The concept of bigness, when applied to pictures, is not quite as simple as you might think.
Bigger, as we all know, is generally better… but with pictures what we’re really talking about is scale: rather than size.
Consider your average family holiday snap of the kids on the beach. Mum, Dad, a couple of kids, the picnic gear, a beach ball, a couple of deck chairs, some ice-cream and the luxurious vista of Weston-Super-Mare stretching out into infinity behind them. All of this is crammed into a 6x4 print.
Now, consider your average pro photo of the bride. The blushing bride’s head and shoulders. That’s it. Nothing else. Nothing to distract you in the background (which is probably, deliberately, out of focus) from the romantic light, the elegant pose or her smiling eyes. Then they’ll print this at, 10x8, at least.
The pro print is physically bigger… but the significant difference is the relative scale of the images compared to the print. A 10x8 print of a human head is near life size… whereas the 6x4 beach scene is 100s or 1000s of times smaller than life size.
Now, obviously, you can’t print a life size photo of Weston-Super-Mare beach (where would you hang the frame?) and printing at near life size isn’t a pre-requisite for interesting pictures, but the illusion of an image will be improved, the larger the print.
This is particularly true, if one of the foreground elements is used to create or distort the perception of a realistic scale.
"Baywatch" by Stéfan. © Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence.
These aren't the windsurfers you're looking for
OK, let’s stop beating around the bush.
- 7x5 prints are better than 6x4s for albums (and being 30% bigger, better value for money, aswell)… unless, you already have a 6x4 album that’s only half full.
- 8x6 prints are great for pictures that will go in frames and sit on a desk.
- 10x8 is the absolute minimum size for anything you want to hang on the wall.
- 14x11 or bigger is ideal for pictures you want to hang in groups on a wall.
- 16x12 or bigger is ideal for any single pictures you want to hang on a wall for impact.