How megapixels affect photo print size
Learn how many megapixels you need to get high-quality prints in a variety of sizes
Support & Drivers
You’ve probably noticed that the larger you print a photo, the more it can start to look “blocky”, or pixilated. Discover why this happens and how megapixels affect the quality of your prints. You’ll also find a helpful chart detailing the best sizes to print your photos, depending on the megapixel setting of your camera.
What is a megapixel and how does it affect print size?
If you try to enlarge a photo that was not taken with a high MP setting, your print may turn out “blocky” or pixilated.
A pixel is the smallest element of a digital image. A megapixel is equal to one million pixels. The more pixels per square inch of an image, the higher the resolution, or quality, of that image.
- The size of photo you can print is dependent on the MP (megapixel) setting on your camera (some cameras refer to the megapixel setting as the "resolution" or “image quality” setting).
- The larger you want to print your photo—without getting that "blocky", pixilated look—the higher the MP setting on your camera needs to be.
- See the chart below to find out what MP setting your camera should be at in order to print a certain size of photo.
How many megapixels do I need for certain print sizes?
Use this chart to discover the largest, high-quality, print sizes you can make with various MP settings using your digital camera*.
|MP (megapixel) setting:||Will give you GOOD quality prints at:||Will give you BETTER quality prints at:||Will give you BEST quality prints at:|
|1 MP||5" x 7"||4" x 6"||Wallet|
|2 MP||8" x 10"||5" x 7"||4" x 6"|
|3 MP||8" x 10"||8" x 10"||5" x 7"|
|4 MP||11" x 14"||8" x 10"||5" x 7"|
|5 MP||11" x 14"||11" x 14"||5" x 7"|
|6-7 MP||16" x 20"||11" x 14"||8" x 10"|
|8 MP||17" x 22"||16" x 20"||8" x 10"|
|10 MP||20" x 30"||17" x 22"||11" x 14"|
*Consult your camera's manual for specific directions to set MP levels.
Find the MP setting that a photo was taken with
One way to find a photo’s dimensions is to check the Properties box, as show here in Windows Live Photo Gallery via the File menu.
The chart above helps you determine print sizes based on your camera’s MP setting when you took the picture. But, what if you don’t know the MP setting that a photo was taken with?
You can determine a photo’s megapixels (and therefore the megapixel setting that it was taken with) by multiplying the dimensions and dividing that number by one million.
For example, if a photo has the dimensions 3266 x 2450, you would multiply 3266 by 2450, which equals 8,001,700. Next, you would divide that number by one million (one megapixel equals one million pixels), giving you 8.0017, or eight—eight was the MP setting!
To find a photo’s dimensions, right-click on it, scroll over it with your mouse, or check the Properties box in your particular photo management software.
Will taking high-resolution photos fill up my memory card?
The higher the resolution of a photo you take (the more megapixels it contains), the more memory it will take up on your camera.
The guide below can help you plan how much memory you’ll need to have on hand when shooting at your camera’s highest resolution, or MP setting. Camera and memory card capacities seem to be growing all the time, so use this information as a starting point to estimate your needs.
|Camera megapixels||# of images on a 128MB memory card||# of images on a 256MB memory card||# of images on a 512MB memory card||# of images on a 1GB memory card|
Tips to ensure high-quality photo prints
The best time to think about your camera’s megapixel setting is before you shoot, so you can make sure you are using a MP setting that is high enough for the size of print you want to produce later.
Think ahead: Think about your intentions for your photos before you shoot them, so you can make sure you are using a MP setting that is high enough for the size of print you want to produce later.
Set your MP high: It's a good idea to have your camera set at a much higher MP setting than you initially think you need. That way, you can crop and enlarge any photo without a loss of quality.
Use the right print setting: For most photos, “Best” is the print quality setting that will ensure long-lasting, lab-quality prints. However, for wallet-size prints, the “Normal” setting is usually sufficient. Refer to your printer's manual to learn how to change print quality settings.
Find the best photo printer for your needs
- Print, scan, copy, fax
- 4.3" color touchscreen
- ISO print speed up to 14 pages per minute black (ppm), 10 ppm color3
- Automatic photo tray holds up to 20 pages
- Lab-quality photos from 5 individual inks
- 25-sheet automatic document feeder
Visit the HP Printer buying guides to see the entire lineup of HP printers and all-in-ones.
- If you don’t feel like printing your photos yourself, consider using the online photo printing and sharing site, Snapfish—they’ll even tell you which print sizes will give you the best results for each of your photos.
- Find tips, detailed instructions, and inspiration to help you print better photos.
- Get photo editing ideas and how tos, plus discover steps for restoring old pictures.
- 1Requires an Internet connection to HP web-enabled printer and HP ePrint account registration (for a list of eligible printers, supported documents and image types and other HP ePrint details, see www.hp.com/go/eprintcenter). Mobile devices require Internet connection and email capability. May require wireless access point. Separately purchased data plans or usage fees may apply. Print times and connection speeds may vary.
- 2Requires a wireless access point and an Internet connection to the printer. Services require registration. App availability varies by country, language, and agreements. For details, see www.hp.com/go/eprintcenter.
- 3Measured using ISO/IEC 24734, excludes first set of test documents. For more information see http://www.hp.com/go/printerclaims. Exact speed varies depending on the system configuration, software application, driver, and document complexity.