Print Sizes/Printer sizes
When I was printing in the wet darkroom, and I was really trying to simplify things so that I could focus on stuff that really mattered, I settled on a single print size – roughly 10″x12.5″ on 11″x14″ paper. The aspect ratio changed slightly if I did minor cropping, but it ended up that essentially 100% of the prints I made were on 11″x14″ paper. That made life easy, because the single standard for paper size meant that I also had a single standard for mat board size, frame size, storage box size, and I only needed to stock those sizes.
Then I started printing digitally, and it suddenly became trivially easy for me to print pretty much any size I wanted. I had a 44″ wide printer, so I could (and did) print really big prints. That was an interesting exercise, but it turns out that there are very few places in the world where you can hang really large prints, so I didn’t make a lot. The next printer I got was only 24″ wide, and it seems to be plenty.
So I now stock paper for the printer in rolls, in two widths: 17″ and 24″. I don’t find myself making small prints very often. The most common print size, far and away, is a 10″x15″ print on 14″x17″ paper. I make larger prints, too – 15″x22″ prints, and 20″x30″, and very occasionally 22″x33″. So those two roll widths really cover things. I can print virtually any size I want, but the reality is that if the print is going to be framed, you’re right back to either the inefficiency of framing in a non-standard size, or else you’re framing the print out to one of the standardized photo sizes: 11×14, 16×20, 20×24, 22×28, 32×40.
As I go through revising my website, I’m trying hard to really simplify and cut things back to the essentials. Rather than sell prints at a lot of different sizes, I think I’ll just sell them in a few, standardized sizes. If I never sell anything smaller than 10×15 (which frames out to 16×20), that limits me to stocking foamcore and matboard and frames and glazing in just those four standard sizes. I don’t like selling smaller prints, because I think the smaller prints always lack something.
That pretty much reduces things to selling prints in those four sizes: say, 10×15 (which frames out to 16×20), 12×18 (frames out to 20×24), 14×21 (frames out to 22×28) and 20×30 (frames out to 32×40). 12×18 is an interesting size to me, primarily because I haven’t really framed things out to 20×24 very often, so it’s a new size to me.
Anyway, as I was pondering on all this, it occurred to me that all of these print sizes except the largest (20×30) could be printed on a printer that has a 17″ wide carriage and handles roll paper. Printing 14×21 (or even 15×22 if you frame a little tighter) on a 17″ wide roll still leaves room for acceptably wide margins – at least one inch all the way ’round.
It’s a shame that in order to get the great features that come with the larger printers (like the auto-profiling of the z3100, use of cheaper big capacity ink cartridges, and so on) you have to get a carriage that’s wider than you probably need. I’m betting the vast majority of photographers have only occasional need for prints they can’t make on a 17″ printer.
There’s no great insight, here. I’m just amused that it took this long for me to come around to seeing that the whole ‘standard size’ issue hasn’t gone away just because I have a printer than can make sheets of arbitrary length and will print images of arbitrary size. In the end the print probably gets put in one of a few standard size frames with standard size mat board, and the push to a few standard size prints is still there.