Does Size Really Matter In Our Digital Age?

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Well, we've all seen the advert, but that's not what I want to talk about, so get that out of your head straight away. No, let's think about what many call the "Queen of Arts" - namely painting.

Have you ever wandered around a huge Art Gallery and marvelled at the works by Tintoretto, Raphael, Constable or any master painter who has produced huge canvasses? Then again, we have many fine examples of beautiful artwork in cameos and miniatures. In fact, in all sizes between these two extremes the evidence of creative genius can be found down through the ages.

However, it's patently obvious that the correlation between size and creative genius is poor. Mere size on the premise, "never mind the quality feel the width" is not the prime element of a masterpiece. Yes we are fascinated by the Sistine Chapel, for example, by the sheer scale of the paintings, but it's the genius of the painter that draws the eye. It's also true though that the artist tugs at our heartstrings by the wealth of detail that working in a large format permits.

In the same way, large format and medium format cameras have traditionally been the working tools of professional photographers for many, many years. In a previous article, I suggested that there would always be room for film, especially for users of the larger formats.

Now, we get to the nub of the matter, because in digital parlance, the wealth of detail evident in the larger formats is expressed as the size of the file. Unlike physical dimensions which cannot be changed once the work has been committed to the recording medium, be it film or indeed canvas size, the digital file is not so restricted.

Of course, when image size is changed from the original during, say, image compression, there is generally a loss in quality e.g. jpeg Even the use of a lossless transformation doesn't add anything to the image, it merely preserves what's there.

However, there is a revolutionary item of image manipulation software that does totally "change the picture" It comes as a Photoshop plug-in with Photoshop 6.0 or higher and it's called "Genuine Fractals" and here is what the originators claim,

"It's an indispensable tool for photographers, graphic artists and digital imaging professionals, Genuine Fractals enables you to create resolution-independent images from any size file and lets you print superior quality enlargements without any degradation in image quality"

By saving your digital image with this package as a very small stn file, you can create lossless files of up to 70Mb and beyond. After saving and re-opening this file in Photoshop, Genuine Fractal kicks in and you can easily produce files of a specified size

I was stunned by this software and began to wonder what the impact might be for both digital photographers and medium/large format professionals. Of course, as already stated, this increased size does NOT put extra information into the shot. There again, neither does making a 67 dupe of a 35mm slide improve image quality and many photographers still do that when submitting to libraries.

Digital photographers may get even more benefits by beefing up the file size using Genuine Fractals, before printing out enlargements. This could be very useful for Wedding Photographers who want the convenience of using a digital camera, but are unhappy about the quality of enlargements often requested. Using Genuine Fractals may save time effort and money by eliminating the need for a film backup camera.

On the other hand, it may be that Genuine Fractals may produce the best result with photos captured from film and then scanned, because noise in the original image is not removed when enlarged, in fact it will be more obvious. This means that mid-range digital camera shots are likely to fare worse on enlargment than film shots captured with 10 million pixels+

With a new version Genuine Fractals 3.5 just released, it could be worth a test and could be a worthwhile investment too. So, if you want to explore this a little more, get a copy of Amateur Photographer for 23 October 2004 and read their review of this exciting software.

You can get a free test copy of the software itself from this link:

Why bother with a medium format camera if 35mm caressed by this Software will do instead? Oh I know I'll get lectures from purists for even suggesting something so daft, given superior lenses and better optics, but for some people that may be just overkill. If this article has opened up the possibility of a better working method for some freelances, that's all that matters.

So don't please run around telling your mates that size does not matter and that I've assigned medium format cameras to the dustbin of history. No, I'm just shining the spotlight on that funny old coin digital/film and giving it a flick in the air. Who knows how it will land? At least I've got a 50-50 chance of being right!

About The Author

One of a series of articles by Robert Hartness, successful freelance and author of an hotlinked, flip-over, e-book, published on the web in October 2004. It offers a step-by-step guide to those on the threshold of freelance photography and is illustrated with 40+ published photographs. Acclaimed as a great reference source for serious freelancers. More information and order link - Press Release:

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