Understanding and choosing the Perfect Viewing Distance is essential to get the most of your viewing experience. This simple guide will help you make the best decision when ordering printed images.
Limits Of The Human Eye
The human eye has a horizontal field of vision of 135 degrees and a vertical field of vision of just over 180 degrees which influences the ideal viewing angle and, therefore, the minimum viewing distance at which a print of a certain size and dpi can be viewed as an artwork as opposed to “in details”.
The viewing distance is the distance from the centre of the print to the eyes of the viewer. It is calculated as a range, representing the shortest and longest distances recommended for the optimum viewing of an image at a particular size.
This viewing distance is particularly important for my Fine Art images as the particular Intentional Camera Movements (ICM) I use can make viewing uncomfortable to the eyes when too close and lines are naturally softer than on traditional photographs.
I do recommend that my Fine Art Images be viewed at their recommended viewing distance.
Below, I describe how to calculate the viewing distance and how it helps with enlargements as well as how to calculate the minimum workable resolution per size of prints, so that you can apply it to your own photographs too.
Provided your photographs are sharp and grain free to start with, you will be able to enlarge them with total confidence.
How To Calculate The Optimum Viewing Distance For Your Prints
To calculate the optimum viewing distance range which fits the human eye's ideal viewing angle:
This formula applies to prints, paintings, screens and so on...
For example, an image that is 20 by 30 inch (50 by 75 cm) has a Diagonal of 36 inches (90 cm).
How Viewing Distance Helps With Enlargements
This recommended range of viewing distance, frees you from the traditional 300 dots per inch (dpi) or pixels per inch (ppi) which defines the best print quality, simply because the further away you get, the less resolution you will be able to see. You can therefore drop the DPI value without affecting the viewing quality, as long as the room is large enough to view the print at the minimum recommended distance.
At the recommended minimum viewing distance, you will not be able to discern between a high (300dpi) and a lower resolution version of a print. Instead, you will see them both as sharp and artifacts free, where artifacts are grains, blurring and pixelation which usually affect enlargements and can reduce the perception of quality for a given print.
This is good news as modern technology is still at an age where maintaining 300dpi is not achievable beyond 24.5 by 16.5 inches (61 by 40 cm) with professional cameras. The only two ways to maintain 300dpi beyond these print sizes is by either
How To Calculate The Minimum DPI Threshold For A Viewing Distance
There is a minimum DPI resolution to respect with viewing distances or you will run into trouble. It is derived from a constant value which represents the amount of resolution a human can see, 3438 with inches and 8595 with cm.
Hence, the minimum DPI resolution is calculated like this:
The tables below shows the minimum and maximum viewing distances for common Fine Art print sizes and the related minimum DPI threshold to stay above.
for Viewing Distance
The minimum DPI for viewing distances is only for reference. They are used in industry to print, on sophisticated printers, the large advertisement posters you see on billboards in town. I’ve read that the DPI can drop as low as 1.
As far as you are concerned, it is best to stick to 300 dpi as far as you can, then stay above 200dpi where possible. If you must, 150 dpi will be your minimum resolution, but you will need to get your photograph printed by a professional printer for quality.
We have seen that:
So, when choosing the print size, remember to take into account the optimum viewing distances and always use the maximum DPI available to you, knowing that you can go lower if required.
I hope this helps you get better results whether you are viewing your own photographs or my Fine Art images.
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