How to make very large-format prints of my photos?
February 19, 2017 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Is it even possible to make very large great-looking prints of photos taken with a Sony A55 camera?

I'm not a knowledgeable photographer or techy person. I have an eye and aesthetic that I like, though, and I'd like to produce very large art prints (greater than 3' on the short side, at least, and ideally more like 4' x 6' or sth like that) to decorate my home and give to friends who I think would appreciate them. Is it possible to do that with my camera? If so, are there settings I need to be aware of? Any tech stuff I need to consider?

If not, what camera should I get to do this? What features do I need to consider for this particular task?

I know of excellent local pro/archival-quality photo print shops, so that part I can figure out. I don't want to try to blow up and grain-out pictures that aren't suitable for that size, though, naturally, so hope me, folks!
posted by Joseph Gurl to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's all about resolution. For print you need at least 300 dpi (dots per inch = pixels per inch). Take the pixel dimensions of your photos and divide each number by 300; that's the number of inches on a side you can print and have it still look good.
posted by snowmentality at 7:12 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


A quick google suggests that 4,912 x 3,264 is the max resolution of my camera. Does that really mean I can only make hi-res prints that are 16.37" x 10.88"?

What kind of camera would I need to make really large prints that look sharp?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:22 PM on February 19, 2017


My pro photographer spouse chimes in to state that you are still probably OK to print at poster size (that is, the size you want), because people will be standing farther away from a large print, so it's OK if it looks a little blurry close up.

I would try one print and see how you like it.
posted by snowmentality at 7:23 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


Photographer spouse says you can get away with 100 or even 80 dpi for large prints like that where they'll be viewed from several feet away.

if you want really large prints that still look sharp even close up, for digital cameras, the Nikon D800 is probably the best. You can do it with a medium-format film camera, but those are very pricey.
posted by snowmentality at 7:31 PM on February 19, 2017


One thing you can do if you want to test it out relatively cheaply is you can scale the image up to the desired size (e.g. 48x72 @ 300dpi), and then take an 8x10 crop out of it and have that printed. Any lab can print an 8x10. Just make sure you pick an area with enough detail, and actually view it at the distance you'd view the real thing (you're not going to look at a 48x72 image from 18 inches away most likely).

FWIW, I have some pretty big prints from relatively low resolution cameras, and they look great. A lot of it depends on the specific image and how/where it's being displayed. Keep in mind that things like being slightly out of focus, high ISO noise, etc. will all look worse at larger sizes. So I reserve that treatment for my absolute best images.

I use Perfect Resize (nee Genuine Fractals) to upsize, but to be honest I'm not sure how much better that is than Photoshop's resizing these days. I spend a lot of time carefully sharpening and tweaking. A good pro lab can probably do this for you too, but I enjoy the process.
posted by primethyme at 8:04 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you're trying to print large pictures of landscapes/architecture/other still-lifes, you can always try stitching together multiple images. You have to be a bit more meticulous taking your shot, but you won't have to buy new equipment.
posted by alidarbac at 8:46 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


You can go down on resolution for larger prints as noted above. I would actually talk to the lab about this, if you're going up to 4'x6' they will have some suggestions. Are you planning on inkjet or photographic prints?

(as a photographer who loves to print very large, have you looked into frames/mounting options for prints that size?)
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:58 PM on February 19, 2017


You might want to try having a 4'x3' engineering print made for $25. The print quality is artily hazy, so you don't actually benefit from very high resolution. A shot from an iPhone is fine, for example. If it works for your style/subject, etc. then this is a very easy and practical solution.
posted by caek at 9:02 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


snowmentality: "My pro photographer spouse chimes in to state that you are still probably OK to print at poster size (that is, the size you want), because people will be standing farther away from a large print, so it's OK if it looks a little blurry close up."

This is a big factor. It is viewing distance that determines PPI. There is a handy chart on this page (along with an explanation of why and how the table was derived) to give you an idea.

alidarbac: "If you're trying to print large pictures of landscapes/architecture/other still-lifes, you can always try stitching together multiple images. You have to be a bit more meticulous taking your shot, but you won't have to buy new equipment."

This can work really well. It helps to have a tripod (and rig up something to rotate around the nodal point) but I've done it free hand as well. Turning your camera sideways and taking three over lapping images of a landscape will better than double the pixels you have to work with. Only joining three images side by side or four images tiled (2x2) minimizes the distortion.

I use MS ICE (windows only) to composite the images quick and dirty and have been playing around with Hugin (crossplatform) for better results (though ICE isn't bad).
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 PM on February 19, 2017


I've seen it argued by professionals that 280 ppi is preferable to 300 for what it's worth...
posted by xammerboy at 10:56 PM on February 19, 2017


Echoing the comment on stitching. Photoshop and Lightroom can do an amazing job of creating very large images from multiple smaller images taken with a small Sony mirrorless. This image of an old steel mill was created by merging 52 separate images using photoshop. The linked jpeg is a smaller export but the full sized stitched tiff file is big enough to be printed at 3-1/2 x 5 feet at 300dpi.

The way that I took the pictures was to set aperture, shutter speed and focus to manual, take a couple test shots of the subject to make sure that the exposure and focus are correct and then start taking the sequence of component shots. I rooted my feet in one place and starting in the upper left, taking a row of overlapping shots while pivoting my body to the right and then starting another row going right to left the same way.
posted by octothorpe at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


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