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Monday, May 01, 2006

Big Prints II

by Jeff Henderson

Twenty by 25-inch print next to a 10.5x13-inch print made on Canon S9000

I recently had the same revelation as Mike regarding the ability to print quite large prints from 6-MP APS-C sensor images. For the last several years, I've been printing my images on a Canon S9000 printer. I've primarily been using Ilford Galerie Classic Pearl paper and have been able to make and sell some very nice prints up to 13x19". Back in December 2005, I came across My Photo Pipe, an online photo lab that was offering quite large Fuji Crystal Archive prints from digital files for very reasonable prices. On a lark, I thought it might be interesting to have a very large print made from an image taken with my Canon 10D and see what it looked like. I figured it would be a fairly affordable experiment.

I had what I thought was an interesting fall color image I shot last November here in sunny California. So I cropped it to 4:5 aspect ratio and upresed it to 20x25 inches at 300ppi using Photoshop CS2 and Fred Miranda's Stair Interpolation Pro 2 plug-in. I sharpened it appropriately, converted it to 8 bit, saved it as a JPEG at the highest quality, and uploaded the 21.4 MB file to My Photopipe’s website. Several days later I received a triangular box in the mail that contained my rolled-up print. Opening the box, I was blown away at how good the print looked. I was quite impressed with their color management. They honored the Adobe RGB 1998 tag in the image and produced a print that was extremely close in color to the print made on my S9000 using a custom profile.

Over the holidays I showed the large print and its little brother to several friends and family members with photographic backgrounds, and they were all amazed that a print that large that looked as good as it did could be made from such a relatively small file. The image still has a quite acceptable amount of detail when viewed from a couple of feet away, which you would certainly be doing with a print this large. I have had the opportunity to see many of Steven Johnson’s very large 30x 40", 40x 50", and 40"x 15+ feet (!) prints made from very large files produced using a BetterLight scanning back. By the way, his prints are produced at the native resolution of the original image file; they are generally not upresed. The prints are simply jaw-dropping gorgeous! They have more detail than I’ve ever seen even in small prints made from medium-format negatives. While the large prints I've had made are not in the same league, they still look quite nice, and people seem to enjoy looking at them.

I have since had ten more large prints made of various subjects and have several on display at a local café where I have been showing my work for quite some time (there is also an online version of the exhibit). My near-term goal is to upgrade to a larger printer and higher resolution camera. I’m presently lusting over the Epson stylus Pro 7800 and a Canon 5D. I would love to be able to own or even have a chance to play with a Phase One 39-MP back or BetterLight scanning back, but, as with most of us, these high-end pieces of equipment are beyond our financial budget. Fortunately I do have access to an Epson Stylus Pro 9800—I was asked to spec a replacement for the ailing HP printer/plotter in the engineering department I work in, and took the opportunity to select the Epson.



Anonymous William Furniss said...

All hail the inkjet print! Or printer for that matter. Given the print is the final destination for that treasured image, never before have we had the chance to blow up our best shots so easily, quickly, or cheaply ( I don't work for Epson, Canon, or HP though that really just sounded like it). Until the Iris printer became popular, I guess about ten years ago, the 4x8 foot prints the Gursky's of this world produce (and sell for US$50,000) were a mere fantasy.

I love big prints so much my output is now governed by the dimensions of my printer. I can get a 40x60 inch print comfortably out of my Epson 9800 (printer comes with photographer mojo booster built in) and that tends to be what I aim for now. All my other equipment considerations are based on making monster prints. I am a sucker for them and so are my clients. Plus the prints are going to last (not fade) which was always the case for black and white but can now be said for colour too. A whole new catagory of the art market has been created, big colour prints, all because of the inkjet printer.

My only concern is for all the smaller prints I have made in the past, the wow factor of the large size images is such the poor mediums or smalls are far less popular; to the point that when I next show my work I think I will only print large images.

I'd be interested to know which size of "Surface Tension" Mr. Johnston sold the most of.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Josiah Davidson said...

It is truly amazing how well small MP files of close-ups or simple objects do when printed fairly large. It is a shame that the same does not hold true when the subject matter is a grand scene landscape. Big prints are fun when they work!

1:41 AM  

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