Help! Large format printing options
Old 05-18-2016   #1
chhayanat
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Help! Large format printing options

Hi,

I have been approached by a client that wants to buy a 6ft x 7ft print. I have never printed that large and was wondering if anyone in this forum would have some suggestions for me. I am located in Canada but I am ok with getting prints shipped from anywhere as long as they are done professionally with an archival quality.

Many thanks in advance!
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Old 05-18-2016   #2
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You're not going to enlarge a postage stamp sized 35mm negative that large, unless he is ok with a blurry print. And it's not worth getting into large format for just one print, unless you can borrow a camera from someone. I'd shoot 4x5, and get a good scan, then large print by a print shop.
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Old 05-18-2016   #3
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Hi Garrett,

Thanks for your suggestion. I am afraid shooting anew is not an option. I think a blown up version would be more grainy than blurry. A lot would also depend on the actual installation/viewing distance.

I guess my question was more about what are my options regarding professional labs that could do a large print of that size if I need to.
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Old 05-18-2016   #4
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Yes, that's the first thing to do: ensure that your image can stand up to that kind of enlargement. If you want the print to be relatively sharp close up, you're going to need a photo taken on at least 4x5 film or an 80 MP digital back!

However, if the client is happy with the print appearing sharp at an appropriate viewing distance - that is, the closest distance an average person would stand to comfortably view the entire picture - then you can get away with a far lower resolution image file. I wrote this a few years back, some of which you probably already know: http://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/...nd-resampling/ - the info is still relevant, though inkjet printers are more sophisticated and less picky about ppi today.

I used to make prints using resolutions appropriate to the viewing distance of a print - mainly because most people owned digital cameras with resolutions of up to only about 12 MP back when I wrote that post, in 2009.

The flaw in the viewing distance vs print file resolution approach is that people will go up close to a print even if it's massive! So, today I print only to a size that I know will be reasonably sharp close up. With good resizing software, you can resample a high-quality photo (i.e. pin sharp, no noise, well exposed and post-processed, etc.) by about 125% before it starts to visibly break down (what's acceptable is up to you), and I'd be prepared to use 200 ppi for extremely large prints (my usual is 300 ppi), bearing in mind that not only will this result in some softness seen close up but any artefacts from resampling will be more visible than at 300 ppi.

As I make large gallery prints (up to A1), I now use a 36 MP Nikon D800E to ensure my large prints are sharp when folk stick their noses into them! To give you an idea of the absolute maximum print size I'd consider acceptable from my Nikon:

Long edge = 7360 pixels
Resampled to 125% = 9200 pixels
Print size @ 200 ppi = 9200/200 = 44 inches.

Let's call that 3.5 feet rather than 4 feet, just to be safe by increasing the sharpness a little.

So, as you can see, even with my 36 MP camera, making a 7 foot print that's sharp when close up or even a few feet back is impossible!
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Old 05-18-2016   #5
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As to labs … for printing on photographic paper that size - forget it! Most labs can go up to 9648 inches max, whether on inkjet or C-type paper: the machines aren't wide enough to print larger!

I notice you wrote "grainy". Assuming this means you're printing a scan of film, 35mm film typically has a real-world resolution of 8-18 MP (depending on the quality of the scanner - from good flatbed to high end such as a Flextight; film scanners like the classic Nikons produce about 12 MP). This gives you an idea how large a 35mm film scan be printed in comparison with the MP resolution of a digital camera. Medium-format film resolution in MP is given in my post here: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=138124
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Last edited by RichC : 05-18-2016 at 17:59. Reason: Added film resolution commen
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Old 05-18-2016   #6
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Thanks Rich! That's an excellent write up. Thanks for all the details! I just talked to a couple of labs in my city and confirmed the 48 inches width restriction. Apparently the length is not so much of a problem.

I am going to have a discussion with the client that the proposed size may not be feasible.
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Old 05-18-2016   #7
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You are right. The picture's taken using 35 mm film. I plan to re-scan it using the best possible option before I print. I guess if I have a ballpark of 15-18 MP for the scanned image, I could use your re-sampling suggestions to blow it up a little further without compromising quality. Again, I am probably going to convince the client that a smaller picture would give them a better quality in every sense - assuming viewing distance would not be large and they would want to get the picture mounted and framed for longevity.

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As to labs for printing on photographic paper that size - forget it! Most labs can go up to 9648 inches max, whether on inkjet or C-type paper: the machines aren't wide enough to print larger!

