There’s nothing more satisfying than holding beautiful prints of your iPhone photos, or even seeing them displayed as artwork on your wall! But how do you print the pictures from your phone, how big can they be printed, and at what quality? In this article you’ll discover how to create great looking prints of your iPhone photos, from small prints, to beautiful photo books, to large canvas wall hangings. You’ll also find out exactly what size you can print your photos, depending on which iPhone model you shoot with.
How Big Can You Print Your Photos?
The first question you probably ask when printing your iPhone photos is: “How big can I print my pictures?”
This all depends on the quality that you want to achieve, e.g. excellent, good or fair quality. The table below shows the maximum sizes that you can print using these three different standards of quality.
As you can see, the higher quality the print, the smaller it needs to be. And the larger you print your photos, the poorer the image quality will become.
Why? Because a digital photo is made up of millions of tiny pixels (individual squares of color that make up the complete image).
As you increase the size of the print, you also increase the size of the pixels. When the pixels become too big, your picture will appear pixelated. Instead of a smooth and sharp image, it will look fuzzy because the blocky pixels are too large.
So the smaller you print your photo, the sharper, smoother and better quality it will look. The larger you print, the more compromises you have to make in terms of image quality.
More Pixels Means Bigger Prints
The amount of pixels in your photo determines how big you can print at high quality. The more pixels your image contains, the bigger you’ll be able to print without it becoming pixelated and fuzzy.
In the table above there are two columns of print sizes, depending on the iPhone model that you’re using. This is because the pixel count of the latest iPhones is different from the previous models.
The iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus all have an 8 megapixel camera, which means that your photo contains 8 million pixels.
The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus both have a 12 megapixel camera, which means your photo contains 12 million pixels.
An increase from 8 megapixels to 12 megapixels is huge – the image is 50% larger! So if you have a 6s or 6s Plus, you’ll be able to print your photos much larger before you start to see the image quality degrade.
I print my photos on canvases, postcards, notecards, etc. and display or sell them in art shows, galleries, museums, fairs and boutiques.
Being able to “stretch” my photos a little larger than I already do is a thrilling prospect, and the sole reason I want to upgrade to the new 12 megapixel iPhone 6s!
What Quality Print Do You Need?
The type of print you’re creating will usually determine the quality that you’ll want to print at. There are two things to consider: How important is image quality? And at what distance will this photo be viewed from?
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, quality is extremely important. Your clients will expect extremely high quality prints and these prints will usually be viewed at a close distance in a wedding album. Therefore, it’s advisable not to print them too big.
If you’re printing some family snapshots to hang on your wall or stick on your fridge, you might be prepared to accept a slightly lower level of quality so that you can get bigger prints. Also, these pictures will usually be viewed from a distance of a few feet, so you probably won’t notice any small quality issues.
If you want to print a really large photo (such as a canvas to hang on your wall like the one shown above) you’ll have to print at an even lower quality. However, this kind of picture is usually viewed from a distance, and the further away you’re standing from the picture, the less you’ll notice any issues with quality.
So while you always want the best quality print possible, a larger, lower quality print can actually look fine as long as you’re not viewing it close up.
Understanding PPI (Pixels Per Inch)
When you print a photo, it will be printed at a certain PPI (pixels per inch), e.g. 300 PPI, 200 PPI, 150 PPI, etc. You’ll often see these figures when printing your own photos or when sending your photos off to be printed. But what exactly does this mean for you?
The more pixels you pack into an inch of your print (a high PPI), the smaller the pixels will need to be to fit into that space. This results in a smaller overall print size, but it will be high quality because the pixels are small.
If you print with a very low PPI, the pixels need to be much larger to fill each inch of the photo. This results in a larger overall print size which will be poorer quality (remember, large pixels make the picture look fuzzy).
So the higher the PPI, the smaller the print will be, and the better quality it will appear. The lower the PPI, the larger the print will be, and the poorer quality it will appear.
Here’s a more detailed look at the information for maximum print sizes at different quality settings, including the PPI (pixels per inch) values that produce different quality prints.
