For me...small prints are the new big

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Tom Nutter, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. Tom Nutter

    Tom Nutter Member

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    I go to shows...everybody's prints....at least at the "big" shows, and even local ones....are 50"x 60" or 30"X40" ...etc.

    I have all of these sheet film formats... 8X10, 5X7, 4X5... and Polaroids(Fuji-Roids). I think some nicely done contact prints are in order for a future show...so for me, small is the new big in gallery prints.

    Anybody agree...disagree...discuss...
    ...and if anybody out there owns a gallery...DISCUSS!
     
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  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I love 5x7 prints, sometimes I mat and display contact prints from the 4x5. Small is where it's at!
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I've printed MF negatives as carbon prints and as platinum/palladium -- and up to 11x14 negatives. The MF images are sweet! But best in some hand-holdable form, rather behind glass on a wall...but I've done it.
     
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  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    My standard quality work is on 11x14 from 4x5 negs

    When I just want to see a picture, I print smaller on postcard stock.

    When I do that, I produce prints of lower quality.

    For example, some of my gallery shots are scans from a postcard (they are reductions).

    The postcard prints are straight prints with no manipulation because they are so small.

    At least my 11x14 prints have burning and dodging, which I think (by definition) makes better prints.

    So that's why my smaller prints are lower quality.
     
  5. lightwisps

    lightwisps Subscriber

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    Gallery Owner

    Hi Tom,

    I do own a gallery called 3 Yellow Tulips and we sell both BW and Ilfochrome prints. We have found that for what ever reason nothing smaller than 11X14 seem to sell. The reason seems to always be the same. Our clients need larger prints to fill the space on the wall that they have in mind. People buying art can be on the strange side. We have sold expensive prints and paintings because they match the color of their new furniture. Go figure.

    Good luck in all you do.

    Don
     
  6. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I like 8x10 or 11x14. Just big enough so I can see them.


    Jeff
     
  7. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I've only been doing 5X7 contact prints (pt/pd) for past 3 months; but they've become my favorite format & size. Not sure, though, how to frame them. Verticals I've been doing in 8X10 while horizontals 10X12 matting. With 8X10 contact prints, I mat them in 16X20.
     
  8. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I think subject matter might have some input on print size too. A portrait or shot of a small object or an abstract view of some scene might work well as a relatively small print, especially if it's a fairly simple composition without lots of little details. Grand landscapes and some architectural subjects sometimes beg for a large presentation. A philosophical question perhaps of whether we want the viewer to look at the picture or to feel almost "inside" the picture.

    All that said, I'm not currently equipped to go more than 11x14, so that's it for me. Of late I do mostly square format, printed on 11x11 paper (using the offcut for test strips!) and mat it to about 10 1/4 square. Optically centered and double matted in a vertical 16x20 frame it makes a nice presentation. Folks don't often reach for their wallets, but I attribute that to my bent toward industrial archeology as subjects! :D
     
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  9. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I have the capability to print all sizes up to 20x24, but lately smaller prints have been getting my attention. Bill Burk, who says that 5x7's don't get B&D'ed, I spend nearly as much time on them as an 11x14 or 8x10(except for spotting)and sometimes they are much harder to get just right. As DWThomas reports, they are perfect for the proper subject. I wouldn't even consider printing grand landscape on anything less than 8x10, more often 11x14. Architectural subjects can be printed to nearly any size, depending on the amount of detail you want portrayed. Some scenes beg to be printed small, the photo below was printed 8x8 and 5x5, it ceased being dramatic after that, I scrapped the 11x11. I have many examples of work that just plain look like crap at large sizes, but are extremely dynamic in smaller sizes.
     

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  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have a lab print big stuff for me sometimes ...
    but i rarely print anything bigger than 5x7 myself
    small prints in a 16x20 matt are always a treat to look at :smile:
     
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  11. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Well, do tell gallery owners of your preferences. I'm certain they would be happy to show smaller prints, not make a profit on the sales, and go out of business. But I am certain that to serve you as a buyer of photography, they will be more than eager to satisfy your tastes.
     
