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Saturday, 13 March 2021


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I'm very much a novice printer (i.e. it's challenging). I had a Canon Pixma Pro 100, it finally died, and now I have the 200 version. So, I don't have a pricey printer, although the 200 wasn't cheap either.

Anyhow, mostly from reading here, and reader comments here, I standardized my paper with Red River Ultra Pro Satin, and its ICC profile for the printer and color calibrated my display. (doing these things helped a lot).

The other part has been standardizing on a paper size, although not completely. I have 8x10, 8.5x10 and 11x14. I mostly use the 8x10. (More to save on ink, lol...but the size is nice too).

This is interesting. I really wonder how many people routinely print large (or at all), given the megapixel wars that seem to keep making people feel that they are hopelessly out of the game if they are clinging on to a realistic utilitarian resolution sensor?

My first digital camera was a 12mp Nikon D700, and I have beautiful 18X12 inch (all in) prints that look as good as anything that I've ever got from film. A terrific 8X10 is effortless with 12mp.

I really wonder who is really (not some percieved potential, like severe cropping) getting the "benifits" of the newest, bestest wonder cameras.

I Love small photography books!

I agree to some degree. I think 13 x 10 ish, and 8 x 10ish are the sizes I mostly like to see for prints. But then the common exception for me is that I've seen some spectacular color environmental portraits in the last dozen years or so that look really good poster-sized. I wonder if it's because the "vernacular" of these has often been to mimic certain common styles of painted portraits from bygone eras. so my brain/taste wants to see them big, like the masters' works. and for these their photographer seems to be working to make their normally common subject appear like royalty in a sumptuous, detail-rich photographic print.

My goal in my own photos is to have someone become involved with the image. To do that, I like pictures that are large enough to read and small enough to handle.

All of my earlier prints (1957 to about about 2000) were on 8 by 10 paper because my tray size was limited in my tiny closet sized darkroom. My film, developer and photographic "eye" were informed by that print size. After switching to inkjet printing I tried some larger prints but my old Tri-X in Rodinal negatives just didn't work for me in larger sizes. So today I print on 8.5 by 11 paper, usually 8 by 10 portrait orientation and 7 by 10.5 landscape orientation.

In my family collection of old photos, they had a lot of contact prints from 120 negatives and that was about the easiest way to make a print in them days.

I finally settled to 8"x10" paper. Firstly, to make contact prints of 35mm or 120 negatives. Secondly, the easels, trays and enlarger settings do not have to be adjusted often. Thirdly, it's reasonably decent size if I want to frame and display.

My experience is the same as several other commenters, -The photograph will tell you. I have many photographs that work really well printed 6x9 inches in an 11x14 Mat & Frame , but also probably a larger number that work better in a 16x24 " print size. I used to make contact Prints from 5x7 to 8x20.
The pictures that work well big rarely work as well small and vice versa.
Picking Print size without considering the photograph seems a little backwards to me, although I certainly understand a preference for pictures that work as small prints.
But as you say, it's a big tent.

Gutters running through an image are more than a minor travesty in my view. It forces the viewer to try to make one picture out of what has in effect become two, and because of the way books fold and pages bend the two pieces are often out of alignment when viewing. Viewing images like that feels like a real tragedy to me because I’m not actually seeing the unitary photograph at all but it’s disparate pieces instead. Like looking at the leftover parts of what used to be one whole thing. So the ideal size for a photograph (in books) is whatever avoids the gutter. (Ok, ok, in the grand scheme of travesties in the world this is minor. But limiting ourselves to a photographic context it’s a major!)

"Most of us are slaves to fashion, though, because we think it represents the desires of others, and we wish to please."

The most profound thing I've ever read, written by your hand. And for context, I've been reading this blog daily for a decade.

What Cecilia said +1

My biggest was a 12x18 Costco print. Mostly I've had 4x6 prints made.

For iPhone prints, 6x8 will be fine.

Most of my photos were for the printed page.
So I'm used to tightly composing for smaller sizes.

Here's an interesting chart to compare print size https://static.whitewall.com/images/product-details/size/desktop-pdp-acryl-abzug-glanz-us.jpg

For me three final print sizes:
Whole Plate - my favorite print size whether it be a contact print or an enlargement.
11"x14" - 90% contact prints & 10% enlarged Lith prints
20"x30" - abstract images printed on metal. In shows and exhibits, these are the ones that always sell. These metal prints are not framed but presented 1" in front of the wall.
Best thing, practically speaking, is that I only have to stock 2 mat sizes and 2 frame sizes.

