Making a digital picture that looks like a photograph

I took a picture with my digital camera and it looks pretty damned good, almost profesional. I would love to print it up and frame it like art but I want it to look like a true photo as if it were taken on 35mm film so I don’t think standard jpg printing would work.

How can I get the best (most photo looking) print?

I think what you’re referring to with “jpeg printing” is the issue where digital cameras don’t have the contrast range that film does.


  • Load your jpeg into Photoshop. Hit ctrl/command+shift+L (Auto Levels). Save the result and print.

  • Upload your image to Flickr, Photobucket, whatever, and we can all see your image and make suggestions.

I can’t really tell the difference between a 35mm print and high quality digital photograph printed out on an inexpensive photo quality printer. How large a print are you looking for? I’ve printed out 8 megapixel photos at 8x10 and they come out pretty damn good. Is the problem that you have a lower resolution camera and you can see the pixelization? You could run in through Photoshop and artificially increase the number of pixels and then low pass filter it to minimize the pixelization (this might actually be done automatically in certain transformations, but I’m no Photoshop expert). If your color printer ain’t up to snuff, just get it printed out at your local photo store. I happen to like Costco because they are by far the cheapest place.

Looking at squeegee’s post, I guess there could be a problem with color range, but I never have that problem.

Why not? (and what exactly do you mean by “jpg printing”?) I’ve printed JPEGs up to 13"x26" without any issues. What do you mean by “true photo”? I’m unclear on the question. If you have a good, sharp file, of decent resolution (6 MP is plenty) you’ll get a perfectly fine print. If your original file is set to a very high compression and low resolution, then you may not.

I have also had plenty of digital photos printed with no issues whatsoever. You could not tell them from film photos. If you are having issues then you need to examine the entire process to see wht’s wrong. Maybe not enough resolution, maybe too much compression…

A couple things need to be cleared up before we can give good advice. First off it depends on the resolution of your file. The resolution and document size are interrelated. For instance a 4"x6" file at 300dpi will be 150dpi at 8"x12". So enlarging your file will lose detail.

When you print a file at less than 300dpi it starts to look “jaggy”. Computer monitors are 72dpi. Which means that something that looks wonderful on monitor might end up terminally *jaggy *when printed. Anyone who has ever printed a web page has probably noticed this.

Also JPEGs have built in compression. The compression groups similar pixels into chunks to conserve space as the file is saved. Even a high resolution JPG will look bad if there is a lot of compression going on. Especially if you save it multiple times.

Also if the document size and the resolution are fine what you might be referring to is the film grain. Actual photographs don’t have pixels, they have tiny bits of photo-reactive chemicals in the paper. A photo’s grain is visible if you look at it very closely, in contrast to a digital prints perfectly square jaggies, the grain looks fuzzy. If that’s what you’re concerned about it is fixable in Photoshop.

A friend of mine was never interested in getting a digital camera. We were on holiday once and wanted to buy a disposable camera rather than use other people’s digital cameras. When asked why she said it was because she liked to have the photos in albums rather than looking at them on the computer or having them poorly printed out and was surprised to learn that you can take them to any photoshop and they will print out high quality photos for you. There are also a number of internet based companys that do the same (and are usually cheaper). Turns out some of the other people on holiday didn’t know you could do that either,

Long story short, some people don’t realise you can just get digital photos printed in high quality as easily as film photos. This probably isn’t the case for the OP but it’s worth pointing out.

digital photos can reach the same effective resolution of a film camera. Film has a very high “pixel” resolution but you need a microscope to see it. To the eye at normal viewing distance, the effective resolution can be the same. The real question is the printing-specifically the durability of the print. Most inkjet inks are sensitive to aging-far more than a traditional photo. Of course even traditional photos fade over time, but usually decades. An inkjet print fades in a couple of years unless it is properly cared for. There are specialty inks that are “archival” inks. Special frames block UV light and minimize Oxygen. Steps like that will keep your picture looking good. Of course just reprinting it every year works well.
But the camera and resolution of the image is already there.
As for jpeg, a serious photographer or archivist saves as TIF to avoid the loss of resolution. Bigger files, but that is what they make big disks for.

