Taking photographs while on the road is a great way to hold on to visual proof of a great vacation or an interesting off-road adventure. Photos also help you capture the colors, life, and atmosphere of your subject. Having the right camera is important. Thankfully, today’s smartphone cameras are a good alternative for taking both social-media friendly photos but also high-resolution images for printing. Eight to twelve megapixels are more than enough for capturing photographs that are the optimum resolution for print and digital publications.

To determine if your photo is good enough for printing,  it’s important to first understand how thousands of tiny little squares can make or break image quality.

Understanding Pixels

What is a pixel? In short, a pixel is the smallest unit of information that makes up a picture—the more the better. It’s a basic unit of programmable color on a computer display or in an image. Ever zoomed in close to a photo to find tiny squares of colors? Those are pixels. If you can see those squares at 100% (normal size), then the image is said to be “pixelated.”

Remember when people used to scan personal pictures and use them as a windows background? Windows would take that 640×480 wide photo and stretch it to fill up an 800×600 screen. The image usually looked fuzzy as the same number of pixels (the 640×480) were stretched to fill up the full 800×600 space. What may look like a great shot of Niagara Falls may turn out to be a fuzzy mess of colored dots when you see it on screen.

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Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image. Have you ever tried to upload a picture to the Web and it says something like, “picture must be 1200×600”? This means that there are 1200 pixels from one side to the other (width) and 600 pixels from top to bottom (height).

The term dpi stands for dots per inch and ppi stands for pixels per inch. The terms are often used interchangeably as the word dot essentially means pixels. When you download your images, they will be extracted at the default size with a default resolution of 72 pixels, or squares of color, per inch. Some fancier cameras import at 150 dpi, which is still web friendly but not necessarily print friendly. High-resolution images have at least 300 pixels per inch (or 300 dpi), which makes them good for printing. Remember how I said earlier that the more pixels the better? This is where we get into megapixels.


Megapixels (Mp) determine the resolution of a digital photo. One megapixel equals one million pixels in an image. In simplest terms, it is the horizontal pixel of a photo multiplied by its vertical dimension. Like with pixels, the higher the megapixel the better. Knowing your camera’s megapixel size will help you determine what your actual size is. Here are a few examples. The exact dimensions will vary depending on the camera manufacturer, but not by much.

  • The default resolution on a camera with 8 megapixels, like the iPhone 6, is 3456×2304. That is 3456 pixels wide and 2304 pixels high (48×32 inches) in size at its highest resolution or “Actual Size.”
    • 3456 times 2304 = 7,962,624 pixels or 7.96 megapixels. (Hey!)
    • Maximum print size is 11.52 in. by 7.68 in. at 300 dpi
  • The default resolution on a camera with 12 megapixels, like the Samsung Galaxy S8, is 4032 pixels wide and 3024 pixels high (56×42 inches) at the highest resolution or “Actual Size.”
    • 4032 times 3024 = 12,192,768 pixels or 12 megapixels.
    • Maximum print size is 13.44 in. by 10.08 in. at 300 dpi

The key to maintaining such high numbers is to export it as “Actual Size” directly from your cell phone. You can email a high-resolution photo to yourself, just be sure to select the largest size. A better option is to download directly from your computer by either sharing to cloud programs like Dropbox or Google Images or using an adapter. Don’t send the image as a text as more likely than not? It will be resized and compressed.

What about dpi?

The term dpi stands for dots per inch and ppi stands for pixels per inch. The terms are often used interchangeably as the word dot essentially means pixels. When you download your images, they will be extracted at the default size with a default resolution of 72 pixels, or squares of color, per inch.

Some fancier cameras import at 150 dpi, which is still web friendly but not necessarily print friendly. High-resolution images must have at least 300 pixels per inch (or 300 dpi).

For print publications, 300 dpi/PPI is the minimum size that must be used. Whether you send it to a designer or do it yourself, the image has to be converted from 72 dpi to 300 dpi. Otherwise when the image prints, it will be pixelated. This is where it gets a little tricky.

For online or digital publishing, the ideal is 72 dpi. A 92 or 150 dpi has become more common as web speeds increase, but 72 dpi is still preferred. As a good rule of thumb, your file size should be between 20 and 200 kilobytes (KB).

Here’s a simple formula to help you determine your needed resolution.

Pixels / DPI = Inches

Let’s take that it 4032 pixels wide and 3024 pixels tall image with a default resolution of 72 dpi.

  • 4032/72 = 56 and 3024/72=42.25 in.  So for a digital image, it would be 56 inches wide and 42.25 inches tall.

We need to convert that number for a high-resolution version to print. The minimum dpi is 300.

  • 4032/300 = 13.44 and 3024/300 = 10.08 in. So, the printed, high-res version would be 13.44 inches wide and 10.08 inches tall.

