How to Shoot Photos for Print
I first met director Eric Becker from We Are Shouting when he had us print a mesmerizing 60” x 40” Milky Way shot, seen below, from his high desert camp in El Cosmico near Marfa, Texas. He was doing a field test for the Sony A7Rii for Digital Photography Review (DP Review) at the time.
Eric then approached me about doing this project because he needed someone with experience in large format printing that was also a professional photographer, to give them some guidelines on what to do when shooting for large format printing. Happy to oblige, me and the crew at Stretch and Staple came up with the following outline to provide some guidance on common items the modern fine art print photographer should keep in mind when setting up and shooting for print.
What to be aware of when you are shooting for print?
ISO Noise: Another key thing to think about is ISO Noise. Bumping up the ISO for low light shots is a necessary evil, but it can certainly cause problems in printing. If you can use a tripod and a remote trigger to take a longer exposure and keep your ISO low, then do it.
Motion Blur: Use a tripod and a remote trigger, a little motion blur may not be noticeable on screen, but if it is there, it will show up in print. If you are shooting in a windy scene weight your tripod down to reduce vibration.
The Wrap: Another thing to think about when you are printing on canvas is what type of wrap you would like to use for the photo. If you plan to use a gallery wrap, then you may want to set up your shot and then either back the zoom out, or move backward if you are using a prime lens so that you have room to wrap the image around the sides. If you are going to use a mirror wrap, you don’t have to back out, but beware when shooting a portrait with a mirror wrap so that you don’t have any body parts close to the edge, it can be pretty weird with someone’s right arm reflecting over the sides.
Exposure Value: If you are too bright all the blown out stuff will just be white paper, err on the underexposed side.
Get it Right in Camera: Five minutes of physical work can save hours in post. Move that annoying object, wait for people to clear out of a scene (or ask nicely), do some cleaning, i.e. windows, walls, etc.
Focus: Think about the scale, if you are shooting with a shallow depth of field it might look good on screen, but how will that translate when printing large, or small even.
Chromatic Aberration: When shooting distant objects that are backlit from the sun you may get chromatic aberration, depending on the harshness of the light and the lens you are using. This can generally be corrected or substantially minimized in Photoshop or Lightroom, but if you don’t know it is there you will be wondering what the blue green or magenta halo above the rim of Halfdome is.
Clone Blemishes: We can do that for you, but if you are Photoshop savvy, then clone out or use the healing brush to remove a few pimples or easy to remove items.
Horizon Line: Make sure your horizon is straight, a few degrees off can make a huge impact when it is hanging on a wall.
I know it’s a lot to remember, don’t feel bad if you missed on one of the aforementioned criteria,