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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books Apps
Having had a small book made through iPhoto earlier in the year and being really happy with the results, I decided to order one of the large books made from pictures of a recent vacation. When I received the book, the prints were mediocre, and that's being kind.

I have now learned the reason. When you upload a medium or large book to Apple, iPhoto creates a PDF file with images that are only 150dpi. The small books are at 300dpi, which is much more suitable for printing. Consider the fact that at 130dpi, iPhoto warns you that the image will not look good printed, and you can see the problem.

The solution? Edit ~/Library -> Preferences -> com.apple.iPhoto.plist and change both BookTargetImageDPI and BookTargetMediumImageDPI to 300.000000. This will dramatically increase the size of the file sent to Apple, but should make the results look a lot better.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one, but it's evident in the plist file that the DPI setting for the medium and large books is 150DPI, versus 300DPI for the small books. I'm not sure why Apple would have it set this way, nor if changing it will really improve the printd quality -- isn't it also dependent on the resolution of the source images? Anyone with a better understanding of DPI and printing, please leave a comment!

If you want to edit the plist file and you're in 10.4, you'll either have to use Apple's Property List Editor (part of the Developer Tools) or convert the binary plist to XML first via the Terminal (plutil -convert xml1 filename), and remember to convert it back to binary (binary1) when you're done -- and remember to quit iPhoto prior to editing the plist file! I think I'll wait on the edit until reading some of the comments...]

Update: iPhoto6 resolved this issue; no need to use this hint if you've upgraded.
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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 20, '05 10:15:51AM

While I haven't tried this (although I want to) I am a graphic designer and know a thing or two about printing images. Apple touts these books are being beautiful, so it surprised me to read this. If anything, it would make sense for the smaller books to have 150dpi (since they are smaller it wouldn't be as noticeable, and since the pictures are smaller they wouldn't need as many dpi to be quality). But if you are blowing up images to fill pages, you need as many dots per inch as possible!

I plan on ordered a book in the next day or so... I'm just debating whether or not I should chance it...



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: mflider on Jul 20, '05 10:57:07AM

Actually, if the pictures were smaller, a lower DPI would be more noticeable. Consider that if you use 300 dpi for an image that's 4 inches across, and 150 dpi for an image that's 2 inches across, the smaller image would have 1/4 the area but only 1/16 of the number of pixels!

In short, you'd be looking more closely at a smaller picture (possibly squinting), but could lean back a bit to see the larger picture. So it makes sense that one would want a larger DPI on smaller pictures -- for visual acuity in the book, and bandwidth constaints for Apple. I agree with the hint, though: 300 dpi is the minimum at which anyone would want to print their pictures.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: jen729w on Jul 26, '05 08:43:18AM

The mathematical me won't let that lie... :-)

Think about it. An image 4 inches across (let's call it a 4x4 square) has 4 times the area of an image 2x2. Halving the width doesn't half the area; it's an inverse square relationship.

DPI, of course, stands for Dots Per Inch. Per -inch-. One inch, 300 dots. Two inches, 600 dots. Each inch has its own number of dots. It doesn't matter a damn, therefore, how many inches you have.

The confusion here may arise because a 1024x728 image printed at A4 size will have a certain number of dots per inch, and the same image printed at A5 (that's half A4, Americans) will have double the dots per inch. In this case, however, I'm specifying a fixed image size and a fixed paper size; not a DPI value.

Hope that makes sense. Maths is so beautiful. :-)

j.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: dkitsov on Jul 21, '05 01:13:39AM

Well, I would want to have more detail in the smaller print as I am going to look at it from much closer distance then a big print.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: sophistry on Jul 20, '05 10:24:59AM

There is some confusion about so-called DPI because there are two media: print and screen.

Print: 'DPI' for the printing of source images is 'set' by a parameter in the file itself. You can set this in Photoshop or other graphic program (e.g., Graphic Converter) This parameter tells printers to use the DPI of the image to stuff points of color in.

Screen: 'DPI' is set by the program you view it with, and the zoom level at which you are looking at the image.

Show a JPG in safari for instance and it simply ignores the DPI setting, assuming it is for print only. The image is 'scaled' to show 72 pixels per inch on screen - so a 300 DPI image appears on screen to be gargantuan. The pixels are all 'there' so Safari just shows them.

This is pretty arcane stuff and I've left out some twists and turns but basically, 'resolution' (as in the DPI setting you can fiddle with in Photoshop) only affects the printed output; it tells the printer how many pixels there should be in each inch.

