Final Prints: What size?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Nicky, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Nicky

    Nicky Member

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    When I first started lurking in a darkroom way back in the late 1980's; 10x8" or, occasionally, 11x14" prints would have been the maximum size I printed. Having recently rediscovered the joys of film and darkroom printing, I've started printing to 20x24" using Ilford fibre paper and FP4 Plus film (6x7cm camera).

    Does anyone else print to 20x24"? If not, what sizes and why?
     
  2. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    I print on 9 1/2 by 12 paper for the simple reason that I like a smaller print, I tend to print full frame, so with, say 6x6 negatives, my normal size, the final print is smaller than the paper, The reason I like a smaller print is that I like the idea that a viewer has to come up close to look at the print, that somehow, with a small print, they get drawn into the photograph, I have printed larger, up to 12x16, but always come back to the smaller size, also, I think they look great mounted onto 20x16 mounts,
    Richard
     
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I've occasionally printed 4x5 negatives on 11x14 paper but I pretty much stick to 8x10 paper for both 4x5 and 35mm. They are generally mounted on 14x17 board. I guess I just like smaller prints. It's a personal thing and there are no rules. Some photographers print small, some print larger. And some print all sorts of sizes depending on the image because they find certain images work better at different sizes. Sometimes the limitations are in the negative and finding the largest size that works without grain or unsharpness becoming distracting. There are lots of potential variables and it is all subjective. No rules.
     
  4. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    I regularly print 11x14 to 20x24 and not usually smaller for a host of reasons including the markets I am serving. Due to my style of shooting, I feel that going smaller than 11x14 does not do my images any favors and when it comes to certain images and especially those from 4x5, they only just start to open up at 16x20 and really sing at 20x24 in terms of tonal relationships and detail.

    I have definate plans to go much larger too as competition in terms of size from digital works make it nearly impossible to consider smaller than 20x24 in certain markets. I am looking to secure a second darkroom space in the coming months for my mural enlarger of which I have spent the better part of a year gathering the components for including Rodagon G mural lenses.

    But in terms of workflow, I think my favorite print size is either 11x14 or 16x20 inch paper for a host of reasons. But yeah, 20x24's are awesome and I love that I produce them in a small closet darkroom by using a Jobo 3063 drum in the kitchen once I peg my test strips in a small tray. Even though I plan on going to 30x40 on a regular basis and have built a drum that can handle up to 33x48, if 20x24 was the largest I could ever do, I would not be unhappy as I feel it is a fantastic size in which the print starts to impart the feeling of "big"...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 2, 2013
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi nicky

    i used to print 16x20 often and loved seeing some of my hybrid prints
    ( made from camera-made + found + hand made negatives )
    and often times i have a lab i work with print my work that big even today ... but
    i also like, and almost favor smaller sizes (max 8x10, and even 4x5 reductions to 2x3 ) because
    the form and line of an image really comes out more when it is compressed and i like miniatures + intimate prints.
    in addition to small prints ( swimming in a large mat ) i also make hand stitched books
    and find it to be much easier to make a book of 4x5 or 5x7 or 8x10 images than a book of 16x20 or 20x24 images.

    have fun !
    john
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I like working with 11x14 paper for various reasons. My 35mm negatives look 'just right' at 9x12" print area, with a one inch border around it. I also like how my 6x6 negatives look at 8x8" print area.
    16x20 paper is sweet to work with, but I start to hit the limits of what my darkroom can produce at that size, and I usually only print something that big when I get a request to do so (not very often). For snapshot stuff I use 8x10 paper and I really like how those small prints feel in my hands.

    To me it's important that the print looks good on its own, without being mounted and over-matted. It should be a jewel on its own and a joy to hold and look at. I'm not selling a lot of work, so for me this is a highly personal opinion. If I was able to sell more work, I would not mind getting the equipment to print larger (print washers, tray heaters, and so on). But I will not start printing larger just for me to look at something to enjoy. The expense is just way too high for me to justify on the budget I'm on.

    Good luck picking the right size, and have a good time in the darkroom.
     
  7. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    +1
    This could have been written by me! (although I really haven't mounted my prints yet).
     