Dye sublimation printers are the way to fly.
Because the cheap ones produce only one size of image, your best bet for an enlargement is to optimize color, brightness etc. on a small home unit, and take the resulting file to the photo kiosk at your local drugstore for printing as an 8X10.

Absolutely. But it is worth noting that there are also pigment-based inkjets (like the Epson Stylus R800, R1800 or R1900) which are relatively inexpensive (~$300-$500 retail) whose prints are graded to last 100+ years without fading, longer than traditional photos. Most dye-based inkjets are graded to last about 2-10 years before they start to fade (exception including Ilford’s Archiva inks, which are dye-based but graded to last over 70 years), if I remember correctly. For regular photo papers, you’re generally looking at 15-20 years before fading, with the archival photo papers at around 50-60 years.

Just for the record, I tried very hard once to quantify the loss caused by saving a high-quality JPG vs. TIFF. I saved out a TIFF as JPG. Then I had Photoshop create a “difference” layer of the two images.

It was blank.

Then I did Levels on the difference layer, to see if there was any difference, however invisible. Indeed, there was a bump in the histogram, so I moved the sliders around to increase the brightness and contrast of the difference pixels as much as possible.

Now, in this massively-enhanced difference file, I could barely see the faint, shadowy outlines of the original image.

That was a highest-quality JPG, of course. But even the highest quality, largest JPG file is usually a lot smaller than the equivalent TIFF.

So yes, use TIFF if you can. But don’t stay away from JPG just because people say it’s lossy. I suspect JPG got its bad reputation because people tend to use the default quality setting, which really is lossy.

Look at it this way: If you ever find yourself reducing an image’s pixel size because the TIFF is too slow, unweildy, or hard to store, then you’ve lost a lot more resolution than converting to high-quality JPG would cost. Just remember to move the quality slider up to “highest.”

If you use a Fuji Pictography, you’ll get an honest-to-god silver halide *digital *print.

Yes and no. It’s silver halide with dye transfer. Quite different from a standard photographic print. But, the output is quite good.

For archival purposes, I keep a folder of all my RAW files. (I have something like 7TB of drives around the house.) However, when I print, the file I send out to print is almost always a JPEG saved at 10 quality (on a scale that goes up to 12). I personally cannot detect any JPEG artifacting at that quality level.

Even when I shot JPEG and not raw with my dSLRs, I just used the normal JPEG compression setting, not “JPEG Fine.” The resulting files were 1-2 MB for a 10 megapixel Nikon D200, and I honestly could not see any appreciable difference between the normal JPEG setting and the fine JPEG setting, up to print sizes of 13"x19".

Not arguing, just ignorant: cite?

When I say I have had prints made with no problem I meant photgraphic prints made at the store. You can see absolutely no difference with chemical film. If you see pixelation it may be too much JPG compression but more likely you are just enlarging too much. I have printed plenty of JPGs and they came out fine and you could not tell the difference with film negatives.

So who should I take my JPG to to get the best quality (most film-photo) like 8x10?

I have a free account with Walgreens. Just upload what you want to print to their website, and order up the prints. Anything 8x10 or smaller can be picked up in an hour. They’ll do poster-size too but take extra time.

You can edit your pics first, then upload, or the website gives you a chance to crop the pics before ordering the prints, too. I have found that the finished prints are about 1/8-inch cropped from whatever the pic looks like on the web page.

It’s just a per-print price, I think the last 8x10 I got was about $3. Unless I told people, it looked like a print from a negative, on nice glossy Kodak print stock.

You can get the prints done anywhere. You can choose the location closest to you, or if you want to print them for someone else you can have them printed closest to that person, pay online, and all they have to do is pick them up.

I couldn’t be happier with the service.



I suspect that they licensed some technology from Dr. Land.

I’ve owned a 4500 for five years and didn’t know that. The look, feel and longevity are indistinguishable from the old ‘wet’ photography. I’ve taped a couple of prints to a shed outside to test for fading; three months of desert sun didn’t do much.