I had a very exciting week working on making what are now the largest prints of my photography to date.
In preparation for an upcoming exhibition, while working on my images, I thought about how large I could possibly print them. As photographers, I think we can all agree that when it comes to prints, bigger usually is better. Well, some people say this is true for cameras and lenses as well :-)
In my case, I usually enjoy making smaller prints, 10" x 10" and smaller, as I feel they give an opportunity for very comfortable and intimate viewing and enjoyment, without needing an entire wall dedicated to 'just' a single piece of art. Despite this, the challenge of making prints as large as 60 inches undeniably was appealing, and so I set out on exploring that opportunity.
In the image below you can see the finished images, with the finished dimensions of 60" x 80" inches. For scale, I couldn't resist sitting next to them in the frame:
You'll notice right away that these are *not* long exposure photographs, but fine-art nudes that I photographed last summer near the small town of Rossland, B.C.
'EROS' traditionally is the busiest exhibition of the year hosted by Photo Haus Gallery. As a photographer, I think it is really important to share your work, be it online or in print. I love the opportunity to share my work in a gallery setting, especially when I know that hundreds of people will see it on Opening Night alone.
Both image displayed above are shot using a Phase One DF Camera body with an 80mm lens. I used a Phase One IQ 160 digital back that features 60 megapixel resolution. To get to the print size needed for the images displayed above, the native, un-cropped, 60 megapixel files had to be upsampled to just over 150 megapixels. This resulted in a print resolution of 180 DPI, a resolution that is actually well above average given the enormous size of he print and the fact that the intended viewing distance is at least 10 feet away.
I worked on the images very carefully, and made several test prints (at scale) on my Epson 7900 printer, which can print up to 24 inches wide. Once I was confident on my adjustments, I took the finished image over to my friend Michael Levin who not only helped me print them large on his Epson 11880 printer, but also helped me out tremendously by looking over my images before he 'hit' the print button.
Michael is a very experienced large format printer making his own images, and I was really impressed how quickly he spotted and corrected some serious problems that would have caused some expensive waste of ink and paper. I learned that spotting, even at 100% view, can still have you miss artifacts and marks such as sensor dust. I needed to zoom to 200% (at least) to make sure everything was 'clean'.
I also learned that sharpening, which is essential for every print you make, needs to be applied very carefully when making big prints. Again, it was virtually impossible to notice any artifacts unless I spent the time and zoomed to 100% and more.
It took several test prints on my Epson 7900 (strips at final scale) to fine-tune the grain in both images. Despite the fact that these images were shot digitally, I very much like to add grain as it give the images some texture and depth. For small to medium prints, I have some experience and knowledge just how much grain to add. With prints as large as these, what looks like small grain even at 100% view on your computer can literally 'blow-up' and look rough and blurry in the final print. I learned that upsampling the image *before* adding grain lead to dramatically better results than upsampling with grain already applied.
Finally, to mention a more artistic rather than technical challenge here, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to pre-visualize if the extensive out-of-focus areas of both print would simply be too distracting at the large size. In my smaller test prints, the viewers eye had no trouble finding the area of focus (the model in both images), but once printed at 80 inches width, you really need to step back and take in the entire image so as not to be distracted and focus on what is sharp in the image.
We all know that photographers like to get real close, and I know people will literally stick there noses up to the print, obviosuly way to close to view. I am happy to report that due to the incredible quality of the Phase One Camera and Digital back, the resolution and detail holds up beautifully even when viewing only inches away, but the full impact can really only be had when stepping back at least 10 feet.
For those of you in Vancouver, please join us for the Opening of "EROS" on Friday, February 15th. Doors open at 7pm.
Hope to see you there...