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Small prints

Ben Rubinstein

pro member
Hi,

Big prints. Huge prints. Massive inkjet printers. The world seems to be in love with making huge prints.

Let me ask a question though. In the fine art world, would an exquisitely presented small print have the same visual 'punch' as the current trend for large? I'm thinking 8X10" size, platinum hand print, huge matt border and beautiful frame.

As I grow weary of the word 'resolution' due to the realisation that the vast majority of what we see and try to achieve is indeed rather selfish given that few except fellow pixel peepers will ever notice the difference, the concept of beautifully hand printed small prints seems to pull me more than perhaps the 'brashness' of large for the sake of being large.

I have 70+ megapixel panoramic files but the original appeal of creating prints so large and detailed that you can almost walk straight into them, my original concept, seems to pall compared to small but exquisite in my current mindframe.

Am I just decending further into the romance of the past or is there room in the modern fine art world for quality over quantity?

Thoughts please!

p.s. I realise the commercial world is a very different kettle of fish!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Hi,

Big prints. Huge prints. Massive inkjet printers. The world seems to be in love with making huge prints.

Let me ask a question though. In the fine art world, would an exquisitely presented small print have the same visual 'punch' as the current trend for large? I'm thinking 8X10" size, platinum hand print, huge matt border and beautiful frame.
First make the prints 8x10 and then say 16x20 and let them speak back to you. Try platinum. There are plenty of great houses to make the prints for you if need be. For art, it must speak to you first. Work out what suits your esthetics best ...... and the gallery that might represent you must lke that too, of course.

For commercial work, have samples printed larger, 16x 20 is a good size or 20x24 are good sizes, just to show the client. For a 10ft by 20ft mural, just print out, of course you only need one 8x10 and several 16x20 portions.

Asher
 
Hi Ben,

I personally think that, for the right subject matter, a well-presented small print can have massive impact. Well, I certainly hope so! I often spend hours perfecting a small (5x7in) print in the darkroom. I sometimes make these small prints from medium-format negatives, which means that they are enlarged less than 2x, resembling contact prints.

With the whole society continually being bombarded by bigger, brighter, richer-colours, 3D, HD, I am sure that some people will be refereshed by the simplicity and preciousness of a good small print. But only some. Most people are sheep, I am afraid. This has been one of my small prints that somehow displays the best. I went to some lengths to chemically tone it, it was taken on very grainy ISO3200 film, and wasn't that simple to print due to the less-than-ideal guessed exposure on a meterless manual camera. Still, I would not print it larger, I prefer it small.



Then again, other images scream to be printed to a large size. When I printed this image small, it did nothing for me. However, when I made a large print, the subtle drama really came through:



(excuse the poor scan, I shoudl re-scan it, the exposure is not great, and the compression emphasises the paper's grain, it's actually a pretty smooth medium-format image).

Then again, it really might just boil down to personal taste, having nothing whatsoever to do with the image!
 

Mike Shimwell

New member
Hi Ben

I like small ptins very much - being able to hold something in your hand reasonably 9without it flopping over and creasing!) gives a degree of intimacy that is not (usually?) achieved in large framed prints. The latter are often designed to impress and to be placed on large walls...

You might like to read this

One of my favourite series of prints is a set from my Northern Squares blog - which I hope to reactivate shortly - printed on 6 inch square fibrebase paper with a 1/4 inch margin. A dslr has sufficient resolution for that task:)

Mike.
 
I have a Tachihara 8x10 camera and a Durst 184 8x10 enlarger but the two never interact. Asher Kelman's insightful suggestion "First make the prints 8x10 and then say 16x20 and let them speak back to you" is something I've tested and the concept really works.
Every subject has a "best" size rendition. Giant enlargements of baby portraits look grotesque and 35mm contact sheets of grand landscapes never fail to disappoint.

In recent years I've concentrated on 8x10 photographs made by contact from 8x10 negatives because they are always the right size. Why? Because the camera shows the picture full format and if it doesn't look right I don't even make the exposure. When it does look right there is a delicious integrity in a photograph that passes from initial seeing, to making, to finishing without tampering with the original inspiration.
 
I had once the luck to test a shoot with a 20*25 size camera at school making portrait. And then making contact sheet on the fabulous Kodak paper (black and white). This is really a great moment to show these contacts, the definition is absolute (everything contibutes, the lack of enlargement, the beauty of the paper, the schneider that's mounted on the view camera (do you call that chamber in English?). And also this size (20*25 - 8*10) is more or less the size of a human face. That made the portrait not bigger, not smaller than it should, it gives a presence to it.


The paper (discontinued)
http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/g7/g7.pdf

The view camera was that type (wooden style)
http://www.taos-photographic.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_242&products_id=1039


although I absolutely don't remember the brand.
 

