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Size Does Matter

March 31, 2008

Size Does Matter

So, I went to Black’s and ordered 8×10 prints. Since the beginning, the goal has been to eventually print some of my photo’s large (at least, as large as I can get them), and this was a first step in seeing what happens.

Clockwise from top right: Shopper’s Drug Mart Photo Kiosk 6×4, Black’s 8×10, and a Polaroid showing both from my SX-70.

The cost of 8×10’s is very prohibitive, but Black’s was having a 2 for 1 sale, and combined with a pre-paid card, it brought the cost of 20 prints from $120 to $40…not too shabby.

What I found out?

  • I had no idea that an 8×10 requires cropping from standard photo dimensions. I ended up leaving the cropping decisions to Black’s.
  • ISO rating has nothing to do with the quality of a print. Yes, it produces a lot more noise, and will limit how large you can print before you lose resolution, but the quality has more to do with both how well-exposed the original is and how much post-production you put the original through.
  • Up to now, almost all of my post-production has been inside the Adobe Camera RAW plug-in, and that has to change. Converting an original to b&w, and adjusting tonal/colour ranges are things I have to learn to do inside an image editing program.
  • Megapixelage didn’t count for much…2 of the 20 prints came from my old SD300, and they were 2 of the best prints in the bunch.
  • Although I really, really, really love my 50mm 1.8 lens, it’s limiting. My current ‘dream’ lens would be a 30-80mm zoom that stops as low as f/2.4…Nikon comes close with a 24-85mm f/2.8, but it’s probably expensive as hell, so I may be considering switching camera bodies next year (they also have a manual-focus 50mm f/1.2 which makes me all hot and bothered).
  • I tend to over-emphasize 1 of the many things you have to juggle in getting a shot: f/stop, ISO, shutter speed, and metering…metering usually isn’t talked about in the books, but it’s essential if you run your camera in either aperture or shutter priority, which I tend to do.

Below I’ve listed out the 20 prints I’ve made, with links to the original photos (yes, this is a cheap attempt to get more page views…so sue me), along with their essentials.

Here’s how the format works out:

Picture Title

Date Taken, Pixel Resolution
Camera, Shutter Speed, F/Stop, ISO Speed, Exposure Program, Flash, Metering Mode
General Comments and Observations

Here’s some accumulated stats (these won’t add up to 20 in all cases because the SD300 is a pure automatic camera and some of it’s EXIF data is wrong or unavailable, 1 was a pinhole, and another had no EXIF data at all):

ISO

  • 200: 11
  • 800: 5
  • 1600: 1

Metering Mode

  • Pattern: 13
  • Spot: 3
  • Center-weighted: 2

Focal Length

  • 50mm: 13
  • ?: 3
  • 300mm: 2

Date Taken

  • 2006: 2
  • 2007: 16
  • 2008: 2

Where

  • Outside during the day: 10
  • Outside during the night: 2
  • Inside: 8

Orientation

  • Landscape: 16
  • Portrait: 4

I should probably note that I didn’t receive a single compliment from the Black’s staff for these photos. Hey, I have received compliments before when bringing film in. Honest. I guess I’m nowhere near good yet, but this helped me see some of the problems ‘large’, as it were.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Quiet City 2

3/22/2008, 3008×2000
D50, 1/30s, f/?, ISO 200, manual, no flash, ?
Absolutely awful as a large print. Every speck of dust on my sensor is absurdly evident, which is a technical issue I’ll have to solve if I keep using the body cap. A lot of the issues with this photo stem from my not making a perfect pinhole, which completely limited my ability to properly focus anything.

Haunted

2/21/2008, 3008×2000
D50, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
After looking at this large, this really needs to be in b&w. I could only shoot through the fence, and that takes a way a little, too.

Jose

no exif data
This one really translated poorly to a large print. It was probably at ISO 1600, as the grain is horrible. Another shot where the lights really added a bad colour cast to his face which I couldn’t correct. This would probably look much better in b&w.

Love me like the world is ending

11/24/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/90s, f/1.8, ISO 800, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, spot
Aside from the fact that he looks like he’s doing it Eskimo-style with the mike? Not a bad print at 8×10. Again, there are some colour issues from the lights that add some weird tones to his skin (note the ‘E.T. finger’ on the frets).

Numb

11/24/2007, 2000×3008
D50, 1/500s, f/1.8, ISO 800, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, spot
This was a disaster printing. The post-production really hurt this one. The colour balance is bad, and there’s a lot of blue glare along his arms and the guitar. This is probably also a case of pressing the shutter a second too early or too late.

