Creating Panoramic Images for Room-Size Photo Murals

As photographer David Lawrence of Prime Images demonstrates in the video below, photo murals for interior décor can be used to create a mood, add a view, bring calm to tense environments, inspire big thinking, or add some color. Good photo murals can also expand horizons, add a focal point, stimulate green thinking, personalize a space, bring nature indoors, and make small spaces look bigger.


But not all photo murals turn out as spectacular as the examples in the video.

The secret to making beautiful photo murals, says Lawrence, is to start with images shot in large-enough formats to fill wall-size spaces.

“For print sizes 16 x 24 inches and smaller, you really can’t see too much difference between images that were made using traditional 35 mm camera equipment and images made using larger-format cameras,” says Lawrence. “But when viewing photographic images larger than 20 x 30 inches, the difference is quite noticeable.”

Prime Images tropical photo mural

Photo mural created with high-res images by David Lawrence for Prime Images, Inc.

The team at Prime Images print their photographic wall murals using high-resolution scans of panoramic film captures and 400+ MB-files from medium-format digital camera images.

Lawrence uses a panoramic-format camera that shoots 6 x 17 cm (2-1/4 x 6-3/4 inch) film: “We scan these 6 x 17 cm transparencies to 800 MB 16 bit digital files. The scanned files are dusted and adjusted for printing then saved as 400 MB 8-bit master files. These master files can be further increased in size using special RIP software when larger file sizes are needed for huge prints.”

Don’t Rely on Software to Create New Pixels

According to Lawrence, high-quality originals produce much better results than small images files that have been excessively enlarged in Photoshop or other imaging programs.

Lawrence compares over-enlarged digital files to watered down lemonade. The enlarged image might resemble the original, but it won’t have nearly the same impact as a high-res panoramic file that was shot specifically to fill a wall-size space.

“Digital images are made up of pixels,” explains Lawrence. “When you use imaging software to enlarge the file, the software adds pixels to the files.” Adding pixels is OK if the image to be enlarged consists mostly of a big, blue sky. But if your mural includes sharp contrasts, such as red tulips against green bushes, the software may not always add the right color of pixels when the file is enlarged. So the details in the enlarged files can look soft or fuzzy.

Cropping 35 mm images to a panoramic format isn’t the best way to go either, because it requires you to throw away a lot of data from the original capture.

Although panoramic images can be created by stitching together from a sequence of 35 mm images shot on site, aligning the images can be difficult on captures such as beach-scenes in which the waves are constantly moving and changing shape.

Panoramic film captures scenics with moving water better than smaller-format digital captures that must be stitched together. (Photo: Prime Images by David Lawrence)

(Photo: Prime Images by David Lawrence)

Choose Images from Prime Images Library

On, Prime Images, offers an extensive library of photographs that were specifically created for large-scale images and wall art. The library includes images of American landmarks, travel destinations, trees and forests, tropical islands, water scenics, industry and technology, mountainscapes, clouds and skyscapes, fields and farms, Southwest landscapes, spring wildflowers, sunsets and sunrises, gardens, flowers, and parks. The collection also includes images from Australia, New Zealand, China, Florida, the Canadian Rockies, and the Carolinas.

Prime Images Mega Pan

Motivational quotes can be added to the mega-pan wall-mural images by David Lawrence for Prime Images, Inc.

Many interior designers, art consultants, contract specifiers, and architects use photographs from Prime Images to create custom murals for healthcare, hospitality, government, and corporate environments.

“We travel to unique locations at the right time of year to bring back new and fresh imagery,” said Lawrence. Many images in the Prime Images library were captured after Lawrence completed photography assignments for transportation engineering and environmental clients through the U.S. For his personal collection, Lawrence often stayed on after the assignment to photograph nearby landscapes and natural attractions with a panoramic film camera.

Most clients of Prime Images hire the company to print the murals, too. But companies with their own printing equipment and wallcovering materials can license an image for the Prime Images library. Usage fees vary based on the individual image and how it will be used.

If you see an image in the Prime Images library that you would like to license, contact Prime Images with specific details about your project.

Mega-Pan Images

With the expertise Lawrence has developed in panoramic photography, Prime Images also offers and assortment of “Mega-Pan” images. Whereas a typical panoramic format image has a 3:1 ratio of width to height, a Mega-Pan image might have a 5:1, 6:1, or 7:1 ratio.

For example, with a Mega-Pan image, you could print a 10 ft. x 50 ft. mural to fill a hallway or two or more adjacent walls in room. Decorators seeking to add a mural above a chair rail, could use a mega-pan image to create a 4 x 20 ft. mural.

Prime Images megapan of stream

Photo: David Lawrence for Prime Images Inc.

Vertical Views

The collection in the image library also include an assortment of “vertical views.” These images could be used to create murals for in ultra tall spaces, such as atriums and lobbies.

For More Information

To make it easy for people to find exactly what they are looking for, David Lawrence has set up several different websites, include one for his “Wide Images” panoramic photography collection and one for room-size custom mural printing on wallcovering materials. Other sites are available for GSA contract wall art, removable wall murals up to 52 x 156 inches in size, and wall art prints on paper, canvas, or acrylic.

Videos on the Prime Images websites include down-to-earth explanations on topics such as image resolution and different methods of creating panoramic images. On the site, he provides a chart for testing whether your monitor is calibrated.

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