---
soph



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: jdsmith on Jul 23, '05 04:15:39PM
That's wrong on many levels. It's quite simple, actually. The "DPI resolution" is essentially an artifact of printing, and has nothing to do with the quality, physical size, or disk size of an image. This is perhaps one of the most confused pieces of computer knowledge I've encountered. I recommend not even speaking of DPI except in the context of printing.

Computer displays have a fixed pixel pitch (around 100 pixels per inch on Apple displays). An image with a given pixel size (say 2048x1536) will be displayed dot-for-dot in most browsers and image manipulation programs (at 100% zoom) on the display, or around 20x15inches (which, except for those of you with giant cinema displays, will require a trip to the scroll bar). That's why full-resolution digital camera images look so large at native zoom (one pixel=one pixel).

DPI has no meaning except in the context of printing an image. Why? Printers are different. Given an image of size 2048x1536, they can print that image in a 3x2 inch area, a 6x4 inch area, whatever. At some print sizes, the printer can't make use of that information to increase the print quality -- it is useless additional resolution. E.g., for a 3x2inch print of a 2048x1536 image, you'd need a printer capable of ~700DPI printing to actually gain any quality.

The converse is also true. If you want a 300dpi image printed at 4x6inches, you'll need a source image of at least 1200x1800 pixels to meet this. If you use a smaller image, the printed output will be interpolated to fill in the missing information. This often produces acceptable results, but doesn't really enhance the resolution (Star Trek "isolate and enhance" magic image manipulation aside). A reasonable target printing resolution is 300DPI, for any sized image. This looks good from a foot or so away.

One important side topic: larger images don't necessarily mean better images: a 1200x1800 pixel image horribly out of focus will of course look far worse printed than a nicely focussed 600x900 image printed at the same size. The image dimensions in pixels just give you a feel for the maximum possible resolution obtainable.

Apple switches to 150DPI (which is inferior, and far below what any reasonable print device can handle) with the larger images to save bandwidth and file size on their hard disks, plain and simple.

Some programs let you tag an image with a "DPI" header. This doesn't change it in anyway, but is just a suggestion for printing and composition systems down the line. It is actually respected and applied in very few cases. Usually the final application doing the printing makes all those decisions.

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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: wsdr on Jul 20, '05 10:51:12AM

To confuse matters even more, most printing does quite use the same concept of DPI as your screen. Most printing is measured using "lines per inch," or line screen. This is because in printing, individual colors are are created by overlaying grids of dots made from primary ink colors, usually cyan, magenta, yellow and black. A typical laserprinter of 600dpi can print a line screen of 65 or so (some more, depending on the unit).

Anyway, why does this matter? In printing, the SIZE of the dots often can vary (halftoning), so that the idea of a fixed grid of dots is thrown out the window. It is counterintuitive, but in many cases a lower line screen can produce more subtle transitions between shades of color (think blue sky), at the expense of finer detail.

The upshot is that, depending on the process and paper used, messing with the line screen can dramatically alter the result, and higher is not necessarily better. So, tinker with these settings at your own risk. I'd be very interested hearing from someone willing to print out the exact same book twice with different settings.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: switcha on Jul 20, '05 11:16:53AM

While you're correct about line screen (for which you should usually supply 1.5 times the LPI in the DPI of your image for best result and most efficient processing in the RIP), the Apple books are printed digitally.

And ink jet or dye-sub process keeps the whole process in the DPI realm from soup to nuts, as images aren't broken into dot screens as they are with lithography.

The real problem is that most people don't resize their raw camera images to a desired DPI and then place them (doing any scaling they might wish to do), so they don't know what their final, effective DPI really is. If your image comes off your camera as reading "72 dpi at 20 inches" and you scale it down 50% to fit a page in your book, you've only doubled the effective dpi to 144. At 5 inches wide, you'd have quadrupled it, bringing the image to a respectable 288, which would be fine for a nice ink-jet image.

The only reason 300 exists as a very standard resolution is that the bulk of offset lithography is done in in the neighborhood of 150 line screen, and a lot of people have latched onto the theory of "double the LPI for the DPI", when 1.5 X yields as good a result. For digital imaging, I've found that once you're over 220 or so, the quality starts do depend much more on the output device than the resolution of the image. Of course, there are always exceptions.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: pub3abn on Jul 20, '05 11:09:44AM

Lines per inch (LPI) is the key to knowing the ideal dots per inch (DPI) for a given output device. Most book or magazine quality publications are either 150 or 175 LPI. A good rule of thumb is that nothing is to be gained from having the DPI of your photos beyond 1.5 to 2 times the LPI. So for 150 LPI, you don't need more than 225-300 DPI. For 175 LPI, you don't need more than 270-350 DPI. In both cases, 300 DPI is a good safe number. Without knowing the LPI of the printing press the iPhoto books are printed at, we just have to guess.

