My Confession for Anti-Enlargement Photography

When I first joined the photography industry several years ago there was such a push towards large canvas wall galleries. I admit with all my heart that there is something simply stunning about seeing a large photograph. It can be a show stopper. But as I prepare to move to a new house I must admit that I have several 20×30 enlargements that I’ve been storing in my garage.

Here’s the problem I face:
Our family grows and changes.
And I take “new favorite” pictures.
The pictures therefore become outdated or need to be replaced.
Replacing large canvases or framed images is not only expensive, but most of all, I then live with this gnawing guilt about the images that I retire that collect dust. What do you do with that HUGE image that is no longer on the wall? Heaven forbid that I’d actually get rid of it?!

I photographed a wedding session last summer, and for the first time I actually encouraged the bride to NOT print anything larger than an 11×14. GASP!
My own 20×30 wedding photo that I enlarged is in my cellar now, replaced by more current images of me and my husband that are no larger than 5x7s and 11x14s matted for larger frames.

The benefits of smaller prints:

The smaller size print (11×14 and smaller) allows for economical and easy replacement throughout the years. The wall galleries in my new home will be in my long hallways and have the perfect set up for easy viewing and easy replacing. This of course may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but for a photographers family that is continually adding to the pool of sentimental photos I have of our family, it is what works best for us. And I can happily print new favorites a few times a year and feature them without feeling bad about the growing stack of super size canvases hidden somewhere that are no longer being used.

Here are some great ideas for smaller print galleries you can create in your own home.



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What is the focal point of your walls?

Admittedly, my focal point art in my home is not photography, it’s oil paintings. I suppose if I didn’t prefer my oils as the main attraction I might still be tempted to simply trade out a mantle photo canvas ever so often with an updated image. But still… what do you do with the old one? Maybe have a graveyard gallery somewhere?? Hang them up in my garage? Or basement?

What do YOU do with retired super enlargements?

biopic2 Brooke Snow is the Professional Photographer for her own family and an Abundant Life Practitioner. She loves tree swings, the month of May, and early morning walks. She lives with her calm husband and adventurous son in Northern Utah. Join her FREE Photo Perspective Photography course for great instruction on easy ways to immediately improve your photos.

32 Responses

  1. Brooke! I love that you addressed this. While I love selling huge artwork, I’d much rather have a huge collection of photos that tell the story. That’s what I’ve done in my home. The largest canvas or print I have is a 16×20, otherwise the space is filled in with varying sizes of prints. I now have an idea as to how to present the idea to others…thanks!

    1. Oooh, I’m with you rebekah! I love storytelling images, and so often they are fun to do in groups to see how the story unfolds 🙂

  2. I completely understand and have a hard time investing in a large canvas when I know I will have a new favorite photo before long. However I have started to change them out by seasons and this allows me to enjoy more photos for longer. I just did our family “snow” session this week which I will trade out with our family “beach” photos each year and hopefully next year I’ll add a family fall session to add to the mix. etc…However with that said I do have a lot of small pictures and a collage wall to pop in my favorites as well.

    1. That’s a fun idea Lisa! Seasonal artwork in your photos 🙂 You have to totally be thinking ahead for things like that. Way to go 😉

  3. I have a big one that is gathering dust in my garage 🙂 My only REAL big ones are scenic. And then I just got a canvas printed of Regan and I. But it’s not close up so I’ll still look the same as it for a while 🙂 I actually think the same way. Canvas? The only ones I want to do are to get one printed of each of my kids as their best baby shot (All under one). In my mind I could keep those all lined up somewhere and not have them need to change.

    1. Oh, I am soooooo with you Rhonda!!! I am more drawn to printing up a scenic image as a large canvas too. I love the thought of doing an image like you mentioned where you aren’t front and center/up close. It will age nicely that way. Your baby shot idea sounds lovely. That would make a fun collection to display.

