How to Photograph for Large Scale Reproduction

Creative Sources Photography | Atlanta Architectural Photographers

We are told in business and life to keep an eye on “the big picture.”  Good advice, and more than appropriate for today’s topic.  Large scale reproduction, or sometimes SuperGraphics, is the term for images which are destined to be displayed or reproduced at sizes large enough to require oversized digital files.

What's the Big Idea?

So, what’s the big deal?  Maybe you’re thinking “Uh…is it really that hard to just enlarge your file right out of the camera?” Well, no its not, and if you are looking for wall art that resembles an unidentifiable Rorschach Test, this is an excellent method. If you would like a clear, crisp image, however, it requires a bit more finesse.
Case in point, in collaboration with the BB King Blues Club in Montgomery, Alabama, we were asked to photograph the Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis.  The resulting print would adorn the wall of the club.
Sounds straightforward, in fact many photographs of this bridge already exist.  Why call us?  It turns out that the image was to be created at twilight, and the final output was destined for reproduction on a 10’x 52’ canvas!  This requires a digital file exponentially larger than what is achievable through a single exposure.  We whipped out our calculator, and experienced our “Beautiful Mind” moment, with numbers and figures floating across our vision, calculating that the ideal file size would be about 2 GB.  Yikes!

There's a Plan for That

So, the first rule for large-scale reproduction is large scale planning.
As we are based in Atlanta, satellite images of Memphis were studied to determine the optimal vantage point.  The chosen point, of course, was on municipal land, thus proving the immutable law that the best vantage point, will invariably be the most inconvenient!  After working through the Film and TV Commission for appropriate permits and security approval, and providing assurances that we would not divulge secrets discovered therein (Aliens? Robot Super Soldiers? We’re not at liberty to say.) 😊 we were granted access.
Since the window for twilight is fleeting, we staged a daytime “test drive” to make a personal introduction with security, as well as to assure all would be flawless when twilight arrived. Technically, the optimal image requirement would include 27 individual captures, consisting of nine columns by three rows. To assure seamless stitching in post-production, a very steady tripod secured with sandbags, and uniform spacing of all exposures, both vertically and horizontally, was critical.

Drum Roll Please...

Now, there we are at our perfect vantage point, on a fine weather day, selected from assessing hourly weather forecasts from three sources.  We were gifted a beautiful twilight sky illuminating the bridge and the water below. We began our captures only to hear the “toot toot” of a barge making its way along the river as we shot. “What a disaster!!!” No, dear client, what an opportunity! We were able to include the passing barge in our final photograph, adding an unanticipated element of life and movement to the shot!
After stitching together all 27 exposures and assuring every detail was accounted for, the now 2.1 GB image was printed on canvas with such clarity that despite its scale, a tiny “welcome to Arkansas” sign in the middle of the bridge can still be seen in crisp detail if one looks closely.

The Final Result

Exterior twilight view of the Memphis (Hernando de Soto) Bridge - Atlanta Architectural Photographers

So, that’s how you craft a gorgeous “Big Picture” for large-scale reproduction. Though, as always, dear client, be warned that if you choose not to collaborate with Atlanta architectural photographers Creative Sources Photography, mileage may vary!

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