This question comes from reader Sherry Quiban. She wants to start doing photography exhibitions, and she’d like to know what size images she should print for the occasion. While it’s certainly a question with a lot of different answers, there are a few accepted guidelines for exhibition prints. Here’s what I tend to do.
It really is all about the image
Some pictures look their best when printed big. Others look the same, no matter how you print them. I hate to say it, but there is only one way to truly know if an image will look good printed big, and that is to go ahead and print it big. But before you do that, ask yourself the following.
1.) Did you take the picture with a high resolution camera? If you read me regularly, you know I don’t usually care about megapixels, but when it comes to printing, they do actually matter. The more megapixels your camera has, the better your pictures tend to look when blown up big. Keep this in mind when you decide which images to experiment with.
2.) Does the image contain a lot of hidden details? Big landscapes are quite different from close ups and portraits. Landscapes often cover vast expanses of terrain, and there are a lot of tiny details that you won’t see unless you print the photo large. Portraits are another story. Because you’re so close up, there are fewer details. You don’t need to print them as large. Allow the detail to determine the size of the image.
I recommend you have a camera with at least 6 megapixels for exhibitions, but as above, the more the better for the larger prints.
Figure out who will be attending the exhibition
We’re all in one stage of life or another. The age of the attendants should weigh heavily on your printing decisions. An older crowd is more likely to purchase bigger prints because they tend to uproot themselves less often. Younger folks are different. They don’t want to commit to purchasing huge prints because they’re much less likely to stay in the same place. They’ll be more interested in something smaller.
It helps to know if there are any big buyers or corporations in the market. They are more likely than anyone to purchase your images in large format. If you’ve done enough exhibitions, and you’re getting a bigger name for yourself, you’ll know when they’re about to stop by. The grapevine always knows.
If someone big will be attending, and you’ve met this person in some capacity beforehand, send them a personal invite in the mail. I mean, literally, get a nice looking card and give it your own special touch. It will make you look professional, and you’ll improve your chances of selling that big print.
So, consider your camera, your subject matter, and your audience before you decide to print an image larger for an exhibition. Over time, you’ll get a sense of your own work and whether it will look good in a large print. Until then, keep experimenting and knock ‘em dead at the exhibition!