In other words, online photo printing has evolved to be whatever you want it to be.
It’s also possible to print images at wall art size before encapsulating them in acrylic. The idea is that the acrylic block concentrates and sharpens the light hitting the picture, which makes colours appear more vibrant and real.
Aluminium prints impose a wall sized print onto an aluminium panel. The technique creates long lasting images, and can work in modern homes where the decoration has a minimalist or sharply up to date feel to it.
Canvas prints, which of the three are the longest-running – and so in some ways might be thought of as the classic – deliver deep tones in a sharp resolution. Effectively a canvas print can turn a digital image file into something that looks like a painting. Many providers offer stretching services included in the price of their canvas print; and will normally provide two options for the edges. You can either specify a blank edge, in which case the picture is printed only on the front of the canvas; or you can have a bleed applied, which runs the image around the frame onto the sides.
Using a bleed creates a nice blend with the colours and tones of a room – and will make the picture flow naturally with the décor of the home. Using a sharp edge with blank sides makes the picture stand proud of the wall, and may be useful either in an exhibition setting, or where the user desires s definite demarcation between the image and the surrounding house.
While there is no theoretical limit to the size of a photo print in any one of these incarnations, limitations of size are imposed by the capabilities of the printing machinery. The original resolution of the image file will also impose an upper limit on the available sizes of a given image.
Photos taken with DSLRs tend to have a higher resolution, and so may be blown up bigger with no loss of sharpness or quality. Pictures taken with a compact digital camera will have lower resolution to begin with, and so may not be blown up to the same sizes without some loss of detail.
The closer you approach a picture in this second class, the more obvious the diminution of clarity becomes. It is, therefore, possible to achieve a large version of a low resolution picture if the viewer is not likely to get too close to it. Put it side by side with an equally large version of a high resolution image, though, and the difference in quality will immediately become very clear.
Martina Jones is a keen digital photographer. She maintains several blogs on the subject and writes frequently about the dos and don’ts of online photo printing.