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Size Matters, or the Bullfrog That Got Away

November 23, 2010

© jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog

I have grown up in the digital photography revolution.  As I know I’ve mentioned elsewhere but I will mention here again, my first digital camera (one with which I got an image published) was an Olympus D-220L.  Wonderful little camera with outstanding color balance and sharp focus for a camera with .3 megapixels of sensor size.  Yes, 307K pixels.  Yes, I sold an image for publication with that camera.

I left digital photography for a little while because the landscape in those days was dominated by point & shoot cameras and the format was very limiting in terms of creativity as compared to SLR’s.  What we now know as dSLR’s were available.  An organization that I was involved with, in hopes of saving the costs associated with running a wet darkroom, made the jump during that same basic time frame to digital.  One dSLR – $12K.  And yes, with that camera, a high-end PC, Photoshop 6, and a Kodak dye-sublimation printer, they dumped the wet darkroom and saved a bundle of money in terms of raw materials, chemicals, and power.  And the sensor in the dSLR for $12K?  1.3 megapixels (and the color balance was horrible).

In the 12 years since, the digital revolution has been nothing short of amazing in terms of spread of the technology and the effective megapixels of the sensors.  I shoot with a Canon 30D.  Very dependable camera that has helped me make some outstanding images.  And more importantly to some, with 8 megapixels it makes some very impressive prints.  I am very pleased with the 16″ x 20″ images that it has made (or for my metric-based friends, 40cm x 50cm).  This far exceeds anything that would have been plausible during days of film and wet-processing.  Just getting something this size printed, regardless of quality, would have been a special order to a pro lab and you could expect to see the image in a few weeks.  Today you can go to Sam’s Club or Costco and walk out with one in a little more than an hour.

A year and half ago, Olympus (as reported here by Gizmodo) said “No Mas”.  12 Megapixels is bigger than almost anybody will ever need so we’re stopping there.  We’ll instead work on the quality of the sensor rather than the size.  And they’re probably pursuing the right path, but one that will eliminate them from the market.

Unfortunately, the number of megapixels, in spite of any semblance of reality, is the sexy promotable number that other camera manufacturers continue to go with.  Canon’s current entries in the consumer and prosumer, and almost pro markets are running at 18 megapixel and I expect it will crest over 20 sometime next year as new cameras are released.

© jmillerphoto.com - American Bullfrog "Bubbles"

So why this rehash of what a lot of us know?  Because I learned again last week that image size does matter–to people who buy pictures.

I received an e-mail from a publication whom I shall not name, but it is from a reputable organization with an outstanding publication.  They had seen an image of an American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) that I made this past summer on Flickr (though they did not mention which one it was so I’ve posted both of them here) and they wanted to know if I’d be willing to sell them the image for their publication.  The complication:  The image needed to be 8.5″ x 11″ at 300 dpi.

In the best of circumstances my 30D is not capable of an image that size.  Best I could manage would be close to 277 dpi.  So I explained the limitation, thanked them for considering the image, and wished them a good day.

Why an image so big?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was destined for a cover shot (wow) or maybe they just like working with images that big for additional flexibility.

Regardless, it was disappointing to be on the cusp of being published again only to be turned away by not upgrading to a newer camera.  The silver lining?  One more reason good reason to convince my bride I need a new camera once I graduate 🙂

About the images:

The top image was made at Germantown Metropark near Germantown, Ohio.  It was made on one of the nature trails (Blue/Yellow).  There is a small pond there and a small boardwalk that goes out onto the water.  I was able to make better eye contact by assuming a prone position and through the grace of God I was able to hold the camera steady without any form of support.  I really need to start carrying a beanbag.

The lower image was made at Sibenthaler Fen near Beavercreek, Ohio.  This image was a little easier to get both in terms of angles and because my herp friend was very patient.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2010 4:12 pm

    Jim,

    I am very confused here. I can’t understand why you couldn’t resize that image to get a simple 8.5 x 11 inch photo at 300 dpi. Certainly, you had the MPs for it. If any thing you can buy enlarging software, Genuine Fractals, or Blowup, (my favorite). I have been printing and selling 12x16s from my old, now defunct, 20D, for years.

    Bob

    • November 23, 2010 5:22 pm

      Hi Bob –

      Great comment/question.

      The 30D still comes up a hair short when it comes to making it to 300dpi. With no crop, the biggest 8.5 x 11 format image that is possible with the 30D is 3023×2336 (full sensor is 3504×2336 in the 3×2 orientation). This calculates out to about 277dpi for 8.5×11. In my case, the images were shot in landscape but the desire was for portrait orientation, which would have knocked that number down to 1805×2336, or approximately 203dpi.

      I briefly considered purchasing Genuine Fractals (soon to be known as Perfect Resize) to upsize the image. I’ve never used Blow-up, but seeing your work it undoubtedly does the job and then some. My brief consideration went away when I looked at the sticker price of GF and the short term negative ROI that I would incur.

      Once I finish up my degree and get back to the somewhat real world I will have to try both of the products and make the investment into having that tool in my toolbox.

      -jim

  2. November 23, 2010 5:41 pm

    Oh, you hadn’t mentioned that you neeeded a vertical image. I can see that would be a problem.

    About Blow-up, I rarely use it. Just only when I happen to have an old image that I was too ignorant at the time to make a larger original, and also when I scanned some little 4×6 snapshots, etc.

    Bob

    • November 23, 2010 7:23 pm

      re: Blow-up. Understood. If it can handle bringing up 4×6 snapshot scans into printable/sellable enlargements, then it sounds like an outstanding tool. OnOne claims that Perfect Resize is capable of resizing images up to 1000%. It will be an interesting couple of test drives in a few months.

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  1. Putting the 30D to pasture « Jim's Assorted, Usually Photographic, Ramblings

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