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magic number 72 - Adobe Photoshop Elements

I was recently set straight about resolutions of 72 dpi or ppi being irrelevant to preparing images for the Web (including by scantips.com's "Say No to 72 dpi"). But I now notice that the first reference I was given (Jay Arraich's Photoshop Tips -- Image Resolution at <http://www.arraich.com/ref/resolution.htm)> has this: "If your image is intended for use on the Web, and not for printout, ...set your resolution to 72 ppi...." I also notice that most of the books at Borders about how to use Photoshop Elements give the same advice. Am I missing something? Or does this just explain why ...

  1. #1

    Default magic number 72

    I was recently set straight about resolutions of 72 dpi or ppi being irrelevant to preparing images for the Web (including by scantips.com's "Say No to 72 dpi"). But I now notice that the first reference I was given (Jay Arraich's Photoshop Tips -- Image Resolution at <http://www.arraich.com/ref/resolution.htm)> has this: "If your image is intended for use on the Web, and not for printout, ...set your resolution to 72 ppi...." I also notice that most of the books at Borders about how to use Photoshop Elements give the same advice. Am I missing something? Or does this just explain why Wayne Fulton spends 26 pages proving the illusory nature of the number 72? Did the person who recommended the Arraich article just not know this was in there? And why does Arraich not know these things (if a humble soul such as I is in posession of such esoteric truths)?

    Also, I was told to avoid resampling. But there is no way to make the typical image the right size for the Web without resampling, is there? Thanks.

    Can anyone recommend a technically correct book that addresses all the issues that a person wanting to use Photoshop Elements 2 should know? Or is there a way to get the same or better information on the Web? Thanks.
    Paul
    Paul Bullen Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: magic number 72

    "Paul Bullen" <paulbullen.com> wrote in message
    news:2ccd4247.-1webx.la2eafNXanI...
    > I was recently set straight about resolutions of 72 dpi or ppi being
    > irrelevant to preparing images for the Web [...] But I now notice
    > that the first reference I was given [...] has this: "If your image is
    > intended for use on the Web, and not for printout, ...set your resolution
    > to 72 ppi...." I also notice that most of the books at Borders about
    > how to use Photoshop Elements give the same advice. Am I missing
    > something?
    It matters. It doesn't matter. It's both at the same time.

    Sorry, it had to be said. :)

    One of the reasons it matters:

    * Using "72" for the resolution when scanning images will usually
    produce an image of about the right quality for display on a computer
    monitor

    One of the reasons it doesn't matter:

    * As has been mentioned here recently (I forget who said it, otherwise I
    would have credited him...I think it was a him), all that really matters to
    the web browser is pixels. I'm not aware of a single web browser that
    attempts to reconcile the video driver's reported display resolution with an
    image's encoded resolution.

    The page on [url]www.scantips.com[/url] is a bit misleading. It's true that setting
    the resolution in an image doesn't affect how that image is displayed on the
    screen (usually...very few programs bother to look at that). But using 72
    dpi (or something similarly low) when you scan an image will avoid wasting
    time and disk space scanning at a higher resolution.

    What I do when scanning an image that I want for video display is to decide
    before I scan (if I can) how many pixels I want it to be. Then I set the
    scanner resolution appropriately so that the image I'm scanning comes out to
    be the right number of pixels. For example, if I'm scanning a 4x6 photo
    print and I want to fill a 640x480 screen (note that the width and height
    are reversed when talking about prints version talking about display screens
    :) ), then I'll want a resolution of anywhere between 100 and 120 dpi (using
    120 dpi will allow me to crop the scanned print so that it fits just right
    on a 640x480 screen; anything smaller and I'll have to stretch the image at
    some point or leave a border on the top and bottom).

    As far as web pages go, the best you can really do, using basic HTML, is to
    keep your page in proportion and let the user know what a good resolution to
    view the page would be. It's theoretically possible to use some server side
    code to scale images and other page content to be appropriate to the size of
    the browser window but in practice, I'm not aware of any sites that do this.
    It's a bit beyond what most people putting together a web site want to
    bother with.

    However, even in the case where I'm setting the scanner resolution (two
    paragraphs up) and the case where the server side code feeds
    appropriately-sized images, dpi doesn't really matter. What you really care
    about is how many pixels the image is versus how many pixels the screen is.
    You have no information regarding how large the screen is, so it would be
    pointless to try to factor in the screen's resolution. You just don't have
    that data.

    Sorry...I think I'm kind of rambling. The bottom line is this:

    When scanning the image, you might as well aim to get the pixels into the
    computer at the exact size you expect to use the image. This fits in with
    your other question about resampling: you are correct, if you want to change
    the number of pixels in an image, you have to resample. You should avoid
    resampling, which is why it's better to scan at the correct resolution in
    the first place.

