EP 18: How I Export Photo Files for Printing and Web

It’s another episode of the PBH! Thanks, as always, for spending your precious time here today. As I record this I’m back in Minnesota spending some time with family and friends. It’s finally warmed up around here and feels warm and bright and good.

If you’re new to the podcast, welcome. I’m sure the intro gave you a good idea of what to expect here. Today’s episode is another “PHOTO FOCUS” episode, which you can tell from the title. Because a lot of the content I cover is generally useful for anyone growing their business, I wanted to make it easier for photographers specifically to dig into photo content and for everyone else to avoid it if they wanted to.

Today I’m going to go over how I export files for print and for web, and give you a little background on why I do things that way. 

Before we dig in, I want to share another amazing review from you guys! This comes from briannalane and says:

Heck yes!

Natalie is so full of wisdom and her passion for teaching and helping others grow is so inspiring. I would not be where I am today in my business without listening to Natalie’s advice and business tips. This podcast is a total game changer!

Awe, thank you so much for this. These reviews are so lovely, and there’s a level of reassurance that what I’m blabbing about is making a difference. It’s easy to get into your own head when doing a podcast like this, so I so deeply appreciate these notes from you! Thank you briannalane, and to everyone who is listening.

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So let’s take a step back and first understand what we’re working with here. We’ll start small-ish, with the megapixel. A megapixel is roughly one million pixels, a little more actually. These tiny little pixels capture light and color. The more megapixels–you guessed it– the higher your photo’s resolution will be.

Cover for photo business help podcast espisode 18 how I export photos for print and web use

What does resolution mean? Basically the higher the resolution, the better quality you have for printing because the photo holds more information and will looker sharper and clearer if printed properly. A higher resolution images can be printed at a large scale, whereas web resolution images are meant for mainly digital use. If the photo on a website are too big, it takes forever to load and slows everything down.

So it’s important to know your sizes and use the right file size for printing or for online use.

If you’re not so sure what size and quality your camera is producing, you can simply look up the  dimensions of a RAW images you’ve taken. For example, on my Canon 5D mk iv, the last RAW image I took measured 6720 x 4480 pixels. That equals 30,105,500 pixels, or around 30 megapixels for the sensor. Which, by the way, is waaaayy more than I’ll ever need to make a nice photo. But things are always moving that direction, so I’ll go with it.

We’re kind of digressing here. Let’s get make to best practices for exporting your edited photos for printing and for web use.

One more thing about resolution: there’s kind of a random standard when it comes to resolution, otherwise known as dpi, dots per inch. I’ll bet you guessed that a higher resolution images have more dots per inch…and you’d be correct. They are more tightly packed together the higher the dpi so you get a crisper image if you’re printing large scale.

For whatever reason, 72 dpi is the standard for web resolution, and 300-1800 for printing. I export from LR and PS, and you’ll be prompted when you export to fill in this option. You can also save your changes in LR so each time you export you can pick your “web” or “print” settings with just one click. 

I have my dpi at 100 for web, and 300 for printing so it’s easy to remember. If you want to stick with the gold standard of 72 and 300, go for it. I’m also certain there are a few different schools of thought on this if you want to dig around on the Google.

Most new cameras sold today are at least 10 megapixels, which allows for a great 16×20 sized print at the right settings. So don’t worry too much about your camera’s capabilities. Unless you’re hired to shoot a billboard, you’re probably good to go.

I size my images in a way that’s easy to remember. On the mk iv, I’m exporting images that a 3:2 ratio…you know, like the old 4×6 size you’d get from a point and shoot? That’s the same ratio. 

For web, at 100dpi I export the image at 1500×1000, because again, it’s easy for me to remember. Screens are getting bigger these days, but I haven’t seen a pixelation issue on my large monitor yet. It keeps the files sizes manageable, too.

For print, at 300 dpi, I export the images at 4500×3000. This is a great size for almost anything my clients would want to print, even beyond a 16×20. And again, it’s an easy 3:2 ratio to remember.

Finally, I don’t export at 100% quality. In LR, the quality slider goes to 10, and I export at 9. Why? Because it saves a TON of harddrive space, and in my opinion, doesn’t compromise the photo. Again, you’d have to be printing and using images on a very large scale to really begin to see pixelation.

What is pixelation and why does it happen?

You’ve seen those photos that look like 8-bit 80s video games, right? Maybe on a bad website or someone’s errant profile pic. You just kind of wait for it to focus, but it won’t. Like trying to stream Netfilx on a crappy connection. Everything looks grainy and unclear. That’s pixelation. 

The main way folks end up with pixelation is from cropping. If you take an already small-ish, web resolution image and make some BIG crops, you’re cutting out a lot of information and consequently, ending up with a grainy pixelated image.

Aaaanyway, these are just basics. Let me review my exports one more time:

For web 100 dpi 1500×1000

For print 300 dpi 4500×3000

I export jpegs, and that’s what my clients receive. The edited high resolution jpegs also end up getting loaded into my online galleries for my clients. It’s like an extra back-up.

And that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening. I hope this helps you understand file sizes a little better.

Remember to check out the show notes on the website at for links to things I mentioned today, as well as other useful info to go along with today’s episode. That’s

Remember, in all you want to achieve, consistency is key.



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