Of course, all of this assumes that you are NOT enlarging your images. If you increase the DPI of your images, you must also DECREASE the physical size proportionately, or else you are simply adding interpolated detail to your image ... which usually makes your image look blurry/jaggy/etc. The easiest way to do this in Photoshop is to open the Image Size dialog, uncheck "Resample Image" at the bottom, and then enter 300 pixels/inch in the Resolution field. Notice that the numbers in the width and height fields will shrink. You now have the ideal size of your image at 300 DPI. You can enlarge it if you want, but realize that the quality will suffer. Moral: Always use the highest resolution originals that you can get. For full-page (8.5 x 11) pictures in a coffee-table book, you really need an 8-10 megapixel camera.

I've never ordered a book from iPhoto, and I've never tried this technique of tweaking the plist settings, but I do concur that 300 DPI is the least you would want for large, professional looking images. And if you are particular and have the know-how to pull it off, sending your images as CMYK (instead of RGB) from a calibrated system should give you much better/more predictable results too.

Footnote: For one-bit images, the resolution of the output device, not the LPI, is the key. But this does not apply to RGB or CMYK images.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: pub3abn on Jul 20, '05 11:16:49AM

For the curious, I will explain my statement: "For full-page (8.5 x 11) pictures in a coffee-table book, you really need an 8-10 megapixel camera."

The math is this:

8.5 (inches) x 300 (dpi/ppi) = 2550 (pixels).
11 (inches) x 300 (dpi/ppi) = 3300 (pixels).

2550 x 3300 = 8,415,000 pixels, or just over 8 megapixels.

Of course, if you crop the image at all, you need even more pixels.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: seqiro on Jul 20, '05 11:16:26AM
I'm not sure why Apple would have it set this way, nor if changing it will really improve the printd quality -- isn't it also dependent on the resolution of the source images?

Absolutely the image resolution makes a difference. The key is this: iPhoto is resizing the images for the PDF file before uploading.

So for example, the images I was using were 8MP files at 3504x2336. A full page of the large keepsake book is 8.5x11 and most of the pictures in the theme I used weren't full page anyway. Still, the pictures I was using would be over 300dpi at that size (7.3x11 @ 318dpi). However, the image uploaded by iPhoto is resized to 1650x1100 at 150dpi with the default settings when you choose a medium or large book. That is not NEARLY enough image data for a picture printed at that size.

The tradeoff? A much larger upload. But I can tell you that full page pictures in the small book looked terrific, and even the smallest pictures in the large book looked terrible. The change in DPI is the only difference I could come up with.

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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: Old Toad on Jul 20, '05 11:25:13AM

A very easy way to edit the iPhoto preference file is to use Pref Setter (you can get it thru VersionTracker.com). It automatically lists all the preference files for you to choose from.

As far as the book quality is concerned, I've ordered a couple large sized books and a couple of medium sized ones. The large sized, whether at the default dpi or the enhanced dpi, came out very good. The two medium sized books were ordered at the 300 dip setting and the pictures, under close inspection, had the halftone effect like you see in newspaper photos. At normal viewing distances it was not too noticeable but if you got close it was obvious.

Obviously Apple's supplier uses different printing techniques for the large than for the medium or small books.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 20, '05 11:32:00AM

Only slightly off topic, but on average how long (after placing the order) did it take you to get your iPhoto book in the mail?

And do they have any sort of return policy if the book looks like crap?



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: leandro on Jul 21, '05 12:55:14AM

usually less then a week. and yes you can get it returned. you just have to be nice and plead your case via email. I'm sending two books back because not only were several images dark, even after making them very light per their suggestions and the cover image wasn't even centered correctly. They're going to credit me back the full amount (incl. shipping) and they emailed me a fedex return slip. Its funny though, I did my first book in december for a gift and it looked wonderful, most of the images came from a 2 megapixel camera & it was the large hard cover. The ones that I sending back, and another one that I ordered a few months back both had some serious printing issues, and a lot of the images came from dslr. Its been frustrating.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 21, '05 10:03:59AM

Sounds like its hit or miss... the book I just submitted came from a 2megapix camera... so we shall see in a week or so.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: tripleman on Jul 20, '05 11:40:55AM

It's really much simpler than these comments would lead you to believe. At 150 dpi, you will start to see a "blockier" printed image. 300 dpi would make for an image that maintains the smoothness of image details. We've all seen what an image that is 72 dpi prints like - a screenshot of a web page for example - the blocks are quite pronounced. Going from 300 dpi down to 150 dpi takes you halfway down to that very blocky 72 dpi image with predictable results.

