How Many Megapixels Do You Need?

julius motal the phoblographer sony 70-200mm f2.8 G product image-5

16MP–that’s what I say most people need at most though consumers may only really need as little as 8MP. But chances are that if you’re shooting professionally or semi-professionally with the intent of only publishing on the web, you don’t need many megapixels at all. As it stands, we always recommend that folks upload their images at 1000 or 2000 pixels long to the web even as displays become more high resolution.

This is a story that I’ve shared before with other sites but that I’m sharing in a different way here. Years ago, I was a celebrity photographer (a paparazzi, life was tough when I got out of college). My agency wanted photos of the celebrity up close and personal and what I didn’t know was that they wanted crops of just the celebrity. What I actually thought was that they wanted me to get up close and personal. So with a Canon 5D Mk II and 24-105mm f4 L IS, I was able to create many images that the agency loved and could sell to both print and for the web.

Part of this was because I was able to crop in majorly and still give them a useable image. But most folks don’t need to do this and in fact many people don’t even crop their images–they usually try to keep them as they were in the camera or the thought is just an oversight.

Here’s what we mean.

This was an original image

This was an original image

This is the crop of that image

This is the crop of that image

The above two images are an example of exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re producing work where you feel that you need a crop like this and don’t always have the funds to afford the lenses that you need, then it makes sense to get a higher megapixel camera body. High megapixel camera bodies also make sense when it comes to retouching because you have more surface area to work with. But you’ll also need more hard drives.

Here's another full shot

Here’s another full shot

Crop of that photo

Crop of that photo, editing also done

Again, here’s another example of how it’s incredible and simple to get the images that you need. When delivering to a client, they’ll most likely not know or care that you cropped it and for what it’s worth, you shouldn’t be giving away high res files anyway unless they specifically pay for them.

Yes, there’s a market for this type of stuff. Think about how many people want to see photos of the Kardashians and the Obamas every day.

Getting back to the point, this could have been done with 16MP and a better lens with more reach, but if you don’t have that to start with, a higher megapixel body can help, providing that it’s taking advantage of what the lens can offer in terms of image quality. More than that, most people don’t need to crop in this much.

So what’s the point of all this? Consider whether or not you need an incredibly high megapixel body for the work that you do. The Nikon D810’s 36MP is quite a bit and the 50MP sensor in the Canon 5Ds is a bit superfluous. Most folks don’t need that kind of resolution and most photographers don’t need it either. Beyond that, the lenses available to resolve that kind of a sensor aren’t very common.

Keep this in mind when you make your next camera purchase and consider your needs carefully.