Thumbnail Size


Today’s Question: Perhaps this is an odd question for which there isn’t really an answer, but do you have any thoughts on how big or small I should display the thumbnails for my photos when browsing them?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two basic size settings I recommend for browsing thumbnails of your photos. When you are browsing in search of a photo you’re familiar with, I recommend using the smallest thumbnail size you are comfortable with. When browsing to find a photo you’re not so familiar with (or when you aren’t sure exactly what you’re looking for) I recommend using a relatively large thumbnail size.

More Detail: I think the key thing here, which is part of the reason I wanted to address this question, is to remember that most software for browsing thumbnails of your photos enables you to resize the thumbnails. In other words, instead of just accepting the default thumbnail size, adjust the size to suit the specific task you’re performing.

When you are seeking a photo you’re familiar with, you’ll likely be able to identify the image even with a very small thumbnail size. In this type of situation you may have already applied a filter to the images as well, which will further help you identify an image even with a small thumbnail. In this type of situation I prefer to use thumbnails that are as small as is reasonable. In other words, don’t make the thumbnails so small that you’re not comfortable browsing your photos. For each photographer the ideal thumbnail size for this scenario will be different.

When you’re browsing among photos you aren’t quite as familiar with, or that you otherwise can’t easily identify from a small thumbnail, then I think it makes sense to use as large a thumbnail size as you are comfortable with. This will increase the amount of scrolling you’ll need to do as you browse among the photos, but it will make it that much faster and easier to actually locate a particular image.

I also highly recommend hiding all unnecessary software interface elements (such as the panels in Lightroom or Adobe Bridge) while you are browsing among thumbnails. Doing so provides more space for the actual thumbnails, and helps minimize visual distractions that might get in your way.