So. How sharp do we need this to be? I guess that's what we'll be asking clients this year. Can I shoot this with a run of the mill zoom lens? Do I need to step up to one of those Nikon lenses with the gold band around it? Maybe I'll need to go up the ladder a few more steps and shoot it with that Sigma Art lens, right? Not good enough? Pull out the Otus? But to what end?
If you are aiming your image at the web you can probably get away with putting that kit lens on the front of your D810 and shooting the camera in the APS-C mode. I can't imagine too many commercial clients making huge prints but, then again, there are those pesky trade show graphics to think about. Are you doing a lot of those?
I shot the image above for a client who called me up, told me they needed to shoot a picture of an falcon that would need to be reproduced really big. "What kind of files could I produce?" they wanted to know. I shot a bunch of still life stuff to give them an idea of my technical performance with the D810 in uncompressed, 14 bit raw, and I also shot this self-portrait as a humorous rejoinder to their query. I sent over a bunch of enormous, uncompressed tiffs for the advertising agency to evaluate.
Sharpness and resolution was, according to the art director and art buyer, absolutely critical for this project. "We might want to go as large as 40 by 60 inches." they said. We had several phone meetings and they liked what I'd sent them. We talked about logistics. We talked about using high speed flash to freeze motion and add to the technical quality. We even talked about specialized lenses in order to wring the last few nano-slobbers of sharpness out of the scene. We were honing in on the parameters we thought we'd need to lock down in order to give the client the amazing image quality they so richly deserved, and demanded.
But then I didn't hear from the agency for a couple of weeks so I circled back around, called my agency contact and just...you know...bluntly asked them how the project was going.
There was a sheepish and embarrassed silence for the better part of 20 seconds on the line. "Um. The client sourced a stock image that we ended up having to use..." they responded. I take that in stride because it happens all the time. But I always ask, "How did it all work out? Was everyone happy?" Again, there was a silent pause.
"Well, the image was shot a while back. It was done with a 6 megapixel camera. We sharpened it up and then sent it to a retoucher to have some more work done on the file... We hope it's going to work but, well, there is a lot of pixelization."
Then it was my turn to be quiet for a few seconds. Then I asked, "Why didn't we just shoot the darn thing?"
"Um. The client wanted to save some money. They'd already spent half a million dollars on the trade show booth and they didn't want to spend a ton of money on photography. The stock shot was only $250."
"Well, thanks for asking me to bid. Maybe we'll do the next one for them."
"Uh. Probably not. Their CEO took one look at the first round of enlarged prints and blew a gasket. We kind of got fired from the account."
"Sorry to hear it. But at least we found out how sharp my camera could be...."