    Once you've got the image in the computer, with the number of pixels you
    want, the dpi resolution of the image is irrelevant. None of the programs
    showing the image on the screen will bother to look at the dpi resolution
    and you can set it to whatever you want. The only place the dpi would
    matter is if the image gets printed, and even there, most people wind up
    scaling images to some other specific size for the purpose of printing,
    which winds up overriding the dpi set in the image. You can consider the
    dpi set in the image as a suggestion, and nothing more.

    The most important thing, with respect to how good it looks when printed and
    with respect to whether it fits in your web site, is how many pixels are in
    the image. That's the one thing that is invariable. It's the one thing
    that is a fundamental characteristic of the data contained in the image.
    Everything else just relates the data in the image to the human concepts of
    physical manifestations.

    Pete

    p.s. One other reason to set an image not intended for printing to "72 dpi"
    is simply as a reminder to other humans that might have access to the image
    that it's not intended for printing. An image that's really only 72 dpi is
    going to look terrible on a printout. Again, this isn't something the
    computer cares about...it's just a way for one human to convey a message to
    another. :)


    Peter Duniho Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: magic number 72

    "Peter Duniho" <NpOeStPeAdMNnOwSlPiAnMk.com> wrote in message
    news:215B58CFEDDFC6C5F2C451CC55EDBFA1in.webx.la2e afNXanI...
    > What I do when scanning an image that I want for video display is to
    decide
    > before I scan (if I can) how many pixels I want it to be. Then I set the
    > scanner resolution appropriately so that the image I'm scanning comes out
    to
    > be the right number of pixels.
    I should probably have mentioned (if it weren't for the fact that the post
    was already so long) that setting the resolution on the scanner often
    results in "resampling" too. The scanner has a "native" resolution and
    anything other than that gets resampled. The difference is that the scanner
    has a lot more to work with and can do a much better job with the
    resampling.

    Pete


    Peter Duniho Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Pete,

    First - thank you for the time and for the detailed information you
    have provided.

    I, for one, am still confused. Here is my story:

    I decided to scan-archive many of my older B&W photos.. They come in
    various sizes (up to 5 x 7).

    Since this is a one time effort (took me almost 2 days... for some 700
    or so B&W pictures), and in order to save them for good, I decided to
    scan them at 600dpi. This was a compromise resoulution which I
    thought would still serve my kids, and their kids therafter....

    BTW - I scanned aprox. 5 at a time (on my Espon 2400)

    Now, my old High School, has a web site on which we meet and to which
    many of us uplod their odl photos to share with others. It accepts
    JPEG formated pictures only (I belive that it takes GIF too, but am
    not sure...)

    I selected 10 - 15 old B&W photos, which I jsut scanned at 600 dpi
    into PE-2, and saved them as JEPG, Quality of JPEG was set to 10, and
    uplodeed them into that HS Web site. I am not in control of, nor do I
    know what resoluitions are set on the viewer's monoitors. Some wrote
    to me to tell me that the phoptos were too large, and that they could
    see only samll portions of my image, and would need to manipulate this
    etc... Not good !!

    My question thus is;

    Not bening able to tell what the Web size orgnizers and the viewers
    need in terms of resolution, what would you suggest that I do with my
    original 600 dpi image if I want to upload it to sich a Web,
    Should I JEPG it, or "Save to Web" it ? - (what is the difference?),
    If I JEPG it - what scale of compression should I set it to ?
    (Rememebr, all were scanned at 600 dpi, but they come in various sizes
    up to the 5 x 7).

    I wouldn't want to re-scan these and more which I still have. Prefer
    to use the scanned files I have alerady.

    Thanks for any detailed reply.

