A Question About Pixels

Christine, whom we met at the Deerfield Beach Festival, asked

I see your (SD card) info indicates pixels. I have a 7-inch digital frame and wonder if that would be appropriate for a beautiful presentation.

I replied

If I understand your question, you are asking if your 7-inch digital picture frame would be compatible with the images that are 600 pixels along one edge and 800 along the other on our SD card, or even if it would do the pictures justice?

The judges at our camera club generally agree that bigger pictures have more impact.  But then there’s an old saying that “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  Chances are your picture frame will do just fine.

What are pixels?

Pixels are the little dots of color that make up the images in your frame and on your TV, etc.

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Actually, it may have begun in 1886 when the French painter Georges Seurat completed “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.  Although he started with small horizontal brushstrokes, the painting is known for being made up of small dots in complementary colors, a technique that would later be called Pointillism.  Mr. Seurat’s painting was about 7 feet by 10 feet (the equivalent of about 440 of your frames), and although he only made about 16 dots per inch (they weren’t placed in nice rows and columns to make them easier to count), there are still 2 to 3 million dots in his picture (which is between 4 and 20 times as many as your frame).

French Painter Georges Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte"
French Painter Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

It took him two years to complete the work. In contrast, you could be enjoying Nancy’s work in about ten seconds (the time it takes to pop the SD card into the frame).

The more dots, the more detail.

Not All Frames Are The Same

We made the pictures on the SD card 600 x 800 because that was the most common size for digital picture frames at the time.  I just did some research and found that 7″ frames can have resolutions from as low as 480 x 234 up to 1024 x 600 (and 15″ frames have about the same number of pixels as the 7″ frames).  The frame we had at our booth was 8″ and had 600 x 800 pixels, and I thought it looked good (except that it wasn’t very good at competing with the sunlight.  We recommend these digital picture frames for indoor use only) .  A 7″ frame with the same number of pixels should also look good.

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I was tempted to scoff at the 480 x 234 frame, but in reality, that’s about 76 pixels per inch, which is comparable to some computer monitors (although the newer ones, led by Apple, can be over 200 pixels per inch, which rivals print).

What If The Number Of Pixels In The Frame Is Different Than The Number In The Picture?

If the picture is larger, the frame will just take the pixels it needs to fill the frame.

If the picture is smaller, the frame will usually just put a black border around it. There are algorithms (in computer software) that will add enough pixels to fill the frame, guessing what the missing pixels should look like by studying the other pixels in the neighborhood, but I’m not sure that all digital picture frames use that software.