Upload photos faster

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Are you shocked by how long it takes to upload your photos?

There are three common reasons:

Your photos are supersized.

Photo by Nickolas Titkov

Your camera may be tiny, but the megapixels it has can overpower even your cable modem (mega means huge!).

These are some simple tips for taking great photos that will upload more quickly to your SmugMug site.

Most cameras allow you to choose Small, Medium, or Large photos.

They will tell you the number of pixels that represent the photo, such as 1280x960. What size should you choose?

With megapixels being the #1 way manufacturers market cameras, it may shock you to learn that in the last 1,000,000 prints SmugMug has shipped, we have only seen two prints returned for too few megapixels (they both had 0.2 megapixels).

A good rule of thumb is you need 100 pixels per inch of print on continuous-tone printers like our labs use to produce excellent results. For an 8x10 print, that's 800x1000 pixels, or 0.8 megapixels. Many incredible enlargements you see on display from top professionals are 100 pixels per inch.

Read more about resolution here.

Your camera also allows you to choose fine or medium quality.

It seems obvious that fine is fine and medium is not as fine...who'd want to compromise?

Fine and medium refer to compression level. We've never seen a print returned for compression level, nor a person who could tell the difference between prints made from medium versus fine in blind tests. But medium are half the size, byte-wise. 

SmugMug shoots the award-winning cars at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and uses the medium setting for prints up to 30x40 inches, displayed by the wealthy and prominent. We've taken the enlargements to photography user groups, who say the print quality is stunning.

If it sounds like we're careless about print quality, we're actually fanatically fussy. But the lesson of a million prints is that quality comes from color, contrast, exposure, and noise from the ISO setting of the camera. More about returns.

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Your Internet connection is fast one way.

If you have cable or DSL, you're probably thrilled with your Internet speed. What you're seeing, however, is great speed one way: from the Internet to your computer. Most cable and DSL connections are much slower the other way. In fact, most cable and DSL connections are barely twice as fast as standard modems when uploading, not dozens of times faster like you may think. If you were to upload your photos from work, where your company has a T1 line or better, you would see blindingly fast uploads.

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The file size is huge.

Even after you take your pictures, you can adjust them to dramatically decrease upload times without losing quality or your temper. How?

Compression is satisfying.

It may sound scary, but it's actually great fun and very satisfying to install a simple photo-editing program like Photoshop Elements. (Full Photoshop is expensive and for power users; Photoshop Elements is the simple, inexpensive version.) An alternative, free, but powerful, solution is to download IrfanView.

These programs can turn your 1,000-kilobyte files into 70-kilobyte files, making them upload 14 times faster.

You can pick image resize and set the maximum number of pixels on a side to 1500 if you plan to make enlargements up to 10x15 inches. After you resize, save them as JPG files and choose quality 8, 9, or 10.

Check out this help page for the rundown on your options for saving JPGs.

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