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I've got a client who wants me to create a large format banner to go hang at the rear of his property. The bulk of this banner is a photograph of his shop, with some text at the top.

For the photograph element, I'm finding that the images he supplied are looking hideously pixelated and noisy when viewed at 100% in photoshop. So I'm thinking I will need to get some more photographs taken.But, I only have a 6mp camera at present, and am not sure if this will be enough.

The photograph will be printed to a size of approximately 189cm(high) * 254cm(wide), and the overall image sent to the printers will be at 150dpi.

This leaves me with two questions:

1) Is there a way to get better results with photos in this scenario than simply 'Place Embedded' and the stretch to size?

2) If I need to take new photos, will a 6MP image be sufficient? If not, what sort of MegaPixels will I need?

I realise this is a bit of newb question, so please let me know if the question can be improved, and what info is needed, etc.

Thanks in advance!

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    It looks like this has been answered a few times, both here and in the Photography stack exchange. – First Draft Sep 9 '15 at 13:54
  • You can stretch an image to at least +20% of its resolution & size without seeing too much damage. Since it's a big print probably on inkjet that might not be view from too close, you can probably add another 20%. Yes it will be more blurry but banners don't require the same standards as flyers, and you can "cheat" a bit. Either you lower the resolution or stretch your image; the result will be the same --> blurry. With some picture it's less obvious, eg. landscape. When you start seeing pixels, that starts being too much. Your only other option is to get pictures with a +10mp camera, minimum – go-junta Sep 18 '15 at 4:52
  • @go-meek Unfortunately the banner is going to be placed at street level, and so viewable typically from a meter or two away, but viewed up close on occassions. I anticipated that this would be a question with a fuzzy answer, but hoped that their might be some sort of equation or tool that could define a more definitive answer. – Phill Healey Sep 18 '15 at 9:40
  • I've ended up buying a 24mp camera and shooting a raw image. The results are obviously greatly improved and more than sufficient. – Phill Healey Sep 18 '15 at 9:41
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You've got several problems at play here, some of the technical, some of to do with managing the expectations of your client.

Firstly, the technical: a 6 megapixel image will give you around 3000x2000 pixels to play with, which at 150dpi will result in image around 30 x 50cm. You want an image that is roughly 5x larger than that, so you either need to get a file 5x larger in size, or settle for an image that's going to reproduce around the 30dpi mark (which will look terrible). Pragmatically speaking, one thing that frequently gets overlooked is viewing distance. The further a print is going to be viewed, the less dpi required, so a 150 dpi image will look OK from across the room, but blurry up close. Large format prints rarely need to be viewed up close, which is why printers will often specify sub-300dpi images. The simple fact is there is an upper limit on the size of an image; it's simply not feasible to get a 300dpi image at 189 x 254cm. It would weigh in at 650 megapixels! Whenever asked how big an image should be I always answer as big as you can possibly get.

Now, a practical solution for you: get a sample printed using the supplied image. Tell the printer you want a sample showing the image scaled up to final size so you can check quality, and select a selection of the print that you think would be the most problematic (typically a section with lots of detail or noise). If the client baulks at the extra expense ask them if they will be happier to pay for a full banner that they might not be satisfied with. Then present that to the client, pin it on the wall that the final banner is going to hang and assess it from whatever the normal viewing distance may be in the environment. You might find the quality acceptable; for example, if the banner goes behind a reception desk the extra couple of metres viewing distance can make a soft image less noticeable. You may also be pleasantly surprised that the client doesn't notice any quality issues and signs off on the sample; I've found many clients simply don't notice the kinds of details that designers notice. Happy days.

If the quality isn't good enough you'll need to source a new image, but at least this way you've managed the client's expectations, kept them involved in the process and covered your ass.

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Well, this depends on the quality of your camera. 6mpx is low on current standards, but it could work.

Look at this graph. This graph represents the relation between the viewing distance and the ppi.

I'm asumming that the maximum size of the print is somehow simmilar to the viewing distance.

So you can export at 35 ppi and you still will do fine. This is a pixel of less than a milimeter. If you do not want to push it that much a 50-75ppi will be ok.

But remember that the texts are always better if you work them in vectors.

  • 35-75ppi is very bad advice. The OP's file isn't that big and you suggest the resolution of what could be used for a road billboard. It's better if he sticks to what the printer wants (150ppi) and increase his image size instead, no matter the distortion; the printer's requirement makes sense for that size and will probably be printed on something like an Epson Stylus which is like a high quality Inkjet. At least only that image will be blurry and not the whole montage or elements done in Photoshop! – go-junta Sep 18 '15 at 4:38
  • @go-meek unfortunately the photo is the bulk of the printed product. – Phill Healey Sep 18 '15 at 9:38
  • @go-meek have you ever really printed a banner at 100 ppi? You can hardly see the pixel at 50 cm. – Rafael Sep 18 '15 at 14:21
  • With all my respect, people offen do not measure things. This medium format ultra high quality digital back phaseone.com/en/Products/Camera-Systems/IQ3-Digital-Backs.aspx can not deliver the resolution needed to have a 2.5 mts at 150ppi. The texts are the ones that need to be in vectors. – Rafael Sep 18 '15 at 14:31
  • Let us asume we are using a big monitor. 24inches across at FullHD. That is about 20inches at the base. That baby is displaying 1920/20=96ppi and you hardly can see a pixel at 50cm. Do you really expect someone to see one at 2 mts on a billboard? – Rafael Sep 18 '15 at 14:38

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