Guest Blog: Photographing for Wide Format and Beyond

Guest blog by Billy Elkins

As a professional photographer, I am called some days to make images of products that will be used in an online catalog. Other days I am asked to make images that will span 80 feet long by 20 feet high. Of course, there are all those other sizes that fall somewhere in the middle.

Billy Elkins

How do I jump from one to the other? How do I ensure that the images I create can be used within that vast size range? And what are some simple tips to make this possible?

As a photographer who has clients with varying image size requirements, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what settings and sizes to capture my images. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I capture with the largest size I can within my camera. Inevitably, the one time you decide to capture using a smaller setting, the client will ask for the image that was supposed to be on their mail-out postcard to be used on the company’s new vehicle wrap. Making images large to begin with, I can provide anything smaller later, or larger later depending on their needs.

All printers have specifications for the type of printing they provide. Traditional off-set printers prefer images to be 300dpi at 100% of the printed image size. Wide-format printers have a range of resolutions that they work with depending on the viewing distance of the final print or installation. Again, they may say they prefer images to be 150dpi at 100% of the printed size (for posters or large photo displays) all the way down to 50dpi at 100% of the print size (for vehicle wraps, wall installations or billboards). It is important to understand that having just one part of that equation is not enough information.

Communication is key. And that is the most important tip I can offer. Asking the client about all the uses that the image will have and talking directly with the printer who will be providing final prints allows me to capture exactly what I need. If I know there is a possibility that an image will be used larger than traditional printing, I will approach the photography differently. I will not only bracket (capture varying exposures of an image), but I will also create overlapping images, almost like a panorama, so that I have much more resolution to allow for enlargement of the image. Knowing the final output and use, the final size, and the preferred resolution requirements ahead of time, I can be sure to capture everything I need in the beginning.

I will be talking in more detail, providing real working job scenarios for wide-format printing and the whole process from: communication, to image capture, to post-processing, to printing and installation in upcoming articles. If you have a specific question or other topics related to photography and wide-format printing that you would like help solving, please let me know and I will do my best to help.

Wide Format Photography Tips

  • Before even grabbing your camera, ask your client how large will your image need to be and for what type of application it will be used.
  • Talk to the printer to find out what resolution and file format they prefer.
  • Create mockups whenever possible so that you and your client and the printer are all on the same page.
  • When actually doing the shoot, be sure to over-shoot so that you have plenty of images to choose from especially when you are overlapping to create the largest possible file/image you can.
  • Send proofs to client as soon as possible in case you need to reshoot.

Class, Warmth and Charm at Clark Marten’s New Downtown Studio and Gallery

Clark Marten Photography Gallery
Room with a View: Clark Marten Photography’s new space in downtown Billings, Mont., is dressed to the nines with large-format prints of Clark Marten’s stunning landscape and portrait photography.


Clark Marten Photography has a sterling reputation far and wide. It’s a reputation built on an uncommon combination of qualities – professionalism, creating value for clients, natural talent and humility – all fostered and perfected by owners Clark, Rachel and Rudi Marten.

Clark Marten Photography Gallery
Clark Marten Photography’s new space in downtown Billings has plenty of windows in which to display Marten’s photography.

The family built a photography business from scratch that now reigns as one of the top photography studios in the U.S. The secret to Clark Marten Photography’s success is perhaps best illustrated by the studio’s new home in the art district of downtown Billings, Mont.

Like all things Clark Marten Photography, the new location – which they moved into about three months ago from their previous location in Columbus, Mont. – personifies the high standards they have set for themselves.

Clark Marten Photography
The new gallery space has a lot of room for entertaining and charity events.

“We’ve spent about five months remodeling the space, which is in a 100-year-old historic building in the downtown art district. It’s been a long journey, but it will pay for itself,” says Marten. “We’re in the Mecca of our area in the art world. There’s a big new parking garage going in close by, plus there are six microbreweries, a distillery and a lot of restaurants in the area.”

Real estate might well be all about the proverbial location, location, location, and that was a big part of the move. However, real estate is also about creating a space that’s warm and inviting. That was important to the Martens since they believe in taking an active role in their community.

Clark Marten Photography Gallery Billings“The key for us is that we enjoy entertaining. We put on charity events at our studio, and we wanted enough space to seat at least 60 people. We’re hosting an event in three weeks where we can serve a five-course meal with a wine serving, and raise money for charity,” says Clark. “There’s also an art walk downtown coming up, and I’m told that 500 people might walk through, so we’re serving hors d’oeuvres and wines. We plan to make a good first impression.”

And what an impression it will be (and is). Click on the photos for a larger view of Clark Marten Photography’s new digs and the attention to detail and design becomes apparent. Another important aspect of the space was the ability to showcase Marten’s photography in large-format, a presentation that is an extremely effective sales tool.

Clark Marten Photography
If you look through the stairs you can get a glimpse of where the magic happens at Clark Marten Photography (click on the image for a larger version).

“I have some prints that are eight feet long and about six prints that are five feet long. Some of the homes we work with can easily display those sizes, so part of our criteria for a new location was plenty of wall and window space,” says Clark. “We have close to 100 feet of window space that we can fill with prints, and that’s a great look right off the bat. Being able to display our work at that size does its own job of selling.”

Most of the work, says Clark, is printed on either LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper or LexJet Instant Dry Satin Canvas. And, as you can see from the photos, the images are masterfully captured, printed and framed, or stretched, on canvas.

When we originally profiled Clark Marten Photography in 2007, Clark commented: “My job isn’t to take photographs; it is to help people see their own beauty. I learned early on that what I do can have an impact on someone for the rest of their life.”

This simple philosophy has translated into a steadily growing business that now employs 11 people in the new downtown location. It also helps explain the criteria that went into the remodeling of the new building: the Martens were able to draw out the beauty of the building and put their personal touch on it, not only for a dynamic sales presentation, but a presentation that makes those who visit feel right at home.