Today, there are many unique systems that produce digital images in different forms and shapes. While each yields a fine-quality product, there are huge differences in structure. Compared to a print, a color monitor uses a completely different set of tools to produce an image. It is similar to a picture viewed on your TV screen versus what you might see from a newspaper. While each produces a very acceptable product, they cannot be compared for quality.

Just as a building is constructed from many bricks, a picture is made from many elements known as “pixels.” The term “pixel” is an acronym for picture elements. As it is with a building, the more you have, the bigger and better the structure can be. A skyscraper needs more bricks than a six-story building; likewise, a larger print will require more pixels than a smaller one.

An 8-by-10 print requires more pixels than a 4-inch print to produce the same quality image … about three times as much. The customer must supply, as a minimum, enough data to produce what is ordered. Refer to the Pixel Calculator Guide. Supplying an excess of information (pixels), while not harmful, is wasteful.

• When using enhancement tools (red-eye removal, density improvements, sharpen more, etc.), be certain the final data supplied for printing includes these changes. In some instances, changes are recorded on a computer file, while the camera card – with unimproved data – is used for order placement. Make certain the files containing the improvements are supplied as part of the order.
• Excessive use of image enhancement programs can be counterproductive. While some areas may be improved, other parameters might suffer … use caution.
• It is very tempting to use lower quality settings on your camera to accommodate a larger quantity of pictures to be recorded on your media (storage) card. It is advisable to first decide what size prints are to be produced, and make certain your files meet the minimum requirements as suggested in the chart “Pixel Calculator Guide.”
• If image files are to be downloaded to a provider, excessive data compression should not be used to facilitate a faster transmission.

At least half a dozen different print technologies are in use today, from silver halide and inkjet to optical printing and digital press. These technologies each use different means and materials to produce color hard copy, and are no more comparable for color consistency than are silk, cotton, and rayon shirts.