Printing big

A couple of days ago I found myself with some time to kill (early for an appointment) in Brisbane’s CBD. So I went for a leisurely walk, with no particular purpose other than the faint hope of finding a bakery (mmm … baked goods …).

If I had found a bakery, I would have purchased a delicious danish, which may have warranted a Facebook status update, but I certainly wouldn’t have written an article about it! Instead of a bakery, I found something that is worthy of an article.

In the distance I noticed the premises of one of Brisbane’s best-known photography studios. They are regarded as one of the best wedding and portrait studios in the city … heck, in the whole country! Their work is beautiful, particularly their black-and-white stuff; just stunning.

Their premises is in a great location on a busy road in a well-to-do part of town, and they have filled their front windows with two lovely, enormous, black-and-white prints. You can see the prints from quite some distance away, and they provide the best possible publicity for the studio.

So, I was curious. Many times, on this site and elsewhere, I have espoused the principle that any photo can be printed large, provided the focus is good. I wanted to see what a large print from one of Brisbane’s best photographers looked like up close.

They were just regular photos. I’ve looked closely at a lot of photos in my time, from a lot of different cameras, from pros and amateurs alike. And these were no different. No different at all. At a guess, I’d say they were from an 8-10 megapixel camera (or cropped from a larger camera). The eyelashes were sharp, but not the best I’ve ever seen. Just regular photos.

Then I went back across the street, and looked at them from a distance again. And once again, none of that technical stuff mattered. They were just gorgeous black-and-white images of smiling, happy, people – images that make you say "oooohh…".

I encourage you to do this yourself. Whenever you get a chance, go and look closely at large prints. Posters, banners, billboards. You’ll see that they’re just regular photos. Maybe the printing is a bit dodgy when you see it up close. Maybe they’re a bit noisy. Maybe they’re a bit fuzzy. Whatever. Then walk away, and turn around and look again, like any old passer-by. Suddenly, none of that stuff matters. It’s simply a photo, and if it’s a good one, it will evoke response and emotion. That’s all that counts.

Too often I see people wondering and worrying and hesitating about printing big. Be brave! If it’s a photo that makes you say "wow!", then it’s going to make everyone else say "wow!" too, when it’s hanging huge on your wall.

Stop saying "I need a bigger/better camera before I can do large prints". That’s not true. The camera you’ve got is perfectly capable of good focus, and your children are perfectly capable of being gorgeous! Those are the two ingredients you need for a masterpiece. Do it!

This is a 96×66″ canvas printed from the scan of a 35mm slide. That’s a 7000% enlargement. And it looked freakin’ awesome.


If you have a question about this article, please feel free to post it in Ask Damien.