I have seen prints of all sizes that I have liked, but for me the most immersive photos are those I can hold in my hand. I can put my eyes as close as I want. 11x14 is about the max for this, but something in the 5x7 to 8.5x11 range is my sweet spot.

I also generally prefer small-ish prints. I tend to print either small, eg 5x7 in a 12x16 matte or relatively large, 13x20 in a 22x28 matte. I had a flirtation with the desire for a 24 inch printer but then got rational and realized I have only so much room in my home to display images. The old... if you can't make it good, make it big.

But what really gets to me is the small number of people who print at all. I was at the Portland Japanese Garden the other day and met a very pleasant fellow with a Fuji GFX100. We chatted and he mentioned that he never prints! I resisted the urge to ask him why in heaven's name he has a 100MP camera if he never prints but fortunately used good judgment and kept my big mouth shut.

Before COVID, I met with a group of like minded photographers to share prints. Since COVID, we've had to meet on line. It's just not the same. Taking the time to look, closely, farther away, and slow down to contemplate the image is so important. I spend a lot of time trying to make good prints.


When I was assisting and printing for Norman Seeff his standard print was 16x20, from 35mm Panatomic-X negs. Image size came in at about 13x19. This had been his standard procedure for many years by the time I started working for him. He originally came up in the business by designing and shooting record album covers, 12x12 inches, so this sizing gave him anywhere from a slight to a large reduction for repro, thus maximizing quality.

Another consequence of this sizing is that a person's face in a tight shot becomes life-size, or even a bit larger. The impact of this can be surprisingly powerful. And if the shot is a group of maybe half a dozen band members, each of their faces is large enough to be easily read.

The common practice at that time was for portfolio prints to be no larger than 11x14, the theory being that you didn't want to piss off art directors by making your book too unwieldy. Norman's was 16x20, with about three dozen prints in it, and was a real handful. I do remember at shoots seeing some AD's struggle with that monster, but its visual strength was undeniable.

When I was printing for Helmut Newton his usual print was 11x14; negs were Tri-X Pro out of a Hasselblad. This worked well for magazine repro and he said he just liked the size. His older 35mm negs worked well at that scale too. He was still putting out Newton's Illustrated at that time, which was larger than the usual magazine format. 11x14 reproduced with a slight upsize for full-page photos gave Helmut the look that he wanted.

One magazine job varied from this a bit, and the result was quite unexpected, to me, at least. He shot Madonna for a spread in Vanity Fair, as a tough leather-girl with a knife, and she had final approval for any images of her that would be published. It was rare at the time (late 80's) for celebrities to have this as a contracted right....Helmut would have to send her a set of prints of his choices for her to okay. We couldn't send his set because they had to go to the magazine; we were on deadline and they might be damaged or delayed. Helmut asked me do another set, but as 8x10's.

To my surprise, the smaller prints transformed the images into something completely different. They became delicate and gem-like, precious, very unlike any other Helmut Newton prints I have ever seen, or made.

I sent them out to Madonna late in the afternoon and they were returned the next morning, all approved. The tough girl had rated them by preference, with one to four little red hearts on the lower right margins.

My brother was a B&W landscape photographer. He sold prints in sizes about 5x7, 8x10, 11x14.

However, a favorite of many was an album of 3x5 prints. He would select a group of prints and mount them into archival sleeves in a small album.

It appealed to him and others who liked the intimacy of viewing prints while sitting in your favorite chair.

An example is an album of prints from a trip to Death Valley.




Initially I printed as big as possible because it was possible digitally.
Then when I started selling prints, bigger not only sold better but justified higher prices.
But for my own work I now print 6.6x 10 to put them in an 8.5 by 11 pinchbook. http://pinchbooks.com/tablet/index.html
Hey, I have no more room on my walls for large prints anymore.

