Understanding Pixels and Resolution in Digital Photography
The world has thoroughly embraced digital photography for its expediency over film. While there are still those who are film exposure enthusiasts, the need for immediacy in delivering the photos has pushed the world to digital delivery. Photos from phones, cameras, web cameras, and even high-end still photography are delivered via the digital channel, and have produced some of the most exciting recent moments in history. Immediate results allow people to upload the pictures to the web as an event is happening. Because digital has taken over as the primary means of photography, the importance of understanding pixels and how they correspond to photos is important.
Many first time digital photographers have heard of pixels, but may not understand what they are or how they affect the end product. The word itself comes from the two words picture and element (pi x el) being put together. While the word is most often referring to digital photography, it actually refers to something as the single or smallest part of an image. A single pixel may be understood as a drop of paint on a canvas. The single drop does not complete the picture, but when combined with all of the other dots, or pixels, the picture begins to take shape.†
The math of the pixels is important in understanding the quality of the digital image. Using the painting reference, if only ten paint strokes were used to complete a painting, it might be harder to understand or “see” the completed image for what it is supposed to be. However, if thousands of brush strokes or dots are used to complete the image, it begins to take shape in a much easier to understand picture. Digital photography works the same way. The more dots or pixels there are, the clearer the image is.
When it comes to the digital image the quality in pixels is referred to as resolution. The higher the resolution, the higher the pixels-per-inch (PPI) are. This means more and more dots are mashed into a smaller place. This, in-turn, makes the photo clearer as the per-inch number is raised. When making a decision on the type of camera or resolution, remember the higher the number of PPI, the better the quality.
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