BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Sherri L. Regalbuto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
 

How to Make a Large Print


Hi, I have been asked for a large print 36x42 from a client. I'm wondering if an 8 TIFF will suffice, shot in RAW and processed. I use a 20D with a 24-70 2.8 Canon lens, so the image sharpness is amazing. I've only ever offered up to 16x20, which my camera has done very nicely.


To love this question, log in above
3/2/2008 1:53:39 PM

 
David A. Bliss   The short answer: You should have no trouble with a print that large from the 20D, especially if printed at a professional print shop with high-end equipment. Of course, there are many variables like: Did you crop, and if so, how much? What ISO did you use? Was the exposure correct, or did you have to fix it during processing? How sharp is it? I'm sure there are other factors.


To love this comment, log in above
3/3/2008 7:32:20 AM

 
Sherri L. Regalbuto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
  Thanks David, I thought so but I've never done it.


To love this comment, log in above
3/3/2008 7:58:30 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Sherri,
The result depends on the quality you are looking for, the printer you are using, and a few other things. Your resolution on the 20D is 3502 x 2336 pixels, which translates to about 14.6 x 9.33 inches at 240 ppi - often a good number to look at for higher resolution printing. This is all the real detail you will ever have in the image no matter how you process, upsize, or what plugins you use. The kind of size you are talking about printing here realistically translates to about 83ppi at 42x36 ... extremely low resolution - closer to what you get in Web images, and about 1/3rd the generally recommended resolution for sharp prints.
Sure, you can print it. You'd be able to print any image at that size ... the question becomes more about acceptable quality and file handling. As to what happens when you start blowing images up to 3 times their resolution to get a print, what you expect and what the client does become real issues. The client may likely know less about images and resolution than you will and might expect details to remain sharp - or even somehow enhanced after resizing. Quite the contrary, that much upsizing will noticeably soften edges, and details will no longer be as sharp. Certainly a larger image won't be scrutinized from as close. So perfect sharpness may not matter as much, but any tiny flaw in the image will be amplified, and may require more meticulous care in post-processing.
By 8 TIFF, do you mean an 8-bit TIFF? Printers only handle 8-bits anyway (or convert from 16 to 8), so the extra file size of a 16-bit wouldn't improve results anyway. More to the point:
* Are you planning on resizing before submitting to the service?
* If so, to what resolution?
* How are you planning to sharpen/compensate?
* What type of printer is the service using?
* Have you tested the output?
I cover these issues in far more detail in my courses (notably From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow and Photoshop 101: the Photoshop Essentials Primer
If you are really considering doing such large prints in the future, you may have to consider a more substantial camera depending on the quality you expect.
I hope that helps!
Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/3/2008 10:19:40 AM

 
Joe Ciccone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/7/2005
  hi Serri,
the above are terrific answers, but here's a more practical one.
Upload the file to your favorite photo processor for large files, I like 'ePingo.com ' then ask them what they think the results would be at your requested size.(you could even discuss this with them over the phone).
Good Luck.


To love this comment, log in above
3/4/2008 4:37:12 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Joe,
I appreciate your stance and I do think it is good to check with the service you'll be using. On the other hand, often contact points for these services are staffed by students, youngsters, and attendants rather than professionals or imaging technicians. You may be able to get a knowledgeable person on the phone, but you won't always know what their expertise is -- or their tastes. I worked in pre-press, layout, and image editing for photography and art book production, and have been a part of digital imaging for about 17 years. I would guess my understanding of process is as good as any--better than most.

In the end, whether you please the eye of some technician you talk to on the phone or your own eye is a matter of taste that will not be easily resolved in a phone call. Understanding the process, knowing what you need, what the limitations you have are, testing the output, and judging the results on your own are likely far better meters of success and future results than seeing through a technicians eye on the phone.

In the end I consider my eye the one that needs to be pleased when my work is printed. I would assume most who are serious about their work feel the same way.

