A JPEG is characterised with three parameters: width (pixel), height (pixel) and bit depth (bits per pixel). And resolution is a characteristic for output devices, e.g., monitors or printers. Why? Resolution is measured in dots per inch or pixels per inch, with other words: the ratio of some discrete value to some unit of length.

As we can see from JPEG file properties, it also has a horizontal/vertical resolution. But how can we apply the concept of resolution to something that does not have a length? (It sounds funny for me to talk about a “JPEG file with a width of 5 inches”.)

And another word to this is about user perception: Let’s assume we have a JPEG image with a width of 1920 px and we look at this picture on a monitor and an iPhone:

  • 24-inch wide-screen computer monitor: 1920 × 1200, 102.5 ppi
  • iPhone 6 Plus: 1920 × 1080, 401 ppi

So width is 1920 px in both cases and each pixel of the image corresponds to exactly one pixel of the device. So if we choose to look at these screens from a distance such that we have the same ratio of pixels per degree of vision, we would have exactly the same quality (≈ 70 PPD).

So why can we talk about the resolution of JPEG?

enter image description here

  • Sort of, but why would that constitute a file has a resolution? It is simply displayed at a certain amount of pixel per physical length.
    – KMSTR
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 11:56
  • @KMSTR, the 2nd paragraph "As we can see from JPEG file properties, it also has a horizontal/vertical resolution". And e.g. PNG does not have resolution in properties Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 12:00
  • PNG has properties for the physical pixel dimensions, aptly named pHYs. It can specify the pixel aspect ratio or the physical size, depending on the unit (none or meters). Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 15:27
  • I'm a little confused as to what you are asking.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 22:47
  • Note your screenshot shows the default windows pixel density of 96ppi for your OS and monitor. That actually has very little to do with the actual image.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:06

4 Answers 4


Resolution means wildly different things to wildly different people. And a image has many resolution metrics. It has:

  • A pixel resolution
  • A Color resolution
  • A Unit conversion resolution (PPI, DPI etc)
  • The there are some even odder rarely seen resolutions

    • Like the subpixel resolution of a lense on the sensor*


So the term resolution is heavily overloaded, and Very often misunderstood.

Images do not have physical unit resolutions on digital media

We have gone over this subject quite many times on this forum. And the consensus is that the physical measurement conversion values do not apply on digital media as long as they stay digital. So the resolution of a jpeg image is the amount of pixels you have. Because as you correctly put it different devices have different sizes.

Problem arises when you output stuff to physical media

The confusion arises because the technology of printing something to paper is wildly different form making images on screen. Now people from a print background will be somewhat obsessed with the resolution of the image. What they call resolution is actually just a conversion factor from pixels to physical units for their output device. (They have pixels to spare so they can output at different resolutions.)

This resolution is meaningless for screens. But people aren't entirely attuned to different mediums. So you commonly see some print designers design for screen as if it was a printer.

DPI is just metadata, its just a expression of wish that the printer place this image at this size. It's useful for many tasks so you don't always need to resize the image. But that's all it is.

But these guys came first so they have already manipulated perceptions so they have dibs on image resolution as a topic. Right or wrong.

* I'm just saying this because I have dealt with this kind of stuff.


The term resolution is used in many ways and not limited to pixels-per-length and similar resolutions (display resolution). What is probably confusing you is the difference between the display resolution and the recording resolution:

For every image file there is some underlying idealised image it tries to depict. This may be the light reflected or emitted by real objects to a certain point in space (the position of our camera, eyes or similar) or this may be an abstract description of a picture, e.g., a circle with the colour #FF0000 on a background of the colour #424242. These idealised images can be captured by our file with different resolutions, e.g., the following two images are displaying the latter example with a different resolution:

enter image description here     enter image description here

When we speak of the solution of a JPEG, we usually refer to this recording solution, i.e., how well whatever the image displays is captured. For example we could say about the above images:

The left image has a higher resolution than the right image.

