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Chuck Kimmerle

I question the logic of comparing how many small, on-screen images we see every day compared to how many large prints we view. For the most part, the images we see on screens are often representations, meant for sharing publicly, of what are destined to be much larger prints. The same can be said for images in magazines and books. Since I see more book/magazine images than I do prints, should I be expected to use those as a basis for technical parameters?

While we may not all make large prints (I limit my largest prints to 20"), it's nice to have some flexibility should we decide to go a different direction in the future. I mean, if someone offered me a a decent amount of money for a larger print, I would like to have the ability to comply.

Let us not forget, as well, that camera form-factor can play a large part in the gear we use. I use 35mm-style cameras because I like how they feel in my hands. After 25 years as a professional photographer, I have developed the muscle memory to allow me to use such cameras without thought or consideration. The same cannot be said for the smaller cameras that are becoming popular.

Brooks Jensen

You and I are photographers, so of course we agree. But, does the public? For me, a print will always beat a screen if for no other reason than I appreciate the accomplishment. I'm not sure that applies outside our small circle. I guess the point I'm contemplating is that more and more people appear to not be thinking of the reproduction as a reproduction. For them, the screen is the thing and prints are non-sequitur. We haven't changed, but it might be that the public has.

Luc Benac

While I appreciate the read and its classification at musing...does it not come back to the same old what is the minimum tool required for your purpose and the fact that a large majority of photographers would also over equip themselves for many likeable reasons. It seems now more relevant than ever based on the likely assumption or fact that (smaller and smaller) screens are the preferred medium rather than print. On this basis even photographers could benefit from using an iphone rather than a dedicated camera for the most common output and only use a camera for the rare shots that will get printed - provided of course that these are known in advance. As a dedicated film/vue camera user making small prints I know that part of the enjoyment is not limited to the outcome but includes the process. This is of course less relevant for digital...
Enjoyed the read nonetheless.


I guess as all this relates to John Q public, I agree. One doesn't have to look beyond Instagram, Flickr, et al, to appreciate the popularity and consumption of only screen-based images. I much prefer a print! Whether it's the gelatin silver prints of John Sexton or Alan Ross (both of which I have hanging on my walls), the dye transfers of Ctein, platinum/palladium prints, or my own feeble attempts via inkjet printing or digital negative destined for pt/pd printing, I still much prefer a physical print. Guess that's why I prefer physical books vs reading the same book on my iPad or Nexus or why I own several of the folios that you have produced. I'm just sayin...

Funny. I just read a review of Nick Brandt's new book "Across The Ravaged Land." Then, I read this and thought about Nick's earlier books that I own and have enjoyed many an hour of quiet contemplation with. Then, it hit me; the thought of viewing his exquisite images of the animals of Africa via phosphors or LEDs is...well...just wrong!

As Luc said, above, enjoyed the read nonetheless.

Allan Culver

When a person walks into my home, the first thing a person sees is an Ansel Adams print. After that it is John Sexton, Allan Ross, Rod Dresser, Richard Garrod and Brook Jensen. As you enter the living room I have a space for the new prints I am working on.

It is an extremely rare person that ever even gives these prints a glance. But come in and sit down with a group of people and the iphones come out and are passed around. No one ever notices my work at all. So Brooks thanks for the nudge, I think I will start putting my work on an ipad to pass around, at least it will then get noticed.

But those prints on the wall mean everything to me.


"My question is this: How many of today's photographers need to — let alone want to — make a stunning, tack sharp 24" or larger print?"

How many of today's photographers need to or want to crop an image and then make a small print or publish on the web? Carrying a high resolution sensor is easier than carrying a bag of lenses.

Chuck Kimmerle

"For them, the screen is the thing and prints are non-sequitur."

Totally agree, but that's the beauty of large-res cameras, we can put our feet in both fires: digital for the public and large prints for ourselves (should that be our thing).

Marco Maroccolo

I understand your point of view Brooks.
Nevertheless our efforts should be aimed at trying to attract people and show them the beauty of our prints, whether they are hung on a wall, inside of a well printed book (and then try to show how it's healthier to go visiting exhibitions and looking at good books in comparison to browse for ten seconds an iPad and move on). I don't think that it's a war to fight the diffusion capacity of the new media compared to our beloved paper. Times change, as it should be, and people adapt. But I firmly believe that if instead of adapting our tools and our production to new media, we seek to demonstrate the inherent beauty found in our "old" methods of sharing our work, we and our audience will enjoy it.

Preparing the material for one of my lectures, I looked for over two months and downloaded dozens of jpeg from the internet of paintings from the sixteenth century onwards. There are poor quality jpeg, but there are also some large size jpeg showing every hidden detail of the work. But all of these images must be placed inside a keynote 1280x800 (the resolution of my projector). At the same time happened to me to have to consult art books in my possession from time to time and I remained amazed by the quality of reproduction of certain photographs (in most books). All this knowing very well what constitutes the wonderful experience of visiting museums and watching live a pictorial work.
Sure, I could never put on an exhibition with all the paintings that I mentioned during my reading. So we welcome jpegs, keynote and projectors, this is very convenient with regard to the dissemination of knowledge. But I always end my lectures recommending to everyone, to visit as many museums they can and admire these works of art in person.

Phil Harbord

There's a lot of truth in what you say, the quest for ever higher resolution is getting out of hand and to very little gain to most people. However, I would say that modern day dSLRs do posses some very valuable attributes that iPads and compact cameras do not, such as very wide dynamic range, tonal range and colour depth.

To me as a heavily B&W biased photographer I value these attributes very highly because they allow me to interpret my images with much greater flexibility than a compact camera would.

