Recently, my best customer ordered four 11×14″ photo prints. I’d never had one blown up that big before. It has been an interesting experience, worthy of sharing.
Looking at a standard-size print gives no insight into what the quality will be when enlarged. Looking at a 35-mm negative with a 10x magnifying loop gives no insight, either. Well, maybe for an 8×10, since, you know, it’s 10x bigger than a negative. But any bigger, and you’re guessing.
Here are crops from two photos I enlarged to 11×14:
On top is a Viceroy. On the bottom is a Fritillary. To my eye, the area in focus looks equally sharp in both. Neither looks perfectly sharp… but the two are pretty close.
At 11×14, the Viceroy looks good. The Fritillary looks horrible. It is compounded by the fact that I used macro on it, which reduces the sharp focus to one thin plane. However, even the sharp area looks bad at 11×14.
I don’t know exactly why I couldn’t tell the difference on the standard-size print, but the best solution to this problem is: sharper negatives. Time to break out the trusty tripod.
Taking close-up macro photos without a tripod is generally a bad idea, even in bright light. The length of the barrel makes it hard to remain steady for even 1/250th of a second. The tripod helps a lot with that. Even though the setup shakes a bit as the shutter is depressed, and holding the barrel is sometimes necessary to keep the camera still, the tripod makes sharper photos almost every time.
Last weekend’s photoing proved the point. Even I can see the difference between the above photos and this one, which used macro; I bet it enlarges to 11×14 nicely.
Too bad insects don’t hold still like blackberries do.