Print Size

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by CPorter, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    What decision factors do you use to decide just how large you choose to make a print? Do you not think about it until the printing stage or is it a factor in how you set up the photograph in the viewfinder/GG? Do you think certain subjects lend themselves to large prints better than others?

    I have an enlarger on the way that will be capable of 20x24 and have been giving this a lot of thought, but right now it is hard for me to envision making a print that large (though I have the trays, etc..to do it when I feel it is the thing to do). I suspect up to 11x14 will be more routine.

    Since getting into LF, I have been trying to think about perspective (camera to subject distance) and other factors that make cropping on the GG and other "image management" concerns of the negative more suitable for large prints, of course keeping grain to a minimum and sharpness to a maximum is key. It may be a case of over thinking it, but thought I would get some feedback.

    Thanks
    Chuck
     
  2. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Interesting question Chuck.

    The decision for me revolves around viewing distance and use. If the print is to be viewed in the hand then 5x7 is sufficient. For exhibition use 20x24 could be required, but it’s a little unwieldy to hand-hold.
     
  3. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I can't say I ever think of how big an image should be when I shoot it, but I certainly think about it when I am printing.

    I like images to be as large as they can be and still have good quality. Bear in mind that most of my work to date has been on 35mm and therefore this results in a practical maximum of about 11x14.

    Certainly larger prints are tougher to display (you need the physical space) but I don't think 20x24 is too large if the image has impact and a subject that suits it.
     
  4. Alden

    Alden Member

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    I'm trying to catalog my photos, more than anything else right now . I'm tired of letting so many things slip by me. So 8x10 or shapes it within have become my size, and I've fallen in love with it. I used to think of them as work prints, but have now taken a considerable liking to the intimate experience, viewing a boxful in hand feels just right. If it goes to the wall 16x20 is my max. B&W, 20x24 Color. The massive prints still in style in the galleries has always turned me off. They communicate extravagant wastefulness and boasting.
     
  5. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    First of all, with LF, I hardly, if ever crop. The GG is such a fine avenue for composition, cropping is seldom needed. With an enlarger I usually print everything but the very edges. Contact prints, by nature, get the whole frame, including the rebates. I could mask them off, but first, that is a PIA, and second, about every fifth person throws my over mat away, and has the contact print matted to show the edges. Some folks dig the process artifact, so I sign the over mat, and the under mat, these days.

    Size wise, the largest I'm currently printing is 11x14, though not many get such treatment. 8x10 is my most common size. When the giant enlarger is finished, I will most likely make some very large prints from 8x10 negs. I don't play the many sizes each size is an edition game. If I make 10/10 of something, whatever the size, that's it for that negative. I make ten because the collectors dig it, and because my attention span is just about perfect for ten prints. Right about ten, I'm sick of printing it.

    I like 8x10 for prints, because it is big enough to have a presence in an 11x14 mat, yet small enough that you have to look to really see, and thus engages persons in a way that a big print won't. It also leaves room for other pieces on the same wall, which I find much more interesting than a single giant print that dominates a room, and casts a dominant statement.

    That said, some of the more wealthy and less sophisticated H2 drivers who inhabit the McMansions of today, generally want BIG (go figure). That's what the designers keep telling me. To keep it in perspective, these are the folks who take a mass produced ink print, that costs about seven bucks, and spend $800 on a mat and frame job for it. So anyway, when the enlarger is done, I will make a few really big prints, and charge accordingly.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2007
  6. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Now that I have set up a darkroom [just this month] I am printing 8"x8" for 120 prints and I have the trays for 11"x14" [11"x11" for 120]. The enlarger can go to 20"x24" [35mm, 120, 4"x5"], my easels go up to 16"x20", the print dryer will take 20" wide. To go wider than 11" inches will require larger trays - not a big deal. Then I am limited to 16"x20" until I get a larger easel.

    Those are not the driving factors. The driving factor are the wall space and the cost of framing! I have many 11"x14"s and 12"x18"s. I have one 20"x20" and two 24"x36"s. Without taking down the oil paintings I have some room left for 20"x20"s and 24"x36"s.

    My thinking at the moment is !6" wide will be my largest until I get a really, really got photograph.

    Steve
     
  7. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I have been giving this a lot of thought recently. At the moment I'm in a fairly small apartment, where I would rather display 3-4 framed images from a series rather than one large scale photo.

    Although I look at each negative and decide which size this print needs to be. Generally, I prefer small 7 inch prints in a large matts.

    At the taking stage, of course I'm thinking about the final print and size choices often enter my head.
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Unless I have a really good reason not to, I make my prints on 24x30cm paper with a 1" margin (yes, I know it's inconsistent. But my paper is metric and my easel is imperial. So there!).

    I make a few 24x30cm prints with 8mm borders, but those are contact prints from my 24x30cm camera. Contact prints represent most of the "other size prints" too - 9x12cm, 18x24cm, 8x10", 30x40cm and the odd 5x7". :smile:
     
  9. Alden

    Alden Member

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  10. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    As I've just begun cutting my own mats, I've enjoyed an exceedingly liberating sense of freedom with size. Not so much large or small, but rather being able to print without regard to 'standard' sizes. When you enlarge a 4x5 negative to 11x14, for example, there's a compromise necessary to suit the format. Being able to mat in any configuration I choose, therefore, makes it far more an aesthetic decision than a mechanical one and I can use the 11x14 paper, but fully utilize the negative without needing to crop it in any way. Also, square pictures are all but doomed to stay off the wall unless you can make square mats which are otherwise unavailable from pre-cut sources. Along with your other darkroom equipment, I highly recommend a good or better quality mat cutter....or learn how to do it well with a mat cutter and straightedge.

