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What is a High Resolution Photo or Low Resolution Photo

Two photos side by side, one is high resolution, one is low resolution.

As web designers and brochure designers, we speak to clients daily about images.

Sometimes we source or create all the imagery, while other times, our clients provide it. This often leads to a conversation about supplying Hi-Res images or Lo-Res images and determining what or when to use a high resolution photo versus a low resolution photo.

Understanding Image Resolution

Resolution is THE most important factor in determining the quality and clarity of a photo. Simply put, resolution refers to the amount of detail an image holds. This detail is measured in pixels, which are the tiny dots that make up an image. The more pixels an image has, the higher its resolution.

What is a High Resolution Photo?

A high resolution photo contains a large number of pixels, typically measured in megapixels (MP). These images are detailed, clear, and sharp, making them ideal for print materials and large displays.

High resolution photos usually have a resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch) or more. These high res images ensure that every detail is captured, resulting in high quality images.

What is a Low Resolution Photo?

A low resolution photo, on the other hand, has fewer pixels.

These images are less detailed and can appear blurry or pixelated when enlarged. Low resolution images are generally 72 DPI, which is suitable for on-screen use, such as websites and social media.

Using low resolution images can often result in low quality pictures that lack the sharpness and detail of high res images.

property investment brochure layout

When to Use High Resolution Photos

For Print Materials

When designing brochures, flyers, leaflets, advert designs, posters, or any other printed materials, high resolution photos are essential.

The higher the resolution, the better the image will look when printed. This is because print materials require a high level of detail to ensure that images appear crisp and clear.

High quality images are crucial in these cases to avoid low quality images that can detract from the overall look of your printed materials.

For Large Displays

If your project involves large banners, billboards, pop-up roller banners or any other large-format prints, high resolution photos are a must.

The increased detail in high res images ensures that the image will look good even when viewed up close. Using high quality images for large displays prevents the issues that come with low quality images, such as blurriness and pixelation.

Odette Green Wedding Photography Website shown on mobile phone

When to Use Low Resolution Photos

For Web Use

Low resolution photos are ideal for websites, blogs, social media, and email newsletters.

Since screens generally display images at 72 DPI, using high resolution images can slow down your website and increase load times. Low resolution images load faster, providing a better user experience.

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are perfect places to use low resolution images. While these low quality pictures may not be suitable for print, they are perfect for digital platforms where quick loading times are essential.

For Quick Previews

If we need to send a quick preview of some work to a client, low resolution images can be sufficient.

They are easier to email and upload due to their smaller file size and perfect for checking on mobile phones if our clients are out and about.

How to Choose the Right Resolution

Assess the Purpose

Consider the final use of the image. Is it for print or web? Large display or small thumbnail? The purpose of the image will guide your choice of resolution.

High resolution photos are typically needed for print and large displays, while low resolution images are often sufficient for web use.

Understand the Requirements

Different projects have different requirements. If you’re unsure, ask us for the recommended resolution. Generally, print requires high resolution to avoid low quality images, while digital platforms are fine with low resolution images.

Balance Quality and File Size

High resolution images offer better quality but come with larger file sizes. For digital use, balancing quality and file size is crucial to ensure your website runs smoothly without compromising on image clarity.

Low resolution images are ideal for web use, but high resolution photos should be used when image quality is essential.

stock photography website example

Where to Source High Resolution Images

When you need high resolution photos, stock photography websites are a great resource. These platforms offer a wide range of high quality images suitable for various purposes, from print to digital use.

Below is a table of common providers with a guide to prices.

Provider Price Range Description
Shutterstock £19/month for 10 images Large collection of high resolution images for various uses.
Adobe Stock £19.99/month for 10 images High quality images with easy integration into Adobe products.
Getty Images Custom pricing Premium images with extensive licensing options.
iStock £19/month Affordable options with a variety of high res images.
Unsplash Free High quality, high resolution images available for free.
Pexels Free Free stock photos with high resolution options.
Depositphotos £39 for 10 images Affordable and versatile collection of high res images.
123RF £19 for 10 images Large variety of images, often more budget-friendly.

