Couple questions re: printing digital pictures.
October 21, 2005 9:03 AM   Subscribe

A few questions about printing digital photos in NYC, and tangentially, the legality thereof.

One of my photos was selected for a small gallery group show, and I have some questions as to how I should go about getting the print made. (I'm used to putting my pictures online, and have never printed them out beyond snapshot size.)

--The photo was shot with a 3.2MP camera, and measures 1536x2048. How big can I reasonably make this when printed? The show organizers are asking that all photos be 16"x20", but say that adding white space around it will be fine. (They suggest that I increase the "canvas size" in Photoshop.) I want to make it look both as big and as good as possible -- what's a good size that will satisfy both aims?

--Can anyone recommend a photo printer in NYC (because I need to get this printed quickly, ideally in the next couple days) that can do this? (The NYC Photobloggers group tends to love Adorama, but they are closed this week and next...and 12x18 seems to be their maximum size anyway.)

--Part of my photo includes part of a painting by another artist. Will I run into any kind of copyright or other hassles by printing/exhibiting/selling a print of this?
posted by Vidiot to Technology (19 answers total)
Check out this site for megapixels, resolution and print size rules of thumb. Unfortunately, you're woefully short of the resolution required to print 16" x 20".
posted by knave at 9:49 AM on October 21, 2005

2048/20 inches ~= 100 ppi. That's easily enough to get a decent print, especially if it's going to mounted on a wall. I have a giant poster done at 23 ppi, and it looks fine.

The only thing is that the artifacts the CCD adds can be visible when a camera is used at its maximum resolution, so it's impossible to say how good it will look. I'd definitely give at a try 20 x 16 though.
posted by cillit bang at 10:14 AM on October 21, 2005

print is 300 ppi minimum: that's going to make your 3.1MB image around 4 x 6, or postcard size. Surrounding whitespace sounds fine, especially if you are printing on high quality paper. I would use surrounding whitespace and then drop a mat around it, so the hole is around 6 x 8 or so.

I say this not as someone experienced with photography, but as someone who has put together stuff for shows. The idea is to make what you have look as good as possible, and what you have is a 4x6 print -- it's not going to get any bigger without losing definition, so you need to find a way to use that whitespace to your benefit. maybe if you post a link to the photo people can recommend other possibilities.
posted by fishfucker at 10:51 AM on October 21, 2005

Regarding the copyright issue; according istockphtography's copyright guidelines, there are copyright issues in including a picture of someone else's art/painting in your photo.
posted by extrabox at 10:54 AM on October 21, 2005

Response by poster: Sure. I was hesitant to post a link to the photo (not wanting to be seen as overly self-promotional), but here it is.

and does "ppi" = "dpi"?
posted by Vidiot at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2005

I'd definitely give it a shot.
Our office just got a bunch of junk printed at 5 by 8 feet that isn't too bad, off what I suspect is medium format negs. (It's harder to hold tolerance across the glass while grinding med format, so miniature format glass is sharper.) I often shoot macro stuff that looks just like it, I usually delete them when I get home. But the prints are reasonably true to what was shot.
As far as the image in there that is copyrighted, I'd consider it incidental and ignore it, but then IANA Copyright Lawyer.
Proper viewing distance for 8 X 10 is from the sofa, proper viewing distance for 5 X 7 is arm's length. I would guess proper viewing distance for 16 X 20 is farther than from the sofa to the wall in a room you can afford to live in, more like a gallery. I'd try for it anyway, and see how it turns out.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2005

I'm a slow typist.
On preview, if the copyright part of the image is the bottom half of the total thing, I don't think so.
I was visualizing something like a pic hanging on a wall in the distance that was not real identifiable. Sorry.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:13 AM on October 21, 2005

Response by poster: yeah, I was kinda surprised, actually, that the show organizers picked that one image...
posted by Vidiot at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2005

Vidiot, PPI is pixels per inch, DPI is dots per inch. There's some pedantry about which is the right term to use in which situation, but generally, if you're talking about PPI, it hasn't been printed yet (it's digital), and if you're talking DPI, it HAS been printed. Thus, if your 1536x2048 pixel file had a resolution of 300 PPI, and if it was printed at 300 DPI, it would be around 4x6. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong on this.

wow. that's a great photo. it's too bad it's not higher res. hmmm.

if I had such a photo, I'd go with the mat idea I proposed earlier. thin black frame, and real thick mat. I'd be tempted to play with placement of the photo -- maybe have it off center in the mat.

You might also consider shadowboxing, with just a 6x8 punchout (i don't know the terms here, but basically you'd have a mat, and then a 6x8 or 8x10 hole that would have the photo shadowboxed).

I'd say try to print out 4x6, 6x8, and a larger size and seeing if you can live with the degradation. 6x8 might be worth the slight image noise you'd get in that case.

as far as legalities, I'd worry about it when and if it happens, or if you're going to license it for a postcard or something.
posted by fishfucker at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2005

I suggest calling up the kind professionals at Modernage, and they will talk you through ALL of this stuff (on the phone, first, even), work with you to get optimal color, etc. etc. They will totally hold your hand and they are a top pro lab.
posted by xo at 12:30 PM on October 21, 2005

I'd take the CDR containing the picture or on a memory card to B&H Photo Video on 34th Street and 9th Ave. They appear to have all the best equipment to get the best quality prints made from your photographs.
posted by riffola at 12:58 PM on October 21, 2005

B&H is also closed for the near future. It's the price you pay for them being open on Sundays.
posted by smackfu at 1:44 PM on October 21, 2005

and does "ppi" = "dpi"?

Sort of. Usually, ppi is the resolution of the source image, and lpi (lines per inch) is the native/maximum resolution of the printer. dpi refers mainly to the kind of printers that only leave a dot or don't, and aren't capable of tones without dithering, etc etc
posted by cillit bang at 4:10 PM on October 21, 2005

That's a relatively famous artist's painting (I'm not the artist in the family, but I recognized the style immediately). You really need to consult someone that has some more definitive knowledge of applicable law.
posted by mmascolino at 4:57 PM on October 21, 2005

Given the potential legal issues, would the organisers not be willing to exhibit another one of your prints?
posted by ceri richard at 6:11 PM on October 21, 2005


You seem to misunderstand DPI and PPI somewhat:

The important central concept is that while a pixel is a colour at a location (obvious), to actually print that colour at a location, you need a lot of ink dots (and space between them), because a DPI printer (eg CMYK) only prints four colours either full on or full off, wheras a pixel can any of milions of colours.

In other words, they are not interchangeable at all - in order to print 300 PPI, you'll want 4-figure DPI. Printing a 300 PPI image at 300 DPI is like playing a CD through a telephone - you're just throwing away most of the fidelity.

One PPI pixel contains far more information than one DPI dot. They are not even slightly equal or interchangeable.

(To further confuse things, some types of printers do not create an image by laying down CMYK dots, and likewise, other ways of displaying the image, such as monitors, may directly produce pixels).
posted by -harlequin- at 6:40 PM on October 21, 2005

Erg, didn't mean to sound like I was talking down or lecturing - I rewrote a section of my post, and submitted it before I realised that part of the rewrite is now little more than just repeating myself. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 6:49 PM on October 21, 2005

Erg, didn't mean to sound like I was talking down or lecturing

no worries. that is a significant correction to what I assumed, so I'm glad you brought it.

so you'd want to print a 300 ppi image at 1200 dpi, assuming a 4 color printer?
posted by fishfucker at 8:58 PM on October 21, 2005

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