    ZR




    On Thu, 4 Sep 2003 23:32:27 -0700, "Peter Duniho"
    <NpOeStPeAdMNnOwSlPiAnMk.com> wrote:
    >"Paul Bullen" <paulbullen.com> wrote in message
    >news:2ccd4247.-1webx.la2eafNXanI...
    >> I was recently set straight about resolutions of 72 dpi or ppi being
    >> irrelevant to preparing images for the Web [...] But I now notice
    >> that the first reference I was given [...] has this: "If your image is
    >> intended for use on the Web, and not for printout, ...set your resolution
    >> to 72 ppi...." I also notice that most of the books at Borders about
    >> how to use Photoshop Elements give the same advice. Am I missing
    >> something?
    >
    >It matters. It doesn't matter. It's both at the same time.
    >
    >Sorry, it had to be said. :)
    >
    >One of the reasons it matters:
    >
    > * Using "72" for the resolution when scanning images will usually
    >produce an image of about the right quality for display on a computer
    >monitor
    >
    >One of the reasons it doesn't matter:
    >
    > * As has been mentioned here recently (I forget who said it, otherwise I
    >would have credited him...I think it was a him), all that really matters to
    >the web browser is pixels. I'm not aware of a single web browser that
    >attempts to reconcile the video driver's reported display resolution with an
    >image's encoded resolution.
    >
    >The page on [url]www.scantips.com[/url] is a bit misleading. It's true that setting
    >the resolution in an image doesn't affect how that image is displayed on the
    >screen (usually...very few programs bother to look at that). But using 72
    >dpi (or something similarly low) when you scan an image will avoid wasting
    >time and disk space scanning at a higher resolution.
    >
    >What I do when scanning an image that I want for video display is to decide
    >before I scan (if I can) how many pixels I want it to be. Then I set the
    >scanner resolution appropriately so that the image I'm scanning comes out to
    >be the right number of pixels. For example, if I'm scanning a 4x6 photo
    >print and I want to fill a 640x480 screen (note that the width and height
    >are reversed when talking about prints version talking about display screens
    >:) ), then I'll want a resolution of anywhere between 100 and 120 dpi (using
    >120 dpi will allow me to crop the scanned print so that it fits just right
    >on a 640x480 screen; anything smaller and I'll have to stretch the image at
    >some point or leave a border on the top and bottom).
    >
    >As far as web pages go, the best you can really do, using basic HTML, is to
    >keep your page in proportion and let the user know what a good resolution to
    >view the page would be. It's theoretically possible to use some server side
    >code to scale images and other page content to be appropriate to the size of
    >the browser window but in practice, I'm not aware of any sites that do this.
    >It's a bit beyond what most people putting together a web site want to
    >bother with.
    >
    >However, even in the case where I'm setting the scanner resolution (two
    >paragraphs up) and the case where the server side code feeds
    >appropriately-sized images, dpi doesn't really matter. What you really care
    >about is how many pixels the image is versus how many pixels the screen is.
    >You have no information regarding how large the screen is, so it would be
    >pointless to try to factor in the screen's resolution. You just don't have
    >that data.
    >
    >Sorry...I think I'm kind of rambling. The bottom line is this:
    >
    >When scanning the image, you might as well aim to get the pixels into the
    >computer at the exact size you expect to use the image. This fits in with
    >your other question about resampling: you are correct, if you want to change
    >the number of pixels in an image, you have to resample. You should avoid
    >resampling, which is why it's better to scan at the correct resolution in
    >the first place.
    >
    >Once you've got the image in the computer, with the number of pixels you
    >want, the dpi resolution of the image is irrelevant. None of the programs
    >showing the image on the screen will bother to look at the dpi resolution
    >and you can set it to whatever you want. The only place the dpi would
    >matter is if the image gets printed, and even there, most people wind up
    >scaling images to some other specific size for the purpose of printing,
    >which winds up overriding the dpi set in the image. You can consider the
    >dpi set in the image as a suggestion, and nothing more.
    >
    >The most important thing, with respect to how good it looks when printed and
    >with respect to whether it fits in your web site, is how many pixels are in
    >the image. That's the one thing that is invariable. It's the one thing
    >that is a fundamental characteristic of the data contained in the image.
    >Everything else just relates the data in the image to the human concepts of
    >physical manifestations.
    >
    >Pete
    >
    >p.s. One other reason to set an image not intended for printing to "72 dpi"
    >is simply as a reminder to other humans that might have access to the image
    >that it's not intended for printing. An image that's really only 72 dpi is
    >going to look terrible on a printout. Again, this isn't something the
    >computer cares about...it's just a way for one human to convey a message to
    >another. :)
    >
    ZR Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Paul, a few more comments on this one.

    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the texts and tutorials that use 72 ppi as a benchmark; most people are more comfortable with thinking of their image as having linear (inch) dimensions rather than pixels. If I scan an 8 inch by 10 inch picture at a scanning resolution of 72 ppi, I'll wind up with an image that's 576 pixels by 720 pixels, which isn't a bad size for web or e-mail use. The point is that it's ultimately less confusing (in my opinion - others may see it differently) to think of your picture the way the computer sees it - as a matrix of pixels.