There many other concepts of resolution. For example we could talk about the colour resolution (or colour depth) of an image or generalise the concept of resolution to lossy compression techniques.

  • We can not say: "The left image has a higher resolution than the right image", because we do not know the size of the real object it was taken from. Maybe the first square was 40×40cm and the second 10×10cm, so resolutions are 5 pixels per cm and 10 PPC and the right image has higher resolution. Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 12:22
  • 1
    Yes, we can – if we use another concept of resolution. That’s the central point I am trying to make in my answer. The square with the circle is an abstract image and has no original size whatsoever. Still, when we realise this concept as a pixel graphic, we can do so with different accuracies or resolutions.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 12:27
  • I've got your idea about other concepts of resolution (could you please define this concept as ratio of pixels to what?), but here we deal with properties of JPEG that defined as DPI - Dots Per Inch. Confused about this unit Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 14:10
  • 3
    @IvanGerasimenko DPI is just a metadata entry has nothing to do with the images qualities per see just a notion on how you would like to convert it for print. The DPI value may or may not be respected by the software down the line.
    – joojaa
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 20:08

The term resolution, generically, just refers to the level of detail an image has stored.

A high resolution image tends to have a lot more detail than a low resolution image.

The file resolution of a jpg is the number of pixels it has. The display resolution of a jpg has more to do with the screen or paper it is displayed on.


Based on your comment, it appears you're asking about the 'dpi' setting in the images meta data. That's the display resolution I mention above.

This is a number used to calculate how big the image should be when printed on paper.

A 300px x 300px image with a dpi setting of 100 would print out at 3 inches by 3 inches.

A 300px x 300px image with a dpi setting of 300 would print out at 1 inch by 1 inch.

In both cases, the image resolution is exactly the same. But the output (display) resolution is different.

But note that not all software will bother to do anything with the dpi setting. For instance, your web browser will ignore that data completely. Photoshop is one of the few programs that will obey it when you print directly from Photoshop.

  • 'The file resolution of a jpg is the number of pixels it has' it is width and height. I'm talking about horizontal/vertical resolution mesured in DPI (as it's said in JPEG file properties) Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:35
  • @IvanGerasimenko that's merely a number that some software applications will use to determine the print size of the image. Not many software obeys this aside from say, Photoshop. It does nothing to change the resolution of the image--it only changes the size it's printed at. It's essentially the 'display' resolution I mention.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:39
  • I've updated my answer with more clarification on the DPI setting. Hope it helps.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:43
  • I like your explanation, just one more clarification: will the print size (not resolution) of the image depend on printer resolution in these two print cases? Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:50
  • 1
    @IvanGerasimenko no, the printer's resolution is not related at all.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:26

I am preparing some essay and video explaining how resolution is about relationships.

A telescope has resolution, a sound wave recording has resolution, an image has resolution, a printing system has it, a display device has it.

It is a litle hard for me translating the exact idea, so I ll just give the rough one.

Resolution is the relationship between:

Amount-Units of information-included in each-dimensional unit.

Im adding some color here:

My Definition
(source: otake.com.mx)

So, depending on what are you talking about this units change.

I'm puting some examples here separating the four parts of my definition.

My Definition
(source: otake.com.mx)

(I will edit the image to put a title on each example, but it is prety clear what are we talking about on each case)

There are some cases where this relationship is not direct, but we need to do some aditional steps, for example in the relation between the laser dots on an offset plate, the lines per inch suited for a specific paper and the pixel size on a file.

The same aplies for some angular relations.

So my conclusion is yes. It is correct to say that a image file has a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels (on one file). Yes a camera has it's resolution defined as 6Megapixels, yes a printer on dots per inch, a file for printing 300 pixels per inch, a device 1920x1080 pixels on screen or 400 pixel density, a sound sample 41k samples.

Just we need to define our units.

  • I'm giving you +1 just for the colors.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 22:48
  • Nice idea about image resolution as pixels per one file Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:03

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