How large can you print a drone photo?
You’ve been taking a lot of amazing aerial photos with your drone and you want to share them with your friends, hang them around your house, or use them for commercial purposes. Which prompts the question––how do you print your drone photos and what sizes can they be? Watch our short video explaining everything you need to know:
The Short and Simple Answer
To figure out how large you can print your drone photo, simply divide the image resolution by how many pixels per inch (PPI) you want your print to have. High quality prints typically have a PPI of 300. We recommend using a PPI of at least 150 or higher for prints where the viewer will be within three feet.
Here’s a helpful chart with the image resolutions and print sizes for popular drones on the market:
For Magazine-Quality Photos
Magazine quality prints have a PPI of 300. To figure out how large you can print your photos, take the resolution of your image and divide each dimension by 300. The resulting numbers will be the maximum length and height in inches you can print your photos while retaining the highest quality.
A photo taken on the DJI Mavic Pro is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels. The largest size of you can print for maximum quality is therefore 13.3 inches x 10 inches.
For Bigger Prints & Still High Quality
Divide the dimensions of your image resolution by 150. Again, the resulting numbers will be the target dimensions of your printed photo in inches.
The largest you can print a DJI Mavic Pro photo at high quality is 20 inches by 15 inches.
For the Largest Prints
Take the dimensions of your image and divide by 150. This will give you the absolute maximum dimensions, in inches, that you can print your photo. Printing anything larger than this will look fuzzy and low quality.
The largest possible print of a photo taken on the DJI Mavic Pro is 26.6 inches by 20 inches.
For Billboard Size Images
Printing images for billboards is different than printing them for small photos. People will be viewing billboards from much farther away. Because of this extra viewing distance, you can decrease the PPI significantly and still have your image look sharp. Assuming a viewing distance of around 150 feet, you can use a PPI of 4. Divide your image resolution by 4 to figure out how large you can print your photo.
A Mavic Pro can print a massive 83’ x 62’ image when the PPI is decreased to 4.
The size of your print depends on two factors: 1) the resolution of your image and 2) how high quality of a print you want.
Image resolution is measured in pixels. One pixel displays one color, and millions of pixels are combined together make up the digital images we see every day. The image resolution is how many horizontal and vertical pixels it has.
Camera sensors often display their resolution in megapixels (MP), which is equivalent to one million pixels. This number is calculated by multiplying the horizontal number of pixels by the vertical number of pixels on the camera sensor. Many popular drones today have 12MP sensor or larger for taking high quality stills and recording 4K video. Below you can see the image resolution of a variety of popular drones currently on the market:
How do these resolutions convert to a printed image? This all depends on what kind of quality of a print you want.
Print quality is determined by pixels per inch, or PPI. When you go to print your image, the horizontal and vertical pixels in the image are transferred onto paper. However many of these pixels fit in to one inch is the PPI of the print.
High quality prints, such as images in magazines, have a high PPI of 300. This is because people are viewing the images up close. You want the pixels to be densely packed together on the printed image so they are not visible to the naked eye. If people will be viewing your printed images from farther away, then you can use a lower PPI and the prints will still look sharp and high quality.
What PPI do I need to print my images?
For most prints that will be viewed within a distance of 3 feet, we recommend using a PPI of 150 or greater. This will ensure your images have acceptable quality when being viewed up close.
However, when people are viewing your prints from farther away, you can drastically decrease the PPI for a significantly larger print that still appears high quality. Billboards, for example, can have a PPI of 4 because people will be viewing them from over 150 feet away.
There is actually an equation figure out what PPI you need based on the viewing distance of your audience:
To calculate what PPI you need, multiply your viewing distance in inches by 0.000291. Then divide 2 by the product. This gives you the PPI you need for your image to look sharp at that distance.
You can use our helpful chart to quickly tell what PPI you need at common viewing distances:
Printing images that will be viewed at greater distances allows drones to print images that are absolutely massive. The Mavic Pro can support printing an image that is 83 feet by 62 feet at 4PPI.
Here’s a quick chart to show you how large you can blow up images from drones when the viewing distance is around 150 feet:
Need a large image that will be viewed up close?
Printing larger images that will be viewed up close can be challenging. As we discussed, we recommend printing with a PPI of 150 or greater for images that will be viewed within 3 feet. This limits the max print size of the Mavic Pro 2 and the Phantom 4 Pro v2, both with 20MP cameras, to 36.4 inches by 24.3 inches.
But say you’re at a booth at a trade show and need something larger, and you know people will be coming up close to your booth and you need your image to stay sharp. What do you do?
You have 2 options:
- Use a panorama mode to capture your image
- Use software to upscale the image
Let’s quickly explore each of these options.
Using Panorama Mode to Increase Your Image Resolution & Print Size
DJI’s built in panorama mode allows the drone to automatically take multiple high resolution images that can be stitched together for an even higher resolution final image. Using panorama mode also allows you to capture a wider field of view from your shot, which may or may not be desirable. Horizontal prints, such as banners at trade shows, may benefit from a wider panoramic photo of your subject, but other shots may make the image look distorted. Consider what kind of imagery you want for your prints before proceeding with panorama mode.
Still, panorama mode boosts the resolution of the images by a considerable amount. The Mavic Pro Zoom offers a “Super Zoom” mode, which is a panorama mode that produces a massive 8000×6000 pixel image capable of being printed at 53.3 inches by 40 inches with 150 pixels per inch.
Using Software to Upscale Your Image
Software offers an excellent solution for increasing your image size and allowing you to print even bigger. Upscaling your image is where software analyzes the pixels in the image and generates additional information to increase the total horizontal and vertical pixel dimensions.
There are a host of different software solutions available on the market. Here are some to consider:
A free online tool that lets you increase your image size by up to 16x (crazy!). We tried using the tool to increase one of our Mavic Pro 2 images, and the print size went from 36.4 inches by 24.3 inches to an astonishing 150 inches by 78.9 inches at 150 PPI. Letsenhance is free for the first 10 images, and then you can choose one of their plans ($6.99 monthly or $4.33/month billed annually), or purchase one of their bundles (20 images starts at $4.99).
A Sharper Scaling
This is a free tool for PC users that lets you scale your images and add clarity. Check out their website for more information and a free download.
Topaz Gigapixel AI
This is an application with a one-time purchase of $99 and offers some insanely cool features. Topas is using their specially designed artificial intelligence to analyze your images and upscale them by up to 600% with crisp and clear results. You can suppress noise, remove blur, and see a preview of your image before you upscale it.
Other popular photo applications including Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Pixelmator Pro, and more include the option to upscale images using interpolation. This technique does a reasonable job at preserving image clarity while increasing the size, but we found from our testing the results from letsenhance.io and Topaz Gigapixel were superior with their powerful AI integration.
Using software to upscale your images is probably the preferred option in most scenarios. You can use your existing images, often increase the resolution and quality with surprising results, and achieve significantly larger print sizes.
If you are looking for other resources for capturing amazing drone photos, check out our guide to creating stunning HDR photos, our mega guide to drone photography, or even some of our editing tips for enhancing your images and making your drone photos pop.
If you are a drone pilot interested in flying for dronegenuity, you can learn more about our drone pilot jobs.
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