So if you have an iPhone 6s and you want an excellent quality professional-looking print at 300 PPI, the biggest you can print your photo is 14.29 inches by 9.49 inches. But if you’re willing to print at 150 PPI, you’ll be able to have a much larger photo.
If you’re interested in how to calculate these sizes, you simply divide the image size by the PPI. So if your image is 4288 pixels wide, divide that by the PPI of 300, and you get 14.29 inches which is the width of your printed photo.
Now that you know how big you can print your pictures at different qualities, let’s explore some of the options you have for turning your iPhone photos into beautiful prints.
Print Your Photos At Home
If you mostly want to print your photos at fairly small sizes on photographic paper, investing in a decent home printer could be a good option.
Remember that in addition to paying for the printer itself, you’ll also need to purchase ink. Printing at home can end up costing more money per print than using a printing service, but it gives you more flexibility and the option to print whenever you want.
With so many printers on the market, it can be difficult to choose which one to buy. Getting a recommendation from a friend or professional photographer can be a good starting point, and always check reviews online before you buy.
For quality home printing an inkjet printer is the way to go. Prices will range from about $80-$300. Most printers take a maximum paper size of A4, so if you want to print larger than this you’d need to spend more to get an A3 printer.
If you want to print directly from your iPhone (without having to go through your computer), you’ll need a wireless printer that has Apple AirPrint capability (a technology that allows your iPhone to communicate with the printer).
To print to an AirPrint printer, you simply open the image in the Photos app on your phone, tap the Share icon (square with arrow) at the bottom left of the screen, then tap the Print option.
When printing at home, consider the type of paper that you’re going to print on as it can make a huge difference. Printing on ordinary copy paper won’t result in good quality prints! High quality photo paper will produce much nicer looking photos.
There are different types of photo paper that have different finishes, and they come in different thicknesses too. If you want a high-sheen finish, choose a glossy paper. If you don’t want any sheen, go for a matte paper.
Bear in mind that glossy prints are more likely to show up any quality issues. Glossy paper is designed to show crystal-clear, vibrant, high contrast photos. Matte paper is more porous and can be a bit more forgiving.
Use A Portable Hand-Held Printer
If you want an instant way to print your photos on the go, you might want to consider purchasing a portable hand-held printer such as the Instax printer from Fujifilm.
This compact device allows you to print your photos wirelessly from your iPhone in under a minute. Essentially, it transforms your iPhone into an old-school polaroid camera, allowing you to print your photos instantly to share with others or keep for yourself.
Of course, not everyone wants to print their photos on the go like this, but if it’s something that appeals to you, the Instax printer is a pretty neat gadget.
However, it’s not cheap! You’re looking at anything over $150 for the printer, and the film has to be purchased separately. It’s a bit of a luxury gadget!
Order Your Prints Online
If you don’t want to print your photos at home, or you want to print your images in a non-standard format such as a photo book, calendar, canvas print, etc. you can use a printing service to do the job for you.
You could use a pick-up printing service at a nearby store, but you’ll probably find it more convenient to use a mail order service.
Whatever service you use, it’s always good to go with a personal recommendation or ask for a sample print so that you can be sure they offer a high quality product.
I’ve heard numerous professional photographers say that some shops and online printing services offer sub-standard prints. In particular, they’ve experienced problems with crops being changed and colors being dull or inaccurate.
There are many great choices for online printing services, and most of them offer a free app that you can download onto your phone. This allows you to easily upload your images from your iPhone’s photo library and order whatever type of prints you want.
Here are a few online print services that you could check out:
Social Print Studio is a lovely, home-grown company from California that’s really expanded in the past few years. They offer a wide range of print types, including square prints, magnets, photostrips, photo books, posters and framed prints.
Another great app is PostalPix which allows you to order photo prints from your iPhone’s photo library as well as your Instagram feed. They offer several print mediums including standard prints, aluminum prints, iPhone cases and mouse pads.
If you want to create beautiful photo books from your iPhone photos, Printastic is a great app that offers a high quality printing service.
You can check out our recent review of Printastic here and if you use our special discount code IPHONEPS20 you’ll get 20% off your order!
