It is important for digital camera users to grasp the basics of digital image sizing. Should you be sending photos to the People’s Post or another newspaper, then a photo taken in JPEG format at medium resolution (around 5 megapixel) is suitable. However, should you need to keep this photo for printing and possible enlargement, it becomes important to shoot at the camera’s maximum digital resolution.

An additional setting available on your digicam is compression or image quality. This is normally selected by setting the camera to take  “fine or high  quality” or on the other hand, “medium or standard” quality. Some cameras also have a low quality or high compression option. The significance of this setting is as follows:

·        Low compression means a large file (around 3 megabytes) on your memory storage card but the photo is rendered at highest quality. There is a minimum of digital noise or blurring of detail.

·        High compression means a smaller sized file (around 1 megabyte) on memory storage, but the image quality is poorest.

·        High compression files further deteriorate in quality if they are edited on the computer by using a programme such as Photoshop Elements. It is a good tip to always take your photos at the highest quality setting, even is taken at a low digital resolution – assuming your camera memory card has available space. Smaller files are also easier to email, however.

As a very rough guide, many publishers will tell you not to send any photos other than 1 megabyte in size for publishing. This applies to a number of factors but in truth you can get away with a much smaller sized file provided the Megapixel size is correct. As an editor, I will publish most file sizes of 500 kilobytes (half a megabyte) - that's my rule of thumb.

So why to photographers refer to pics posted in emails or on the internet as thumbnails?
It's exactly because, when printed at standard print resolution, they come out the size of a thumbnail - too small for a magazine or book (unless you have magnifying glass handy!).

Digital Tips is written by Gareth Griffiths, a freelance pro photographer based in Noordhoek. Contact him by calling 072 905 0252 and leave a message, or email   Digital tips and other information are also on the web at


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