What makes a pleasing/healing large print?

This is actually a two part question…and for the sake of “large prints”, I’m thinking minimum of 30", and more in to the range of 40-60".

First, I’m curious if others have done much printing and/or selling images for display for their houses or businesses, or for display in other locations such as galleries or to sell to the public. What images do well? What images are most appealing for display? It would seem to me that what is most successful on social media (in your face sunset/sunrise images with wide angle lens and lots of dynamic visual flow), might be a bit overwhelming to the viewer when printed say at 40" for a business or clinic. Are lower contrast images more successful? Are more subdued color saturation or B&W images more successful? What about dynamic range? Are lower contrast/high key/low key images more pleasing to look at than high-dynamic range with lots of contrast?

I’m even more interested in what makes “healing” images? I am interested in printing a series of images for the clinic at which I work. I am a cardiologist, and some of our patients are pretty sick. I’m interested in inspiring hope and optimism by displaying “healing” imagery, but have had some difficulty in finding consensus or publications on this topic. Before investing substantial money in printing images that may actually do more harm than good, I’d be interested in your thoughts and if there’s any data on what types of images actually are effective in promoting a sense of well-being, hope, and healing to others. I’ve read some articles such as from the Cleveland Clinic in which rich colors and abstractions are more helpful. Yet, I’ve found conflicting information in other publications.

Of course as a physician, I’d like “real data” on what works and what doesn’t…but I’m not sure such publications exist. Second to that, I’d be interested in the opinion of “experts” in the field such as this audience or curators of galleries, etc. Any help is appreciated and thanks for your time!

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Jim, I have done a few printing myself both for gallery displays and clients’ home. I guess, data points that are meaningful to you would be what clients have ordered from me. The largest I have printed is a 38" wide panorama stitch from Bryce. And the second largest is a 33" print from Yellowstone. I am not sure, however, if there is any similarity between these two images that make them more successful than the other images in my portfolio. I guess each image work differently for different people. That said, I want to share this commentary by Nick Carver that I find quite helpful (he talks about it more towards the end of the video, but the whole video is worth watching). I am quite eager to read others’ responses to your questions!

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Great topic. Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve finally—after a year in my current clinic space—gotten around to putting up images in my exam rooms. If nothing else, it’s nice to have something on the walls. The office came furnished with some truly horrid stock images that I’ll have to set my sights on next.

I first heard about conscious placement of art and imagery in an interview with Beth Young (optimalfocusphotography.com). She’s an architect and landscape photographer who is passionate about the power imagery has in healthcare.

In a quick review of the literature, I see a lot of positive studies over the last 30 years. That might be significant publication bias, and I suspect there is probably a fair amount of “massaging the data” in these more qualitative studies. But the data do show that there is a positive effect of natural imagery in a healthcare setting. Most centers around the hospital environment, but I imagine it’s fair to translate this into a clinic as well.

I found a two interesting general articles and reviews which were nice in a quick glance of what’s out there. Americans for the Arts publishes a basic guide about art in healthcare (https://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/ArtsInHealthcare_0.pdf). I’d draw your attention to the section on Visual Arts, pages 16-17. The Center for Health Design published a review and guide to healthcare design in 2008 (https://www.healthdesign.org/sites/default/files/Hathorn_Nanda_Mar08.pdf). This paragraph seems to put it simply:

“According to Ulrich and Gilpin (2003, p.123), research suggests that nature art (or art with views or representations of nature) will promote restoration if “it contains the following features: calm or slowly moving water, verdant foliage, flowers, foreground spatial openness, park-like or Savannah-like properties (scattered trees, grassy undershot), and birds or other unthreatening wildlife.” Ulrich and Gilpin (2003) also suggest that, in addition to nature art, humans are genetically predisposed to notice, and be positively effected by, smiling or sympathetic human faces.” (Hathorn and Nanda)

I didn’t see much more specific than this. I’ll be interested to hear what others think.

Thank you @Adhika_Lie…this was interesting and does get the ball rolling. In confirmed some of my suspicions on that which makes for pleasing works that won’t precipitate viewer fatigue over time.

