Digital Files

What is the difference between "hi res" and "lo res" digital files?

Digital files tend to be called “high resolution” or “low resolution”. These are relative terms, and neither has a specific value. But put simply “high resolution” means lots of pixels, and “low resolution” means a relatively small number of  pixels.

The sole purpose of high resolution files is to create physical products. Low resolution files are the best option if you want the images for phones and social media.

Low resolution digital files

“Low resolution” digital files are ideal for sharing on phones and the internet. I give these away for free with products. Any image that you have bought in a physical product comes with a complimentary (ie free) low resolution digital file of that image. These free digital images have been optimised for phones and social media, and they come with a discreet watermark. You have permission to copy and share them to your heart’s content.

So if, for example, you have bought a photo book that contains 36 images, then I will give you those same 36 images as low resolution digital files.

High resolution digital files

High resolution digital files are one of my most valuable products. This is because they give clients the physical freedom to use my photographs, and get them made into any product at any time. Potentially this could severely impact how much I earn from my photography! Therefore I price my high  resolution files accordingly, and I sell them with a licence that gives clients permission to use them as they wish.

Eight important things to know about high resolution digital files

  1. The only purpose of high resolution digital files is to create physical products.
  2. Hi res files themselves are probably “less accessible” than physical products. That is to say clients who buy pictures for their walls have the satisfaction of seeing them continually, and they feel good every time they see them. Clients who buy albums or photo books can look at them whenever they want. In contrast, high resolution digital files are usually buried on a computer’s hard drive somewhere.
  3. In my opinion photographs that are printed at a good size are much more satisfying to look at (and touch!) than images displayed on a phone or computer monitor. You can literally feel the quality. A digital image on a monitor does not do the quality of the images full justice.
  4. I think when people buy high resolution digital files they think; “I will have them for ever and I will be able to print them any way I want, whenever I want”. In theory this is completely true, and it is a valid reason to invest in high resolution files. But in practice most people do not get round to making full use of them (research has shown this). It is very likely that the original USB or disk will be put in a drawer, and largely forgotten.
  5. And how safe are digital files that are stored on a computer? Do they “last forever”? You should make back ups of course, but files can get corrupted, disks can fail, computers can be stolen or break… and so on.
  6. The quality of high resolution photos is not fully used when viewed on a computer monitor. For example, a reasonably large monitor may be 1900×1200 pixels. A high resolution digital file may be in the region of 6000×4000 pixels. So there is no need for high resolution files if you are only going to look at them on a monitor.
  7. Even if you do get your hi res files printed, it is to some extent a lottery about the quality you will end up with. Both in terms of their longevity and their appearance. Most people will assume that the digital image file will define how the photos will look after printing, and that is a natural assumption to make. Unfortunately it is not that simple for a range of technical reasons that I am not qualified to describe. This is the reason I use only high quality professional labs to make my products, and I use a fully calibrated workflow on all my equipment from start to finish.
  8. High resolution digital files are often perceived by many to be “expensive”. After all, digital files cost nothing to copy so why should they cost real money to buy in the first place? But in fact the photographer is effectively selling his negatives (from the days of film), and he or she has to charge for his time, experience, training, insurance, and all the other costs of running a business. All this has to be recuperated when the photographer sells his (or her) most valuable product!

What is the difference between "hi res" and "lo res" digital files?

Digital files tend to be called “high resolution” or “low resolution”. These are relative terms, and neither has a specific value. But put simply “high resolution” means lots of pixels, and “low resolution” means a relatively small number of  pixels.

The sole purpose of high resolution files is to create physical products. Low resolution files are the best option if you want the images for phones and social media.

Low resolution digital files

“Low resolution” digital files are ideal for sharing on phones and the internet. I give these away for free with products. Any image that you have bought in a physical product comes with a complimentary (ie free) low resolution digital file of that image. These free digital images have been optimised for phones and social media, and they come with a discreet watermark. You have permission to copy and share them to your heart’s content.

So if, for example, you have bought a photo book that contains 36 images, then I will give you those same 36 images as low resolution digital files.

High resolution digital files

High resolution digital files are one of my most valuable products. This is because they give clients the physical freedom to use my photographs, and get them made into any product at any time. Potentially this could severely impact how much I earn from my photography! Therefore I price my high  resolution files accordingly, and I sell them with a licence that gives clients permission to use them as they wish.

Eight important things to know about high resolution digital files

  1. The only purpose of high resolution digital files is to create physical products.
  2. Hi res files themselves are probably “less accessible” than physical products. That is to say clients who buy pictures for their walls have the satisfaction of seeing them continually, and they feel good every time they see them. Clients who buy albums or photo books can look at them whenever they want. In contrast, high resolution digital files are usually buried on a computer’s hard drive somewhere.
  3. In my opinion photographs that are printed at a good size are much more satisfying to look at (and touch!) than images displayed on a phone or computer monitor. You can literally feel the quality. A digital image on a monitor does not do the quality of the images full justice.
  4. I think when people buy high resolution digital files they think; “I will have them for ever and I will be able to print them any way I want, whenever I want”. In theory this is completely true, and it is a valid reason to invest in high resolution files. But in practice most people do not get round to making full use of them (research has shown this). It is very likely that the original USB or disk will be put in a drawer, and largely forgotten.
  5. And how safe are digital files that are stored on a computer? Do they “last forever”? You should make back ups of course, but files can get corrupted, disks can fail, computers can be stolen or break… and so on.
  6. The quality of high resolution photos is not fully used when viewed on a computer monitor. For example, a reasonably large monitor may be 1900×1200 pixels. A high resolution digital file may be in the region of 6000×4000 pixels. So there is no need for high resolution files if you are only going to look at them on a monitor.
  7. Even if you do get your hi res files printed, it is to some extent a lottery about the quality you will end up with. Both in terms of their longevity and their appearance. Most people will assume that the digital image file will define how the photos will look after printing, and that is a natural assumption to make. Unfortunately it is not that simple for a range of technical reasons that I am not qualified to describe. This is the reason I use only high quality professional labs to make my products, and I use a fully calibrated workflow on all my equipment from start to finish.
  8. High resolution digital files are often perceived by many to be “expensive”. After all, digital files cost nothing to copy so why should they cost real money to buy in the first place? But in fact the photographer is effectively selling his negatives (from the days of film), and he or she has to charge for his time, experience, training, insurance, and all the other costs of running a business. All this has to be recuperated when the photographer sells his (or her) most valuable product!