    I'm also finally printing 16x20's from time to time. I spend a lot of time thinking about which photographs I want to enlarge are worthy of that degree of prominence. There's lots of good advice in the thread above about how and why to make that choice. For me, it's still a very fluid conundrum.
     
  11. Edwardv

    Edwardv Member

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    For me space is the determining factor for image and framing size.
     
  12. Sirius Glass

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    I picked up 5x7 and 8x10 paper at first because I though I would use the 8x10 for proof sheet and 5x5 for the first round of prints. The 5x5s are ok but I like the 8x8s better. I just got 11"x17" paper but I have not used it yet.

    Steve
     
  13. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I used to mat and frame square prints in square mats and frames, but lately I've been matting them in a rectangular format. Frequently I will print 11x11 and mat on 16x20, vertical orientation, with the print equidistant from the edges on top and sides, and with extra space on the bottom. I really like the look.
     
  14. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Yes. What I meant was a square mat opening, not a square mat necessarily. I, too, mount square 'graphs in rectangular frames, but choose more the optical center than equal top and sides.
     
  15. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Thanks for all the responses--you all have given me some things to think about. More thoughts if you got 'em.
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Chuck, I think the most important thing is how you want the print to be experienced.

    If it is an intimate subject, I will aim for an intimate (small) print e.g. an LF contact print. If it is a vast subject with lots of important details then I will plan upfront to print it large and compose with that in mind e.g. paying particular attention to technical aspects associated with critical sharpness.

    Two examples, both 5x7" captures... but totally different print destinations:

    This one is in my opinion best contact printed. Whereas this one has no simple overriding theme but has tons of colourful details e.g. curious little bugs in the foreground, and it really only opens up in a ~40" print. I think I have to feel like I can reach into it. I tried smaller prints and it didn't work at all, and I suspect the image doesn't work on your screen either! It's very hard for me to come up with landscapes that look decent on a computer screen- I just can't think that way because that's not how I plan to look at them in print.

    The point is, both are 5x7" captures that are critically sharp where they need to be and could easily go to mural size. But what can be done shouldn't dictate what should be done!

    Much is said about previsualizing a composition. But we should go even further and imagine how the print will be experienced. This philosophy extends further than mere format or print size selection- it is about optimizing the entire workflow (BTZS) backwards in time, from the print to the capture.
     
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  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Here's another example - http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=1749&ppuser=124

    At the small size presented here, the building is the subject. move up to moderate size (24x30cm or so), and the small group of people in front of the building are the subject. Go up again to HUGE (more than 30" on the short side), and the white-clad woman immediately draws the eye and becomes the main subject.

    Some pictures "work" only at one size, others at any size, and a few (like this one) change completely as the print size changes.
     
  18. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    personally i don't go lower than 8x10. that being said, i usually print my 35mm prints at 8x10 or 11x14. i print my medium format at 16x16 usually, but i did find some 10x10 paper on ebay and really wish i had of bought his whole stock.

    i find that 11x14 and 16x16 are the most ideal sizes because it's pretty much as big as you can go before you start drastically noticing the quality diminish (in my opinion with my film and subjects). this is just my opinion as i shoot mostly 125 plus-x and 400 tri-x, which are grainy films by nature. i have shot tmax 400 and printed 20x20 medium format prints that have less grain and look less "blown-out" than my plus-x 125iso film.
    what goes through my head when i make prints is "how big can i make this pictures before they start looking blown-out?". i've seen guys stretch 16x20 prints and 20x24 prints from a 35mm negative that look like crap smeared on a page. i try to keep my prints as big as they can be, but still maintain their quality.

    it really depends on the type of film you use as well. when i make 11x14 prints of my 400iso film, it's about a 50/50 shot i'll like what i get. when i don't i'll go to a smaller size. it also depends on the lighting you use, the lenses you use, the subjects, the tonal range, etc. lots of things come into play. lots of photographers blow up silhouette shots bigger because of the high contrast. with my high contrast photos i can usually go one size bigger than shots that have more various tones (in the same format of course). lenses are also a factor given that some are obviously better than others. the aperature you use when you shot the negative and the aperture on your enlarger lens will determine how sharp your photo is from edge to edge and will play a factor in how big you may or may not want to go. i could go on and on about what i look for when i make the size of my photos, but it came with a lot of trial and error and my own personal taste, so be prepared for some frustration and some surprisingly pleasant results.

    although, don't be scared to push your limits and the boundaries of your photographs -that's what a lot of photography is about. plus, they make small quantity packs of paper, so you don't get all wasteful. if you buy it too big, just ship it to me and i'll make good use of it.
     
  19. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Here's a rather extreme example ....30x30 or 38x38....of work that, imho, should never have been enlarged to these dimensions. But, the gallery in which they are currently displayed is a prominent one and must be selling them or they wouldn't remain on the walls. I visited this gallery last Saturday and saw grain big enough to fit in a salt shaker. I surmise they are enlarged from 6x6 negatives. Go figure...

    http://www.bonnibenrubi.com/index3.html