WHY PIXEL PEEPING AND MEGAPIXELS MATTER TO ME. Pixel-peeping is almost a term of abuse these days. "The difference only matters to pixel-peepers" etc. I spend a lot of time testing lens / sensor combinations, and attempting to see what is sharp and what isn't, how much CA and fringing there is, and how in general a file looks viewed at 100% on a good monitor. So what does that make me? The photographic equivalent of someone who listens to their hi-fi rather than the music? Some nerd who's more interested in lens performance than taking pictures? Well no. Its often a matter of commercial necessity. As many are aware I make my living as a stock photographer, selling images via picture library websites. Many of those websites have a submission and acceptance / rejection way of working. I know that the images I send to them are going to be "pixel-peeped" to a very high level. My images will be scrutinised for technical quality and faults will not be tolerated. If I can't get an image accepted onto a website then it won't sell. This makes making a living somewhat difficult.I therefore have to make sure that even before I submit an image to a library, it has to be "scrubbed up" to pass the stringent quality control criteria. Then there is the question of size. The larger the image, the more pixels it has, the more opportunity it has to sell. A large image taken on a camera with a high MP count creates the possibility of a wider number of possible sales. It can be used at larger sizes such as A3+ and it can be cropped while still retaining quality. An image created on a camera with less MP's has a more restricted sales potential. Some libraries accept interpolated files. There again the actual quality of the file is important, as the higher the quality of the original the better it will enlarge. The less you have to interpolate it the better the end result. So the difference between 14MP and 16MP does matter. Then there are the clients. The people who buy pictures. Basically the people who enable me to pay my mortgage and eat regularly. Some will study a file intently, some won't. However I have no way of knowing who does what so I have to make sure that I'm submitting my images in the best possible way and to the highest possible standard. So does this matter to the average "enthusiast photographer"?. Well every individual can only answer that for themselves. It does, to a certain extent, depend on how and to who you present and show your pictures, and also what medium you use for this. Whether you print or use the web, make photo books or submit for publication, you have to make sure that your files are capable of fulfilling the requirements of the means you use to distribute your work. Having run my own picture library for a number of years, I'm well aware of how different people view these requirements. One of my contributors was a long time news photographer. He was at one time picture editor of one of the most famous newspapers in the UK and was someone who had visited and photographed virtually every country in the world and had tens of 1000's of images published. However the majority of these were in newsprint, not known for presenting images in the best possible way, and he tended to think that his files needed to to fulfil those standards only. His files were truly terrible. Huge crops blown up to ridiculous sizes, some of the worst Photoshop editing I've ever seen in my life, and a list of faults as long as your arm. To my astonishment, many of these images sold very well, but only to that newspaper market. I sent a few of his images to upmarket magazines and advertising clients but soon stopped when I realised that my reputation for quality was going to suffer if I carried on doing it. To him the image was the thing. The state of the digital file was secondary. Its true that many people do think that, but I would argue that there is hardly a renowned photographer who doesn't take the greatest care over having their work presented in the best possible way. Its also interesting to note how many of the famous photographers use the best gear. Leicas, Medium and Large format are commonplace. Going off on another of my musical analogies, great musicians care about using the best instruments they can. So why should photographers and their cameras be any different? I've been around one or two famous and successful photographers and I found it difficult to believe quite how fussy they are about their gear. One well-known landscape UK photographer told me he spent 99% of his time testing and 1% taking the pictures that earned him his reputation. That might be somewhat over the top but I can understand the commitment if not the obsession. So pixel-peeping to me isn't a term of abuse, nor do I think it a pointless exercise. For me its a very necessary part of what I do. Sometimes it does drive me crazy and I often wish I didn't have to do it. Being happy with a camera phone or micro sensor compact camera image would make life a lot simpler for me, but I'm not and it isn't. Some may say "Oh but you're a professional" but then I did this before I started earning my living from photography. That is if you count viewing transparencies on a lightbox through a loupe as "pixel-peeping" Some might also say "You don't need more pixels" which to me is one of the most arrogant and patronising statements I ever read concerning digital photography. What gives people the right to say this to another photographer is beyond my understanding! What we use and what demands we make on the equipment we use is our decision. Also when you realise that reading between the lines "You don't need more pixels" usually means either "You're a rubbish photographer so the extra resolution is wasted on you" or "I can't afford a better camera so I'm going to attempt to trash anyone else who can". So I'm a self admitted "pixel-peeper" and I have no reason to apologise for it. The technical quality of my images matters to me, both professionally and personally, and I shall continue to do it. This is intended as a companion piece to the post I started that posed the question "Image quality or ease of use?" I still haven't decided which is more important to me and in some ways this might be seen as contradicting some of what I said in the previous post. But as I said at the time, this is a constant dilemma for me, and I'm no nearer to finding a satisfactory solution than I was then. However no matter what I actually use, and that decision may be dependent on other factors, I will still be concerned to see whats out there so I can make my decisions having considered all the available information. "It'll do" is not a part of my photographic vocabulary, "What could I achieve with that" is the sentiment I experience more often.