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The Power of Print: Sue Bryce’s Large-Scale Portraits

December 1, 2016

By Jacqui Palumbo

Photo © Sue Bryce

Anita Wilson surveys prints from her portrait shoot with Sue Bryce.

Until recently, making 44-inch prints in house would have been a daunting and time-consuming task for many photographers. And owning a printer that could handle such a task would have been quite the luxury.Advertisement

But large-scale printing is becoming much more accessible. Using an in-studio Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 printer, portrait photographer Sue Bryce has integrated large-format prints into her business model. She chose the PRO-4000 for its affordability, rich and detailed print quality, and simplicity in setup and use.

Bryce champions a “they will buy it if you show it to them” mentality, using her smaller PRO-1000 to print folio-box and 16 x 20-inch prints up front for her clients’ purchasing sessions. The PRO-4000 now sits next to it to handle the larger jobs (she calls the printers her “pair of peacocks”), and she has a 55-inch monitor to view the images before she prints.

Her first client who got the large-scale treatment was Anita Wilson, a conceptual and fine-art portrait photographer from Los Angeles. Bryce calls her “shy, but confident; conservative and feminine,” and says she has “a strong heart and soul.”

Wilson expressed discontentment that, as a child, she didn’t see many women who looked like her published in print media. “No one should grow up feeling as if they aren’t good enough—for any reason,” Bryce says. “I wanted to do a Vanity Fair-style shoot so that she could look and feel like a movie star for a day, and see how beautiful she is and that she is worth being represented.”

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A studio portrait of Anita Wilson. Photo © Sue Bryce

On the day of the shoot, Wilson brought in a designer dress of her own and picked out a black dress from Bryce’s studio wardrobe. “It was the sexiest and most daring of the six dresses I presented to her,” Bryce says. “It brings out a side of her that is powerful.”

From the first click of her Canon 5D Mark IV camera, Bryce says she knew she had something special. “The second I took the shot, I knew it would need to be printed huge,” she says. In post-production, while experimenting with toning, she found herself going against the grain to really make the prints unique. “My general rule is choose one tone for the full sequence, as it’s more cohesive and creates consistency in my brand,” she explains. “But for this shoot, I chose eight different tones, and they all looked incredible side by side. I let each image have its own life.”

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Sue Bryce’s in-studio Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 printer. Photo © Sue Bryce

Bryce “had goosebumps” as the prints came out, and Wilson was able to share the experience, seeing her prints full size during the sales session. “I have a visceral reaction to seeing prints being made,” Bryce says. “Nothing will change the value of your photography more than printing.”

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