I was thinking about how many websites (eg. Facebook) have a bad reputation for lossy downsizing of images, and began to wonder if this goes for printing as well.

Would it be better to send in a digital file that is exactly the right resolution for the print size x PPI, or can I trust most photo labs/printers to handle this size conversion gracefully?

Is there a way to figure this out other than by getting multiple photos printed?

  • @Tetsujin Please see: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4655/…
    – Michael C
    Nov 26 '16 at 13:08
  • You could also ask yourself why wouldn't you submit photos for print at exactly the dimensions/ppi settings that produce optimal output
    – osullic
    Nov 26 '16 at 13:12
  • @osullic So if I am printing the same photo at multiple sizes, would a printer expect me to send multiple files?
    – juil
    Nov 26 '16 at 17:10

This answer assumes competence on the part of the photo lab you're using. If you think they're not competent, then use a different photo lab instead, rather than trying to work around their lack of competence - because if they're incompetent in downsizing images, they're probably incompetent at other things as well.

Facebook's primary business isn't driven by image quality, so they've chosen to apply heavy compression to any JPEGs they store and serve up - this has advantages both for Facebook (lower storage costs, lower bandwidth costs) and the majority of Facebook's users (quicker download times, lower bandwidth costs). Sure, there's an occasional outlier1 who cares more about picture quality than the average user who'd like higher quality JPEGs, but the folks at Facebook think they'll make more money overall by heavily compressing JPEGs. And frankly, they're probably right: they know this market better than you, me or anyone else here.

On the other hand, a photo lab's primary business is based on image quality. Still assuming they're competent, they'll put a reasonable amount of effort and money into ensuring that image files they're given will turn out as high quality as possible, because that (and cost) are what distinguishes them from the competition. Hence I'd assume that they're going to do well enough on downsizing images that I'm not going to worry about it - but I fully admit I'm not making prints and trying to sell them for real money. If you are, you may want to take extra care on this.

  1. Note that users on Photography Stack Exchange are very definitely not an unbiased sample of Facebook users when it comes to this metric.
  • Very well put!!
    – Itai
    Nov 26 '16 at 3:25
  • Comment only: Facebook seem to apply a "nasty" filter regardless of size uploaded, alas. I upload to FB usually at 2048 xxxx resolution as that is the maximum that FB allows BUT that and any other resolution gets mungled regardless. Alas. Nov 26 '16 at 11:24
  • The trick is to upload at small enough sizes that the file size of the image is less than 100KB. Then facebook won't compress it at all.
    – Michael C
    Nov 26 '16 at 13:14

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