Tips for Using Stock Photos

  1. Check Licensing: Ensure you understand the licensing agreements for any images you use to avoid legal issues.
  2. Choose the Right Size: Download the appropriate resolution for your specific project needs. High resolution for print and lower resolution for web use.
  3. Customise When Necessary: Edit stock photos to better fit your brand and project requirements.

man searching the internet

Why You Shouldn’t Use Images from the Internet for Print

It’s important to understand that not all images found on the internet are suitable for print. Here’s why:

Quality Issues

Images on the internet are often low resolution, designed for fast loading times on websites.

Using these low resolution images for print can result in pixelated graphics and low quality pictures that appear blurry and unprofessional.

Legal Reasons

Using images from the internet without proper permission can lead to significant legal issues. Many images are protected by copyright, meaning you cannot use them without the owner’s consent. Unauthorised use can result in legal action, fines, and damage to your reputation. Make sure they are licensed under the Creative Commons for items you can share and use.

Avoiding Copyright Infringement

To avoid copyright infringement:

  • Use Stock Photography: Licensed stock photos are a safe and legal option.
  • Obtain Permission: If you find an image you want to use, contact the owner to get written permission.
  • Create Original Content: Consider hiring a professional photographer to create high resolution images specifically for your project.

Using SVG Graphics

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is a file format that is commonly used for logos, icons, and other graphics that need to scale seamlessly without losing quality. Unlike raster images, SVGs are vector-based, meaning they use mathematical formulas to create shapes and lines, which can be resized indefinitely without becoming pixelated.

Advantages of SVG Graphics

  1. Scalability: SVG graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality, making them ideal for responsive web design.
  2. Small File Size: SVG files are often smaller than high resolution images, which helps improve website load times.
  3. Editability: SVG files can be easily edited with vector graphic software like Adobe Illustrator.
  4. Performance: SVGs can be animated and styled with CSS, adding interactivity and visual appeal to your designs.

When to Use SVG Graphics

  • Logos: Ensures your logo looks sharp on all devices and at all sizes.
  • Icons: Provides clarity and crispness for UI elements.
  • Illustrations: Ideal for graphics that require resizing or zooming without quality loss.
  • Web Design: Enhances performance and visual quality on responsive websites.

A4 Leaflet Designs

Understanding the difference between high resolution and low resolution photos is key to ensuring your projects look their best.

Use high resolution photos for print and large displays to achieve crisp, clear results.

Opt for low resolution images for WordPress web design, social media, email newsletters, and quick previews to ensure fast loading times and ease of sharing.

SVG graphics are an excellent choice for logos and icons that need to remain sharp at any size.

By choosing the right resolution and knowing where to source high quality images, you can enhance the quality of your work and meet your clients’ expectations effectively, avoiding the pitfalls of low quality images, pixelated graphics, and legal issues.

By following these guidelines and sourcing your images responsibly, you can maintain the professional quality of your projects and ensure that you are in compliance with legal standards.

Remember, investing in high quality, high resolution images not only enhances the visual appeal of your work but also protects you from potential legal troubles.

Author – Jim Adams

Jim Adams, Owner of Designers Up North

Jim Adams is a designer with over 25 years of experience in the industry. As the owner and designer at Designers Up North, Jim has led numerous projects that have significantly impacted clients’ brands and digital presence.

Having attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Design & Photography with honours, mentored by professors such as Jem Southam, Jim has since worked extensively in web design, branding, and graphic design. Over the years, Jim has earned a reputation for crafting both print and web design solutions that surpass client expectations.

Thanks to his photography background he has an expert knowledge of web design for wedding photographers and continues to work on websites and marketing for some of the UK’s best photographers.

Connect with Jim on LinkedIn or contact Designers Up North.