I work for a printing company and it's really that simple to get decent printed images. Other factors like lpi are important for absolute peak print quality but for something like this, it's not that big a deal.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 20, '05 12:03:58PM

I created my book, and compiled it in iPhoto after using Pref Setter to change the dpi from 150 to 300 (as the original entry here states). But before buying it, I did the old Print/Save as PDF trick and the file is only 19MB... does that sound right? I'm pretty sure it should be a much bigger file...

Or is there a different process when uploading it for Apple?



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: TvE on Jul 20, '05 04:10:59PM

It's impossible to comment about the size of your book not knowing if it has 20 or 100 pages (and images) etc.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 21, '05 10:02:22AM

20 Pages with roughly 25-30 images...



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: shavenyak on Jul 22, '05 11:49:13AM

I could be wrong, but I think Print/Save as PDF compresses images pretty heavily, and it might even resize them to 72dpi to optimize for viewing on-screen. That would explain the small .pdf file.

Someone with a full version of Acrobat could probably verify that.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: scottm4321 on Jul 20, '05 12:21:52PM

I work at a print shop and I'm really wondering if the books every even hit a printing press. I don't see how it could be done so cheaply unless they were ganged up on a 40" - 60" press? Those monsters are expensive to run. Maybe they're done on large format printers. These don't require as high a dpi than a press. I have an Epson 9600 that gets ok results from images as low as 100 dpi, though I wouldn't recommend going that low. Also there's the option of digital presses, thought they would require the higher dpi settings. As a printer I would never consider using a graphics as low as 150, it's just not going to cut it.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: socoast on Jul 20, '05 12:24:20PM

Long discussion about this on the Apple/iPhoto Discussions. Over 150 posts. Started in March.

http://discussions.info.apple.com/webx?50@351.fXeUapDvUn8.1@.68a809b4



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: Gabs on Jul 20, '05 05:30:33PM

Now I know that the books are sent at 150ppi I understand why the large book I had done a couple of months ago came back with my pictures looking softened. Not terrible but noticably so.

The book was very good quailty however - a really vast improvement over the past incarmnation of iPhoto book printing and crickey is the price right. (Yes.)

As for Apple's motives - digital images from digital cameras are generally sharper than scanned equivalents (plus most digital cameras also add sharpeness as they produce their JPEGs). Let's face it a slightly softened effect may improve many faces and do a lot to remove any nasty JPEG artefacts. Then there's also the amount of extra processing a large page at 300 (or even 200)ppi will require. It's not particularly fast on my GHz+ PowerBook at the standard setting.

Bottom line for me; if I really need sharper results and don't mind the extra processing: I expect this hack to add extra quality to an already very good service/product.

Tip of the hat to you seqiro!

BTW MAC-guyver: mine took three or four weeks to arrive at Palma de Mallorca (Spain); via Dortmund, Germany--with a Made in California note inside (if I remember rightly).



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: sinebubble on Jul 20, '05 10:09:05PM

I believe the large books send at 330 dpi by default. The 150 dpi setting is for the small books.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: cewatts on Jul 20, '05 11:13:55PM

You are incorrect. The default for small books is 300 dpi. Medium and large books default to 150.

I'm sad that Rob decided to post this version of the hint - I sent in a more explanatory version of the hint last week, including a much simpler method of checking and adjusting the dpi settings. (The "defaults" command is so much easier than these stupid "convert binary plist to text, then back" suggestions.)

Oh well.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: robg on Jul 22, '05 08:41:40AM

"I'm sad that Rob decided to post this version of the hint - I sent in a more explanatory version of the hint last week,"

I hadn't seen your version, as I proceed through the (very sizable) queue in date order when posting. Please feel free to add your version here as a comment (email me if you'd like a copy of what you submitted).

regards;
-rob.



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Talk Talk Talk... but...
Authored by: spotkat on Jul 20, '05 11:25:16PM

Both here and on the Apple Support Discussion threads, lots of people are explaining to one another what changing the dpi settings means, how it will change file sizes, so on and so forth. I haven't yet seen anyone who's ACTUALLY ordered a book after making these changes.

I agree with most people that the books from Apple are good, but not great. And if this little tip might help fix the problem, well great.

But until then, HAS ANYONE?
--Thanks!



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Talk Talk Talk... but...
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 21, '05 10:05:32AM

I just ordered one... so I will let everyone know how it goes in about a week when I get it in the mail.

