Easy tip to prevent your clients from printing your low-res image files

We all know that clients can easily crop a watermark off of a low-res file you deliver to them, but unless they have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (or similar), and are skilled at up-sampling, there is an easy way to prevent your clients from ordering even small prints from a lab.

I just did a little experiment to see exactly what size I would need to prepare my low-res watermarked images at to prevent printing.

I created three different sizes and dpis, and uploaded each to Shutterfly.

The size that wins the ‘prevent your clients from printing war’ is this: 600×400 px, at 5dpi.

I got an error message with each size print I tried to order, all the way down to 4×6 prints, with the exception of wallets. (The image on top was the 600×400 at 5dpi, the image on the bottom was 700×450 (?) at 10dpi.)

Screenshot 2014-01-31 17.54.12

Note that the 600×400 size is still perfectly adequate for displaying in an album on Facebook for example. This is it:

daschund puppy in stocking pet photography

Of course, this goes without saying that you have your copyright information in the metadata for each image, and include a file on their DVD/thumb drive with your copyright information and use permissions, but using the above tip your client will be prevented from ordering prints, regardless of whether they understand/agree with/read your copyright or crop off your watermark. (It’s also a good idea, if you are really concerned with this or it has been a problem with your business, to include ‘copyright jane smith’ [your name] at the end of every filename). I know every lab is different, but I’d think that even if they didn’t get an error message upon checkout, or delivering a thumb drive to Costco (or whatever), that the lab would contact them upon discovering their prints will look horrid printed at that resolution. Sure, some may go ahead and place the order and hope for the best, but at 5dpi, their dreams of ignoring your copyright will be shattered once they get the awful, pixelated, blurry prints in the mail. Mwah ha ha.

Just wanted to pass that along, because I know the conversation has come up lately about clients printing low-res files! If you have your own different tips on how to prevent a client from printing your low-res watermarked file, leave it as a comment below!

February 5, 2014 - 12:27 am

Rita Endres - Does Facebook keep your metadata linked to your file upon upload? Any files I’ve tried to download once I’ve uploaded them (testing it), have completely different file names. . .

February 5, 2014 - 3:01 am

Elaina Stanley Cowdell - Love this! Thank you!!

February 5, 2014 - 4:47 am

Mark Hopkins - LOL… this is such a crock of crap… dpi settings mean nothing. It’s the pixels. LOL…. too funny though. 600×400 is still 600×400 whether it’s 3000 dpi or 1 dpi… doesn’t matter… it’s stil 2400 total pixels. You may fool Shutterfly, but nobody else (only proves that Shutterfly’s system is a little dumb!) 🙂

February 5, 2014 - 1:01 pm

Amy Chandler Smith - Excellent. Thanks for testing!
Recently I was at someones house and they had “proof” prints in frames with the photographers name, from the early 2000’s. Best to prevent as best you can!
With sharing of photos across the world, you better have a watermark on there. No one will ever know otherwise.

DPI =dots per inch. Is important and a standard in graphics.

February 5, 2014 - 5:05 pm

Joanna Reichert - 5 dpi. Genius! I am confused about Mark below though. DPI relates to actual printing, while PPI relates to how we view on the screen. You could have a 5 DPI, 72 PPI image and have it ‘look’ gorgeous on the screen, but not gorgeous through the printer. Or am I waaaayyy off the mark here?

March 27, 2014 - 3:09 pm

Jamie Pflughoeft - Mark Hopkins: I think you are really confused about the topic of this post, which is about printing, not displaying on the web, which I think you are trying to argue (?). It’s not a ‘crock of crap’ as you mistakenly indicate, saying that ‘dpi settings mean nothing’ (when it comes to clients printing files). Dpi determines the quality of an image once printed (i.e. dots per inch). I guarantee you that you won’t get a usable print from a 600×400 resolution file that is saved at 5 dpi, *no matter where it’s printed*. There is a reason why photographers save their print files at 300dpi (or 100dpi for the labs that require it and prep their files accordingly). Do some research on any of the major lab’s websites and you’ll understand.

Joanna Reichert- that’s exactly it, you nailed it.

Rita Endres- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the like strip the metadata and filenames from all uploaded images, essentially making them orphan works unless there is some other means of indentification (watermark, copyright notice comment, etc).

March 27, 2014 - 11:11 pm

Jamie Pflughoeft - I tried to reply to Mark Hopkins’ ‘crock of crap’ comment here, but it seems he deleted it. (Interesting). If anyone is interested in seeing what I said, I made a regular blog comment below. I want to make sure people aren’t misinformed by one person’s confused comment!

November 3, 2014 - 9:06 pm

Joanna B Pinneo - Thanks Jamie! That makes total sense. Appreciate your testing!

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