5x7 contact prints

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Is 5x7 big enough for contact prints or do you consider 8x10 the minimum fomat for contact printing? I'm interested to hear a lot of very personal opinions (taste, exhibition consideration a.s.o). Thanks a lot.


-- Urs Bernhard (urs@workvision.ch), September 30, 2001


Urs...several years ago I had the opportunity to see an exhibition of Edward Weston and Tina Modotti photographs from thier lives together in Mexico. The Weston's were 8x10 contact prints.

The Modotti photographs were done in medium format (21/4x21/4). I am not sure if it was the quality of the prints, or her sensitive handling of the simple living conditions of the Mexican people, but I thought her smaller images held up magnificiently well against the much larger Weston's. -Dave

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), September 30, 2001.

Urs, I recently scaled back from 8"x10" to 5"x7". I was a little concerned about the size of the contact print as I do not have an enlarger. That concern disappeared after I viewed the first 5"x7" contact print. In my opinion and experience the impact of the print is in direct relation to the subject matter and the quality of the print. When the 5"x7" print is matted in a larger size i.e. 11"x14" or 14"x18" the overall feeling of size tends to be less of an issue and more of a statement. This is just my experience and feelings. I would always go with what works for you.

-- Bruce E. Rathbun (brath@iquest.net), September 30, 2001.

I have been printing 5 x 7 platinum prints for about 10 years. Viewing a 5 x 7 print (usually on 11 x 14 mat)is absolutely wonderful for a personal viewing. Viewing this size print is pretty much a solitary experience. It's not of a scale (like 16 x 20) where you can entertain a number of viewers at one time. The 5 x 7 is pretty much a one on one experience. Don't know how you plan to exhibit, but this, for me has been the major drawback in a gallery situation. 5 x 7 is tough to exhibit because it will almost always be the smallest images exhibited and often overshadowed by the larger sized images.

While there are some that live for the large print on the wall, creating a portfolio of images for a single viewer is just as rewarding.

-- Joe Lipka (JoeLipka@cs.com), September 30, 2001.

Urs, The two formats also differ of course with respect to aspect ratio, which bears in turn on subject matter. 5x7, though not quite as elongated as 35mm, is noticeably less square than 8x10 and therefore more appropriate to certains scenics, portraits, etc. But for me the main consideration is the amount of detail or "information" in the image; the more the detail, the larger the image required. So I keep my 5x7 contacts as simple as possible, preferring head-and-shoulders portraits, still lifes, or modernist- style studies. I agree with Joe's good point about the use of smaller prints in portfolios as opposed to wall hanging (after all, the images in most photography books are often no larger than 5x7), although I find that a 5x7 matted at 8x10 and framed looks fine on the walls of my house. But even an 8x10 print with mat, as I recently discovered at the recent Ansel Adams exhibit at the Rochester House, will look puny on big gallery walls whether or not alongside larger prints. Good light, Nick.

P.S. Although I do not have an enlarger big enough for 5x7, I occasionally shoot a 5x7 of a larger format subject just in case some day I have access to commercial equipment capable of scanning and printing a neg this big.

-- Nick Jones (nfjones@pitt.edu), September 30, 2001.


I am new to contact printing(2-3yrs), well at least when it comes to making a finished print. I, like a number of people have been making contacts for a long time as far as for "contact sheets" in all the formats for the use of checking framing, a rough focus check, exposure and who knows what else. I have done this in all formats thru 8X10. And I must say, that I had this notion that contact printing was for those who could not get access to a good enlarger. I know better now! I had never really looked at photographs as anything other than a way to record information, and I had not been exposed to "Fine Printing" for exhibition. But aprox. 3 years ago I happened into a small exhibit of BW prints. The exhibit was made up of contact prints in all formats from 35mm up to 8x10. Well that exhibit(though I did not really like the subject) is what really turned my head about photography as "ART". And the format that I liked most was 5x7 followed by a set of 35mm contacts, that were like Fine Jewels. And I was told by the owner that the 35mm contacts attracted the most attention(and were the best sellers), because people (non photographers) thought they were the MOST detailed ;-). So like other posts I think 5x7 can be an excellent format for contact printing. And I find myself using more 5x7 and 8x10 over 4x5 for contact printing. So my vote is for it.


-- R. L. (Mac) McDonald (rmacsteam@aol.com), October 01, 2001.

I just wanted to second what Nick said. It depends on the image itself as much as the viewing situation (holding in hand vs. wall of exhibit, etc.). I've been doing 5x7 contacts for a year and a half, and I also feel the info needs to be kept simple. I like the shape and the size for the head-and-shoulders or head-to-mid-chest portrait. I also like it for the head-only portrait and, apropos of that, 5x7 is the largest I would want to go for that type of image. I really dislike great big heads, whether on a big wall or no.... -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), October 01, 2001.

Say, I wanted to clarify something. Some images can be very "busy", in a way, w/o being complex. For example, I just took a picture of a tree. It's a simple image -- tree w/ a little foreground and a little background. The tree itself fills the center 60% or so of the frame. It's just a picture of a tree. Just the same, it's quite rich (I hope) in detail, that is, there is a pretty dense tangle of boughs, branches, and leaves. I don't think it's the kind of image that needs to be bigger than 5x7 (and certainly not bigger than 8x10). Some compositions are quite simple yet have many "notes" .... -jb

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), October 01, 2001.

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