One of our most frequently asked questions is “How big an enlargement can I make from your scans?” A fair question. The answer is here.
When talking about image and print sizes an experience my son had comes to mind. He was responsible for a staff recruitment campaign which needed an image to be shown, in the Birmingham area – on the side of a bus. He took the shot using a tiny Sony camera – around 1 / 2 megapixels rating. Yes, the print looked fine of the sides of buses.
I have another worry, all those adverts for the Apple iPhone. You’ll have seen them, they are huge and the detail looks brilliant. How can you get that kind of print from a mobile phone? And by implication, if you scan my prints at 600dpi will I be able to blow them up to look great on the back of my mother-in-law’s house?
Part of my thoughts on how this is achieved is the software used in the process. I know if you buy one of the big Epson printers, the types that print on paper over a metre wide, it comes with special software. That does clever things to take your source image and enlarge it so it prints in the best way possible. Not the sort of stuff you get with a bargain basement Windows laptop. Invest in that type of cleverness and you’re getting closer. Which is how I think Birmingham got to see a perfectly respectable print of a young lady on their buses.
However there’s another factor which recently set off a lightbulb in my brain. Viewing distance.
How far away do you stand from a huge, huge print? On the buses it was a good few metres – who wants to get run over. Maybe even further.
And those Apple prints? Look at where they’re sited. Way up high and a long way away. Yes they look great but it is from several hundred feet. By contrast when you zoom in on your computer screen that tiny original can quickly look rubbish but then you’ve got your nose just a matter of inches from the picture. The bigger the print, the greater the viewing distance is likely to be. Who can stand that close to a billboard? Who would want to?
Take a deep breath because the next bit runs counter to your digital experience. OK, to get a great image on a great big print you simply don’t need as much detail as you might think. You can invest in the latest digital DSLR, or scan at silly high resolutions, but you won’t need all that data if you want to print big then stand back to admire the view. It all snapped into place for me when I watched this video on YouTube which I think explains it pretty well.