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/4/2008 5:38:10 AM

 
Joe Ciccone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/7/2005
  your point is well taken Richard. I only recommend sites that I have had obtained excellent results, over and over again. If you want excellent large size prints, mounted or otherwise, along with expert, caring advise (no students or youngsters) e-pinogo.com is one good site to try. If you want great photo t-shirts you can wash hundreds of times and still be happy with your photo,then you have to try winkflash.com. The sites I recomment to others is just because I like to help others find quality sites, and I only found them after being dissapointed many times before finding them.


To love this comment, log in above
3/4/2008 9:15:12 AM

 
Anonymous    I know a way, but you have to know someone with a high end camera. Have your photograph professionaly printed to an 8x10. Then have them photograph your picture with their 16mp camera. Now you can blow it up 36x42 with no problem. I know someone that has done it and the quality is perfect. The lighting part of it is tricky with glare but with a little practice you'll get it.


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 5:09:16 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Paul,
Realistically all that can do is blur the result. You will not gain resolution in the image by going down a generation (i.e., print, photograph print, print again). Effectively this is a variation on simply adding interpolation to the current image, but likely with less reliable results (due to transfer effects -- like lighting as you mention). That and it will be more expensive.

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 6:17:23 AM

 
Anonymous    Do you think they lied to me? I have taken a photograph of a 5x7 and compared it to my file on my monitor and I couldn't tell the difference.


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 6:23:59 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Well, yes -- or more likely they didn't think it through. When you have pixels you have the finite resolution of the image. You can upsize with interpolation which is adding pixels...the process described just does interpolation, it just does it in a more convoluted and expensive path. Resolution does not improve when you print -- it goes down a generation, and degrades/softens. There is processing involved, interpolation, softening, perhaps digital sharpening depending on the process...but the result is certainly not more sharp or detail-filled than when you had the original information. Where would the new information come from?

When a business can make money by offering such a service, it may be possible for them to have another motive...however, if they believe this works, they are not technically logical. In either case, I would not expect better results from this than simply adding resolution to the current image.

When I say 'blur' I mean that interpolation adds content by effectively blurring the different between adjacent pixels to create a new pixel -- and their 'method' dos about the same.

Your original capture can never gain detail. Images can be adjusted, but that stuff you see on TV where the images get sharper and a blurry license plate suddenly has numbers and letters is reverse engineered. You need to capture the details.

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 6:40:11 AM

 
Anonymous    I'll have to grill him when I see him next. Right when you walk through his front door hanging on the wall is poster size photo of a glacier he shot in Alaska on a trip which he shot with a 4mp camera. He said he had a photographer shoot his 8x10, which was perfect, with his 16mp and got the file.
I have never seen the original shot.
Is it possible the photographer added pixels to the original file and played out that he did what my friend wanted.


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 10:07:16 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  The scenario is possible, it just has no reason to be 'better' reshooting a blowup. Think about it this way: would you do it with film?

If someone is actually going through the trouble, it seems like, well, trouble to me. Far easier to just resize. That is not to say there aren't better and worse ways to resize your images.

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 11:06:45 AM

 
Joe Ciccone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/7/2005
  this is becoming quite comical to say the least....someone just try this...upload a sharp file (shot with a 5 megapixel camera (min)...upload it to
www.epingo.com....now see what size print they will allow you to make. If the size your requesting won't produce a quality print they will tell you.
Now how simple can that be?


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 11:55:09 AM

 
Sherri L. Regalbuto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2004
  Joe, I'm taking your advice and letting the other two hash out their issues. Being a photographer I'm not likely to take photos of photos.


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 12:43:31 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Joe, how is epingo going to tell someone what they will be satisfied with?

It may be simple to ask, but I don't think relying on someone else's idea of what looks good is very much like being a photographer. Likewise I don't rely on Photoshop's AUTO tools to make corrections, mostly because Photoshop can't see.

Do you often let people look through your viewfinder to approve of the framing before you trip the shutter? To me this issue is a similar thing.

Sherri, my guess is you will not be satisfied with blowing something up that large from your originals, regardless of the process, as the source is not made to create such large prints. My math, earlier, was an attempt to help you see why. epingo may have a different opinion, and you may pay for it.

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
3/9/2008 12:52:43 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.