The Myth of File Size

Breaking Down the Size Myth

If you're a 300 pound NFL lineman, size definitely matters. If you're a digital image file, it's a LOT more subtle! The true measure is pixel dimension. A one gigabyte file sent to Facebook will be resized to a file only 600 pixels on the long side because that's the size used in that application. That same one gigabyte file could be way too small for printing to a billboard, even thought the picture looks the same.

What is Pixel Dimension?

Simply, a pixel is the smallest basic dimensions of an image. A single pixel represents a dot of information of a specific color, and all the dots blended together form an image. For example, a portrait appearing in a yearbook needs to be 640x800 pixels to match the printers' needs. That same portrait printed to an 8x10 for your desk must be 2190x2700 pixels to work in a  digital color printer. The smaller file looks fine printed to 1.5 inches or on a screen, but will be fuzzy - "pixelated" - on a larger printed image. There's simply not enough information.

What is Compression?

The files we see most often are JPEG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the standards board that created it. To make a compressed file to save on precious hard drive space, the JPEG takes a single color and represents it digitally by a single binary code. When a large single color background is compressed, it could be represented by a VERY small amount of information, then mapped to move that information to thousands of other places on the image.

Simply stated, the more colors there are, the more information required to represent it. Take the two images above. The white background with the black dot has only two colors - black and white, so compression is very high, and the resulting JPEG is only 376 KB when you see it on your desktop. Take the same bright colored image on the right, and it takes more information to represent all those colors. So the file appears to be larger - 1.2 MB. If you take the black dot image and save it as an uncompressed (TIFF) file, the size is actually 16.2 MB! 

Yet look at the middle illustration - the two files with very different color information is exactly the same pixel dimensions - 15.4 MB or 2700 pixels on the long side.

How Does That Translate to the Companion Digital Files I received?

We make your files 2700 pixels on the long side so they will print to 8x10, reduce well for web use, and not take up a ton of space on your hard drive! Still confused? Just know that your files will print beautifully, look great on the screen, and are all the same size when opened in an image program despite a file folder that looks like everything is a different size.