Get to Know the Installation Location Before Shooting for Large-Format

Guest blog by Billy Elkins

Billy Elkins

In my last blog, I wrote about communication and went over the five-part process for photographing for large-format printing. Let’s look more specifically at scouting the final installation location. This is the part that is usually the most intimidating for photographers who are not used to photographing for large-format.

Often it is not a simple single surface. In fact, most of the time, the location is more complicated. As the photographer, we normally do not have access to the location of the installation so knowing as many details about the location as possible is important when capturing the image. The previous example from the Sarasota International Airport illustrates that perfectly.

Riverwalk image after final installation at the Sarasota Airport

The image for the airport had to be installed on the back wall directly behind the baggage claim area. This presented a few challenges because of the actual baggage claim window, a large advertising display screen, a column in the middle of the wall and the actual baggage claim conveyor belt system.

Like any other large format photography project, having a photograph of the installation location is useful for conceptually trying to decide how to capture the right image and from the right angle and the right size.

Understanding the location of the final image applies to all large-format photography projects. If you consider vehicle wraps, wall murals or trade show displays, they all have their own installation challenges that, as the image maker, we need to be aware of for the best results.

For this next example project, I was commissioned by LexJet to create an image for their “Carnival” themed trade show booth. The booth itself was 50-feet wide, and they wanted the photo to be the whole backdrop. The installation would be printed on LexJet Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl, and then installed on the back wall of the trade show exhibition floor.

The final image size ended up being 50-feet wide by 25-feet high. This was huge! When you entered the trade show floor, you could see the “Carnival” in the background and could smell the popcorn from the booth. I worked directly with the marketing team to create different versions of the background so they could integrate the best option with the rest of the booth design.

The fair image installed behind the LexJet trade show booth.

So how did we do it? We visited the Florida State Fair and spent most of the day capturing different scenes that were potential backdrops. I brought my full bag of lenses, and we decided on a focal length of 50mm, it is the closest focal length to what we actually see. I made very tight overlapping images so that we had as much resolution as possible knowing that final image size needed to be so big.

And because the marketing team was going to experiment with the concepts after the fact, we had to capture as many different scenes and as large as possible. The idea was to give the feel of walking right up to the carnival. In addition, we crafted images to be used for the rest of the booth and to be used for sample material give-aways.

Technical Details:

  • Camera – Nikon D800
  • Lens- Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Focal Length – 50mm
  • F-Stop – f/9
  • Shutter – 1/650
  • ISO – 200
  • Frames – 20 overlapping NEF files

The image was merged using Adobe Photoshop CC Automate > Photomerge. I provided a final layered PSD file to the marketing team so they could make any adjustments for layout and for printing.

NEW BLOG SERIES: Good, Better & Best eSatin Photo Papers

When comparing photo papers, canvas and other media options, we know it’s not always easy to determine what the best option is for your production volume, output expectations and price point considerations.

That’s why we’re starting our “Good, Better, Best” series to look at some ideal products for your needs. We’re kicking off with one of our most popular categories: eSatin Photo Papers.

These papers are in high demand for professional photographers and reproduction studios who want classic photographic results without excessive gloss and glare. eSatin Photo Papers look great in a frame or on their own, whether you’re producing larger-than-life prints or handy 8x10s. Take a look at our Good, Better and Best options before you buy your next roll:

GOOD: LexJet 8 Mil Production Satin Photo Paper — This all-around high-performing photo paper is a lightweight option for everyday use in large-production volume printing.

Posters fine art inkjet printing
Posters printed on LexJet 8 mil Production Satin Photo Paper

It’s ideal for high-volume thanks to a microporous inkjet coating that dries fast, so you don’t have to wait to handle and finish your graphics. Plus, it’s resistant to smudges and fingerprints — an excellent choice for high-traffic environments. Starting at $0.34 per square foot, it has a subtle satin finish for a natural look, and many users choose to finish it with a film laminate for extra protection.

What users say: “It’s similar in look and feel to Sunset Photo eSatin, but it’s less expensive and thinner. In other words, it’s a good alternative for more economical photo products like posters or even test prints.”

BETTER:  LexJet Sunset Production eSatin 250g — Great results paired with an excellent price point make this photo paper our “Better” choice. Professional photographers turn to this resin-coated option when they need a slightly lighter-weight version that works for both portraits and commercial graphics. At $0.45 per square foot, this paper delivers a larger color gamut with pin-sharp detail.

What users say: “On our initial trials it held its own when we did our side-by-side comparisons with a similar photo paper, and we like the Sunset Production eSatin better. The paper is brighter and just as durable and so far has proven to be a winner.”

Portraits printed on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g

BEST: LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g — This professional-grade, heavy-weight paper sets the industry standard as the ideal product for photo printing for portrait work to museum exhibits that can last for years. Its consistency has made it the go-to option for years for single prints or framed photos in black-and-white or full-blown color. Some customers have had great success face-mounting it to plex-glass. Starting at $0.61 per square foot (and available in sheets) Sunset Photo eSatin provides excellent ink retention for realistic and accurate colors.

What users say: “The heavier weight and wide color gamut of eSatin is exactly what I’m after in a print; I just love how that print medium presents.”

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.

Welcome Epson’s Next-Gen SureColor P-Series Printers

It’s been a while in the making, but this week Epson announced four new printers in its SureColor P-Series, which are the replacements for the Stylus Pro 7890, 7900, 9890 and 9900 printers. They will be available for shipping in October 2015.

These new machines have been upgraded with all new reformulated ink, the UltraChrome HD (or HDX) for higher dMax, wider color gamut and increased print longevity.