    Where you can get fouled up is if you assume that because you've set the resolution to 72 ppi, you'll get a certain inch-size picture on your monitor - not so. If I have a 13-inch monitor set at 1024x768 (pixel) resolution, a 72 ppi picture will appear smaller in inches than it would on a 19-inch monitor set at the same 1024x768 resolution. That's because the pixels on the small screen are more compacted than those on the large screen. So what is 72 ppi all about? Some have opined that it was the original resolution of some early computer, perhaps the first Mac. It has become a convenient standard for creating approximately web-sized pictures, but there are few if any monitors out there that have exactly 72 ppi at a particular resolution.

    That's why I always go back to thinking of computer images in pixel dimensions. I know that an 800-by-600 pixel image will fit in landscape mode on my 1024x768 resolution monitor with a little border around it. If I want a portrait mode picture to fit, it needs to be something like 525x700.

    And yes, if you start with an image that's of greater pixel dimensions than the 800x600 web size, you do have to throw away pixels via resampling to achieve those dimensions. But if the image is going only be viewed full-screen, the pixels that are discarded wouldn't display anyway. Under those cirstances, resampling isn't a bad thing at all.

    Enough for now...hope that helps

    Chuck
    Chuck Snyder Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Pete and Chuck. Thanks a lot. I think I need to get a technically dependable book in order to give myself a solid foundation.

    Since you mention scanning, my father, who also has Photoshop Elements (as a result of my recommendation) is planning to get a scanner with which to put old family photos (including those of my grandfather in a Royal Navy jazz band in the 1920s and some earlier) on to CDs for the various children. In order to approximate what could be done by paying somene else to do it (a photolab), how much would he need to spend on a scanner? Based on what you two and others have said, I have already told him that it seems like it would be a good idea to make two scans of every picture: one at maximum pixels and one that would be of a size that would be immediately usable for looking at the picture on a computer screen. Is that right?

    Also, do you need a special scanner for scanning negatives and slides?

    Thanks.

    Paul
    Paul Bullen Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: magic number 72

    "Paul Bullen" <paulbullen.com> wrote in message
    news:2ccd4247.3webx.la2eafNXanI...
    > [...] In order to approximate what could be done by
    > paying somene else to do it (a photolab), how much
    > would he need to spend on a scanner?
    IMHO, for home use -- i.e. to "approximate" what a photolab might produce --
    pretty much any of the name-brand scanners available today ought to do a
    good job. For basic scanning, I'd get something with 1200 or 2400 dpi
    resolution (just because that's commonly available -- beware the difference
    between "optical" and "interpolated" resolution..."optical" is the
    specification you care about) and that has a transparency adapter for
    scanning slides and negatives. You can get as decent scanner with those
    features for $100-200. In the consumer market, all you get for more money
    is additional features that don't really have much to do with the quality of
    the scan.

    One thing someone else is going to have to answer is whether a scanner that
    can do better than 24-bit color matters. I've never run into software that
    deals with anything greater than 8 bits per color channel, but then I
    haven't used any of the professional-grade photo editing packages. For
    sure, the best you're going to see on the computer screen is 24-bits, but a)
    more color resolution might give a nice printer more to work with, and b) it
    would for sure give you more "overhead" for doing contrast/brightness/etc
    adjustments after the scan (would be useful for cleaning up over- or
    under-exposed photos, for example). You would need software that
    understands the extra color information though...as far as I know, Elements
    doesn't.

    Of course, even the low-end scanners these days claim up to 48-bit color
    support, so I guess this is kind of a moot point.

    Personally, I'd buy a Canon or Epson, but that's just because I have had
    great luck with their products. I don't really know anything specific about
    them that would lead me to believe that they are better than the other
    brands (like HP, Minolta, Umax, etc.).

    Keeping in mind, of course, that at a good photolab, you're not just paying
    for the equipment. They have the expertise to produce the best quality
    scan, as well as fixing up any color issues after the fact. Which you can
    do also, but I know it would be a lot harder for a novice like me to produce
    exactly the same results.
    > Based on what you two and others have said, I have already
    > told him that it seems like it would be a good idea to make
    > two scans of every picture: one at maximum pixels and one
    > that would be of a size that would be immediately usable for
    > looking at the picture on a computer screen. Is that right?
    Not really. There's no reason to bother scanning at a high resolution if
    all you're doing is screen stuff. But if you want to print the scan and
    display it on the screen, you can scan it once at a high resolution suitable
    for printing and then use something like Elements to create a smaller
    version of the scanned image for display on a web site or as an email
    attachment.

    You might try scanning two versions with a few pictures, just to see if the
    scanner does a noticeably better job resampling than Elements does. But my
    experience is that for the purpose of showing the image on a screen, it's
    not necessary to get really picky.

