The Print Size Myth…


The Print Size Myth...

James Popsys




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Lots of people think you can only print at a certain size with a particular resolution or camera. Printing isn’t about megapixels, it’s about viewing distances. In this video I explain how…

If you would like a print of any photo that appears in one of my videos, please email [email protected] with a screenshot of the image you would like, and the size you would like (A4 = £25 or A3 = £40). These prints are signed but not numbered. Thanks for your support 🙂

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Comments 41

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  1. Excellent Video James, slowly venturing into getting some prints, and there are alot of "handy" charts on line for how large your camera can print, figured something wasn't quite right when it states my higher end Mid-level DSLR can only print to 17" wide. Looking forward to more photographs and videos from Scotland!

  2. This is the second video of yours I've watched and 2 for 2 you're unprepared for the videos content (the print on this video and no harsh light on a harsh light video) which is really disappointing as your videos content is fairly interesting

  3. Another egotrippin Youtuber who think he is the best photographer on planet earth? You are not! You are just boring!

  4. Hi James, how's everything going? Quick question what's the resolution you use for your prints? Would appreciate the resolution for both of your current sizes and any other sizes you've experienced with. I usually do 72pixels/inch for my posts on instagram but have no idea what the resolution should be for prints. Thanks in advance keep up the great content

  5. I agree that viewing distance is very important when it comes to printing.

    But you should not generalize it like that. Not all people will get farther away from a photo just because it is larger. There's no certain way how you are supposed to view a photo. I for one thing will always get in close after taking in the whole image from a distance. And I will be dissapointed if there are no sharp details to explore.

    So the important thing is to always think about at which distance you or your customer will be viewing a photo and print at appropriate sizes. But not just assuming that because a photo is printed larger a person will get farther away from it.

    Just my two cents 😉

  6. I agree with everything you’re saying, EXCEPT you are saying DPI, and you should be saying PPI. DPI is dots on paper, and PPI is what you adjust your file resolution to, feeding your printer from your computer. Sounds like semantics, but it’s not. When an outsourced lab asks for 300ppi they’re not printing it at 300dpi. Just look at the specs on any inkjet printer. They typically print “photo quality” at 1440 or 2880, not 300. I print 40×60” to my Epson 9900 printer and I feed it upsampled files at a resolution of 180ppi. Otherwise as you said, you’d see the actual pixels if it were lower resolution.

  7. Where will you be going when you're in Australia James? Your videos are great you have funny yet professional way of getting the point across, very entertaining!

  8. Very well said sir. As an Olympus man shooting m43 I have been saying this sort of thing for ages but it's hard to battle against the mega pixel movement. The real problem with printing, in my experience, is getting the colours and tone values correct. Proper colour management with calibration and correct ICC profiles is much more important in my view. It is worth the work though as producing an image from shooting, through to printing and then mounting and framing is so rewarding.

  9. Newly subbed. Like your style mate, learning a lot! Keep on going!

    On a side note, I am a bit shocked about the cottage. See, in 1997 I lived with a family just North of Pitlochry in an old farm house that was operated as a B&B… and I can't help but notice how similar it looks to this. I mean, I'm almost certain it's the same place! What a coincidence if it is…

  10. Well said James, I've printed A3+ from my old 20D which was 8mp and been perfectly happy with them framed on the wall behind glass and seen from the middle of the room and the same images look fine in commercial photo books and I have no idea what res they use. The recent touring Nat Geo Landscape Photos of the year were no different with the 40×100 inch prints looking great from 10feet away and fuzzy close up. Cheers

  11. I'm glad to see Squarespace is now catering properly to photographers with variable image sizes. When I started on there a handful of years ago they used BLOW IMAGES UP! (not like explode, but upres). Such a no-no for photography websites. I sent a number of annoyed photographer emails to them about that, so I'm glad to see that my and other's efforts had some effect.

  12. This only works for people with "snapshot" mentality. Who always want to see the whole picture at once and from a distance. Not me.
    I want it to be like a window for observing the captured moment. Not a tiny snapshot. Looking at a large but low quality print from far away only makes it smaller. Looking at a large high quality print (say 50" 180dpi) from close distance makes it a lifelike illusion. I guess, some people can see the world and some people can only see pieces of it (like one piece at a time through a tunnel vision or something). Nobody's perfect, but snapshots are boring, in my opinion.