Mike Shimwell

New member
Sandrine

I thought for a moment you were talking about a 20 by 25 inch camera! Now I see you were talking about 8 by 10 as Maris uses. Yes, contact prints are wonderful things.

Mike
 
A 8*10 camera is still a "once in a lifetime" for me.
I'm sorry that I will be extremely stubborn on the subject of centimetres.... :)
The 20*25 (8*10") was not that easy to find because it was said to be an "American size".
We used the 24*30 cm (10*12"), or the 15*20 cm (6*8") which is too small.

But I used to print most of my "very proud of" prints on the 8*10" size of paper.
 
I have a huge problem with displaying portraits here...Some people I was shooting are not reachable now and I cannot ask for permission. This is a difficult/sensitive question to me as OpenPhotographyForum is relatively "Open" (it's written on the pack)... And anyone can see these photos outside the circle of the people we trust, even if you type my name in google you should be able to see all the posts and photos I have shown. I cannot let it be done without a permission. Hence I may ask my sister if she would agree, maybe not amongst my favourites but typical of what I was doing.
 

Mike Shimwell

New member
Sandrine

Maybe not amongst your favourite, but we look forward to seeing it. I think we often show more of ourselves in our work with those we love than more detached pictures.

Regards

Mike
 
Here I am, permission's obtained so...




First I think anybody could tell that there's some lighting missing to separate the hair from the background. I don't know, I've done this way on purpose, but still not sure. I wanted her to show some roughness. Not very ladylike, I know... :)


The scan is terrible and there's some banding everywhere, sorry...


Probably an Hasselblad...
probably a TriX 125 if it was my choice.
Ilford if the school was to provide the roll...
That was printed on 30x30 if I remember well...
 

Mike Shimwell

New member
Actually Sandrine, the fact there is no hair light is fine, given your desire to make it a 'bit rough'. Her look is very much in your face, as if she saying, 'So what!'

Mike
 
I remember the day exactly...
We had booked the studio for a particular shoot for a "homework" that consisted of a Tetley tea advert. She was dressed like an English brat :). Later on she put on her own clothes and we made this shoot.

The very morning of this shoot we had her car (a mere crate) taken by the pound for being parked for too long at the same place in front of her house. They asked an amount of money fairly superior to the value of the car. She was very very crossed :). I kept on telling her "think about that car" - that was mean. I wanted to achieve that feeling on film.
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Here I am, permission's obtained so...




First I think anybody could tell that there's some lighting missing to separate the hair from the background. I don't know, I've done this way on purpose, but still not sure. I wanted her to show some roughness. Not very ladylike, I know... :)


The scan is terrible and there's some banding everywhere, sorry...


Probably an Hasselblad...
probably a TriX 125 if it was my choice.
Ilford if the school was to provide the roll...
That was printed on 30x30 if I remember well...
Sandrine,

I like the attitude that you both made in this - the tonal separation - subject/back ground is good for me - in print the black may have been warm i guess.... I remember the feeling of so much black ...

cool !
 

Mike Shimwell

New member
I've just kicked off Northern Squares again with 3 shots from today if anyone is interested.

The idea was to show square format pictures taken from day to day. Nothing to complex, just what catches my eye. Over the first few weeks I found that I liked these pictures printed small - as I said earlier about 5.5 inches square on 6 inch square paper (for Sandrine that's 15 by 15 paper and the image is about 14.5 square).

I stopped when I left my Ricog GX200 on a train, but I've been using my wife's LX5 for the last couple fo days, so I'll try to keep a few going.

MIke
 

Jim Galli

Member
A 6½ X 8½ inch contact print on a piece of high quality silver bromide 11X14 or 12X16" fiber based paper with pure white rebate is among the most elegant presentations I've ever seen.

Alas, elegance is out of fashion.
 
I remember that I used to display most square prints I had in my plat with those frames from Ikea, the same that allowed you to display the vinyl 12" inside the cardboard -
http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/50134634

it's about 30*30 (12*12") inside and 50*50 (20*20")
I think this is a good size to display in a small flat (I'm thinking decoration there)
It suits most lanscapes because you cannot be too far away from the pictures, although it's too big for portraits (except if you use the "passe-partout)

@Ben
You are giving prints for weddings, I'm sure nobody wants to appear in a 3m print on their living room in their wedding dress and suits (and the same with their birth day suit :) ). As well as any "decorating" print... The only thing I see is when you're making a photo for a company (product-architecture etc...) to display in the face of their customer on the premises, it's made to impress...Most of time the images are made to be held in hand, or to be printed in books. So the size will always be 50cm (20") or less. As for art, images to be displayed in galleries or museums I think this is because these prints are available now, and Sometimes when you buy something that worth $$$$ you need to show it a bit. If a museum buy a print that size, everybody will know they have it, Their'll build a room around it... But it's not new...
I just remember of a painting from Delacroix, representing The sultan of Morocco


and I can see nowhere in the world even in Versailles, even in Neverland,
where anybody can see properly an image that size from bottom to top. No way you can admire the details of the fabric on the man's head, it's 4*3,5 metres high (157*137"). There are bigger examples. I think at some point it's made like that just to flaunt the artist skills and the owner's money at the same time. But it's not good for the viewer experience....