Still, I take your point, just wait for the inevitable 56MP full frame camera that out resolves all lenses. I'm sure people will still but it and rave about it though.


I acquired a higher-resolution camera and better lenses when my clients started asking for bigger prints than my current equipment could comfortably produce. Perhaps the tail wagging the dog, but if print buyers want to see my work large on their walls, so do I.

Winter Tale

It's incredible how the art of photography has evolved. It's a perfect shoot.

Kevin Raber - Publisher Luminous-landscape.com

Wow, Brooks I love your random thoughts and I have consumed many a bottle of wine discussing this very topic with fellow photographer friends. First, thank you of the compliment on the image, You must really see it large to appreciate. I have a forty inch print on my gallery wall. I printed 5 images large from the last trip to Antarctica and displayed them last Friday for first Friday open house. I am all about the print. Maybe 13 years at Phase One has influenced me a bit when it comes to image quality. Maybe it is years of making large prints in a traditional darkroom that also influences me to shoot with as many pixels as possible. Now I enjoy making images on my Epson printers.

One thing the iPad and the crop of smaller cameras miss is dynamic range. There is no way this image even at .22 mp would look like this if it weren't for the dynamic range and also bit depth of the Nikon and cameras like the Phase One. What I enjoy most about showing big prints is detail (let's call it micro detail) that can never be seen if it were captured with a more portable camera. This is detail you can't see in the viewfinder yet reveals itself on a print. I watch people view large images from a distance and then something captures their eye and they move closer and closer to the print and meanwhile are discovering all sorts of hidden jewels that they are amazed at. I see this time and time again. To see the image above in a large size is a treat. You walk up to the image and discover icicles hanging from the edge of the iceberg. You see texture and nuances that enhance the beauty of the shot all the way into the neighboring icebergs and backround.

Now, let's talk about what the iPad is really good for. Brooks, has certainly been a proponent of this with his extended LensWork magazine. Our portable devices today allow us to consume media and information like never before. On my 128gig iPad I have all the LensWork Magazines as well as many other top books and publications in something that weighs in at a pound. I know my LensWork magazines for the last few years weigh in at around 20 pounds as I just moved them to a shelf in my gallery and the box was pretty heavy. On plane trips or just at home at anytime I can call up past issues and enjoy the images as well as the inspiration that comes with them. I also have hundreds of my images (actually thousands) but hundreds of what I consider big print worthy on my iPad. The iPad allows me to share images and especially images of interest to an audience, efficiently and quickly. It is not uncommon to be asked for images with red or green in it. Pretty easy to find these quickly in a gallery on the iPad. If needed I can make a spec print for a client if they are interested. Or, email them low res images so they can match them up with they plan to use them.

In closing. We are in a grand period of photography. Photography is being considered as artwork now more than ever before. In 70's and 80's photography didn't have the recognition it does today. Everyone is taking pictures. They are sharing images like never before. People love photography and when they see exceptional prints from high end cameras they can tell the difference. And, in the end this is what sets it part as far as the camera that is used and the care and joy in making the print. Brooks, we should talk and maybe do a video on this.

Thanks for reading
Kevin Raber
Publisher - Luminous-Landscape.

Brooks Jensen

Micro detail ... yes, Kevin, that's the essence of a great train of thought. I remember in college learning about what microscopists call "empty resolution" — when you magnify an image, but don't add any additional detail. Related to pixelization in today's digital camera stuff. That has been one of the defining ideas for my photography. Even when I hold a small print, if I bring it closer to me for a closer look, I want to see more detail, not just the same detail get bigger but fuzzier. This is akin to using our eyes and walking closer to something in real life — we see more, not just bigger. Far too often in galleries, I'll see a print from across the room and it looks great. Then when I get closer, things just soften up; there is nothing more to see as I approach the print. And I'm not talking nose-print viewing, but rather a reasonable 3-4 feet. I should see more. If I don't, it always feels like the print is too large. The limits of just how close one can come is always a bit dicey to define, but I know it when I see it.

I remember once have time to really study an original Ansel Adams 8x10 contact print. By coincidence, I had an Optivisor with me that I was using to view the ground glass on my view camera. I looked at the print from a distance, then walked up and there was more detail. I got as close to the print as my eyes could focus and there was more detail. I flipped on my Optivisor and looked at the print under magnification and there was even MORE detail. I felt as thought I could have fallen into the print and it would be real. It was quite magical and I remember the emotion quite vividly all these years later. Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain. Just magical. Sure, the negative could easily have supported a much larger print because of all the detail contained therein, but it would have lost some of its magic for me if it had approached that empty resolution limit.

This is one of the reasons I like and prefer smaller prints. I'd rather be challenged to look closely and be rewarded, than to move closer and be disappointed.

All of this assumes an aesthetic that values realism over scale, but I guess I simply do. I've often put it this way: It's not the size of the print that matters, but the size of the impact the print makes on our consciousness.

As Kevin points out, this may be the single most persuasive reason to pursue the highest detail cameras possible. It allows scale without loss of that increasing revelation of detail. My approach has been to simply limit my print sizes, but the experience is the same. In either case, we can fall into the print and be rewarded — something that is more difficult with on screen presentations, but explains exactly why we produce our PDFs with higher resolution so viewers can zoom in and see more.

Michael E. Gordon

Although JPEGS are the final form for the majority of photographs today, my prints are increasingly purchased by those with wealth and large wall spaces to fill. While this may not be/is not an accurate reflection of the entire market, I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I didn't photograph with adequate resolution.

I believe that the middle-income buyers have vanished from the marketplace and are mostly consuming photography (if at all) in digital form. The wealthy still prefer collectible wall art (thank goodness).

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