Designers often ask me for advice on what to look for when selecting photographs go big; prints more than 6-feet wide. To make it easy I’ve rated the maximum size for each image on my website. To see the rating look to the right of the image. You will see “Max Width” followed by the number of inches; anything from 36 to 240-inches. That number is the maximum size that the image can be enlarged.
To determine the maximum size I enlarged each image as far as I thought it could go.
Some other things to consider when picking images to be printed very big:
How close will the viewer be to the print? The farther you are from a picture the easier it is to go big. With an average viewing distance of 10-feet, many images will work fine. If the viewing distance will be 10-inches it will be much harder to get an image that looks good.
Images with a lot of fine detail are harder to enlarge than images without fine detail. For example, because forest landscapes have many fine leaves and branches they are hard to enlarge. On the other hand, a close up of a tulip flower has very few details and should look good printed big.
Textured surfaces such as canvas or etched glass tolerate enlargement well. Slick surfaces show more artifact. Matt surfaces such as vinyl tolerate enlargement better than a glossy surface.
Many viewers are not bothered by some blurriness. In contrast, photographers, art consultants and designers are trained to look for problems. Often they will go up just a couple inches away from a print to look for problems (this is referred to as pixel peeping). Try to see the print through your viewer’s eyes; will it bother them?
Getting a sample print of a piece of the full-size print can help. Beware of how you look at it. Don’t hold it in your hands like you are looking at a picture in a magazine. Put the sample on the wall and look at if from a typical viewing distance.