  4. Totally agree! I have a special binder that I use for “retired” enlargements. I attach each photo to a piece of white cardstock with black photo corners, use a black pen to write a simple caption, and then slip it in a sheet protector. And that’s where it stays. I can only accommodate up to 8x10s in there, so the few retired 11x14s I have get stored in a large photo envelope with a piece of cardboard to keep the pictures from bending. What would I do with photos larger than these?? I love using large-matted frames like you suggested, and I LOVE a nice photo wall. My favorite of the pictures you posted is the last one with “floating” frames. Great insight as always, Brooke!

    1. Oooh… you are better organized than I am Leslie! I just put new prints in the frame and leave the previous ones STILL IN THE FRAME BEHIND IT! ha ha! Kind of fun to see what’s there when I go to put a new one in!

  5. I address this very thing with my clients at our ordering appointments! I love when they want to showcase an image as a focal point, and I explain to them that larger canvases are fabulous for the images they know they’ll never change out. And then we work framed smaller photos into an arrangement that can be adjusted to accommodate newer photos as they are taken or rearranged with additional prints from subsequent sessions. I have found that they appreciate the ideas and flexibility that I strive for as a photographer. Great article!

    1. ha ha 🙂 Actually, that is a real concern, and I’ve had it happen before… some photos really are better viewed small! Then again, other photos are show stoppers really large. Practicality speaking though, you can never go wrong with the smaller sizes.

  6. Brooke!

    Thank you for breaking the norm (as always!), and voicing your own truth!

    While I have a number of stunning, beautiful – show-stopping canvases in my own home, I fear I will never take them down. ever. Too. Much. Guilt. Love, love love this post.

    I love that you have offered a secondary option for photographers + non/photographers on how to maximize those smaller prints. Such beautiful ideas!

    Proud to stand behind this post, friend. So authentic!

  7. Hey! My sister is Shelley from The House of Smiths. I love her photo wall and I agree with you. I have one 16×20 of our family but it’s in a frame that can be changed out and the rest are 5×7 or smaller. Great suggestions!

  8. Whe I get what your saying, I am a photog that runs a for profit business. I just Ss a 40×50 gwrap for 1000 and I don’t feel bad, someday they will retire it but that’s not my problem.

    1. Ha ha! Yes, that is THEIR problem:) I think most of my own frustration stems from being a photographer myself so the amount of images I have that are worthy of wall art status is enormous and always increasing. From a clients perspective who may value the images that a pro photographs of their family as a special annual experience or for some–something they budget for only once every few years–I can certainly see them wanting to highlight those images in their home in a big way since they don’t regularly get such an opportunity.

  9. Little people love seeing their parents’ wedding photos so I’d probably hang the wedding one where they can see it. (Nope, I didn’t have mine up when my children were growing up but wish I had!)

    1. Maybe I’ll print up a small version of the wedding one. Part of the problem is that I personally don’t like the photo style of my wedding photos. I like photos I take myself more:) but maybe we can find a small corner for the wedding one in a small version.

  10. Preach it sista! There is something so compelling about a huge canvas print, but I have the same problem, and I too keep my old pics in their frames. As my children grow I’m more able to select the very few pics from their baby years that I still want displayed, but even then I keep them small. I don’t stress keeping the old 8x10s hidden away because I imagine that someday I’ll have them all organized by year (or season in the year) for a baby book, or a giant wall collage like one you’ve pictured here. When it comes to canvas I try to take a few great scenic shots when we’re on vacation, pictures that I could hang somewhere for forever that carry the memories but not the frozen family. Thanks for sharing a not widely held but awesome lesson for momtographers and photographers alike.