  12. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    On Sunday Morning on CBS I had seen where Elton John had collected small prints.
     
  13. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I'm usually not a fan of large prints. Some galleries have prints so big you have to step back to see the whole thing. Small prints have more of an intimate, precious quality. There are exceptions of course.
     
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  15. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    At galleries I enjoy watching huge color c-prints a lot more than miniature 'fine art' b&w's. At home I have almost only smallish b&w prints. I just don't have the cash flow to be able to buy huge c-prints.
     
  16. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Is it me or are all the large to mural sized prints these days extremely mundane and boring?! I was at the Met a month or two ago to get a last viewing of the night photography exhibit, and when I drifted over to the contemporary art section, the majority of the huge C-prints we bland, and just seemed to be there because they were huge. I guess thats art for ya, the bigger you go the more there is perceived importance of the piece.
     
  17. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I once hears a philosopher state the following (about paintings): "Pictures have only one size: the right one"....

    And then he continued to explain what we all proberly have noticed: sometimes we see an image, and imidiately think: I wish it was smaller... or I wish it was bigger... or I wish the author keeps the size, but crop here and there....

    ... and sometimes we just think: WOW.

    the wow goes for the right size for the right picture.
    If this is true, then we're in luck, as we can make several different sized of the same negative - a painter (a good one) knows - or have to know - before starting...

    I'll never even consider printing for gallery tastes. the sizes are mine to chose, and if that proves wrong, than the gallery owners can just reject my images.. very simple.

    I also once heard about smal (very small) images, that they are (or can be) as photographic gems. Like as in the really old days, when images were hidden in small boxes.

    I like to exhibit in different sizes. The larger size images "push the wiever away" - the small ones "drag them in"..

    I like to get the visitors to "work" a little. Too many times have I seen exhibitions where all the images were in the same size and framing. that kills any exhibition...

    (.. but what do I know - I never seem to sell, so I might be wrong...:cool:)
     
  18. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    This certainly has been my observation. I print mostly 8X10. Sometimes 11X14. I also have a series of small prints matted to 5X7 in cute little frames.
    I look at other mediums such as oil, watercolor and colored pencil, and I see a lot of small, intimate pictures. Why can't photography be appreciated that way? In our house, we have several small art works. They are in the bedroom and bathroom, and really look good.
    My theory is that you just have to wait for the right person to come along.
     
  19. Tom Nutter

    Tom Nutter Member

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    I DO think artists should take charge and make the art they find meets the standard of their personal best, and stop letting gallery owners set the bar. It is backwards to empower gallery owners and allow them to set the trends.
     
  20. lesm

    lesm Member

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    I've really been enjoying this thread. Nothing like having one's prejudices confirmed! On the island where I live we've just had our week-long annual Arts Feast, in which local artists show their work at local eating places. I had three exhibitions, featuring large, medium and small photos. I didn't sell any of the large prints, only three of the medium (13x19) and seven of the small (between 8x10 and 4x6) plus lots that I made up into postcards. I suspect there were several factors involved: 1. tourists, who came in their thousands, can't cart around large art works while they're on holiday, 2. locals were telling galleries that they simply had no room left on their walls, after several years of supporting the event, 3. times are hard and people don't want to spend on expensive large art works and 4. my small photos, which sold well, were in plain mats, unframed, no glass and hence inexpensive and portable.
    I've been complaining long and hard here that photos have been getting bigger and bigger every year. It's been very noticeable that it's the big ones that always seem to win the competitions here and I'm sure some photographers have simply gone along with that. It's crude and unsophisticated, but it wins prizes...
    God I'm getting cynical! But yes, small is perennially beautiful.
     
