Sunday, March 11, 2012

Viewing distance, size and landscapes

click photo to enlarge
There are many factors that affect our appreciation of a photograph, but today's image made me think again about two that are linked, and that are crucially important: viewing distance and size.

The increasing use of notebook and tablet computers has slowed the rise in the average dimension of computer displays. Desktop systems still, generally, have the biggest displays, and often they are the best quality. As far as the appreciation of photographs on screens is concerned the increasing resolution of the newer devices' smaller displays has only partly compensated for the trend to smaller screens, but as with photographic prints, viewing at the closer distance that tablets require shows the image to better effect than the same display seen from further away. It is widely held that, in general terms, the best viewing distance for a picture (including a photograph) equates to the length of its diagonal, and people naturally gravitate to this kind of point. That being so, we scrutinize small images from nearer viewpoints than larger ones.

But what is it that determines the size we make that image? Often it's to do with where it will be displayed, sometimes impact is the governing factor, and other times the subject is crucial. As far as subject matter goes I've always found that the force of certain photographic subjects depends very much on the size at which they are displayed on a screen or seen in the form of a print. Portraits, subjects with bold contrast, and quite a lot of reportage are often fine in relatively small sizes. However, landscapes, particularly those where the mid-ground and background take up a significant area of the whole lose crucial detail when small and frequently benefit from being displayed as a big print or screen image.

I thought this when I reduced the size of today's photograph to make the 700 pixels wide web image for the blog: a lot of what I liked about it disappeared. So, rather than say any more on this subject, decide for yourself by comparing it with the 1250 pixels wide version, itself a significant reduction from the original 5616 pixels width.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On