I used the plst change to make the pics 300dpi



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Talk Talk Talk... but...
Authored by: spotkat on Jul 21, '05 01:25:09PM

Sweeeeet... I'm anxious to hear about it.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: ngb on Jul 21, '05 02:43:52AM

Digital prints made at a photo lab tend to be 300dpi for sizes below 10x14", and don't drop down to 250dpi until the size gets bigger than 10x14".

While there is some concern regarding the size of the original source image, you should be able to get a decent 8x10 print from a 3-4 megapixel camera.

Nate



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: Tetonne on Jul 21, '05 03:53:25AM

ok so what are the best settings?



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: daniel_clift on Jul 21, '05 09:29:39AM
If this is the case then it's going to be about file size - a 150 dpi image has a file one quarter of the size of a 300dpi image - for two reasons.
Apple will probably have in mind a notional figure for the length of time it should take to upload a typical book for printing, as part of improving the iPhoto user experience - the lower resolution would be the compromise for the bigger pages, and one which most users will not be bothered by or even notice.
More important though is the impact on printing times, which will be a big issue for Apple's commercial partners who actually make these books . They are almost certainly being ouput on the new digital type presses i.e. straight to paper without films or plates - kind of like a glorified colour laser printer. The image files for the books will need to be processed through the printer RIP en route, and bigger image files would mean longer RIP times, and therefore slower output per book. With the smaller books there would be less of an impact, hence the resolution could remain higher.

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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: jimheid on Jul 21, '05 11:10:49AM

Cool hint, but, um, not exactly original.

http://www.macilife.com/2005/04/hacking-iphotos-preferences-to-get.html



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: robg on Jul 22, '05 08:45:04AM

Given that this hint uses a completely different method of the file, and that the conversation seemed to start on Apple Discussions first, it's hard to see how this hint is a "copy" of the one you linked. Both talk about the same problem, though, so yes, the solution will be the same.

And besides, Mac OS X Hints isn't about "100% unique hints." It's about sharing the knowledge needed to make OS X more useful, even if such hints are duplicated elsehwere. Please note that this does NOT mean I'm condoning copyright infringement from other sites -- I do my best to make sure we don't just run a copy-and-paste from another site. In those cases, I'll either (a) ask for permission from the original site to post a full version, or (b) just post a link (but I don't like doing that much, as I can't depend on that URL being correct as we move into the future).

-rob.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: AdrianB on Jul 24, '05 01:26:04PM

I think it was in that Apple Discussion thread from March (linked in a earlier comment) that this was first discovered. At that time I couldn't find anything about it anywhere else on the 'net.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: allanmarcus on Jul 22, '05 01:03:40AM

Well, I tried a few things. First, I set the minimum DPI for large books to 300 and the warning to 270. I did notice a few warnings on the larger photos. Anyways, I set up the book, clicked Buy Book and waited until the book was assembled. I then looked at the file size of the PDF file in /var/tmp/folders.<uid>/TemporaryItems/iPhoto. I then quit iPhoto, change the settings back to 150 and created a new pdf file with the buy book button. No difference in file size.



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: MAC-Gyver on Jul 22, '05 01:31:58PM

I just got my iPhoto book in the mail after trying this fix! The book looks excellent!! The majority of the pictures were 72-150dpi originally from a 2mpx camera. But with the fix everything was bumped up to 300dpi and this thing looks very good.

Not everyone might have the same results, but its worth a try. This is one happy customer!



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: TvE on Jul 24, '05 04:15:21AM

Hmm - are you saying that iPhoto scales the (too small) images UP in size if you change the parameter from eg. 150 to 300?

I would expect the RIP to scale the images as opposed to "waisting" time and bandwidth by inserting "redundant" pixels.
(Based upon my tests in the prepress business in the mid 90'ies - and things can only get better right?)

What is really needed is a test with the same images printed with the 150 as well as 300 setting, and then with all the booksizes ;-)



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: bsf on Dec 06, '05 08:44:11AM

Pls help. I am using macosx 10.4.3 version and I am making a photo book from iphoto. Would you pls explain (in great detail) how I can change the quality of the photos before getting the book printed.
Thanks
bsf



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: chr4004 on Oct 22, '06 11:20:17AM

Regarding the "Update" in iPhoto6....
I still find the 150dpi in my prefs....why does it say, in iPhoto6 this is fixed? Should they be on 300 as the article recommends?



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Improve the quality of printed iPhoto books
Authored by: sd on Dec 11, '06 02:16:15PM

I think it is "fixed" in iPhoto 6 only if you install it from scratch.
But it may not update an old iPhoto 5 pref file



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only fixed if iphoto 6 is FRESH install
Authored by: christolles on Jan 15, '07 11:43:46AM

i, too, am finding it NOT fixed in my (upgraded iphoto 6).

pref setter rules!



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