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Photographers are constantly racing for image quality: maximum clarity, detail and resolution. In this article, step-by-step photographer Spencer Cox explains how to quickly and easily increase the resolution of a photo in a photo editor, and also compares the five popular options available today to improve image quality.

How to increase image resolution

What is permission?

In photography, resolution reflects the level of detail in an image, which is determined by factors such as focusing accuracy, lens quality, and the number of pixels of the camera’s sensor. If the image is intended for printing, other factors come into play – image size, print quality, etc. However, at the same time, resolution may also relate to more specific aspects, such as the resolution of the lens, the number of pixels per inch in the print version, and the total number of pixels of the digital image.

As a rule, photographers by increasing the resolution of an image means increasing the number of pixels, for example, turning a photograph 200 × 200 pixels into 1000 × 1000.

Of course, simply adding pixels is not enough if the visible image quality of the photo does not improve. Unfortunately, getting a good photo from a low-resolution original is not easy, but not impossible. You will have impressive results if done right. How to do it? You will find out below.

Increase resolution in Photoshop and other photo editors

Most basic post-processing programs allow you to increase the number of pixels in an image. The difficulty is to get any meaningful details (or illusion). Depending on the software, in the best case, the image will just look out of focus, but without conspicuous pixels.

How to increase image resolution
You just won’t be able to get something as detailed as the top image from the original low resolution

But this does not mean that the situation is hopeless. To help increase the resolution of the image (in this case, the number of pixels) in the process of post-processing comes upsampling. Let’s look at examples.

How to do it in Photoshop

In Photoshop, this is very fast and easy. Head to Image> Image Size, enter the desired pixel sizes and select the upsampling method. (Hint: if you have Photoshop CC, select Preserve Details 2.0.) After that, you can also slightly sharpen the photo, depending on the particular image.

Using specialized software for upsampling

The most famous of the editors for working with image resolution (in addition to Photoshop) is called Genuine Fractals. It was later renamed Perfect Resize, and now it’s ON1 Resize.

The fact that this is standalone software does not mean that it is the best. As you will see in the comparison below, the Preserve Details 2.0 algorithm in Photoshop CC is noticeably superior to ON1 Resize. However, if you do not have Photoshop CC, you can try some of these specialized programs for resizing images.

In addition, GIMP is a good option – free open-source photo editing software, which is one of the most popular alternatives, and not just for upsampling. Also do not forget about free online photo editors.

What about the future?

Some companies are already developing software that should increase resolution by analyzing the image and recognizing the elements on it, in contrast to the “stupid” calculations of the nearest pixels (as it actually works now).

Google and Adobe are working on this, and we may be able to see some products introducing these technologies in the near future. (Thanks to the latest Adobe Photoshop CC upsampling algorithm tested below, we already see hints of what this will look like in the future.) However, some of them are fairly limited algorithms that focus only on a specific type of image, for example on faces at a certain angle.

Software comparison

Photographer Spencer Cox did some tests using photographs and digital illustrations to see if there were any significant differences in their upsampling. He started with a version of 300 × 300 pixels for each image, and then enlarged each to 900 × 900. Keep in mind that only two images were tested in this comparison, so your results may vary slightly.

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