Thanks to so many people carrying camera-equipped smartphones, our society is inundated with photos like never before. For many of us, sharing and posting pictures has become second nature. Although, not everyone is aware of just how large the file size of pictures can potentially be, and why large photos can be problematic.
To give you an idea of just how many more pictures we take today than we did before the advent of the digital camera, consider this cultural insight from comedian Jim Gaffigan: “I have more pictures of my kids than my Dad even looked at me.” Can you relate? If you can, then hopefully it’s because of the crazy amount of pictures you’re taking with your mobile device.
One of the developments of digital picture taking is that, as the cameras improve, the file sizes of the pictures being taken become larger. For example, in 2008 a three megapixel smartphone camera was about as large as you could find. Today, Samsung’s latest Galaxy smartphone (the S6) boasts a 16MP camera, which produces photos of a much greater file size. Although, to be fair, the largest SD card you could find in an electronics retail store in 2008 was 1GB, and today, you can easily find a 64GB miniSD card.
For photo enthusiasts, the advancement of what smartphone cameras can do is exciting. However, casual smartphone users may not appreciate the difference between a 1MP camera and a 16MP camera. The casual user will just use their camera to snap pictures of everything and anything, and then share their photos with all of their friends, family, and social media followers. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a million pictures, having all of your pictures be full-sized can actually complicate how you store and share data.
Pro tip: when taking a picture of something that’s not all that important (like your dinner), use the smallest file size setting possible that your device’s camera will allow. Think about it, “Do you really need to take glorious 16MP pictures of what items you have to pick up at the grocery store?”
It’s problematic to have each and every picture be full-sized for a few reasons.
Sharing large pictures with others: It’s fun and easy to snap a picture with your smartphone and then instantly text or email it to a friend, or even upload it to social media for the world to see. The problem here is that a full-sized picture can be a rather large file that will eat up a significant chunk of data and bandwidth, and a large photo can be cumbersome to send via text or email. Plus, it just doesn’t make sense to send a poster-sized picture to someone when you expect them to view it on the small screen of a mobile device.
Uploading large pictures to a website: If you have a blog or website, then you’re going to want to be mindful of picture size before uploading them. A full-sized, 16MP picture is going to take forever to load and annoy website visitors. For example, this is why social media websites like Facebook will automatically shrink images uploaded by its users. Otherwise, Facebook’s servers would be overwhelmed if the more than 350 million photos uploaded to its site every day were 16MP each.
Using too much data storage space: Fact: large photos take up more disk space than small photos. Therefore, you’ll want to take small pictures with your camera, or shrink your large images if you want to free up hard drive space.
Pro tip: Resizing your pictures to make them smaller is easy to do. However, you’ll want to make sure to not make your images so small that you’ll lose the desired quality. One way to do this is to open your image using any photo editing software, change the image’s size, and then save it as a new image. You can next delete the original image in order to free up space.
Another easy way to resize your image while retaining its quality is to use the website PunyPNG.com. Using this free online tool, you can upload your large image and it will then generate for you a much smaller image that keeps the dimensions and quality of your picture in tact.
Bonus pro tip: Once you shrink an image, you can’t blow it back up again without losing quality, so if you think you might need a higher resolution image later, keep the largest version you have.
Now that you’re mindful of the size of your photos, you’re well on your way to becoming a more knowledgeable photographer. All you have to do next is learn about exposure and lighting and you’ll get booked for weddings and graduations in no time. Do you have any more tips on managing your photos? Share them with us in the comments.