The good news is that if a graphic artist imports the image into Adobe InDesign for a print layout, the image is large enough to cover an entire page, width-wise.

How to Change Resolution in Photoshop

Step 1. Select the command Image on the toolbar and down to Image Size.

Original dimensions in inches in Photoshop
Original dimensions in inches in Photoshop

Step 2. Uncheck the “Resample” Image button if you want to keep the total amount of pixels. This changes the width and height (in inches) but leaves the pixels the same. Turn off the resampling because resampling can result in poorer image quality. Leaving it on and changing your resolution can either delete pixels (if you make it smaller) or add pixels (if you make it bigger). It destroys your original pixel set. Just uncheck it for the best quality.

After typing in 300 dpi, our image now shows us what size a high-quality image would print.
After typing in 300 dpi, our image now shows us what size a high-quality image would print.

Step 3. Change the Resolution to 300 Pixels/Inch

Step 4. Press the OK button.

Notice that it goes down from 56 inches down to 13.44 inches at 300 dpi. For an 8.5 x 11-inch book, this would work great as a photo that goes across the 8.5-inch page with room enough to “bleed” off the page. Also, note that the pixels themselves didn’t change. If we pull down the Inches tab and look at the pixels, they are still at 4023×3024 as the number of pixels on the screen didn’t change. We simply changed the dpi for the dots per inch, which is a printer term. If you’re wanting to use the image in a printed publication (book, report, etc.), then you want to ensure that the size of the image at 300 dpi in inches is enough to fit on your page.

The image is not large enough, however, for a book cover. If the image was a vertical picture to start with at 3024×4032 (42×56 inches), then with a width of 10 inches and a height of 13 inches, you would have enough room to provide a great cover with room for maneuver.  Don’t try cropping the edges to make the picture vertical and then resizing it. This will quickly destroy the integrity of the photo and increase pixelation.

In short, a photo taken with a camera above 8 megapixels will be sufficient as long as proper lighting and framing are used, and that zooming isn’t out of control.

How to Determine your Image Dimensions

Don’t have access to a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop but want to determine what size your image would be?

Here’s a tip for finding out your image’s dimensions on a Windows PC.

  • After you’ve downloaded your image, right-click on it and hit Properties.
  • Hit the “Details” tab.
  • Under “Image” you’ll find the dimensions. In this example, the image is 3024×4032.
Image dimensions as seen on a Windows PC
Image dimensions as seen on a Windows PC

On a Mac, Control+click on an image to see the image’s properties.

  • Click Finder on your Dock.
  • Find the image you want to see.
  • Control+click (ctrl+click) on your image.
  • In the menu, click Get Info. Expand the More Info: section to see your image’s dimensions.

After you have determined the dimensions (3024×4032), use the pixels/dpi = inches formula or go online to an online calculator like this one at Auction Repair or UpRoer.

Note:  Enlarging digital photos, or upsizing, is never recommended. You’ll wind up with a pixelated image. If you want to have a picture that spreads across two columns in a magazine, ensure that the width is a minimum of 7.5 inches wide at 300 dpi. Don’t take the same photo into a photo editing software and try to enlarge it.

Optical vs Digital Zoom

In photography, we use the term zoom to indicate making the subject of a photo appear closer than its actual distance. Cameras use two different type of zoom

Optical zoom uses an arrangement of lenses to manipulate the light entering the camera—point and shoot cameras, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras use this feature.

Smartphones, however, are often limited to what is called digital zoom. Digital zoom takes a photo of an image first and then digitally zooms in on the subject to fill the frame. It essentially crops an image to make the subject appear closer and is not a true close-up. The quality suffers, and the picture is noticeably grainy or pixelated. If you must take pictures from a distance, a point-and-shoot camera or DSLR might be a better option. I highly recommend the Canon PowerShot SX730 digital camera with its 21 megapixels and 40x optical zoom.

Tips for Improving Photos Taken on a Smartphone

If you’re on the job and don’t have the time or inclination to carry around a large camera, your smartphone (or even tablet) is often more than enough to get a great photo. These photos can also be used for your online training and for printing in a magazine article or book.

