3. Online services
There are many no-frills online tools to resize pictures easily, such as Pixlr, Resize Your Image, Shrink Pictures, Web Resizer, Pic Resize. Just upload your original picture and follow the instructions.
After uploading, you are requested to enter a width and height and then save/download the result to your computer.
Making them bigger.
Making an image bigger than its original size may severely affect its final quality, causing issues that will be very noticeable, especially in print.
Step 1. Vector graphics
The best way to enlarge pictures without losing quality is to use vector graphics. Vectors are fully scalable and will look sharp at any size.
Step 2. Raster graphics
Unfortunately, not all images are vectors. Instead, most of us commonly work with raster images, graphics that are made of a grid of pixels.
When you blow up a raster image, quality deteriorates as the software interpolates new pixels to the original ones to make up for missing data. For this reason, I don’t recommend enlarging images unless it’s for slight adjustments.
To make an image bigger, use your editor’s resize tool. Enter your desired size as you did for shrinking, but make sure you are using the highest quality picture you have.
Try not to enlarge it to the point that individual pixels become visible or the image looks too blurry. Selecting the “Bicubic Smoother (best for enlargements)” option in Photoshop’s “Image Size” panel will help.
Step 3. Smart objects in Photoshop
A helpful trick: In Photoshop and Elements, turn the layer of the image into a Smart Object, and then use the Transform tool to scale. Smart Objects allow greater flexibility while editing without corrupting the original image data.
If you need to print, enable the “Print Size” view to assess the final quality of your picture.
We welcome all sizes of photos!
Thanks to the latest software capabilities, shrinking and enlarging pictures has become very simple. Ideal settings mainly depend on your end. If you need to print your pictures, aim at the highest possible quality.
Web publishing is more forgiving, even if the image quality is far from excellent. Since there is no recipe for picture resizing, simply experiment until you are satisfied with your results.