Big Prints and the Nikon D800

I just finished up a big fine art print job for a local client here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This order included both Limited Edition and Open Edition prints, which were printed at 16×24 inches all the way up to 40×60 inches. In the process of printing the larger prints, I was blown away by the image quality of the Nikon D800 and how well it responded to enlargement. For the 40×60-inch prints, I only had to enlarge the Nikon D800 images 147% to get up to 40×60-inches at 180 dpi, which is the resolution I use to print huge prints on my Epson 9880 44-inch printer, as seen above.

As this is the first time I have printed my images at such a large size, it was both an educational experience and a jaw-dropping astonishing experience. The 40×60-inch D800 image shown above looked very similar to the 13×19-inch print of this same image. When I saw the print above roll off the printer I was so blown away it took me a full hour to pick my jaw up off the floor. Honestly, if the D800 could shoot at 8 fps I would never shoot with any other camera. Making such huge prints makes you aware of how careful you need to be with your camera technique. Any tiny error in camera handling results in less than wicked-sharp prints, especially when printing this big. Seeing my images this big is going to help make my images that much better technically.

Also of note, I also printed a 35mm film image at 40×60 inches. I fully expected it to look pretty rough, but because I had a huge resolution film scan it looked quite good. Indeed, it had a lot of grain up close, but overall it looked pretty incredible. It wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the Nikon D800 image up close but overall I was pretty impressed.

All of the image processing, including the enlargement and sharpening, was done in Photoshop. Before printing this job, I did a test between Photoshop and Lightroom to see which software would lead to better overall image quality. The results were that while Lightroom had excellent sharpening techniques it also added quite a bit of noise to the images when they were enlarged. Using Photoshop allowed me to get better overall image quality with less noise and the same dead on sharpening.

For all of these prints I used Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, which is one of my favorite papers. Look for a review of the Ilford papers in the next issue of my Newsletter along with an article on this Fine Art Print job.

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