Printing iPhone Photos

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Today’s Question: I have several photos I have taken with my iPhone, just having fun and seeing what I can do with it. While taking photos with the iPhone and editing them on the iPhone, I have created some nice images that I want to print. The app I use to capture the photos allow me to save as a TIFF file, but the software I edit with will only save as a JPEG. This has allowed me to print them as 8×10 and they have kept good resolution, but a couple of them I would like to print larger, maybe up to 24×30. Normally not an issue with my Canon 5D, but this is with the iPhone images. I was thinking of printing them as 4×5 and then scanning them in at 600dpi or higher.

Would you recommend this approach or do you have better workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would definitely NOT recommend making a print and scanning that print to produce a larger image. If the image is of good overall quality (captured in good lighting conditions, for example) you can produce a relatively large print. I would recommend printing directly from your source file (after you’ve applied adjustments) at the original resolution. This will produce the best possible quality for these photos.

More Detail: Making a print and then scanning from that print will only result in reduced quality. A print contains considerably less information than the original file, depending on the specific print conditions. The result can be an excellent print, but the scanned image from that print will not be as good as the original source image.

To be sure, a JPEG image created with an app on the iPhone won’t have the quality of a RAW capture from a high-end digital SLR. But in many cases the quality will still be excellent. And depending on which specific iPhone model you have, the resolution will most likely be perfectly adequate for a large print.

For example, the iPhone 6 features an 8-megapixel sensor. While there are other factors (such as the small size of the sensor) that impact image quality, that resolution is adequate for producing prints of up to about 16×20 inches. And provided the viewer won’t be getting extremely close to the print, larger sizes are certainly feasible.

I highly recommend producing a test print from one of your favorite photos from the iPhone, at the largest size you think you would typically want to print. I think you may be surprised at how well the print holds up, especially if you’re starting with an image that represents a good exposure and strong overall quality.