I notice you wrote "grainy". Assuming this means you're printing a scan of film, 35mm film typically has a real-world resolution of 8-18 MP (depending on the quality of the scanner - from good flatbed to high end such as a Flextight), to give you an idea in comparison with the resolution of a digital camera. Medium-format film resolution in MP is given in my post here: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=138124
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Old 05-18-2016   #8
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PS: just a thought before I hit the sack (it's 3 am here!), it's always a good idea to get a section or two of a large print done, so you can see what it looks like. Perhaps A3 in size for a really large print. There's nothing like looking at the actual print (or bits of it anyway) to decide feasibility - it may look worse or better than you expect!

You could also try adding a bit of fine faux film grain to the enlarged image. That might sound perverse but it actually has the effect of breaking up artificially smooth areas caused by resampling, which increases definition and gives the appearance of sharpness. This grain should be fine enough to be just visible if you squint closely! If you want to know more, google adding noise when making large prints.

This is a good example of the difference that adding a bit of noise makes. As you can see, the image with noise while not perfect does look more natural: http://www.photoshopsupport.com/tutorials/cb/noise.html
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Old 05-18-2016   #9
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Thanks so much for the insight Rich! I really appreciate it. As I said, I never imagined that someone would approach me with this kind of a project so your suggestions are extremely helpful. The picture in question looks quite "gritty" and adding grain to it after re-sampling sounds perfectly fine to me

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Originally Posted by RichC View Post
PS: just a thought before I hit the sack (it's 3 am here!), it's always a good idea to get a section or two of a large print done, so you can see what it looks like. Perhaps A3 in size for a really large print. There's nothing like looking at the actual print (or bits of it anyway) to decide feasibility - it may look worse or better than you expect!

You could also try adding a bit of fine faux film grain to the enlarged image. That might sound perverse but it actually has the effect of breaking up artificially smooth areas caused by resampling, which increases definition and gives the appearance of sharpness. This grain should be fine enough to be just visible if you squint closely! If you want to know more, google adding noise when making large prints.
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Old 05-18-2016   #10
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Wider than 48" you will have to go with a digital scan and wide format inkjet. The commercial roller machines for C prints rarely went wider than 52" to give 48" paper enough clearance. Wider prints could be tiled. But that wasn't always an option.
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Old 05-18-2016   #11
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I would also wonder if the original image was shot handheld or on a tripod. The general quality of the image (sharpness, exposure, and such) will play a large role in potential enlargeability, also.

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Old 05-19-2016   #12
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Since you're in Canada, I'd suggest contacting Toronto Image Works: http://www.torontoimageworks.com/

Its founder / owner (Ed Burtynsky) is well-known for printing large-scale prints of his own work, so it would seem to be a good place to start.

About 15 years ago I had a 9ft x 40ft mural printed and installed at a Medical Center in Annapolis (it was done from a 6x17 panoramic transparency), and what they did was to print the image in 10 separate 4ft x 9ft panels and seamed them together. They also did the installation (you may want to find out from your client how they are wanting the piece mounted/installed, and hopefully the place that's making the print can also do that too).
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Old 05-19-2016   #13
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If you require a photo type paper with an aqueous inkjet, these days you can go up to 64" on Epson Exhibition Fiber or similar with something like an Epson 11880. That's a nine channel ink system which produces very good output. In the old days we used Displaymakers that were the full 6' with a 12 channel inkset but those days are gone.

As to the actual enlarging of your image, what usually happens is that it is enlarged in Photoshop. A plugin like Blowup or Perfect resize will be tried first, to see how it enlarges but the task usually falls back to enlarging incrementally in Photoshop along with sharpening and a lot of tweeking.

At that size your image will usually be saved at 120-180dpi and sent to the printer (which is capable of 1440x1440dpi or 2880x1440dpi) at 720x720dpi. You can specify that you want it saved and printed at higher resolutions but note that resolution=time=money. Processing times, saving, transferring, ripping and print times all increase and at this size you will be very hard pressed to tell any improvement.

Even though this may sound like you will lose a lot of sharpness and detail in the process, if you find a good operator who knows his or her way around, you should be pleasantly surprised at the final output.

If you are worried you can usually have a crop printed at 100% but these rarely reflect on how well the full size print will look once printed and viewed...

How is this image to be mounted?
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Old 05-19-2016   #14
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I see from your website that you're in Edmonton. Maybe give these guys a call: https://www.mcprint.ca/large_format.php
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Old 05-19-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chhayanat View Post
Thanks so much for the insight Rich! I really appreciate it. ...
In general, I agree with Rich. He's provided some excellent insight.

One major issue is the customer's expectations.

I work for a photographer here in KW and regularly print large. In house, we are limited by our "little" 48" Epson printers, though they can handle most of our work. We use a lab in RI (Blazing Editions) for most of our larger prints. To date, our largest prints have been roughly 96"x144"' on canvas, but we regularly do 48"x72" prints on both canvas and aluminum.

