Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a client with a couple of 5×7 photos walks into a print shop…
It’s a rather common situation. And one we’ve had to handle for a more than a few clients. So, how do we get a 60″ wide x 48″h print from a lowly 8×10? Well, we cheat.
Recently, we had a head’s up concerning a client with numerous vintage photos in the 8×10 neighborhood. This client wanted to produce several photographic quality prints in the 48 to 60″ inch wide range. Now that’s a challenge for the scanning equipment. Luckily, we had a warehouse of old discontinued equipment to rummage through.
Now, why did we resort to a scavenger hunt when we have several large format scanners on our floor? There’s a dirty little secret involved. A lot of scanners have been dumbed down in the name of efficiency. And because 99% of the work in this market can be done with 8-bit scanning, manufacturers have confined the on-board software to 8-bit values. But, when scanning for enlargement you need to squeeze maximum data from your scan and that takes more than 8 bits. In this particular case, we located an old photo scanner that scanned in 32 bit color depth.
Of course there’s a couple of catches to working this way. A high definition, 8-bit scan at 1200 dpi would only take about 3 1/2 minutes. A 32-bit scan of the same image can take up to 25 minutes. In addition, 32-bit files are much larger than there 8-bit little sisters. An 8 1/2 x 11 photo at 32-bit, 1200 dpi can be around 600 megs. That same file at 8-bit, 1200 dpi will be around 170 megs. Luckily for us, this client understood the investments required for image quality. So it was, damn the file size and full-speed ahead!!
Now don’t get me wrong concerning our usual collection of scanners. They can perform a 300 dpi scan of 90 percent of our client documents in less than a minute. And that’s fine when you’re printing same size or just twice size. But if you’re going for a 400%-plus enlargement, you need to squeeze every pixel until it screams.
Two days later, the rest was Photoshop and history.
Here’s a few before-&-afters involving vintage photos.