Recommended print sizes from 35mm slides for landscapes and wildlife?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by mark_freyman, Aug 5, 1999.

  1. I would appreciate any recommendations regarding print sizes from
    35mm slide film? My landscapes are mostly taken with Velvia and
    wildlife with Sensia II. I guess my main question is at what size do
    you see a noticeable decrease in picture quality? Also,
    what type(s) of prints are recommended?
  2. Pretty conservative here, I usually have my (mostly) Velvia slides printed as 8X12 inch at Holland Photo in Austin, TX. Generally use their machine run prints (about $10 - $11) except for exceptional pictures. No problem with grain at this size. John
  3. A lot is really dependent upon the original slide and the techniques
    used to take it. A tripod, a cable release and a really sharp lens.
    Taken in nice soft light with no wind etc. Most people (there are
    exceptions) don't blow up 35mm beyond 16x20. And 16x20 is pretty large
    for 35mm IMHO.
  4. I've had great results repeatedly with print sizes up to 16 x 20 and some exceptionally sharp images look great at 20 x 30, using the slower speed slide films and faithful tripod technique.

    I use UCL photo for all of my prints from transparencies. Their prints are made directly from your original slide, type R, not from an internegative like most places do. See their advertisement in Shutterbug magazine's Photo Lab Showcase.
    Happy shooting, Brian P. Bower

    UCL Photo
    812 S La Brea Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
  5. I think print size also depends on image content. If your photo is a full-frame composition, you'll want to try to stay close to that in your prints. 8x12", 16x24", 20x30" are the same aspect ratio as 35mm slides. 11x14" is close; depends on what you're looking for.

    Of course, this doesn't address image sharpness and availablity of frames. You need to evaluate those on your own...
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    As it has been pointed out a few times here, generally speaking, you can blow up a high-quality 35mm slide to 8x10 or even 11x14 without problems. Some of my 35mm landscape work is enlarged to 16x20, and I am reasonably happy with the result although grain is somewhat a problem at that kind of magnification.

    However, there is a second issue here. IMO landscape does look better in large magnification. For example, the Grand Canyon looks really grand in 16x20 or even larger. However, a polar bear with its mouth wide open at 16x20 may look a bit scary. Or a duck enlarged to 1.5 feet/0.5 meter tall may look unnatural. Therefore, I usually don't enlarge my wildlife work beyond 8x10.
  7. The quality of the lab work/personnel will definitely be a factor. IMHO, Type R prints have never really cut it at any size, unless you just want cheap 4x6 copies for reference. I've had Ilfochrome prints (same as Cibachrome) made by a custom lab here in L.A. up to 11 x 14 and have been very satisfied. A few times I've tried 16 x 20 and haven't been that excited about the results. These were done from Velvia and Provia 100.

    Careful scrutiny for sharpness is also crucial, as others have mentioned. A good 10X loupe should give you a good idea.
  8. I have always been amazed at the quality of Tom Mangelson's prints. He has a store here. That work is almost exclusively 35mm and some of his prints are very large. My understanding is that he has a 4x5 interneg made from which the final print is made. His prints certainly look sharp when viewed in the store. My assumption has always been that, since the print is made from the interneg, the grain
    ceases to be noticeable. So that while he doesn't gain any sharpness from this process, in fact he must lose some, the apparent sharpness and the overall impact of the photos more than compensate for that "critical sharpness" we all seem to obsess about.
  9. david_henderson


    You've already had a fair range of replies, but her's my two pennyworth. It depends on how sharp the original is. If it's really crisp and the depth of field is pretty good then you might get a 16x12 out of it. In general I think 12x8. By the way, viewing distance is important here too. Something that looks unsharp at 18"away may well look absolutely fine at ten feet. So if you're making prints to be viewed at half a room away you can make them bigger and indeed should make them bigger even at the expense of a little technical sharpness.

    Unlike one previous responder, I like R-Types, and I sell and exhibit them, but this is a very personal thing. Take a really good tranny or two and try two or three different ways, R/Ciba/Interneg, and see what you like best.
  10. To add to the rest of the comments, be careful of the labs doing Cibochrome direct process if your slides are very contrasty. This process tends to not work well IMO, in high contrast images.It can be imoroved if they use the right paper for this so be sure and ask.
    Otherwise this method does very well for other images.
  11. I suggest that we can look at larger prints of landscapes than we can of wildlife because we tend to get closer to the latter in order to seek out detail, whereas landscapes are offering the big picture so we can afford to be further away. My suggestion (not a rule to live by!) is to use a wider matte for a smaller wildlife picture and a narrower matte for a larger landscape print, each using the same frame size. Also, a lot of wildlife photographs can be successfully cropped to fit a square matte and frame.
  12. Most professional photographers who sell their images from 35mm format as fine art prints will offer prints of at least full frame 20". Prints from the 35mm format routinely sell through galleries and at better outdoor art shows in print sizes of full frame 24" or 30" prints. The photographs are almost exclusively shot on very fine grain transparency film, frequently Velvia. There are exceptions to this, where for example larger grain is intentionally sought, in order to achieve a desired mood or effect. The fact that these photographers use proper technique and equipment is a given. Content and impact are at least as important as technique, in most cases.

    The answer to your question is actually rather subjective. I personally feel that if excellent technique is used with optics capable fo high quality results (not necessarily expensive ones), a photographer shooting 35mm should be able to produce a 20" X 30" print that looks very good when matted, framed and displayed behind glass from a short distance away. I prefer to step back to look at the image as a whole, admiring its content and impact. However, if you're going to put your nose right up to the print to look for grain size and resolution details, then you might not be happy with anything larger than 11" X 14". I guess it all depends on your point of view, so to speak.

    George Rhodes
  13. I was at the REI store Angeles. They had some shots of people and equipment on the walls about 4 or 5 feet in size. Even from a distance, the lack of sharpness was apparent. Someone in the company bought the shots, or took them. Some were action and some were not. I was surprised by the lack of quality. It appears that there is a market for 35mm in very large sizes. I also saw a 50" enlargement of a scene in the Himalayas. It was great. Done on a light jet. The shot was at the NANPA meeting in San Diego in January this year. Impressive, also cost $3or$400. It can be done. There was some grain and dots visible oonly on close inspection. Perhaps it may be the wave of the future.
    Steve Bein

Share This Page