Why do my pictures look good on electronic devices but distorted and grainy when printed out?

I recently took my camera (Nikon 5200) on vacation. The camera took high quality pictures that look good on my IPad and other electronic devices. However, when I printed out the pictures that had people in them they came out all distorted, unclear and grainy. The lady at WalMart suggested I try the 1-hour machine. I did and they came out a little better but still not as good as they look on my iPad. I was told that it could be my memory stick as it only downloads at 30 MB/s. Is there anything I can do to improve the resolution and get the pictures as they appear on my camera?

Steve P

A print is a vastly different medium than an electronic device. Your iPad or computer is PROJECTED light and only displays about 72 pixels per inch. A print is REFLECTED light and needs aprx. 300 pixels per inch as an input file for a quality print. Many things could be causing your prints to not look good but the image look good on digital devices. First and foremost, is your camera set to it's largest size, highest quality / resolution? That is a MUST. The camera can be set at VERY reduced quality and still produce images that look just fine on screen, but the dimensions and resolution is too small for a good print. Note: cameras do not come at their largest size / highest quality settings by default. You have to set it as such. You truly should be shooting in the RAW format, not Jpeg, and processing your files in a good program such as Capture One or Lightroom, or even the RAW conversion software that came with the camera. Your ISO may be too high. Your focus may be off. Your exposure may not be what it really should be for a good print. Remember, the digital device is a projected light source and can often make a poor exposure look better than it actually is. Are you running your photos through some kind of software program or "app" that may be reducing the size and quality of the photo? Many such programs will do that and if that is the file you are trying to use for prints, your print quality will suffer. Another thing. Walmart is pretty much the bottom of the barrel as a place to obtain prints. Try using a pro quality lab. Mpix is such a place. Yes, it costs more, but the quality is superb, (assuming you submit a decent quality file in the first place).


I've recently had a similar problem with my wife and her iPad - it turned out that the pictures being printed were only thumbnails! Make sure the files on the stick are the right size.


It's the printer. The printed image is going to look different than the digital one and the quality of your printer can make a difference.

Big Mike



The memory stick has nothing to do with it. Your pictures do look that way in the first place. The problem are your devices. They are set to hide gross flaws in pictures. Unless you view your picture in a large computer monitor, you won't see how they actually look.


The speed at which your memory works is not the cause. One probable cause is insufficient light, and therefore a high ISO, when using the camera in full-auto mode, or maybe it was locked into a high ISO setting by "mistake" (meaning that you didn't check everything). No one out here can do better than guess at the exact problem. Find someone who can help you in person (maybe at a camera store).