  • The quickest tip to improving the digital zoom on your smartphone is to try and not go above 2x digital zoom. Anything at 4x or above will make your photo look like a painting and destroy the image quality.
  • Try to use a tripod. The more you to zoom in the more unsteady the shot will become.
  • Purchase an “add-on” camera, like the Insta360 for iPhones. It gives you the features of the more expensive point-and-shoot and DSLR. It attaches right on to your smartphone, so it’s less bulk to carry around. Other options include the ION360 U – 4K Ultra HD for Android users.
  • You can also purchase lenses, such as the Photojojo iPhone and Android lenses or the Olloclip iPhone 4-in-1 lens. Find a set of lens to match your particular smartphone on Amazon.com.
  • Try to get as much lighting, especially natural lighting (sunlight) as possible. The hour after sunrise and after sunset is considered the best light for photos, but that may be an impossible time if you’re on the job. You can also get LED units like LED Flash Fill Light for Smartphones.
  • Download apps like Camera+ or ProCam 2 on iPhones and Camera FV-5 for Android. Why? The aperture is often the most important feature. The aperture is the opening in the lens and is measured in f-stops. A small f-stop like f/1.8 is a wide opening and the larger the aperture, the narrow the lens. The wider the aperture, the more light goes into the camera and you get a brighter photo. Most smartphones and point-and-shoot compact cameras, however, have a decent enough aperture so if you are not a photography buff, it doesn’t matter. Apps such as Manual or Camera+ allow you to select the aperture, ISO for use on your smartphone.

Do you have any tips for producing high-quality photos using a smartphone? 

Parts of this post were cross-posted on Publimetry.com.


Overland Park, Kansas, is the second most populous city in Kansas and it shows. Driving any of the main thoroughfares, you’ll see the explosive growth of Johnson County in its high-rises, shopping centers, and (frankly) crowded streets. It’s easy to see that Overland Park is Kansas City’s largest suburb with over 170,000 residents.

Approximately ten miles south of the Overland Park Convention Center is an oasis from all the traffic and downtown noise. I discovered it by accident when driving to Louisburg, Kansas, in an area that I had thought was South Olathe. [I was all, “Is Siri lost again?”] The Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a 300-acre arboretum and garden located in a remote area of U.S. Highway 69.

A six-mile hiking trail winds its way through the park and crosses Wolf Creek. A sculpture garden has 18 permanent sculptures with an additional 12 on display throughout the gardens. One of the most relaxing parts is their botanical gardens. A lakeside amphitheater beside Margaret’s Pond offers views of several gardens and is a relaxing place to sit and relax.

Best of all? Tuesdays are free.

Here are recent photos that I took at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. As a nature enthusiast, it was a great break from cars and city lights. Unfortunately, I’m still learning about flowers and so I can’t label many of these. Feel free to provide suggestions!


Looking for additional things to see in Overland Park? Visit the KCOP Website.

Where to find it? (Map)

8909 W 179th St, Bucyrus, KS 66013

Capturing photographs while traveling is a great way to hold on to memories. Memories of the first time you saw a giant waterfall, the Rocky Mountains, or even the unique site of wildlife playing in a mountain spring. Photos help you capture the colors, life, and atmosphere of your most recent journey. A great photo is also a way to help trigger your creative juices when writing your latest novel or short story. Buying the right camera for capturing those moments is important.

Paola, Kansas, is a charming small town about forty minutes south of Kansas City, Missouri, with a history that goes back to 1832 when it was originally settled by Native Americans. The town itself was founded in 1855 as the Paola town Company; the city was incorporated in 1859. Unlike many of the downtowns in these smaller communities, the downtown in Paola still has several unique stores and restaurants that surround the park square with a historical past. It makes a good day trip (even morning trip) from Kansas City.

Paola Park Square

19 S Pearl St, Paola, KS 66071

Historic gazebo in Paola Park Square
Historic gazebo in Paola Park Square
Water fountain and downtown buildings in Paola Park Square
Water fountain and downtown buildings in Paola Park Square

In the center of Paola is a historic park square with a gazebo, water fountain, and a park-like setting. The square is flanked on all sides by the downtown shops and restaurants. The historic museum and courthouse are also close by. The original Native American tribes of the area used the square as their primary gathering place and it was given to the Paola Town Company by Baptiste Peoria as a treaty of peace with the stipulation that a building never be built on it. A bust of Baptiste and his wife Mary Ann Isaacs rest near the gazebo. It is one of the only known monuments in the United States featuring a Native American and his wife. The original gazebo was a bandstand that was built in 1867 and was rebuilt in 1913 by the current gazebo.

Miami County Historical Museum

12 E Peoria St, Paola, KS 66071

Miami County Historical Museum, Paola, KS

Located just off the park square in one of the older buildings is the Miami County Historical Society. The museum covers everything from the prehistoric life to the local Native Americans to the struggling surrounding slavery in this free state. One interesting exhibit is the history of the ghost towns and early community in the Miami County area (in case you want to go exploring).

Miami County Courthouse

120 S Pearl St, Paola, KS 66071

Exterior of the Miami County Courthouse in Paola
Exterior of the Miami County Courthouse in Paola

The Miami County Courthouse was built from 1898 to 1899 and is still in use today. It is a beautiful structure with a combination of Victorian and Richardsonian Romanesque design. Outside of the courthouse, you can visit the flower garden and view markers with historical facts about Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War.