Thanks for this @Adam_Bolyard…this is super helpful! Do you have a general database from which to draw? I’ve been using PubMed primarily, but the terminology for searching tends to be more obscure than the technical/medical words more commonly used in this database.

Also found this article from 2010… [J R Soc Med]
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996524/#). 2010 Dec 1; 103(12): 490–499.


Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Nov 27;16(23). pii: E4739. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16234739.

Thanks again…This is a good start!

Henry Domke has a great blog on evidence based design here: http://henrydomke.com/blog/

And also an ebook of his best articles here https://www.henrydomke.com/PictureOfHealth.pdf

I did a fair amount of research in this area when I was targeting healthcare to sell prints and he had some of the best information. Granted he is trying to attract interior designers and art consultants to his site to sell his prints, but it is still good info.

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Fiery sunsets are probably the worst kind of photo for a medical setting. I wrote a bit on the topic on my blog: https://www.rwongphoto.com/gallery/hospital-artwork-how-art-is-chosen/

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@Jim_McGovern, I totally agree that PubMed is tough for this subject. That’s where I looked first. Unfortunately, “photography” in multiple permutations brought up articles about photographing moles in dermatology clinic and “art” brought up articles about anti-retroviral therapy for HIV.

The first article you found seems to get at your original question regarding color and subject. Having the second as justification for natural scenes is helpful too. As @David_Kingham and @Richard_Wong pointed out, it seems like reading publications from the design world would probably be more fruitful. While PubMed was the first place I looked, I was definitely more successful with a google search.

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Wow, @David_Kingham. I don’t think you can get much more comprehensive than that ebook. Thanks for sharing.


Thanks @David_Kingham…super helpful. He’s a family doc who looks to have redirected his profession to outfitting healthcare environments. I went ahead and found some more articles, but got his book as well.

Thanks @Richard_Wong! I actually found/read your blog before I posted this and it helped get the ball rolling for me to find more data on this. Thanks again for responding and writing that blog.

@Adam_Bolyard, thanks so much for your engagement in this topic. I agree with you. I’ve seemed to make more progress exploring the internet rabbit-holes and am at least pleased to see that there is growing consensus among various resources as to style of work, colors, scenes, the avoidance of abstract images and stylized work. Looking forward to reading Domke’s book.

Thanks again everyone!


Glad you found it of use Jim. That Henry Domke book that David shared came to similar conclusions. It’s interesting to see the various types of art in medical settings especially when some of it contradicts what the research suggests.

I would have agreed with all statements of the type of genre that we find in medical facilities these days. With that in mind I paid closer attention to what was on the walls in the waiting room of the urgent center a couple of hours ago. It was a night shot of Las Vegas buildings with all the lights on. So much for that general conclusion.

I used to work with a lot of interior designers in my previous profession, the field is slowly moving towards evidence based design, but artwork is one of the last of the considerations unfortunately. Many that I have worked with simply picked out art that they personally liked and not much thought was put into the selections. I find they also like to pick photographs that are from the area where the building is and this take precedence over the style of photography. If you happen to work with a progressive interior designer who is adept in evidence based design, then it will be good to have a portfolio that is well suited towards healing/soothing rather than dramatic images.

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I had some pretty good success with placing images in numerous hospitals and other healthcare facilities for about 5 years ending 2 years ago plus/minus. Florals, landscapes (no sunrise sunset as noted already), dewdrops, some birds but not many and no other fauna at all except the occasional butterfly. Interestingly, fitting with the no sunrise/sunset, also no strong reds. In theory, too close to color of blood.

Unfortunately for me, the art consultant I was working with went belly up owing me over $8000 for the last job. Consulted a lawyer and he was candid enough to inform me I had a case but in all likelihood his costs would be more than any settlement since she screwed so many other artists as well.

Making it even worse, I’ve not been able to find another consultant and frankly, don’t know where to search. So if anybody has any advice on how to find a rep for this sort of work, I’d sure appreciate the help.