Image Size - Large vs. Medium, 3:2 vs. 16:9

Started Dec 19, 2010 | Discussions thread
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nex5guy Regular Member • Posts: 377
Image Size - Large vs. Medium, 3:2 vs. 16:9

In various threads here, I've seen some discussions arise about various Image Size options, but not all really in one place. I'm trying to determine the best option - Large or Medium, 3:2 or 16:9. The pictures I shoot that I am most concerned about are those of my 1 year old daughter. Landscapes can be revisited - but those of her growing up can't. Those pictures will need to stand the test of time as much as possible, and I'm trying to also predict the future a bit, as I need to guess - as best I can - how my family will be viewing images decades from now.

Off and on I've played with Large vs. Medium, and originally I determined that when viewed on my 27" iMac (currently what I'd consider a large monitor), I see no benefit of Large over Medium. Either size is larger than my monitor, and so when iPhoto scales them down to fit the screen, there is no difference in quality between the two sizes (that I can see). So for the past several months, I've been shooting Medium, so as not to simply waste file space. But as I try to peep into the future, I'm not sure how many more years it will be before the monitor is larger the photos, and I might find myself wishing I'd shot everything large.

So today I shot 4 test photos:
1. 16:9 Large
2. 3:2 Large
3. 16:9 Medium
4. 3:2 Medium

After importing them into PhotoShop, I layered the 16:9s on top of their respective 3:2s... just to confirm for myself the obvious: that the 16:9 shots are simply crops of the 3:2s. More on that in a bit.

The first thing I tried to do to compare the quality of Large vs. Medium is scale down the Large to match the Medium. I was thinking that perhaps I would see finer resolution with the Large image. But with the Large scaled onscreen to 72.9% (matching the medium) I could see no difference whatsoever... which goes back to my original perception that scaled down, they all look the same on screen. However, when setting the Large to 100%, and upsizing the Medium to 138% (matching the large size) there was noticeable pixelization of the Medium image, especially along edges of objects.... Which confirmed my fears that if in the future we all have humongous monitors, I might have wished I'd always been shooting Large.

Next comes choosing 3:4 or 16:9. SelectiveAperture makes a pretty strong argument for 16:9 here:

I'm of the same mind that virtually EVERTHING I shoot will be viewed on a screen of some sort. Photo Albums are completely dead for me. I will never look at little 4x6 prints in an album when I can see the image big and nice on a monitor or TV. So this weekend I decided to take the plunge and convert over to 16:9. However, in taking pictures of my daughter, with the camera turned to portrait aspect, I found the 16:9 format too narrow. I had to back up a little bit to get everything in frame. And when viewed on a monitor, sized to fit, this will shrink the size of the subject smaller than what would be seen if I'd framed it in 3:2. So I'm not sold on 16:9 when it comes to shooting portrait style.

Your thoughts?

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