Reasons to Stop Pixel Peeping

What is pixel peeping?

Every now and then photographers would test their camera and lenses. They observe sharpness, clarity, chromatic aberrations, etc.  One way of testing this is by looking at the output at a 100% zoom level. If your camera is 10megapixels, at maximum zoom level, you’re looking at 10million pixels.  With this kind of magnification, the image is seen on a pixel level.  This is called Pixel Peeping.

This is not a bad thing in itself, but a lot of photographers are swayed by what they see in this scenario. Here are a couple of reasons why photographers should stop pixel peeping.

Photo by meganpru

Camera or Lens Limitations

Most people pixel peep so they can detect if their gear is faulty. Sometimes this works and they immediately replace the item. However, most of the time what they see as defect is a normal occurrence. And once they learn that the “defect” is a lens limitation, they opt for a better and more expensive lens. This can go on forever. Thus, making the photographers slaves to their gear and forgetting that they need to look at the picture not at the pixels.

Photo by Whiskeygonebad


Most people pixel peep to see the ISO performance of their camera. Noise is produced when using a high ISO or correcting an underexposed photo in post processing. A lot of photographers are scared of noise. And they would never reach ISO1600 and above when taking photos. What they don’t realize is that noise is barely noticeable at viewing distances. What I mean by viewing distance is looking at the picture as a whole rather than on the pixel level.

Photo by Bernard

Web Images

The advent of digital photography means widespread image distribution via the internet. Flicker, DeviantArt, Tumblr, and even Facebook offer image sharing services. The thing is, your 18megapixel photograph will eventually be downsized to a smaller resolution. Pixel peeping your 18megapixels photograph is pointless if you’ll just post it in the World Wide Web. And even if you manage to post your 18megapixels image without resizing it, it would be pointless, since you will be seeing only a portion of your image on a computer screen.

Photo by Bernard

Technicality Defeats Art

If your images at the maximum zoom level doesn’t pass your scrutiny, this means that art has been defeated. An image with some noise or some chromatic aberration but which has lots of emotion is a great photograph. A photographer that insists that a picture is sub-par because of such minor flaws should examine other artworks. For example, if Mona Lisa is viewed at 100% pixel level, there would be some irregularities in the brush strokes of Da Vinci. Some colors would be off or a couple of lines would be skewed. Nonetheless, this piece of art is regarded as one of the best in the world.

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