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Crop/Resize Yourself or via Print Lab?

jcgoodsonjcgoodson Member
edited August 2014 in post-production
My photography hobby has escalated to the point where I'm looking to form a relationship with a local, professional printer. I visited one this week and during our discussion it was suggested that instead of resizing and cropping an image myself (e.g., in the Lightroom export tool), that I upload the full-resolution image and let the print lab do this (I can choose a crop/size via their ROES software). I had always thought I should handle cropping and resizing myself, but now I'm not sure. Any advice from forum members is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.



  • I don't know about the other forum members, but I always do all my resizing and cropping myself before sending the photos off to the lab.

    Before I started doing this I received some strangely cropped photos from a couple of labs. (And yes, I realise that they used automated cropping, but still...someone could have cast an eye on them before sending them back.)

    Anywho, I nowadays crop and resize to the format wanted from the lab. Never had a problem since.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Concur with Jerry, also, it's wise to do 'step downs' with incremental 10% sizing and sharpening to get near the size then apply the crop tool.

    With enlargements, it's wise to do the same 10% incremental sizes.
  • jcgoodson: Let me start by saying that cropping and resizing are very different and distinct things and it's best not to blur them together. In LR, they are separate: You can crop all you want with the develop module. Resizing, if you choose to do so, only happens within export function you use to create the JPG (or whatever format) file you want to send to your printer. (In PS, the crop tool does have a resolution setting so you can resize at the same time but you can leave it blank so no resizing occurs.)

    Here is the scenario of why your printer is suggesting uploading the full resolution uncropped image and cropping using their software:

    Say you started thinking that you were going to do 4x6 inch prints. So in LR you do a 4x6 crop and then export it as a 300 dpi image. That will be a 1200x1800 pixel file. So you upload that to the printer's website and put some 4x6 prints in your shopping cart. Oh but wait! They have a sale where they will throw in a free 8x10 if you order two 5x7 prints. So you add those to your cart too. You would need to use their website to crop to create the 5x7 and 8x10, so you go ahead and do that.

    The net result is that you would have 4x6's printed at 300 dpi, which is generally the standard for high quality prints. Great. The 5x7 would have required cropping a little bit of the long side of your 1200x1800 pixel file away, and would result in the equivalent of a 1200x1680 pixel image, so that works out to 240 dpi at 5x7. Not as good as 300, but it may be ok. The 8x10 would require a lot of the long side cropped, so you would get 1200x1500, which is only 150 dpi at 8x10.

    So you can see you had good quality with the 4x6, less for the 5x7, and quite a bit less for the 8x10. Now consider if you had done it "their way." Say you're shooting with a 24 megapixel camera that produces files 4000x6000 pixels. You edit it to your liking but you don't crop it, don't do any resizing, and you upload that to the printer. You add 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 to your cart.

    The 4x6 does not require any cropping (because the example camera is producing files in that same aspect ratio) and the printer has the luxury of 1000 dpi to work with. The 5x7 would need cropping, but you would have 4000x5600 pixels which is 800 dpi. The 8x10 would work out to 4000x5000, which is 500 dpi. So the printer has lots of raw material to resize these as needed for their equipment, and produce the highest quality prints possible.

    Clearly, the second scenario is better, but that said, I don't think most pro photographers I know do this. They would be deciding ahead of time what print sizes are going to be and would be creating those image files separately. So in this scenario, they would have created three separate versions of the original image file, which is easy to do with LR. You could have the original 4x6 version, edited as you wish, then create a virtual copy and crop to 5x7, and then another virtual copy for the 8x10. Then you export each as 300 dpi (or whatever the printer recommends/requires). When I do this, I would have the size in the filename to help me later on the website (eg. DSC_0114_4x6.jpg, DSC_0114_5x7.jpg, and DSC_0114_8x10.jpg). It's a lot easier to see on your own big screen the exact crop, maybe you need to rotate a little, etc. than trying to do this in a little window on the printer's website. Plus, some photographers are quite fanatical with their resizing and output sharpening approaches, and would not trust anyone else to do this but themselves.

    I hope this helps.
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