  8. NB23

    NB23 Member

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    My stock is as follows:

    19 boxes of 11x14 fb (900 sheets)
    9 boxes of 8x10 fb (900 sheets)
    2 boxes of 20x24 fb (100 sheets)
    9 boxes of 20x24 rc (450 sheets)
    4 boxes of 16x20 fb (200 sheets)
    9 boxes of 16x20 rc (450 sheets)
    3 boxes of 5x7 rc (750 sheets)

    I'm good for 2013 through 2015.
    My problem is that I'm always adding fb paper as soon as I find good deals.
     
  9. 250swb

    250swb Member

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    Smaller prints are engaging, feel special, are more intimate. But when I was at college doing photography the 'small dark print' reigned supreme. I think the main thing is the smaller print forces an engagment with the viewer by making sure they get close enough, whereas a larger print can be seen from the other side of the gallery, but if there are fine subtleties these can be missed because the viewer already thinks thay have 'got it'.

    But printing large is now a fashion and, depending on wall space available, it can work. The main thing that bothers me about very large prints is the feeling some are very reliant on simply being large for their impact, forgetting that it should be a good picture as well. And too many photographers are drawn into offering large prints for sale, as if people will think they are getting more art for their money, especially with the rise of inkjet printing. Yet all too often the potential buyer will have a small bit of wall to devote to a picture, and may want to collect more than one image by the artist. It's something Ansel understood.

    Steve
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    11 x 14 is my current target size.

    But I really like 12 x 16. I wish that size of paper was more easily found.

    And if Ilford would sell paper in 16" rolls, I would be very grateful :smile:.
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I tend to print 11x14 more than anything else but I usually leave quite a bit of border, like 1" all the way around. Partly because I like that size, another reason being it gets me to the aspect ration that tends to work the best of many of my images.

    I also print 8x10, 5x7, and 16x20.
     
  12. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    I agree small prints encourage viewers to come up close to look at the print. I marvel at the details and tonality. Large prints project. David Vestal who taught at Pratt and wrote for Modern Photography 40 years ago said it this way.

    "What size should your print be? Well how big is the picture. Large pictures can use, but often don't need, big prints. Small pictures need small prints. Many pictures don't care. This has nothing to do with how good a picture is, only with its essential size. Bigness is not goodness; neither is smallness. .....either a photograph looks right in a certain size or it doesn't. With your pictures, that's your decision to make. Some photographers seldom or never change print size. Edward Weston made thousands of 8x10-inch contact prints and a few smaller prints.....I don't know any print by him bigger than 8x10 inches. They are big enough. Now and then a picture tells me "small" or "big" and I follow that impulse to see if it works....When Abraham Lincoln's strait man asked, "How long should a man's legs be?" Abe came back with, "Long enough to reach the ground." Print size is like that. The print should be big enough to fit the picture." -- The Art of B&W Enlarging

    Convenient dimensions. 5x7 for desk display. 6x8 on 8x10. Cut 11x14 down to 9x11 and print with one inch borders. 9x12 on 11x14. 8x12 on 11x14. Neg shape contributes to print dimensions. Mount in on 14x17 inch board.
     
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  13. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    This is a topic I've been interested in for years now. As I don't get to see alot of others work in person, i'm always intrigued by answers to this subject.

    I mostly print on 8x10 and 11x14 paper. I shoot 6x4.5 and 6x6, so I print 9x12" on 11x14 and 10x10" on 11x14 for the 6x6 work. I recently did my first solo show and printed 16x20 prints for the first time in my life. WOW!!! I was blown away by the amazing detail in the prints. I did 4 of them for the show, 3 were printed 13 1/2 x 18" (6x4.5 negs) and one was 14x14" (6x6 neg). I haven't printed since I printed these and it's left me wondering if my time should be better spent only printing 11x14 and 16x20 in the darkroom. The amount of time spent in the darkroom whether it's 8x10 or 16x20 paper is the same. The feeling and impression I got from these large prints blew me away and I think opened my eyes to what kind of potential my negatives really have. I will certainly be printing more 16x20 in the near future.

    However, there is something to be said for the small print. Every photograph is different and demands its own size. I've printed holga images at 7x7" that sing, but when enlarged to 10x10" lose all impact. Photography is funny like that and alot of times you'll figure out how large an image should be printed simply by printing it one size too big.
     
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  15. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I've printed 12x12, 12x16 and 11x14 most of the time. I like 11x14, it is a pleasant size, not too demanding of wall space. Also, it fits 16x20 mat, which is too small, I think, for 12x16. When I get better, I will start 16x20.
     
