Photography Tip: What Are Megapixels? || The Authentic Portrait

SPOILER: This post is a biiiiittt more technical BUT super helpful if you're planning on buying a camera.


You’ve probably heard people talking about the word pixel and you’re just not 100% sure what they’re talking about. No worries, here’s your quick handy dandy guide to pixels.


Pixels are the tiny squares you see when you zoom into your photo a few times too much. A megapixel is 1 million pixels. Pixels are all put together like little puzzle pieces to form that one big photo that you took. The resolution of your photo depends on how many of these little squares are stored together. 

So, the more squares, (pixels per inch)  the more information your photo has and the more clear your picture will be. If you have fewer pixels (and thus less information), your photo becomes less clear or pixelated


Why it's important for you to know what megapixels are:

1. When you're using your automatic zoom on your camera or your phone, you are essentially cutting out tons of megapixels from your photo and diminishing the quality of your photos. Instead of cropping, use your body to get closer to your subject, OR you can use a longer lens to zoom in without disrupting the quality. 

2. When you're purchasing a camera everyone will talk about the amount of megapixels you'll get with it. The difference is hardly noticeable between 1 or 2 megapixels. If the choice is between a camera with 20mp or a camera with 23mp, it's not life changing unless you're planning on making billboards with them (which I would assume you're not) and even then.. it's not a huge difference. BUT if you're choosing between 11 and 20mp, I'd go with the 20mp any day. You'll see the difference in quality immediately! 


These photos below are examples of losing quality. I would be able to make a billboard of the first one while the second one (while still sharp) probably wouldn’t make even the best 8x10 because it’s cropped in so much. 

 1/200 sec at f / 2.2, ISO 500

1/200 sec at f / 2.2, ISO 500

This is just one of the solid, easy to implement tips and tricks for photography that I talk about in The Authentic Portrait: A Parent’s guide to Documenting Childhood, an ebook perfect for anyone who want to learn the basics of photography and improve their photos without spending hours and hours taking classes. Find out more here!

Take some photos and see if you can get great close ups without relying on your automatic zoom! Share your photos with me over on Instagram in #TheAuthenticPortrait series, a series for learning and growing in photography.  Don’t forget to tag your photos with #TheAuthenticPortrait!