When Size Does Matter

April 06, 2023

Sheep, Middlehurst StationSheep, Middlehurst StationSheep. Looks great as a large print!

Sheep, Middlehurst Station
Phase One XF, 110mm lens, f2.8 @ 1/1000 second, ISO 200

Looking at this photograph on our website, in your email reader, on Facebook or Instagram, it is a small reproduction. The file is 1000 pixels square. What do you see? At first, it's an aerial landscape, brown in hue, some interesting light revealing the lay of the land. Plus there is a bunch of white spots on it. A closer look and (hopefully) you'll see some sheep and, down the bottom left, some patches of snow, which could almost be sheep.

The reproduction is adequate (or should I write, I'm hoping the reproduction is adequate), so I have successfully communicated my vision - at this size.

But size matters. I could never use this file, or the larger file I made it from, for printing. In the full size file, you can see the sheep's various positions - walking, standing, sitting, lying. There's a tonne of glorious detail. However, you can also see the faulty post-production where the 'quick and cheerful' processing to produce the file here reveals a host of limitations - colour haloes, poor masking (done quickly with luminosity masking), over sharpening with the clarity slider.

I'm not a dinosaur or a luddite (okay, so I don't think I am), but while the latest editing software does amazing things, it's all being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator - the internet. It appears this is the only game in town - does this matter?

Probably not, as long as we're aware of it. Being mindful of the way the internet (especially Facebook) degrades the masterpieces produced by my computer, I'm just running with the crowd and enjoying the technology. The latest set of masking tools in Lightroom is simply wonderful, but they are far from perfect. They will rarely allow you to make a large print without further masking refinement. What works for 1000 pixels is no guarantee for 5000 or 10,000 pixels.

So, size does matter. My current approach is to enjoy the benefits of quickly masking my images at low resolution and exploring where they could go, but before I put that image into a competition, a book or onto a print, I will start afresh and process the file - appropriately for the size.

There is so much more to photography than a quick internet post. If you're progressing well with your photography, why not join Tony Hewitt and me over in Middlehurst this year where we'll share everything about our approach to high end photography. We will show you how to produce files for print and we'll even produce a photo book containing your photos! Full details on the website - click here.


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