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.