- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Don MacLean says his wife, Cheryl, is constantly taking pictures, so it’s hardly surprising that some of those shots end up on the walls of their Jessup, Md., home.

Step inside their home and find pictures of the family’s Disneyland vacations, foreign landscapes or even photographs Ms. MacLean’s father snapped while visiting Scottish castles.

The MacLeans aren’t professional photographers, but it doesn’t take an expert to introduce original artwork into one’s home. Why scour stores for wall-ready art when a great print is just a shutter click away?

The local photography store can enlarge negatives or images captured on disc by digital cameras to a size big enough to dress up an entire wall.

The photographs in the MacLean household tend to be in the 8-by-10-inch range, hardly enormous but still an improvement over the standard 4-by-6 prints in a photo album. Add a matte and frame, and that modest print suddenly looms large.

The MacLeans rotate their prints regularly to keep the images fresh.

Ms. MacLean says work gives her the chance for international travel, and she often loads up her camera to capture architectural images from around the globe.

“They make great conversations pieces. It’s a nice little story to tell,” says Ms. MacLean, whose photographs include prints of pottery taken during a Middle East sojourn.

She’s still learning her way around her camera, but she recommends that photographers use lower-speed film, such as 100, to capture the sharpest images.

Mr. MacLean recommends that novice photographers double up when they travel.

“If you can afford it, have more than one camera. You’ll say, ‘I wish I had black-and-white film for this picture.’ It’s easier to take two cameras.”

Kim Morgan, manager of Snapfish photography store in Alexandria, says her customers are in the midst of the switch from film to digital when it comes to blowing up their photographs.

What many don’t understand is that their digital images will pixelate, or the image will become blocklike and disintegrate, if expanded beyond a certain size.

“Some digital people don’t know they need a higher resolution,” Ms. Morgan says, adding that many customers looking to enlarge their pictures are opting for family-type portraits of late, given the proximity of the holidays.

Most customers at Snapfish opt to enlarge their pictures to either 5-by-7 or 8-by-10 sizes, which an image from even a modestly priced 2-megapixel digital camera can accommodate.

Those who want larger portraits or landscapes from their digitally recorded snapshots will need to buy a camera that records more pixels per frame, such as a 4- or 5-megapixel model.

Some professional photographers will work with the graininess in a large film photograph, much as an impressionist painter gloried in the pointillism of that era.

Imagine a black-and-white photograph of a snow-covered landscape in which the grain adds to the ambience.

Sadly, Ms. Morgan says, the average shutterbug misses the beauty in the grain.

“They have to have an eye for it to appreciate it, and most people don’t,” she says.

Iskender Sonmez, who works for Pro Photo in the District, says customers typically ask for 8-by-10 enlargements, which yield crisp prints from digital or traditional film cameras.

“Most cameras today are of high enough resolution that any digital effects won’t show up on 8-by-10 print,” says Mr. Sonmez, who recommends digital camera buyers pick up a model with at least 3 megapixels.

Grain or pixelation can ruin a picture, but it also can set a mood or tone a photograph might not otherwise have, Mr. Sonmez says.

“I find it particularly effective on reportage-type photography,” he says, though chiefly on black-and-white prints. “It adds a starkness to the image, the feeling the photographer went out of his way,” he says.

One of the biggest decisions a homeowner must make when enlarging a print concerns cropping.

“Not every enlargement size gives you the same proportion,” Mr. Sonmez says. The popular 8-by-10 format, for example, is closer to square. A standard film negative, though, is more rectangular, so enlarging it means some of the image will have to be trimmed.

Photographers also should inspect their negatives closely to make sure they are of high enough quality to merit enlarging.

“An image that on a 4-by-6 looks fairly good might be slightly soft in some areas,” when enlarged, Mr. Sonmez says. “The out-of-focus areas will become much more evident.”

Once a print is made, the home photographer must figure out how to frame it.

“Over the last 50 or 60 years with the black-and-white photographer, the choice is almost always black or white. At this point, the white matte is preferred,” he says.

The black frame allows the image to break free from other objects on the wall, while the white border lets the visuals speak for themselves without distraction.

Color prints afford a wider option of choices. The matte color can match a dominant hue in the print, he says, or the photographer can opt for a matte of the opposite color on the color wheel for a more stark look.

Colin Snyders of Arlington agrees that black frames with white mattes are the way to go.

“It pulls out the colors and doesn’t detract,” says Mr. Snyders, who shoots with both digital and conventional film cameras. “It makes a nice accent.”

Mr. Snyders, who snaps pictures wherever he goes, says displaying his own artwork gives his home an identity far from what another home might have.

“I’ve purchased maybe three [prints] from other photographers, and I end up displaying only one of them,” he says. “I feel like it’s not mine. I want to personalize my home with what we have.”

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