  11. Hi ya Brooke! I realized that I really adore tight shots and who the heck wants a huge print of their face. Your kid yes, wrinkles, no. So I’m learning to do a pull back so I have a good scenic shot in there. I like canvas because they are easy to hang and move. I don’t LOVE current photos as much as those built over time. So I have photos framed. My milestone photos that are a touchstone to a place in our lives are canvas and they get moved around the house. So display those puppies!! The canvas of you and your deary, I’d put in the master bedroom or even the bath. It’s a nice reminder of who you were and how you felt that day…

  12. I love this! I always think I would love a huge canvas of my family… but’s still growing! So not too practical. I’m working on a gallery wall in our living room of all different sized photos all 16×20 or smaller that we can change out easily and I think it’s going to work great. Thanks for validating my thought process 🙂

  13. I so totally agree! That is why when i want a big print i go to staples for a large b&w and then to hobby lobby for them to put it on poster board. It is approximately $26.00 total. When i’m sick of it it’s gone without the quilt. Loving the articles….miranda

  14. Thank you for the great article!! So true and I so appreciate it all the photo display examples. We moved into a new home last October and I have many walls to fill. I need to break out all of my small prints and get them up on the walls. Then I can change them out when I get new ones!!

  15. Hi Brooke – just wondering why you would believe that a family photo taken before a family is complete is outdated and irrelevant so needs to be replaced. I thought that photography was about capturing special moments and memories.
    I personally love seeing all of the stages of my family. I love the memories of being a couple – that is important to me and I want to be reminded about it.
    I also love that time when we had just one miracle in our life – her name is Olivia – and as she grows she identifies more and more with that time when she was the only one.
    That time when we had our second child was also great.
    I want to remember all these significant events and each one is important. A small photo does not have the impact that these events had on my life and I would give any amount of money to remember them because they matter to me.
    I would feel guilty that I believed that I did not value them enough to believe that those photos need to be replaced ever. I would have agreed had you said that they needed to be added to – but cannot see how my past memories and who we were at that point in our lives needs to be replaced rather than celebrated.

    1. Hi Steve!

      Thank you so much for your question! It’s a great one! To be clear, when I say family photos need to be replaced, I’m talking about a single large image over the mantel or other single focal point in my own home. My personal design aesthetic is pretty minimalist and clean, so ONE photo/painting in a room is quite enough for my personal taste. This is why I love the idea of smaller print wall galleries or classic photo albums, because the photos can be added to as time goes by. I certainly wouldn’t leave my large family photo of my husband and I with our first child as the main focal point in our living room as more children are added to the family–I want the ENTIRE CURRENT FAMILY to know of their importance and place in our family too. Thus my hesitancy on purchasing large canvas images because when I do change out the image, where do I put it?? I don’t want my walls covered with large images, it’s too busy for my taste. Though… I am toying with the idea of retiring images to our garage walls. I might be able to put up with the clutter of many large images there 🙂 Plus it could be fun to drive home and be greeted by happy moments from ALL STAGES of our life 🙂 We’ll see!

      1. I suppose I struggle with wether your personal circumstance and preferences are right for all. In our case we were told we would never have any children and lost three along the way – so each one was a miracle. Should I be denied having a focal point in my room of that time in our lives because you have not had the same struggles we had?? I would want a large canvas – and I do not think that it would add to the next miracle in our lives that we were definitely expecting.
        I suppose what I am saying is that it is not about you – is this not our experience – why of your preferences govern what we should like given that we have been though so much to get to where we are today. Why would I not want to see that moment that changed our lives forever and gave us hope and joy every day and make that a focus for us every day. If we were to add to that – that is our personal pleasure.
        I do not mean to be pegged to a board amongst a whole lot of other photos that make nothing a focus. I want that photo – that touches my heart to be the focus, and if and when we have more children – that will always enhance our home. As our family grows so will our home – there will always be space for what we love because we made it important enough.

  16. Hey Brooke, I haven’t read all the comments so if someone else has raised this question before, I apologize for asking it again – but why deny your clients the desire to display their images in the way they want to? Large, or small.

    1. Hi Seshu! Thanks for your comment! I support clients in purchasing whatever size print they like, but I do share my own opinion. I wouldn’t feel honest to try and sell something that I myself wouldn’t buy for personal reasons. That being said, my pricing structure is flat rate and not influenced by what people choose to purchase (and I admittedly don’t shoot pro all that much anymore). I absolutely understand the necessity other pro’s may have in pushing higher priced items like canvases and enlargements and as long as the photographer loves and supports those products themselves, I think it’s great!

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