Photo Scanning and the 300 vs 600 DPI Myth

When discussing the resolution of digital images, far too often people get hung up focusing on DPI (or PPI) as a way to measure the size and quality of a digital image. This may sound completely wrong to you, but the DPI of an image has nothing to do with digital image quality. The reason? A digital image’s resolution is expressed as it’s pixel dimensions, either as pixels by pixels or the often heard keyword, megapixels. So why do people get hung up on DPI? The simple reason is that when it comes to printing, DPI actually IS the measure of quality. Confusing, right?

10 DPI vs 1,000 DPI

Click on each image below. Can you tell the difference?

1,000 DPI image

1,000 DPI

10 DPI image

10 DPI image

You should be saying to yourself, “They look exactly the same.” Both are 600 x 900 pixels, both saved at the exact same 20% compression rate but they have vastly different DPI values. So why isn’t there a visual difference? As noted above, digital image quality is measured by the number of pixels in an image, either by the pixel dimensions or the megapixel value. In this case, they are both 0.5-megapixel images since they have the exact same pixels dimensions (600 x 900 pixels).

Now, if you want to discuss the DPI of a digital image, YOU MUST ALSO assign a physical size to it. You can’t simply say, “This image is 200 dpi.” You have to say something like “This image is 200 dpi at 4 inches by 6 inches.” It is important to remember that a digital image has no absolute size or resolution. Think about this, when do you typically discuss DPI? The answer you should be thinking about is “When I want to print the image.” This is where DPI comes into play because a printer may output at 150 dpi, 200 dpi or 300 dpi and each would require a different file size to print the optimum print. You may also be thinking that you discuss DPI when you scan a photo, but we will get to that later. For uploading to social media, 150 dpi is adaquate.

The issue that causes all this confusion is that many users interpret a photo editing program’s reference to DPI as a measure of “resolution” but this is actually the displaying the OUTPUT or printing resolution, not the resolution of the digital image. Has this happened to you: You had your photos scanned by ScanMyPhotos but when you open the file in Photoshop, it says that it is 72 dpi and you clearly paid for 600 dpi? Before you start writing a strongly worded letter to ScanMyPhotos, look at the width and height? Does it show that the photo is 50″ by 33″? We all know you did not send a 3 foot by 4 foot photo for scanning so what happened? Nearly all monitors can only display 72 dpi so most programs default to showing 72 dpi.

So, when working in Photoshop for example, the first thing you want to do when looking at File->Image Size is to TURN RESAMPLE IMAGE OFF. If you then turn your attention to the rest of the dialog box, you can see it connects Resolution, Height, and Width together while Pixel Dimensions is separate and uneditable from the Document Size. As long as you have Resample Image turned off, if you change any one of the values for Width, Height or Resolution you simultaneously change the other two, but the Pixel Dimensions will always remain the same. As the resolution goes up, the width and height go down, and vice versa, because a digital image has no absolute size or resolution. All it has is a certain number of pixels in each dimension that will be displayed on a monitor or screen. Click on the image below for a detailed look at the relationship between size and DPI and how it doesn’t affect the actual pixels in the image.

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Photo Study Reveals 81% Of All Pictures Digitized Used For Social Media Sharing

150dpi Photo Scanning Is The New Norm

Today, announced the results of a 3 month study of 940 consumers who had their pictures digitized. The results of their top use is no surprise, as 81% of all analog photos scanned are just used for social media sharing.

Archiving and photo preservation has taken a less aggressive role, as people are mostly using pictures to share.  The takeaway is that the once standard 600 dpi high resolution quality is not as necessary today.

The Race To Digitize Pictures Is On

This is big news for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and the leading photo-sharing app, Google Photos. Most people were just uploading recent pictures captured from smartphone devices, yet there are 3 1/2 trillion analog snapshots which are not yet digitized. With the advent of bulk photo scanning, the race to digitize has taken on new urgency and dimensions.

DPI (Dots Per Inch) or PPI (Pixels Per Inch) relates to the number of device pixels per inch (pixel density). The higher the number, the smaller the size of the pixels, so graphics are perceived as more crisp and less pixelated. Good quality printing uses around 300dpi which is higher than most displays. But, most smartphone devices, messaging apps, like WhatsApp, and computer monitors demand a much lower and often compressed file size.

Therefore, for the 81% of people just digitizing pictures, today, the new norm is 150dpi. provides all three services, from social media scanning at 150dpi, to 300 dpi for archival scanning, and the ultra high professional 600dpi quality scanning. If you are not enlarging your pictures, most people just need 150 or 300dpi scans today.

Details and how to order 150, 300, and 600dpi professional scans are provided at

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