Photo Tips For Your Custom Wallpaper

Photo Size

Start with the largest digital images possible We recommend using images from a camera rated at 12 megapixels or larger. Some consumer cameras are capable of shooting photos as large as 16 to 18 megapixels, which is ideal for large wallpaper prints.

Comparison of an eye photo at three sizes

A pixel is single rectangular tile of color. Pixels are layed out in rows to form images. A megapixel is one million pixels — therefore, a 12 megapixel camera will use about 12 million little colored tiles to create a photo. As you can see in this comparison of three photos where we cropped in on an eye (right), the more pixels a camera uses to build an image, the more detail it can capture, and the larger it can be displayed without appearing "pixelated" or "blocky." This is an important consideration if you're blowing up a photo to the size of a wall.

Note: The smallest size photo that our uploader will accept is about 1 megapixel — 1200 pixels x 1200 pixels — but we would never advise using a photo that small for a full sized wall print because it would be extremely soft and pixilated. 1200 pixels is tall enough for a wallpaper border, however.

Cellphone and webcam photos rarely make good wallpaper prints Although these devices are continuing to improve with new technology, and the digital pictures they create look great on a phone or website, they're generally too small for wallpaper. Also, these devices often use excessive image compression, which reduces their overall photo quality. Read more about compression in “Photo Quality” below.

Poor quality enlargement of tiny daffodil imageOriginal tiny image of a daffodil

If your digital image is too small to begin with, enlarging it won’t help You can see what happened when this tiny, thumbnail-sized daffodil image was enlarged to 3 times its original size (right). It gained a soft blur, sort of a melted ice cream effect.

We use clever software to boost your image up to wall-size. The software employs fancy algorithms and other razz-ma-tazz to improve sharpness and detail that might otherwise be lost during the enlargement process. But it only works properly with images that start out big and haven’t been previously enlarged. Interestingly, a good quality 18 megapixel photo can be increased to 20 times its actual size and still look quite good, while a tiny thumbnail image like the one shown here doesn't hold up well at even 3 times its actual size.

Photo Quality

When shooting photos, use these simple but effective techniques

  1. Adjust your camera’s photo settings to the largest size with the finest detail, to produce photos with the highest number megapixels and the least compression. These photo quality settings can be found in your camera’s LCD menu.
  2. Use a tripod or monopod, or brace your camera against a solid object. Even the tiniest bit of motion can blur a photo, especially one that will be blown up to the size of a wall. And in low light situations your camera requires more time to capture enough light to create the image, so it’s important to make sure it is steady.
  3. To avoid being surprized by a slanted horizon, tilted buildings, or leaning people, double-check to make sure your camera is level when shooting your photo.
  4. Take time to focus. Although you can quickly snap a photo with one press of the camera shutter button, you’ll achieve better results by pressing the button half-way down, giving your camera a little more time to pre-focus. When your camera beeps to indicate that it has found the point(s) of focus, then finish snapping the picture.
  5. Take lots and lots of photos, and select only the best for printing. Unlike the old film days, any digital images created with your digital camera are free; they cost nothing until you decide to print them.
  6. Don’t use your camera’s “Digital Zoom” feature — it’s really a fake zoom technique that produces soft images. Use “Optical Zoom” instead. You can usually find a setting to disable Digital Zoom in your camera’s on screen menu.

Review your photos on a monitor The image that you see on your camera’s LCD isn’t always detailed enough to reveal flaws such as poor focus or motion blur resulting from camera shake. It’s best to compare photos on your computer monitor or TV. Zoom in close to see just how sharp the detail is in your main subjects.

Beware of excessive compression No matter how many pixels your photos have, they won’t look good if the compression is too high or badly configured. This is often an issue with images that are created by cellphones, webcams, and video cameras that are capable of taking snapshots. To reduce power requirements and save memory space, these devices record less image data and use rougher processing to create their photos. Compare the daffodil pictures below — you can easily see which one is overly compressed.

Image compression comparison of daffodil photo

Photo Shape or “Aspect Ratio”

It’s important to compare the shape of your photo and the shape of your wall If your photo is tall and your wall is wide, you’ll need to decide which parts of the photo to crop out.

Cropping, however, can make a dramatic difference in the character of a photo. You can see this in the various crops of this scenic autumn roadway (right). Professional photographers spend a great deal of time thinking about the framing of a subject when first shooting and then cropping their images. Before submitting an image that requires significant cropping, take the time to visualize how the picture will look on your wall.

Note: When you submit a photo on our upload page, be sure to provide your cropping details in the “Special Instructions” text box — or call us to confirm.

Copyright

Don't use images that you don't own or have permission to use While it's easier than ever to acquire images on the Web, you cannot legally use another person's images without permission (nor can anyone else use your images). The moment a photo is created, the copyright to that photo belongs to the author or company that created it. An image does not require a "Copyright ©" notice to be protected, it is protected either way. This is especially important for businesses that wish to create large wallpaper displays — misuse of copyrighted material can result in large fines if discovered.

Examples of images you CANNOT use

  • An image or digital artwork that you took from a website without permission
  • A photo given to you by another person (you don't automatically have a right to "publish" or print that photo, even if they allow you to keep a copy)
  • A photo you took of another person who has not given you explicit permission to display their likeness
  • A newspaper, a magazine cover, an article, or other printed media without permission

Examples of images you CAN use

  • An image or artwork that you created
  • An image or artwork that somebody else created and gave you explicit permission to use
  • An image from a website that provides "Creative Commons" licensing (typically free use of photos created by generous people who don't mind sharing — check the licensing details before using)
  • An image that you purchased the use of from a stock photography website
  • An image ordered through us for the purpose of creating wallpaper for you

You can learn more about copyright rules at the United States Copyright Office website.