Today’s Question: If I am enlarging a file to 200% or 300% of the original size, will I get a better result to do it in two steps rather than one?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, no. You’ll generally not see any significant difference with a multi-step enlargement process, especially considering relatively recent updates to resizing algorithms. And frankly, multiple-step enlargement also has the potential to degrade overall image quality.
More Detail: A number of years ago there was much more talk about incremental resizing of photos. The idea was that by resizing an image in stages, you would help retain more detail. While there was a degree of truth in this, I also found that some comparisons between one-step and multiple-step resizing weren’t equal when it came to sharpening. For example, one action that was available for sale would resize an image in small increments, but apply some sharpening in between some of the resizing steps.
In addition, applications such as Photoshop have been updated to include improved algorithms for resizing photos. For example, the “Bicubic Smoother” and “Preserve Details” algorithms available in the Image Size dialog in Photoshop provide improved results for significant enlargements.
Ultimately, I would say that with software that is more than a few years old, there might be a slight advantage to resizing in a few increments, especially if a very small amount of sharpening is applied in between those enlargement increments. But if you’re using relatively recent software, you can expect that there won’t be a discernible difference in quality between one-step and multiple-step enlargements.