  21. paulie

    paulie Member

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    i love small prints, i print mainly 4x5 inch contacts,using carbon, cyano, fibre silver and sometimes a vandyke. i also like to print strips of three 6x45 and 6x6, 6x9cm and sometime a half dozen 35mm.

    a fantastic look is to print the same neg in cyano vdb and carbon and frame them altogether.

    using small negs is a must for learning carbon transfer as the mistakes do pile up, also another nice thing about small is books, make a nice 12 page book of prints.

    i have been making simple 4 ring books using white card and tissue page with a homemade paper mache cover, bound together with stripped and twisted household wire (copper)

    anyway im rambling, go small as you cant print more lol
     
  22. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    Gallerists don't set the trends, they are set by the people that buy images. If people want big images to fill their walls then they buy big images. Granted gallerists prefer larger images because they can make more money off of them. Probably the biggest reason why this is prevalent in photography today is because of the ease of making large prints digitally. This was evident starting roughly ten years ago when the big printers were starting to get popular. I remember seeing this progression at PhotoLA every year. Since most photography is done digitally, printing the image takes only one click regardless of the size of it. Although photography may be a passionate hobby for most photographers, it is decoration for many of the buyers out there. They want something unique that goes with the sofa. It is also a business and people are in it to make money as hard as that is to believe to an amateur purist.

    Collectors are less interested in size in general since much of what they own tends to sit in boxes not displayed on the wall. They are more interested in content. There are not a lot of serious collectors though.

    If the trend of big prints continues it is going to create storage problems for museums in the future. I have read some curators lamentation over this. This limitation also means that museums will not be able to buy as many prints and shows will be more expensive due to the increased shipping costs. Also, many large prints are easily scratched because of the mounting methods.

    Personally I like small prints. When I started photography I made everything 2x3 inches for the longest time. There is a beauty to holding a print in your hand and looking at it. I still don't like to print big. It is a pain to do in the darkroom unless you have a lot of space.

    There are still people out there who generally print small. I don't think I have ever seen a large Kenna print for example. His work does predate digital though.
     
  23. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    There is no rule that large prints must be void of content. Is there?
     
  24. Steve Bellayr

    Steve Bellayr Member

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    11x14 or 16x20 are optimize size IMHO for wall hanging in a private home, at least mine, I find that costwise the 11x14 is best for my needs. In truth, I do not matte my prints but put them in a plain silver frame...It is probably incorrect but it is my home and I save money and room for more prints.
     
  25. JerryWo

    JerryWo Member

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    Like Poster M. Lointain, I love small prints and these days I find myself making exquisite darkroom miniatures from 5 x 7's cut in half. I can't wait for my Rollei to get "Fleenor'd" so I can start making 6 x 6 cm contact prints. Of course, I'm not speaking of museums/galleries but private, personal collections of photographs - some that even are, pretend to be, or imitate, art. That would be me.

    It might be just a hangover from looking at family photo albums from the 1940's when most of the prints were 6 x 9 contact prints, the edges carefully trimmed with pinking shearers. I still find myself captivated by these tiny contact prints I find in small museums, etc.

    Washington DC is close by...and a few years ago, the Freer gallery had some miniature Persian paintings. Small magnifying glasses were available. The viewers were spell-bound, as I was, by the intricate details that we had to seek out by close inspection. Maybe that's it - those small prints force the viewer to peruse the photos in a way that connects them better to the photo.....I dunno.

    As an avid scrap-booker, I find myself making prints that might be 2" x 10", 1.5" x 1.5" or whatever it takes portray the subject matter in an interesting way.

    Jerry W
    Warrenton, VA
     
  26. jscott

    jscott Member

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    My thought, one day in a prominent photographer's den surrounded by gaudy 16x20 prints, was "large prints are the visual equivalent of screaming". OK, some absolutely luscious prints deserve it. But otherwise, what about drawing the viewer in by using the visual equivalent of whispering??

    I'm reminded of a music teacher that taught us that skillful musicians play softly and draw the crowd in whereas unskilled musicians need to play louder because the crowd is talking, so the crowd talks louder and louder, leading to the shrill racket most of us have heard one time or another.

    Are the huge prints of unskilled photographers just trying to get people's attention? How about concentrating on content and skill and drawing people in???

    I know, probably not a popular opinion.