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How to Enlarge Digital Pictures

Updated on September 17, 2012

A simplified understanding the proper way to save your photos so that they can be enlarged with out them becoming blocky


As I get further and further into photography I have more and more questions. I also have an interest of printing some of my favorite photos into larger sizes, matting them and then selling them in a local gift shop and also at area fairs and festivals. There are also a lot of my online friends who sell their photos on the internet. I feel this could be a good source of income while continuing to do something I love. So I have set up my own website and decided to give it a go.

After setting up my website the one thing I needed to still do was to show my customer what my photos would look like in different sizes with mats. The finished product. So I went on line for one of the major drug store chains and uploaded several prints. When I did this a warning popped up telling me that the file was not big enough to make into the sizes I wanted. So I ordered what I could in the sizes that they suggested and decided to see what they looked like. After all I took them all with the same camera. Why would they be different??

I was able to go and pick up my order the very next day. I could hardly wait to see them. I printed various prints in 8x10’s and 5x7 and the rest all in 4x6. I was so disappointed. First, I hated the finish. They all came back in high gloss. (This would be something that I’d have to make sure is not selected the next time.) Some may love a high gloss finish but one of the first things that I noticed is one of my print had a “crimp” in it. Which was very noticeable to the naked eye. Well, this would be one that I’d have to keep.

The second thing that I noticed about my order was the care in which the photos were packaged. They were all in one envelope. I would have thought that each size would come in an envelope by itself and then put into the big envelope. By not packaging them separately they were allowed to slide back in forth rubbing each photo against the other. Plus, who ever processed my photos must have had fried chicken for lunch or maybe it was just that high gloss finish, but you could see finger prints everywhere they touched.

The third thing that was wrong is that when you ask for a size they just make it that size. Even when asking for correction prints. For instance, I edited one of my photos and put one of those cool boarders that framed the print. It looked pretty good when it was completed and I posted it online. When I sent it in I wanted it to be blown up into an 8x10. And that they did. And now I had an 8x10 photo with only a frame on either side. The top and bottom was cut off with no frame.

This is the photo that was missing the frame.
This is the photo that was missing the frame.

So why did this all happen?

Well, all three things I would have to say was my fault. First off you get what you pay for. If you want a professional finish you need use a professional service that has more than one option for finishes. Secondly, I really didn’t understand the whole developing end of photography. My interest is in taking the photos and the end product. What happens in between isn’t my business…or is it??

You have to have an understanding to be able to have a quality finished product.

Digital photos are made up of pixels or dots that represents the color or gray level for black and white photos. Pixels are a little grain like particle arranged in a regular pattern of rows and columns. A digital image is a rectangular arrangement of pixels sometimes called a bitmap. A bitmap consists of tiny squares of pixels of colors captured on film by a camera.

If a photo is taken and printed at the same size as the original, using a high bitmap file such as tiff, the result will be a photo that can be enlarged to the specific size that you want providing that you haven’t cropped it. But if during editing you did crop your photo or saved it into a compression file such as jpeg for instance this changes the amount of pixels and bitmaps.

Confused?? I was to.

So for ease of explaining, if you took a 200x300 pixel photo and you save it as a jpeg file what happens is that file is compressed so it doesn’t take up as much room on your computer. You’re telling your computer to get rid of the unnecessary stuff in the file. When looking at it on your computer you probably wouldn’t even notice. My photos looked just as good before I saved them as after until I had them enlarged. So what actually happened is the amount of pixels that originally made up 1 bitmap was reduced. So had I taken some of the photos and enlarged them even though I had that little warning screen that told me they couldn’t be enlarged to the size I wanted I would have got them back and they would have looked all “blocky.”

So what can be done to keep a larger print from looking blocky?

It’s all in the way you save your photos after editing and when you upload them to your computer. Saving your photo as a JPG format (a.k.a. JPEG and JPE) is probably one of the most popular for reproducing your photographs on Windows-based PCs. One of the most important features when saving your picture as a JPG, which many people are unaware of, is that you can choose from different image quality and also different file sizes. Remember, if you want high-quality save in large-size, medium-quality save in medium-size, and low-quality is small-size. The smaller file sizes can be uploaded and downloaded faster, and they take up less disk space. So if you are only using your photos for posting online to share with friends or on Redgage or Triond you are probably fine the way you are saving them. But if you want to use them to enlarge you need to save them in the largest format. Also, once your photo is a JPG and has been saved as a lower quality, it can NOT be restored to a higher quality unless you still have the original. So always save it with a different filename and keep the original image, in case you later change your mind about which quality to use when saving.

So I now make my edits and save in the highest file format. I keep three different files, one for my original, one for my photos that I want enlarged and one that I post on Redgage and Triond.


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    • RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

      Rhonda Humphreys 4 years ago from Michigan

      grand old lady,

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I appreciate your opinion especially with your background. It means alot.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 years ago from Philippines

      As a writer, I know that magazines require at least 1,000 K for the image to come out in print larger than a postage stamp. However, knowing this, I very much appreciate your advice to keep three files of a photo: One file for the original, one file for photos for enlargement, and a third file for sending the photo to another site. Thank you for this helpful article.

    • RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

      Rhonda Humphreys 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you very much Deb.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Good information that I didn't know about!

    • RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

      Rhonda Humphreys 5 years ago from Michigan

      I learned from reading your Hubs. :) I will have to look up Kevin Kubota's post that you mentioned. I also have found some interesting youtube videos for the Canon rebel. thought that might be helpful for you as well. Thank you for your comments Voting. :)

    • Arren123 profile image

      Arren123 5 years ago from UK

      Wow very interesting first Hub. I've also had many problems when coming to getting photo developed until I saw one of Kevin Kubota's post pro on youtube and about sitting up your computer/photoshop and the photos to be developed with the company you are having you photo developed by. Voted up, interesting and useful :)