Understanding Megapixels

Have you ever scrutinized an Impressionist painting? When your eyes are inches away from the canvas, you see only dots and smudges of color. But when you take a few steps back, those dots transform into a glorious work of art. Pixels work in much the same way: the more you zoom in, the more your photo will resemble a grid of multi-colored boxes; but when you zoom out, the pixels morph into a beautiful image. So what is a pixel? Why is it so important? And why do you keep hearing about megapixels? If these questions are on your mind, you’re in the right place. Understanding megapixels is simpler than you might think, and we’re here to help!

understanding megapixels

Understanding Megapixels

What is a pixel?

A pixel is the smallest unit of information that makes up a digital picture. Pixels (derived from the term “picture elements”) are typically square in shape. They are arranged in a 2-dimensional grid, so if you zoom in, you’ll see tiny multi-colored squares; but if you zoom out, those squares will transform into an image.

How big is a pixel?

The size of a pixel depends on the file’s resolution and its linear dimensions (i.e., the height and width of the file).

Why are megapixels important?

Generally, when a photo has more megapixels, you can feel confident that it will retain its quality when it is enlarged. If you try to enlarge a photo with a small number of megapixels, it will become blurry and pixelated. Because of this difference in quality, you’ll find that cameras offering more megapixels tend to be more expensive.

However, that doesn’t mean you should run out and purchase the camera with the most megapixels. At a certain point, those extra megapixels simply aren’t necessary. For example, few consumers need a camera with more than eight megapixels for their projects, and those extra megapixels will be pricey and bulky (they create large files that will take up a lot of space on your hard drive). Megapixels are important if you want to create a quality image, but at a certain point, they become redundant and troublesome.

How many pixels are in a megapixel?

A megapixel is made up of one million pixels.

How many megapixels are in an image? 

Well, that depends on the size of the image! To quickly determine how many megapixels your photo has, multiply the width by the length. So if, for example, your photo is 3600 pixels by 2400 pixels, the photo has 8.64 megapixels.

I’m contributing stock photography. How many megapixels should I shoot for?

Shoot for 8.0 megapixels or more. With this size, you can feel confident that your photos are large enough to offer sizable, beautiful prints. Also, remember to check the stock photography website for more specific technical requirements.

– – – – –

I hope these megapixel FAQs have helped you better understand the smallest element of digital photography. Good luck and happy shooting!

If you’re in the market for stock photos, be sure to check out Lightstock‘s enormous assortment of faith-focused photos and videos. Our photos are beautiful, never cheesy, and each one is personally curated. Click here to start exploring Lightstock.