    All IMHO, of course.
    > Also, do you need a special scanner for scanning negatives and slides?
    I hope I answered that question above. :) One thing I've been thinking
    about is whether for the highest quality scan, it would be better to scan a
    high quality enlargement of the photo (giving you more pixels to work with)
    or if the fact that scanning from a negative is basically first-generation
    would compensate for the reduction in effective resolution. Again, this is
    an area where I lack expertise, and hopefully someone else can answer. That
    said, I would get the transparency support just for the convenience factor,
    even if the highest quality scans actually came from enlargements. (When I
    say "enlargement", I'm including even the normal print sizes, like 4x6)

    Pete


    Peter Duniho Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Pete, Photoshop 7 handles 16/48 bit color, albeit with a limited set of
    program features available. Will be interesting to see if the next
    generation of editing products have enhanced capabilities in this area.

    Chuck


    Chuck Snyder Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Paul, I'd like to step in with my .02 worth, since I've been working on the kind of project your dad is starting for almost three years now. I can't say I've learned all there is to know, but I've definitely had some experience and picked up some pointers.

    I'll start by saying that I checked into having the old slides professionally done. Not only was it an expensive proposition, there are few people who even do it, at least around here. I'm glad I made that decision, because - using Elements - I've been amazed how how much life could be brought back into old faded slides that I probably wouldn't have even taken to anyone for scanning. It would have been a shame to lose out on some of those pictures.

    Have him count up the number of slides he wants to scan. There are a number of consumer flatbed scanners with adapters, but if he has many to do, he might want to consider a dedicated scanner. I believe a Minolta Dimage is what several people on the forum have chosen. Mine is an old HP that's no longer available. Scanning slides for the purpose of printing can be tedious, because they do have to be scanned at a high resolution since they're so small. A dedicated scanner wouldn't necessarily be faster on a per slide basis, but handling the slides is very awkward, and if he has thousands to do - like some of us - he's going to get tired of fiddling with them fast. The dedicated scanners like the Minolta do four at a time I believe. They also scan at a higher resolution than many flatbeds.

    Also, I see no reason to do two scans. (He'll undoubtedly find this project takes longer than he thought anyway - no point in doubling the work!) One high quality scan, archived, can then be used for either prints or monitor display. Resampling downward, using Elements Save for Web feature for example, is fast and easy. Scanning isn't the fun part - that comes with the editing and sharing.

    Choosing bit depth of scanners will probably be a moot point. I have a cheap little Canon flatbed USB that's 48 bit. It doesn't produce a scan any better than my ancient Umax that's 16 bit. As a matter of fact, I haven't yzed why, but the old scanner seems to produce a sharper image than the new one. You might, again depending on how much scanning he thinks he'll be doing, want to steer him toward one that has either a firewire or USB 2 connection. My USB Canon is slow as molasses in January compared to the old (obsolete) SCSI scanner.

    And invite him to start hanging out on the forum. There are several of us here who are working on projects similar to his. It's a great place to get help.
    Beth Haney Guest

  10. #10

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Thank you all very much. I will encourage my Dad to join the forum when he gets down to work. In fact, I have forwarded your comments to him.-- Paul
    Paul Bullen Guest

  11. #11

    Default Re: magic number 72



    but the old scanner seems to produce a sharper image than the new one.




    Hi, Beth. Just saw this. I think it's because canons tend to be a little soft overall. It's the one thing I'm not crazy about about my n1240U and I noticed when I was reading the reviews of the S400 camera that several reviewers noted that canon temds to "conservative" about these things and so I expect the camera images may tend that way a bit as well.
    Barbara Brundage Guest

  12. #12

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Oh, this is so interesting, as I have many hundreds of old slides, some taken in the Middle East and world wide, back in the '50s by my father-in-law, my old underwater ones, and many others that are really neat.
    So far, I have been using my Nikon digicam with an aftermarket gadget that actually takes a picture of the slide in Macro mode. It really does a great job, but it is very very time consuming. If I could do this with a group of slides, I would be happier than a,,,,,,,really happy.
    I will be watching how you all do this, as I am still a beginner at all this.
    Thanks,, Jane
    Jane Carter Guest

  13. Moderated Post

    Default Re: magic number 72

    Removed by Administrator
    Bert Bigelow Guest
    Moderated Post

  14. #14

    Default Re: magic number 72

    I might as well add my two cents on the "72" issue.
    I am a disciple of Wayne Fulton and his book, "A Few Tips on Scanning" which I have a copy of. He says the only possible reason to set resolution to 72 dpi is to get an approximate idea of the size of the image on a monitor. As others have pointed out, though, the size will depend greatly on both the physical size of the monitor and the resolution setting.
    FWIW
    Bert
    Bert Bigelow Guest

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