Professional Quality Enlargements

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Arbu, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. Arbu

    Arbu TPF Noob!

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    What is it that allows professional photographers to produce such good quality enlargements? If I take my 35mm negatives to a developers, they can produce a poster size enlargement, sure, but the clarity is not very good. Professionals seem to be able to get perfect clarity. Is it in the developing, do they use a better format, or what?
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    There are several factors that affect the quality of large prints. I'm no expert but here are some things off the top of my head.

    First of all...when pros need a shot that will be enlarged, they will use much bigger film than 35mm. Most would probably use medium format cameras & film...some may still use large format cameras. With a bigger piece of film, there is more detail to be enlarged. This is probably the most important factor.

    To get nice, crisp enlargements...you should maximize the sharpness of your photo. This means using a tripod (or other support) and fire the camera by means of a remote. Also, if the camera has a mirror (as in SLR) lock up the mirror prior to the shot. This will eliminate camera shake that would otherwise soften the photo.

    A good quality lens will make a sharper image with better contrast than a cheap, consumer level zoom lens.

    When enlarging a photo, you make the grain of the film more visible. Some films have finer grain than others. Slow films like ISO 100, 64, 50...have finer grain than faster films but need more light to expose them. A shot with less grain often looks better than one where the grain is quite visable...but not always. Slide film also has finer grain than color negative film so pros often shoot with slide film. Slide film has a narrow latitude though, so it has to be exposed more precisely than negative film.
     
  3. Arbu

    Arbu TPF Noob!

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    Thanks very much for your helpful answer. The reason I asked was that I was on holiday in the Andes in Argentina this year and came back with some great shots. My brother, who runs an art gallery in London said that some of the professional artists for whom he has put on exhibitions would be very pleased with some of the photos I took. Praise indeed. But it seems that my photos wouldn't enlarge well enough to sell, being taken with just an ordinary SLR.

    I'd really love to do something commercial with my photography, but it seems that I can't unless I invest in a medium format camera and start carrying that around, together with a tripod. That's getting a bit serious for a holiday, so if I was to do something commercial, then I feel that I would have to make the decision to become a photographer as a profession, a step that I'm not sure I'm prepared to take. It's a pity when you feel you're getting really good shots and would like to do more with them, but can't.

    A couple of comments on your answer. Firstly, what do you mean by locking up the mirror? It's not something I've come across before. How do you do it? Secondly I can't seem to find any film in the UK slower that ISO 200 nowadays. I don't know what the situation is like where you are. Perhaps I need to look in specialist photography shops.
     
  4. Unimaxium

    Unimaxium TPF Noob!

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    I can probably answer those. I believe some cameras have an option to lock up the mirror before you open the shutter, so that when you release the shutter the mirror doesn't move, and in turn doesn't shake the camera as much. This can probably be useful for long exposure shots with a tripod. Depending on what camera you have, yours may or may not have that feature. My old camera does not, for example; although it is something I would like. As for the film question, you should be able to find lower ISO film where ever you live I think. I know it is pretty easy to get consumer-quality ISO 100 film from the drug stores around here, and I can probably get ISO 50 from a local camera shop if I wanted. You might just want to check around for a more full-featured store than a typical 1-hour lab if you can't already find slow film there. Hope this helps.
     
  5. tr0gd0o0r

    tr0gd0o0r TPF Noob!

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    A second option to the medium format camera for the commercial work is a Digital SLR. Most of them are capable of high quality poster size shots (at least)
     
  6. Jamie R

    Jamie R TPF Noob!

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    Hi there,

    Good to hear you've caught the bug. Your story about the trip to the Andes was lovely, although it made me wonder. Did your brother like it, because he saw a kind of journalistic photo-essay in your work? Was it the aesthetics of the imaging, or was it something about the cultural information which it conveyed? Possibly a combination of the lot?

    If so, then a 35mm SLR would be more than fine, if you honed your film selection choice.

    Try www.silverprint.co.uk and www.retrophotographic.com

    If that's London, England you're referring to, and not London, Bosnia-Herzinagovia. If you're using fine grained ISO 100 film like Fuji Acros or Ilford Delta, then you won't have a problem getting decent 30" enlargements provided everything else causing camera wobble is sorted out. You can get film down to ISO 25 in England Actually, that's not true. I've just looked and they do film down to ISO 1!! Wow. Digital - eat finger dip from 35mm quality at grainless ISO 1 film!

    Actually don't get carried away - I suspect that wouldn't be much use for anything moving apart from copying documents.

    "I'd really love to do something commercial with my photography, but it seems that I can't unless I invest in a medium format camera and start carrying that around, together with a tripod. That's getting a bit serious for a holiday"

    I'm tempted to say all things are relative. I carry a large format camera, a studio tripod with a ball head, all in the ball-park weight of around 20 kg with me. A medium format camera can be surprisingly light. Have you looked at the Bronica RF645? The Mamiya 7II? The discontinued Fuji GSW690III? The < insert your favourite portable medium format camera here > will be very manageable with a lightweight monopod, or even folding tripod. If you got a rangefinder type, you may not need M.L.U. (Mirror lock up). Only reflex type cameras (single lens reflex types) require this, because the mirror swing causes vibrations. One medium format manufacturer, Hasselblad, bypass this problem by introducing a "gliding mirror" which makes it relatively easier to hand-hold a medium format camera at 1/30sec. The M.L.U. increases that safety margin.


    " so if I was to do something commercial, then I feel that I would have to make the decision to become a photographer as a profession, a step that I'm not sure I'm prepared to take."


    I don't personally hold that belief, but others do. Being a good artist doesn't mean you have to have it as your profession. Some of my colleagues who aren't professional photographers earn my respect because their love for their imaging and work shows itself so much more, because they can afford to: they don't have to rely on selling their work in order to put a loaf of Hovis on the table, or send the kids to private school. A lot of non-professional photographers produce distinctive and personal work. In fact, most professional photographers are probably tired of seeing their own commercial work day in day out, preferring their own personal work. Don't give up just yet.

    "It's a pity when you feel you're getting really good shots and would like to do more with them, but can't. "

    Why not create your own website? Upload them for others to see? Write a photoblog with it? It doesn't have to spin off $1000 today. If it is rewarding for you to do, then it's a step in the right direction. I might add that being taken in by a gallery isn't a guarantee of anything. No modern photographer in England can afford to live off his earnings from gallery sales alone (the Weston/Strand exhibition proves the point - he's dead already, decades over). You don't have to be at the pinnacle of your photographic career today - next year, or 5 is more than fine. Look at Simon Norfolk - how long has the guy been banging away quietly, being ignored until 3 years ago?

    I wonder if you might be able to concentrate your learning on the more technical aspects of photography: refine those; learn about optimising your images. That way, in a few years time, your artistic expression will be much clearer, and better able to represent your vision in the images. Hmm?

    Oh. And definitely consider medium format. It's not as inconvenient as you think.
     

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