Why PPI Is Imaginary: PPI Versus DPI Versus Resolution

There are a lot of confusing elements when it comes to photography, particularly when you’re looking at printing. Perhaps the most misunderstood is PPI — pixels per inch — and when it’s useful, because it is often not useful at all.

My first foray into printing was a confusing one. One of my first paying clients as a professional photographer wanted me to capture some elements of his business and what they do, but then get them printed rather large as wall art. Taking the photographs was easy enough, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I made a slight error in judgment with the printing side: I presumed it would just be straightforward, despite never having really looked at creating high-end prints.

Fortunately for me, I used the print company’s preview service where you pay to have a small version of your print created to check the colors and quality, so I was able to narrow down what I needed from trial and error. However, a rabbit hole it sent me down was what PPI means and how, outside of referencing both digital and physical dimensions at the same time, it is almost useless. DPI (dots per inch) is a printing metric that is easy to understand, but PPI felt more elusive to me and all these years later, I still haven’t found a situation within my work where it matters.

Has PPI ever mattered to your photography? If so, how?

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