Since these forums don't seem to have a place to write comments about articles posted in OP, this seemed the most appropriate place to post this particular commentary.
I'm writting this in regards to the "Tech Tips" article written by George D. Lepp titled "Big Images From Digital Cameras"
. For those who may not have read this article, in his first Q&A, his writter is asking about doing 24x36 prints from an 8 megapixel camera. It seems that someone at a lab told this person "that my digital file wasn’t large enough to produce prints of acceptable quality in this size"
. In Mr. Lepp's response he wrote, "...I don’t know why they should have refused to print your enlargements on the basis of file size."
. I had a very similar experience and hence wish to post some speculation on this particular topic for the benefit of other OP readers.
Sometime back I was at one of the big photo store chains (Ritz camera, who I no longer do business with) and I wanted to do some 8x10's from my 5.1 Megapixel Sony H1 and was told pretty much the same thing as Mr. Lepp's reader..."you can't do enlargments that big from a 5 megapixel camera". This individual went so far as to tell me that their equipment wouldn't even acknowledge the file (or something very similar). I told him how far I had drove to get to the store (well over 20 miles since I don't have any photo processing places near me) and to please give it a try anyways. To the lab tech's apparent astonishment, the file printed with wonderful, crystal clear quality. This individual didn't say another word to me the rest of the time I was in the store.
After having some time to chew on this and after some other really bad experiences with this particular photo place I've come to some conclusions that I believe may answer the question of "why" Mr. Lepp's reader couldn't get his images printed that I would like to share with anyone interested. First and foremost I have to say that just because someone wears a lab coat and has the title "lab technician" doesn't mean said person actually knows
what they are doing! Obviously I don't know where Mr. Lepp's reader took his pictures to be printed, but it's been my experience that in many of the larger photo store chains (including some of the web based print companies) that their lab techs are very often little more then photo enthuesiats working for around minimum wage and that many of these places go thru techs the way most restaurants go thru line cooks (aka very high turn over rate of employees). There is little or no extensive training beyond how to turn the equipment on and off. I've ran into managers of these places that don't even know -if- their equipment is properly calibrated, let alone how that calibration process is done! Very simply put, just because someone works for a big photo company doesn't actually mean that they are a "pro" in this field.
Further, it's been my experience that many of these so-called lab tech's also do double duty working at the sales counter (and vice-versa)...i.e. they are sales people
. Think about it...which is going to make them a higher commision...printing an 8x10 picture for $5 or selling you a $1000 or more worth of new equipment? Sound kind of like used car salesmen? You betcha! Sadly there -are
- may crooked sales people out there. In one instance I came across a couple of the proverbial "little old ladys" who were looking to buy a digital camera. I -knew- these ladys were simply looking for a small P&S to take pictures of their grandkids and such...birthday parties, holidays, etc., so they could email them to friends and family. Most likely, they would have been quite happy with any decent little $150 P&S. However, by the time the sales guy got thru with them, he had them convinced that they had to spend -at least- $15,000 in high end photo equipment just to print a 4x6 of little Johnny's graduation! My advice to anyone here is this; never take a so-called "pro" at face value. As always, the rule "buyer beware" really applies here.
Secondly and perhaps equally important is resolution issues. The details of Mr. Lepp's reader's experience weren't revealed in the article, but something that I learned a long time ago was that there is a very big difference between an 8 megapixel image at 300 dpi and an 8 megapixel image at 72 dpi. Even with all the advantages of shooting in RAW, many people still shoot pictures using the JPEG format (hey, it's a great space saver!). Many, if not most digital cameras by default set the dpi for JPEGs at 72 dpi and very simply this is insufficiant for large prints (or even smaller prints in many cases). While I could be wrong here, I believe this could very well be the case with Mr. Lepp's reader. The reader took an 8 megapixel image shot (or finished) in JPEG at 72 dpi to a lab. An inept or dishonest lab tech put the 72 dpi file into their machine and what do ya know..."we can't print that". Of all the nuances in the digital realm of photography, resolution has to be one of the most misunderstood. For many people this really isn't that big of an issue; for people who go out with their digicam, shoot a bunch of pics at a birthday party or family gathering and then take their memory card into the 1 Hour Photo Lab for a bunch of 4x6's, it's not a big deal. However, if your a little more serious about photography and do like larger prints for framing, then it's very worth while to learn the in's and out's of digital processing.
Mr. Lepp is absolutly correct when he stated, "I can assure you that if your image is of good quality to start with, you can make a 24x36-inch print from your camera that will be better than if the image was scanned from a 35mm slide"
and while he did touch lightly on issues such as interpolation and such, he never mentioned the issue of dpi when it comes to prints. I think in this case he put too much emphasis on "image quality" and not enough on the mechanics of the process. It should go without saying that if you want a nice sharp 24x36 blow up, then the original image has to be sharp as well...and that applies to digital, film (slide or print), etc.. I don't think the reader's question/issue was in regards to "quality". Even a poor quality, blurry, out of focus picture from an 8 megapixel camera can be printed at the size mentioned...you may not be happy with the results since we're talking about a poor image to begin with, but it can
be done. I believe Mr. Lepp's comments about quality are somewhat rehtorical and didn't really address the real issue(s) of his reader here; a blurry, poorly focused, unsharp image is going to look pretty bad regardless of whether the original image came from digital or film (most people wouldn't dream of doing a 24x36 of a blurry image shot with film...why should they consider the same simply because the image was shot digital?). Indeed the issue of how sharp an image is, regardless of medium is up to the photographer and his equipment. However the issue of getting such images printed and/or blown up becomes slightly more complex in the digital realm. Very simply there is more to it then simply taking your "digital film" to the lab for prints...at least if you want decent results
This is, as usual, just my $.02 worth, but I honestly believe that Mr. Lepp did OP readers something of a dis-service with this article, especially in light of how many people do shoot digital now a days and that it required comment. To use an analogy, it seems to me that Mr. Lepp's reader was asking "How does this car run?" and Mr. Lepp as the saleman went on more about the shiny finish of the paint and the leather bucket seats.
Bright Blessings to all,