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Thread: Bucking the print size trend

  1. #1
    Yes, but why? David R Munson's Avatar
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    Bucking the print size trend



    I was thinking today about print sizes. I know a lot of you prefer bigger print sizes, as in 16x20 and larger. Working with large negatives as we do, our images can stand this sort of enlargement. Sometimes images work well bigger, and sometimes an image really only opens up, as it were, in a larger size. It seems, too, a lot of galleries prefer larger prints. And there's always the expression, If you can't make it better, make it bigger, which I think informs a bit on how we view print sizes in relation to the quality of the work.



    That said, for my own work, as well as a lot of work by others that I have seen, I prefer smaller prints. If I had to pick two sizes to print all of my work in for the rest of my life, I'd go 5x7 and 8x10 without a second thought. I like the feel of smaller prints, and I feel that it works for my images. What's more, in addition to the work by others that I've seen in smaller sizes that I liked that way, there has been plenty of work that I have seen that I think would have worked better at a smaller size. Hell, there are Ansel Adams prints that I've seen that I felt were much too large for the given image.



    I am not trying to suggest that big prints have no place. Far from it, actually. I just find myself thinking again and again, though, that sometimes we rush to make our prints big. Sometimes smaller works better. As I said, I prefer smaller for my own work.



    What about you, though? Do any of you prefer smaller prints for your own work? I'd be interested to know your thoughts on it.

    So apparently my signature was full of dead links after a few years away...

  2. #2

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    Bucking the print size trend

    It's good to find another person who appreciates small prints. I like the viewing distance of 4x5 up to 8x10, in that order, however I won't give up MF and LF even when the later is printed only 1.5x.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Bucking the print size trend

    I've gone through the exercise of printing one image in various sizes just to see how it does. What I found it that print size is dependent on image.

    Some of my images print very small (20 x 25 cm). That's small for me anyway. Particularly flowers. If you take them too big, the image falls apart. On the other hand, I've got some highly detailed scenics that aren't worth a second look small, but that really blossom when printed big. I've got one of a rock face I found in Joshua Tree National Park for example, that really only shows the textures well when printed very large (100 x 125 cm).

    So I let the image decide what size it wants to be printed. I try not to have a particular prejudice for print size.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4
    Eric Biggerstaff
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    Bucking the print size trend

    For my work and the subject matter I enjoy photographing I prefer small prints. A large print for me is 8x10. I even like several of my images contact printed at 4X5.
    Eric Biggerstaff

    www.ericbiggerstaff.com

  5. #5
    Ben Crane's Avatar
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    Bucking the print size trend

    For my own work I prefer 11x14 for most of my prints. I think this size shows off the resolution of the 4x5 negative without loosing the intimacy that comes with printing larger. As a collector, it is also difficult to find the space to display larger prints.

    One image I think works especially well in a smaller size is Paul Caponigro's two pears which I like much better in 8x10 than in 16x20.

    www.benjamincrane.com

  6. #6
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    Bucking the print size trend

    I like to print small - I'd rather have a little jewel that I can hold in my hand than a big poster to put on the wall. With rare exceptions for special purposes, the only time I'll make a print that won't fit on a sheet of 8x10 paper is when I'm contact printing a negative that is larger than that.

    Hell, there are Ansel Adams prints that I've seen that I felt were much too large for the given image.

    I agree. I was very disappointed in the quality of the enlargements shown at the Ansel Adams exhibition that just closed at the Boston MFA. If those were truly representative of his work over the years, they completely belied his reputation as a master craftsman so far as I'm concerned.

  7. #7
    Eric Woodbury
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    Bucking the print size trend

    Until recently, I'd always print 11x14. They looked good on the wall and impressive to show, but it just got to be too much. I still print them, but only when they have a definite home. I have a huge pile of 11x14s mounted and the storage of this is problematic. Now I'm printing 8x10 and 5x7. If I mount them, it is usually on 2-ply. I love these sizes. I can sit in a chair with a stack of them and look at them so easily. The smaller sizes are so friendly.
    my picture blog
    ejwoodbury.blogspot.com

  8. #8

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    Bucking the print size trend

    I contact printed a 4x5 shot that I love and everyone I show it to agrees it looks great small. When I eventually get a scanner I will share some of my successful shots.

  9. #9
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Bucking the print size trend

    "If those were truly representative of his work over the years, they completely belied his reputation as a master craftsman so far as I'm concerned."

    Unfortunately some of his less than stellar prints escaped the print drawers and ended up in the market and some of the latter prints were far better than some of the early prints. I have a friend that has two "Moonrise over Hernandes". One is an early print and the other is a late post intensification print. The later one completely blows away the early print. Both of course are worth a fortune. I cring sometimes when I see some of my prints in peoples collections that I made in the 70's.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  10. #10

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    Bucking the print size trend

    David, I agree with you in general. However, an even better format is wholeplate, i.e. 6 1/2 x 8 1/2. I like to enlarge 4x5 only that much on an 8x10 sheet of paper.

    Ilford is offering FP4+ and HP5+ in wholeplate again, so I'm embarking on the adventure of having holders and a camera built to use them. Contact prints in that size are wonderful enough that I'd accept them as the *only* format for the rest of my life.

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