But I reckon that something less than 2 metres might do the trick most of the times (look at Jasper Johns, most paintings are around 1m wide and they do not fail to impress :) ) You don't have to step back too far, you can still have the whole image in front of your eyes, you can reach all the details if you get close... eh just my two cents!
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
This is actually a very good portrait. What makes it work is the combination of:
-her clothes
-the pose
-the centered composition
-the lighting (and no: you don't need to separate the hair from the background)
-the hair, which is the only feminine part on the picture.

Sorry, I can't say it better, but it works because of this ambivalence between the masculine and the feminine.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I've just kicked off Northern Squares again with 3 shots from today if anyone is interested.

The idea was to show square format pictures taken from day to day. Nothing to complex, just what catches my eye. Over the first few weeks I found that I liked these pictures printed small - as I said earlier about 5.5 inches square on 6 inch square paper (for Sandrine that's 15 by 15 paper and the image is about 14.5 square).

I stopped when I left my Ricog GX200 on a train, but I've been using my wife's LX5 for the last couple fo days, so I'll try to keep a few going.

MIke


Mike Shimwell: Untitled


I enjoyed the reflection in the window. However, I am mesmerized by the simplicity but intriguing power of this shadow!




Mike Shimwell: Untitled


What makes this shadow, with only one plane of existence, have such sense of purpose and certainty?


Asher
 

Ben Rubinstein

pro member
I remember that I used to display most square prints I had in my plat with those frames from Ikea, the same that allowed you to display the vinyl 12" inside the cardboard -
http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/50134634

it's about 30*30 (12*12") inside and 50*50 (20*20")
I think this is a good size to display in a small flat (I'm thinking decoration there)
It suits most lanscapes because you cannot be too far away from the pictures, although it's too big for portraits (except if you use the "passe-partout)

@Ben
You are giving prints for weddings, I'm sure nobody wants to appear in a 3m print on their living room in their wedding dress and suits (and the same with their birth day suit :) ). As well as any "decorating" print... The only thing I see is when you're making a photo for a company (product-architecture etc...) to display in the face of their customer on the premises, it's made to impress...Most of time the images are made to be held in hand, or to be printed in books. So the size will always be 50cm (20") or less. As for art, images to be displayed in galleries or museums I think this is because these prints are available now, and Sometimes when you buy something that worth $$$$ you need to show it a bit. If a museum buy a print that size, everybody will know they have it, Their'll build a room around it... But it's not new...
I just remember of a painting from Delacroix, representing The sultan of Morocco


and I can see nowhere in the world even in Versailles, even in Neverland,
where anybody can see properly an image that size from bottom to top. No way you can admire the details of the fabric on the man's head, it's 4*3,5 metres high (157*137"). There are bigger examples. I think at some point it's made like that just to flaunt the artist skills and the owner's money at the same time. But it's not good for the viewer experience....

But I reckon that something less than 2 metres might do the trick most of the times (look at Jasper Johns, most paintings are around 1m wide and they do not fail to impress :) ) You don't have to step back too far, you can still have the whole image in front of your eyes, you can reach all the details if you get close... eh just my two cents!
Hi Sandrine,

Of course this discussion does not relay to wedding work where the consideration is the clients desires. Some people like huge wall prints and if they want to pay for them then what business man would deny that? Every client is different and it would be shortsighted not to provide as wide a gamut of services for after sales as possible.

Fine Art however is different. Very very different. I'll explain why. Wedding photographers are chosen for their vision only. How that vision is realised is the choice of the client but primarily what is sold is a certain 'look'. Fine Art however is more than just the vision, it's the presentation of that vision, it is the need for the prospective buyer to fall in love with the artwork and 'need' to buy it. Take my best images and print them cheaply and although the image will still be as powerful, it is unlikely to make anyone swoon over it to the tune of $795! I would be surprised if fine art sales over the internet account for more than a fraction of fine art sales in general. You need to see an incredible image which not only resonates with your soul, but that makes you want to hang it in your house. For that you need presentation that appeals to your prospective client. Offering your work in cheap and expensive, cheap looking and expensive looking, it dilutes your appeal within the art market, cheapens it.
 
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