Guest Blog Part II: 5 Steps to Large-format Photography

Billy Elkins

Guest blog by Billy Elkins

Large-format photography is a five-part process. In the last blog, I talked about communication being key. We will cover the five-part process and then walk through a real-world scenario that will show just how important that is.

1. Communication with the client. Ask the client how and where the photos will be used. Try to visit the location, if possible. What is their vision? Are there any restrictions to size or are there any obstacles in the way? It is our job as the photographer to gather this information.

2. Communication with the printer. Ask the printer to go over the specifications that they need from the images. Will they be building the final file? What size and type of files do they prefer? Will they be providing proofs to client before printing?

3. Create the image. You need to satisfy the clients needs, but within the specifications of the printer. Any time that all three — you, client and printer — can be together to discuss the details of the project the better.

4. Printing. My background is in large-format printing and I have seen and worked with many types of output devices and media. It has helped to give me more insight into what my photo will ultimately turn into. Having an understanding of the printing devices helps in not only image capture but preparation of the final files may differ depending on the type of output device. This part is just as important as understanding the camera, lens, and software used to create the image. Often this part is overlooked by many photographers.

5. Installation. You may wonder why that part is important to the photographer? It does several things that are beneficial. If you have never seen an installation go up, it is pretty amazing to watch. This is where all the technical parts come together. To see an image that is merged from many images on a computer screen to see being installed at full size (over 40 feet) is incredible. Seeing how the installers work and put the image together helps me envision the final product as I work on the various steps along the way.

The example below was for a large format installation at the Sarasota International Airport. The client was advertising on the back wall directly behind the baggage claim area. The final installation included wall graphics and 3-dimensional cutouts, as well as 360-degree image wraps around columns. The full wall area was 971” x 103.5”, and the image I needed to create was 415”x 103.5”.

The scope of the job was not very difficult, but I was brought in after the original photographer was not able to provide large enough files. In this case, I was contacted by the printer to see if I could create the image at the size they needed. We went over all of the details and I was given the exact location of what needed to be photographed.

Technical details:

  • Camera – Nikon D800
  • Lens – Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Focal Length – 24mm
  • F-Stop – f/11
  • Shutter – 1/160
  • ISO – 200
  • Frames – 7 overlapping NEF files
  • Final image size – 10830ppi x 5200ppi

The image was merged using Adobe Lightroom CC Photo Merge and then brought into Adobe Photoshop to add some minor effects that the client requested.

I provided a final layered PSD file to the printer so they could make any further adjustments, if needed, for printing. The final print resolution was 32dpi. Yep, 32dpi! Click on the photos below to see how the project came together.

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.

The Go-to Choice for Consistent Canvas Production

As you head into the busiest season for canvas production, you need a canvas product that you can rely on for consistent results and reliable output, print after print. For nearly 10 years, award-winning LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas has been a top seller to busy print shops like yours.

With a smooth, matte-coated surface, this poly-cotton blend is ideal for fine art and photographic reproduction, delivering exceptional color and detail. Plus, it’s lightweight, making it easier to stretch for gallery wraps. It’s the canvas of choice for David Little II of IGLIVISION in Loveland, Colo., who creates and wraps canvas photo and art prints (pictured).

Product highlights:

Watch the video above to learn more about LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas, and stock up before the holiday rush hits!

Photos: David Little II

Prints That Win: Deeply Attached

For Bend, Ore. photographer Julia Kelleher, photography is a family affair. Her photography studio, Jewel Images, is celebrating 10 years of capturing family milestones, including the arrival of newborns, pregnancy and other family portraits. Kelleher also shares her own family moments through the photographs she enters in yearly competitions.

“I try to enter my son every year,” Kelleher says. “My goal is to someday create an album of annual competition images for him from when he was very little to when he’s 18 or 19 years old.”

Recently, Kelleher’s quest resulted in a Sunset Print Award for her winning portrait, “Deeply Attached,” in the PPA Western District 2017 competition.

The portrait depicts her young son holding a toy dog attached to a blanket, a gift given to him by his aunt when he was born. Dean’s toy goes by many names, such as “Blankey” or “Stuffy.”

Prints That Win: Urban Assault

For a professional photographer who has made a career of portraits featuring Santa Claus, the PPA Southwest District winner in the artist category, titled “Urban Assault,” was a huge departure for Chris Smith, M.Photog.

Smith captured the Sunset Print Award-winning image during a SWAT team training session in Midlothian, Texas, when he was requested to shoot the training. It turned out to be an ideal opportunity to get creative for print competition.

“Competition work is something that I do for myself because it is so detailed,” Smith says. “It is very therapeutic digging into that level of detail.”

Freedom House’s Gallery of Hope Puts a Face on Homelessness

Each year Freedom House, a homeless shelter and family resource in Green Bay, Wis., holds a fundraising event to help support the work of the organization. Last year, photographer Mark Hawkins captured images throughout the facility, beautifully illustrating Freedom House’s good works and the families it serves.

Hawkins printed dozens of images and mounted them in a modern bare-metal-and-cardboard style, inspired by Chase Jarvis’s Seattle 100 project. The images were used to create the “Gallery of Hope,” a stunning collection on display during the annual fundraiser.