Ratical : Analog Photography

Shooting for Print Size

Among the decisions that one has to make when shooting film is what print size you are aiming for. This is because smaller cameras are more versatile, while a larger cameras provide the possibility of more detail.

Magnification Factor

Experience seems to confirm that film can be reasonably magnified up to a factor of 10. This means that a 35mm frame (36x24mm) can be used to generate a 11x14 print, or more realistically 8x10, which works out to a magnification of about 7.

Print Size Aproximate Magnification
135 645 6x7
8x10 7.9 4.6 3.4
11x14 10.6 6.2 4.5

From this we can start to work out what format is required for a given print area. The other factor is the fact that many if not most photographs can be improved with judicious cropping. Smaller cameras give you agility and the freedom to take a many more exposures, but they also provide much less margin for error in the way a scene is framed.


Capturing as much detail as possible provides additional flexibility because framing can be tweaked after a photograph is taken. The following was a photo I thought had promise, but when I printed it I realized that my daughters were lost in the scene, so I chose a crop and orientation to help bring them forward:

Print area from Ilford FP4+ negative (645)

This final crop is close to the area of a 35mm frame. If you do not need very short focal lengths, formats ≥ 6x7 potentially provide more flexibility to adjust the framing after the photo is taken. Visualize the shot you want to take, and back up a bit.

Last updated on July 12, 2023