You probably heard about low-resolution and high-resolution photos. Because the term “high-resolution” is usually associated with high quality, many people believe “low-resolution” is something bad that they should avoid. When it comes to wedding photos, people think high-resolution photos are the only ones they must have.
Although we agree with you that high-resolution is (usually) better than low-resolution, the question we want you to answer is “Where will your photos end up?”
Short answer: if you view your photos on online, and never make large prints from them, low-resolution is sufficient and even better than high-resolution. If you plan to print them big, high-resolution is the better choice. Why?
In this post, we are not discussing technical aspect of them (pixel, pixel per inch, etc.). We only look at their real-life behaviors.
Low-res is smaller in file size, which is good for uploading and sharing online.
Smaller file size results in faster loading speed when viewing on the internet (especially when you use cell phone data). All photos we share online (website, Facebook, Instagram) are the low-res version to save you lots of data and time.
There is no noticeable difference between low-resolution and high-resolution viewing online.
If you view the photos with your phone, tablets, (most) laptops & PCs (not 4K), you won’t see the difference.
Photos that you put social networks (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), will be automatically resized and viewed at a lower resolution. It is their default engine to save internet bandwidth. Even if you upload a high-res file that is 4 times larger than a low-res one, the result is not 4 times better. It might be slightly better. Only “might” be!
There is something interesting: when viewing online, low-res photos
always sometimes appear a little SHARPER than high-res photos. Take two photos below as an example.
Wondering if the same thing will happen with a close-up shot?
If you ask me why it behaves that way, I don’t have the answer. I’m not an expert in web coding. If you have the answer, I would love to know. But for now, I say low-res is better for online viewing.
UPDATE: I discovered that the results are inconsistent between web browsers due to the way they render the photos. This is beyond my knowledge for a better explanation. However, I showed my friends (non-photographer) without saying anything and they all said the photos look the same. Therefore, the difference is unnoticeable unless you view it side-by-side or I tell you one is higher resolution, you won’t notice the difference.
So, why do you need high-resolution photos for?
The biggest difference between high-res and low-res is when you make large prints (album, canvas). In general, although high-res is better for printing, not all prints need high-res. Look at our unbox album video, photos that are printed one FULL page (and up) need high-res. The rest don’t.
It’s worth knowing:
- High-resolution doesn’t guarantee high-quality print. It depends on where you print them as well.
- High-resolution will not make high-quality prints if they are not captured correctly (blurry, poor exposure, lots of noise, etc.).
Why does it cost more to get high-resolution photos from photographers?
Some photographers charge for high-resolution photos. There are many different reasons. In general, it takes more time and costs more to produce and deliver high-res photos (export, upload, storage, etc.).
So… high-res or low-res?
Larger doesn’t mean better. Smaller doesn’t equal inferior. It depends on what you use them for.
- If you use your photos online or electronic devices, low-res is a better choice.
- If you print large, high-res is the one you should use.
- If you don’t know what you are going to do with your photos, get high-res photos in case you need to print them in the future.