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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

When Size Matters

There are some images that seem to cry out to be displayed as a large sized print. Skyscrapers and mountains come to mind. However, it has also been said, and I am paraphrasing as I can’t seem to remember to whom the quote should be attributed, that “if you can’t take a great image at least print it big and maybe no one will notice”.

"Three Trees"
Copyright Howard Grill

Recently, I made an interesting discovery when I was working with this image. I wasn’t really sure how it would look as a print. Evaluating it on the computer monitor, as you are now, I thought it was, well, so-so. Certainly pleasant enough to look at, but really nothing special. I didn’t simply pass it by at the time because I had been considering including it in the project that came about from my New Year’s resolution (see Part 2 of my Jan 21st blog entry). For this reason, I decided to see what it would look like when printed at the same size as the other images in that group, which are matted to 22 x 28 inches.

Looking at the finished print, I was amazed. The image looked fantastic, but not simply because it was large. During my post-processing, I had selectively sharpened the tree in the foreground more than the others and that effect was not visible either at monitor viewing size or on the 8x10 inch test prints that I had been working with. But once printed large, the selective sharpening gave the image a marvelous three dimensional quality that could not otherwise be appreciated. Looking at the image (and I realize that you are stuck with the monitor view), it almost feels as if you could walk right into it.

My purpose is not to wax on about what a great image I can produce. On the contrary, as a small image I think it is fairly bland. I do, however, find it quite interesting that the photograph takes on a very different quality when printed large, and I don’t think that quality is merely related to the ‘wow’ effect of seeing a large print in the way that the opening quote suggests. Rather, the large size of the print was able to bring out an aspect of the image that could not be previously recognized or appreciated.

I am in no way suggesting that one should take mediocre images and blow them up as a method of improving them. On the other hand, it just might be that some images don’t reach their full potential until seen in a large format presentation.