Chatbooks is another photo book app that’s well known for its high level of customer service.
You can even subscribe to an ongoing book series where a new photo book is automatically created each time you add 60 photos to a particular photo source such as Instagram, Facebook or your Cameral Roll Favorites.
Companies like Snapfish and Shutterfly are popular print services that offer many different options for printing your photos. They both offer an app for your iPhone, but for complex creations you might find it easier to use their website on your computer rather than your iPhone.
When I use these companies, I tend to upload my photos to my laptop and then order from there. Once a year I order calendars for my entire family, which they all really love to receive. I’ve used these sites for personal print jobs, party invites and holiday cards.
I should mention that I did have to send my holiday cards back to Snapfish last year as the prints I received didn’t match up to their prior jobs. I since discovered that they outsource their holiday card orders. They gave me a full refund, and I have some beautiful birthday card invites from them.
One more thing to mention is that it’s always worth looking out for coupons on the internet that will give you a discount code for some of these print services. You can often find some great deals if you look around!
Use A Professional Print House
Do you want to know a secret? Professional photographers don’t use websites and apps like those mentioned above. They use professional print companies, such as White House Custom Color (WHCC), who can guarantee superior print quality.
Professional print companies work in the same manner as sites such as Snapfish and Shutterfly – you send them the images and they send you the prints. However, you usually have to apply to become a customer.
There are a few differences between professional print houses and businesses like Snapfish and Shutterfly. For example, many of their printing machines are different, but the main difference is that they work to ensure the colors in your images are accurate.
I spoke to WHCC, and they told me that when you first sign up you have to calibrate your color. You send them five images, they print the photos and return them to you so you can make sure your prints mirror what you see on your monitor.
Some professional photographers go as far as buying a calibration kit which helps ensure that the colors you see in the image on your monitor are exactly what you see when the image is printed.
Once your have your monitor calibrated, shops like WHCC leave the rest to you. When you send them an image, they don’t do anything to alter the color of your image.
These extra steps to ensure that the color of your photos is as accurate as possible is why many hobby photographer don’t use a professional print house. But if you’re planning to sell your photos as prints, this might be an option you want to consider.
Find A Print Company You Can Trust
When I had one of my iPhone photos in the Mobile Photography Exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, I wanted to find someone knowledgable and trustworthy to print all of my artwork.
I needed someone who could provide good advice and work with me to create the best possible prints. And that’s when I found Adam at a company called Artwork Avenue.
He asked me why I wasn’t selling more of my artwork, and I told him it was because my photos were shot using an iPhone, and according to professional standards I couldn’t print them very big.
He told me to erase those self-imposed boundaries from my mind. My photos could be printed… And they could be printed big! On canvas. On Wood. Even as a coffee table!
Since then, I’ve used Adam for much of my print work. I like Avenue Artwork because they actually look at each and every file that comes in. One time their designers darkened a few details in a photo of mine before they blew up the picture to a 40 x 40 inch canvas.
When I spoke to Adam recently, he told me: “At Avenue Artwork, we love working with iPhone images because it’s so cool to see the creativity that everyday people use their cameras for.”
If you’re looking to get your iPhone photos printed for display or selling purposes, I’d highly recommend that you find a print company that offers a service like Artwork Avenue.
Find someone who’s just as passionate about getting the best quality prints from your iPhone photos as possible. That way, you can concentrate on taking amazing iPhone photos, and you can leave the printing decisions to the experts!
Whether you’re printing your iPhone snapshots at home, using online services to create beautiful printed products, or embarking on selling large prints of your images, understanding the basics about print size and quality is essential.
Knowing how big you can print your photos, and at what quality, will help you make the right decision each time you print an image.
While small prints give you the best image quality, don’t forget that larger prints designed for displaying on walls are often viewed from a distance. And if you don’t see them close up, you’re unlikely to notice the reduction in image quality.
It’s sometimes a case of trial and error when creating very large prints, finding a balance between size and quality. But if you can find a trustworthy print company to advise you, it will make the task far less daunting.
I wish you luck with your printing, whichever method you decide to use. I’m sure your prints are going to look stunning!