Leaving green

10/30/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, 300mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
Shot hand-held in Taylor’s Creek Park, I was probably 20 feet away from those leaves when I took this…not the ideal method of doing macro photography. This probably couldn’t go any larger, but the colours are incredible. This is probably only half a success.

End of the line

10/30/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, 300mm, aperture priority, no flash, center-weighted average
Point a 300mm lens at your feet, and this is what you get. This can’t go any larger, because all the post-production washed out the detail. This was taken just before the sun went down, and broad daylight or fill flash would have helped a lot.

Misfits 2

10/25/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/180s, f/1.8, ISO 1600, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, center-weighted average
One of the few ISO 1600 shots here, and it translated beautifully to an 8×10. I think I could take this a little larger without losing too much. There’s only a few areas where the grain takes away instead of adding to the photo.

Hogtown gothic 5

10/18/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/30s, f/1.8, ISO 800, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
This made a good, large print, and I love this photo. The colours are warm, even though it’s night, and the detail is both crisp and blurry exactly when it needs to be. The light source in the middle is over-exposed, though, and this shot could probably be saved with a little more post-production.

Hyena Dog Robbery 1

9/11/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/180s, f/1.8, ISO 800, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, spot
Horribly over-produced. His pick arm practically glows neon red, the guitar strap looks like it’s soaked in blood, and a lot of detail has been destroyed. Considering that this is the Bovine, less detail is probably for the best. Re-cutting the DNG could probably save this one, but I doubt it could go much larger.

I aint superstitious

8/24/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/250s, f/2.8, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
The f/stop is the real bummer here…small you can’t notice the edges fade out, but large it destroys the impact of the cat. The colours pop, though, and I could probably go larger on this one.

Canary Restaurant 1

8/22/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/350s, f/10, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
This is one of the most heavily post-processed photos in the bunch, and it was one of the most successful prints. The colour is a little drab when printed, but the detail is all there. It could go much larger than this, I think.

Ghosts of City Hall 1

8/12/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 30s, f/8, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
Ten less seconds of exposure would have saved this shot. The lights are obviously too bright when you see it large. Also, I bumped the camera during the exposure by accident which, although it led to an interesting effect, took away from the impact. It would also have been better to get much closer, so that the water takes up much less space in the shot.

Drove downtown in the rain

7/10/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/180s, f/4.8, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
Too much contrast hurt this one a lot when you view it large. The woman’s white shirt fades into the sign, and her skin doesn’t reflect natural tones. A little clean-up, and this one could rock.

Dinner at henry’s

3/18/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/8s, f/1.8, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
KJ likes this one, so I printed it just to give to Henry. I think the f/stop and ISO should have been a little higher, and the shutter a little faster. This is a prime candidate for some Photoshop post-production, as the skin tones are a little unnatural, especially when viewed large. But the dinner was awesome.

Shooting rock

3/9/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/15s, f/2, ISO 800, 50mm, automatic, no flash, pattern
Taken during a Carole Pope concert at Hard Rock Toronto. I love this photo, but it didn’t make the cut to an 8×10. A little smaller and it would still rock.

About a boy

2/1/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 200, 50mm, automatic, no flash, pattern
The colours pop a lot in this one. This was almost perfect, but a little fill flash may have added detail to the foreground. This was not posed…I found everything exactly that.

Dancing queen

1/27/2007, 3008×2000
D50, 1/10s, f/2.4, ISO 200, 50mm, aperture priority, no flash, pattern
I like this shot, as it has a lot of colour. But the f/stop and ISO is wrong. The shutter is just a little too fast, as the motion is what makes the shot. Toning this down a little would probably lead to a print that could go larger. And I still love the girl looking back and smiling in the background. Unexpected stuff like that makes street shooting really enjoyable.

Brian at the helm 1

12/23/2006, 1704×2272
SD300, 1s, f/2.8, ?, ?, automatic, no flash, pattern
This was an amazing shot that required very little post-production. A timed exposure inside Brian’s basement while he rocked out at the decks. It’s very clear largely because I caught him at a moment where he wasn’t moving, aside from his head. It translated really well into a large print, and I think this one could go larger.

Subway

8/6/2006, 1704×2272
SD300, 1/250s, f/7, ?, ?, automatic, no flash, pattern
This one is probably larger than it ought to be as a print. The only shot outside of Toronto, this was taken ‘from the hip’ in NYC. The blur takes away a lot from the shot.

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