  16. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    I've printed everything from postcard (3.75x5.75) to 20x24. I am currently in the process of beginning to make my first mural-scale prints (30x30") from 6x6 negatives.

    I don't find handling the larger papers drastically more difficult than the smaller, especially not up to 16x20. 20x24 can be a little bit of a pain, but provided you have the space is really not that big a deal, especially with gloves on both hands.

    I absolutely adore the Ilford ART300 in 5x7" with my 35mm photographs, although from what I've done with it in 20x24 it is beautiful large as well. Primarily I am using Adox Variotone Warmtone or the Adox MCC in 16x20, and 20x24, if not Ilford Galerie or ART300. All other sizes are a variety of papers, depending on what I am printing.
     
  17. ac12

    ac12 Member

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    It depends.
    After leaning about mat boards and how they compliment the photo, I actually dropped down in print size. I would put an 8x10 print onto either an 11x14 or 16x20 mat board depending on the image. The mat board isolates the print from the wall it is on, so you can view the print w/less distraction.
     
  18. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Nicky,

    If my love for the print were the only consideration, I'd probably join you at 20x24. But my arbitrary self-imposed limit is 11x14. I simply built my darkroom around those dimensions. More power to you, I am sure your prints sing...
     
  19. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I print to (from RVP trannnies) 81x61cm from 6x7 (do the math in inches...). At this moment an 12x18 print is coming off 35mm. I don't shuffle prints into a folder never to be seen again: they are framed and put under spots.

    Print size should be accorded consideration as to its final use. Where are you putting them? In an archival folder as part of a "reference library", or framing?
    Economies of scale will dictate print size to a point. No doubt whole books have been written on what print sizes should be produced, why and what for. Print to a size you want and need, which fits the bill for the end result. My next target is to print about 900cm tall (hybrid process): wallpaper for a stair landing.
     
  20. noacronym

    noacronym Member

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    Any size you want, or the most pleasure therefrom that you can afford. Remember--they ain't making these materials any more. One day soon all these nice cameras are going to be rendered junk. Only the photographs they made will outlast them. And when color and digital has all faded or been obsoleted, the B&W silver prints will lend testament.
     
  21. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    The size is usually determined by the negative and I rarely enlarge more than four times to make sure that there is quality even up close. That gives me a maximum of 32x40" from an 8x10" negative but I usually stop at 16x20" or contact print. My largest print is 6.4m wide, but since I didn't do that myself I guess it doesn't count.
     
  22. Nicky

    Nicky Member

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    Lots of thoughtful answers and most make a lot of sense. There was a time when pin sharp resolution was really important to me. Similarly, I would never print to a size which would compromise that. Interestingly, these days I'm experimenting a wee bit with vintage Rollei TLR's (pre-war and uncoated glass). There's just something magical about the whole process. Loading, framing and shooting something which was made 75 years ago. Even better, the images from the old Zeiss glass (compared to my Pentax 67) are difficult to describe but very pleasing all the same. I will get around to printing some big enlargements from these negs. If the results don't match the sharpness of the Japanese glass, it may not bother me this time around because I'll be looking for an image which will move me rather than clinical, technical perfection...
     
  23. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    8x10 for 35mm and 6x6.
     
  24. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    I don't think anyone has usable stocks of Portriga, and so on, these days. What materials are you missing?

    My own printing seems to be without an overall standard size or format, though I did get some kit recently to make 16x20" easier to make so I've been doing some re-printing at that size to see how it looks.
     
  25. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Print size should be based on viewing distance. There is a formula for calculating this but I don't have it on hand. It is based on whether the entire print can be seen without moving the eye. For an intimate viewing environment an 8x10 or smaller is good. For a large exhibition room a larger size 11x14 ... 20x24 might be used.
     
  26. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Print size depends on a number of things. 6X7 can stand the enlargement to make big prints, but 35mm often can not. Where and how the print is to be displayed is obviously important. There are places for murals and other, quite different places for 5X7s. Small picture books can often be very effective.

    I usually print 8X10s and 11X14, with 11X14 being my most frequent size for display. I sometimes make 5X7s. Lately I have made some 16X20 prints for display, and I like them. But 16X20 is about the biggest thing I can handle physically, so it becomes a limit.