Ursuline Convent and Academy

901 E Miami St, Paola, KS 66071

Ursuline Convent and Academy exterior as you begin driving on to the campus in Paola, KS.
Ursuline Convent and Academy exterior as you begin driving on to the campus.

Built in 1896, the Ursuline Convent and Academy has been closed since the sisters left in 2008. The exterior of the 36-acre former convent is still accessible to the public. Like many of the buildings in the area, the use of local limestone can be seen in the structures and in the three-story main structure. The main convent is 64,000 square feet, and as you drive around the main building, you can see the architectural details that went into the construction. On the grounds are the three-story brick motherhouse building, the school buildings, the boarded-up grotto, and the old shrine. Apart from the shrine, you cannot go into any of the buildings, you can drive around the campus to view it. Plans are in the works to turn the campus into an academy for foster children.

Old Sacred Heart Shrine

901 E Miami St, Paola, KS 66071

Exterior of the Old Sacred Heart Shrine in Paola.
Exterior of the Old Sacred Heart Shrine in Paola.

Outside of the old Ursuline Academy, sits an old, abandoned shrine on the northeast corner of the campus. Built in 1916, the shrine is a mini replica of the Rheinstein (or “Rhinestone”) Castle on the Rhine River in Germany (itself built in 1316). The shrine is constructed of petrified-formation stone. The original statue of Jesus at the Sacred Heart used to sit on the altar but is now gone as of July 2018. It’s small, probably little less than fifteen square feet. However, the stone and workmanship of the shrine itself is impressive.

Lake Miola Park

22470 W 299th St, Paola, KS 66071

Mineola Lake Park boat ramp.

Lake Miola is a 560-acre park with a 200-acre lake, playground, hiking trails, and camping areas. It is not as large as the nearby Hillsdale Lake, but it is in a peaceful setting within the city limits. Drive around the lake and park just to relax after a hectic day. If you like to swim, there is a small sand beach swimming area. The campground is closed November 1st until April 1st. 

He looks nervous but I was far away enough that he stood still.

Hillsdale State Park & Lake

26001 255 St, Paola, KS 66071

Hillsdale Lake outside of Paola, KS

Located between the Kansas City metroplex and Paola is one of the reservoirs in Kansas, Hillsdale State Park, and Lake. There are 51 miles of shoreline and 4,500 acres of lake in this 12,000-acre park. You can visit the playground area, go for a nature hike and walk, or visit the small beach. You can also take in the sights of the area’s rolling hills from the lake or campgrounds.

One word of caution. The park is near the Hillsdale Range and Training Facility. If you go to the main park, where the playground area is, you may hear gunshots. It can be unnerving unless you are expecting to hear them. We weren’t. It’s not that it’s unsafe, but not a great way to unwind and listen to nature. (Also, welcome to 2018.) If you have children or pets (or watch the evening news way too much), I would personally go to the Lake Miola Park instead, even if it is smaller.

Park grounds at the Hillsdale Lake Park.
Park grounds at the Hillsdale Lake Park.

Wallace Park

E Osage St & Wallace Park Dr, Paola, KS 66071

Started in 1910, Wallace Park is a 42-acre park that has a playground, tennis and basketball courts, baseball and softball diamonds, and a large family swimming center. There is also a skateboard park with ramps, half pipe, and other amenities. You can easily drive in and loop around the park to find plenty of parking and restful areas.

Entrance to Wallace Park in Paola, KS

Wine Tours

Miami County, Kansas, is also home to several excellent wineries. Paola has two wineries located in the city limits in addition to a couple of pubs.

Flowers at Hillsdale State Park.

Where to find it? (Map)

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Springfield, Illinois, is the state capital of Illinois with lots of historic sites, gorgeous architecture, many memorials, and more. Springfield is often called the Land of Lincoln, with good reason. You can step back in time to see historical sites where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked, raised his children, and was laid to rest. Looking at some of the classical architecture that frames the buildings and memorials, Springfield could also easily be called “little DC” (without the harrowing traffic).

Hannibal, Missouri, is an old, historic town right on the edge of the Mississippi River. Known for its ties to author Mark Twain, many of the sites in the area are either named after him or the characters from his book. A great walking town, you can easily walk to many of the sites after parking downtown. If you are adventurous enough, you can try hiking up all the way from Main Street up to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse that overlooks the river. Here are 8 great places to go see in Hannibal and one that is outside of town, but still worth a side trip.

Louisburg is a small town of about 4,500 residents about 40 miles southwest of Kansas City, but don’t let its small size fool you. You can find everything from a sprawling city park, an excellent aquatic center, to an impressive feline (and other animals) sanctuary on the outskirts of town. On Saturday nights, you can also visit Powell Observatory and watch the night sky without the harsh glare of city lights.