Upsampling files from the photographer's D800 is not hard (provided I regularly "take a ruler to the back of his hand" anytime he uses an ISO over 400). It's a bit harder to manage the grain on our 35mm scans (mostly Velvia and Velvia50) produced with an Imacon Flextight 848.

Prints that large will not be grain free, but they can appear so when viewed from far enough away so that you can see the whole image. Working with the client to determine how the image will be displayed and viewed is critical to producing a product with which they will be satisfied. Admittedly, here at the gallery we have the advantage of having quite a number of images as large as 45x96 on display so that the clients see good examples of the final image quality.
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Old 05-19-2016   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chhayanat View Post
Hi,

I have been approached by a client that wants to buy a 6ft x 7ft print. I have never printed that large and was wondering if anyone in this forum would have some suggestions for me. I am located in Canada but I am ok with getting prints shipped from anywhere as long as they are done professionally with an archival quality.

Many thanks in advance!
Its going to be a high print cost / high risk customer satisfaction situation.
Likely as not they will be unhappy and you will eat the print(s) cost.

Better to sell them the raw file and let them print it and deal with the large print headaches themselves.
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Old 05-19-2016   #17
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WOW, this is a huge amount of good advice and information! Thank you all so much!!

I have conveyed the potential issues to the client and still waiting to hear from them. In the meantime I will go through what each of you suggested to decide on a game plan. I am really grateful that all of you took so much time out to help a newbie!
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Old 05-20-2016   #18
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Good luck.

It boils down to: if your negative is technically good (sharp, well exposed, etc.), then you can print as large as you like if you use a high-end scanner (Flextight or, better, drum) and the print is expected to look good when seen only at an appropriate viewing distance of some yards (close up it will be distinctly soft).

Large prints aren't meant to be looked at inches away, but people will! Whether the client is bothered by close-up blur, if the print looks good when you stand back, is entirely their personal preference. At the end of the day, it's what makes the client happy that counts - if close-up sharpness doesn't matter, then great!

The next time you pass a bus shelter or bill board poster, have a closer look - be appalled at how rubbish some of the photos are, and surprised how little you've noticed this before!
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Old 05-20-2016   #19
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You might consider consulting with Digital Silver Imaging. They basically make silver wet prints from a digital file, and they can print mighty big, but expect a big price. I had several prints made, output from a Leica Monochrom, printed 24x36 on 30x40 paper. About $450.00 a print. Also expect that framing will be about double the cost of the print plus a little more for archival museum framing. The cost of the raw print is only about 1/3rd the cost if the print is to be displayed, and that does not include mark-up or profit.

If you really need fidelity a Flexlite might not be good enough and a drum scan would be the way to go.

Also since you are going to create a digital file consider Jon Cone's Piezo Press. They have a Hell drum scanner if you really want the highest IQ. Also consider Piezo Press for printing B&W. I use Piezography on a 7800, but know that the enhanced resolution really starts becoming evident on large prints.

There is also another studio in California called Candela that prints using Piezography, but they limit the inkset to selenium only.

Not sure you are pursuing getting a fine art print made, but if you are you should explore these options. All are expensive. Even if you are not pursuing making a fine art print I would introduce these options to find out how crazy your buyer is. How deep is his/her pocket. Also proofing and a zoomed in crop at this level is required which is added expense. Don't make the mistake of paying out of pocket for these additional costs. The proofs will indicate how far you can go so in the final print there are no surprises.

Also know that I print large format on a Epson 7800 and that large prints reveal every and any defect. I only print 20x30 on 24x36, but printing even larger the difficulty kinda gets compounded. Your print size from film scares me.

Also know as a reference I saw Salgado's show Genesis at ICP, and also saw some of the prints from that show in a gallery framed without glass. Film and digital via a digital negative wet printed can be seamless, but it is costly and requires great skill.

Over the past year I have been learning how expensive large format printing can be. Spent $8.2 K on paper and ink alone, but I learned a lot. In my printing I try to print as big as possible to reveal as much tonality and detail s possible, but I am at a big advantage using the Monochrom.

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Old 05-20-2016   #20
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I really appreciate you all sharing so much details and insights with me. As it turned out, after I asked about the budget and relayed some of the potential issues that you guys mentioned regarding printing that big, the client backed out. Not sure if they were expecting the ease of buying a poster/decal off-the-shelf. The upside of this is that I learned quite a bit about large format printing from you all.

Personally, I would like to get some of my pictures printed 12x18 at some point and even for that I would follow the steps Rich pointed out. The lab suggestions are also excellent. Hopefully this thread would come handy for someone in the same boat in future.
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