  13. I belive you entirely, infact as my art life started with digital art and 3D graphics i've long known about the ways you can print pictures. One really simple example is a pillar poster, look closely and you'll see the Cyan, magenta etc colours being represented as individual dots on that poster. Its first when you step back that you'll see a stunning print without a clear quality issue.

    Having had my beginnings in 3D space i've been spoiled rotten with the ability to render anything at any resolution and dpi. However, knowing the use of that image you do your clients and yourself a huge favour in only rendering the file at an apropriate size for the usecase. That saves render costs, the clients time, makes you more flexible as you dont have to lock up resources rendering a banana over the span of a year and it also makes much more sense.

    The same is true when it comes to a camera. The printing technique wont change and so the resolution and viewing distance parameters are still valid. 16MP is well enough for most things. You get higher MP sensors for the flexibility of being able to crop a picture by 200% and still ending up with a razor sharp image, or to be able to be more flexible towards your clients.

    The reason to why im personally coveting an a7rII is due to the fact that i LOVE razor sharp images and i want the flexibility of being able to crop it by 50% and still retaining a 24MP image if i so wish.

    Would i turn down a 20MP camera with a great quality sensor? Never.

  14. I have a few prints from my old Canon 20d that is about 50 inches.
    And that is from a 8 Mpix camera.
    And about half of those is noise if you touch the ISO anything above 100, so really its more like a 4 Mpix camera

  15. I had a question about something along this line but it has more to do with taking an image and enlarging it later (especially landscapes) and it was explained to me like this: Most Depth of Field (DoF) calculators assume a Circle of Confusion (CoC) of 0.03mm. This is based on an old formula (wrongfully attributed to Zeiss quite often) of an 8" x 10" photo viewed from 10" away. This results in a blur spot or CoC of 0.03mm being seen as a focused spot by the human eye at that distance and print size. However, high pixel density camera sensors today far out-resolve 0.03mm from the days of 35mm film grain. To figure out what your camera sensor can actually resolve, divide the sensor width by the pixel width and then multiply by 2. For example, the Nikon D850 has a sensor that is 35.9mm wide and measures 8256px across, so 35.9 ÷ 8256 x 2 = 0.009mm CoC (rounding up). If you go into the DoF module of PhotoPills and choose a 200mm lens at f/13 with a subject distance of 30ft it will give you a hyperfocal distance of 345ft, where everything from 172ft to infinity will be sharp. But this is based on that old “Zeiss” formula of 0.03mm CoC, or an 8” x 10” print viewed from 10” away. This will not be sharp when printed very large like 24” x 36” or bigger, or at least it won’t have a very large depth of field. Your subject will still be sharp of course, whatever you focused on, but your background and foreground will not be; the depth of field will be far more shallow than most apps would lead you to believe printed that large and viewed up close. If you click the Advanced button at the bottom of the DoF module in PhotoPills, and then click the CoC field at the top of the screen, you can choose a custom CoC instead of the default 0.03mm. We already figured out the Nikon D850 is capable of 0.009mm CoC, which happens to correspond to a 24” x 36” print viewed from 10” away. Once you’ve changed the CoC from 0.03mm to 0.009mm you’ll see it dramatically changes the true depth of field! The hyperfocal distance is now a whopping 1,148ft with everything from 574ft to infinity in focus. So if you had any part of your landscape closer than 574ft, you’d need to focus stack. If you had a scene that had a foreground 50ft away and a background at infinity, it might take 30 or more focus stacks at 200mm f/13. And using a smaller aperture like f/16 or f/18 on a 45MP sensor with such pixel density is just going to result in diffraction where you are losing sharpness at the expense of greater depth of field, so focus stacking is your only solution. The formula for diffraction is the native CoC of the sensor * 1000 / (2nd airy disc * color wavelength [550nm] * 1,000,000). In the case of the D850: 0.009mm * 1000 / (2.43932*0.00000055*1000000) = f/6.5. In practice, this can usually be doubled without compromising too much. Thanks to Aaron Priest for the above information.

  16. 300 dpi is minimum for Black and White(1 bit) printing. For Coffee table quality books photography print quality is 133-166 ppi (colorful dots).

  17. I find it really easy to think of it like your phone and your TV. My phone has the same resolution (1080p) as my TV, but it is much denser because of the viewing distance we look at our phones from vs TV. Both look good though, and both show the same amount of dots.

    I have a 50" print shot with my old 10D (6MP) and nobody has ever made a comment about the low resolution of the image.

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