I once wrote an article for your blog about print size, referring to that other flat, wall-hung art object called a "painting." Painters have for a long time been able to choose the size of their presentations. Generally, they are quite a bit larger than 8x10 or even 11x14. Because size is optional with painters (with some constraints like cost) I thought their rationale might well apply to photographs, and I still think that. There are, of course, cultural constraints -- professional "famous artist" paintings are now mostly made for rich people who have large houses with large walls, and so those paintings tend to be fairly large. If you ever walk through 19th century houses, even those of people who were rich then, you're often struck by the modest size of rooms. (Maybe to keep them warm in winter?) Impressionist paintings were often intended for upper-middle-class homes, and so often were smaller, but, by and large, bigger than 8x10. Paintings intended for museums have often been very large. Unlike photographs, paintings don't "break up" at close inspection. They are what they are at any distance. Photographs don't work that way. A photo taken with 35mm film simply can't be printed too large without beginning to break up on close inspection. If you don't want that to happen, you need to print small. That has begun to change with digital sensors and printing, so quite large prints -- more than three feet wide -- can be printed without breaking up, even with a 35mm-size sensor. I personally think good photos well printed for books are an excellent form of presentation, but they do lose something of the immersive quality mentioned by one of your commenters. I would point out that some photo books have grown quite large -- I have a copy of James Nachtwey's "Inferno" and those photos pull you in as strongly as any photos of any size that I've seen in museums.

Chris Kern: Yes, prints should be the size they "want" to be. Same thing with crops. The masters such as Alverez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide had no reason to want to print large.

Weston saw his images on the 8x10 inch ground glass of his cameras. Except for portraits where I think he at first used a Graflex, I don't think he varied from 8x10 (unlike his sons, who went bigger at times). So of course he printed at 8x10, with no critical detail too small to register appropriately that way.

It's the rest of us, with our magnification buttons and big displays for post processing, who get distracted down multiple different directions.

Instagram has been a challenge for me because it forces you to think small. And successful small photos have different requirements than large photos. Photos that I love large can become boring and indistinct when viewed at Instagram size. It's a good exercise though. In general, I find that when I like a photograph small, I also like it large. The opposite is not often true.

The popularity of large paintings and photographs must be tied in part to the trend of building a great room with a high ceiling into new homes. Wikipedia tells me this trend started in the 1990’s. I’ve always lived in older homes without a great room and so smaller paintings and prints have always been preferred.

After reading a recent comment here on TOP I was prompted to pull a random photo book from the shelf, open it to a random page, and park it on my dining room table which sits next to an arched, north-facing window. The book is titled FACES with commentary by John Loengard and after a time I noticed that several of the featured photographs were presented in the front of the book at different sizes (both larger and smaller) than the commented version. It really is nice to see a picture at various sizes. For example, the simple symmetry of Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s, Solange works really well at a much smaller size when placed in the middle of a white page.

Generally I'm with Cecilia—the right print size depends on viewing distance. Mind you, as a photographer I do sometimes like to look at prints "too close" for technical reasons, but that's not appreciating the art, that's technical research.

I find I like work larger than it was easy to produce in the darkroom. I mostly topped out at 8x10 there, and made a lot of prints that size, which were bigger than most people saw of themselves when I was in highschool. Now I go up to 13x19 (well, something that fits on that paper with a 2" border on the narrow side, usually); partly also because my modern images print that large very easily.

The monitor I view the image on while editing is considerably bigger than that.

Print size has very little to do with artist desires than gallery salability! I know more artists that were working in the 14X17 range, that were talked into working in larger sizes by the gallery where they wanted to show; being told: :...it's hard to sell stuff that isn't huge..." (put in the old "sofa sized" art joke here).

I also have known people who were considered "miniaturists", doing wonderful paintings no bigger than 4X5 inches, and they couldn't get gallery representation at all, and their work was "sub=priced" far less than their skill showed.

Another plus-one for Albert Smith, I was doing double page magazine size for clients with a 12 megapixel camera, I would think for commercial and advertising projects, 24 megapixel would be the bomb. 50 megapixel for "sofa sized" artists! (see my entry on why M4/3rds is all anyone needs for most commercial work).

When it comes to sizes, I started my photo career when there was still 14X17 "salon sized" print paper! A lot of photo shows requested 14X17 for display! I actually like that size, and mat 11X14's to 14X17 for display!

The largest my printer can go is 17x22. I'm ok with that. I think it is a good size for my medium format 6x6 and 6x7 photos. For the 35mm 3/2 aspect ratio I like 13x19 prints. I mostly use 8x11 for proofs but some things look good at this size. A large selection of 5x7s can be fun to rifle through.

Each one of these is larger than phones viewing pictures on Instagram. That is a good thing.

I prefer 16x24 inches for the wall, not to big and not too small. Anything 11x14 inches and smaller, in an archival box.

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