Saturday, 5 December 2009

Printing Postcards

Truck_02The era of digital photography means a photographer can share his images with everyone connected to the internet. That number is a staggering number of people. In the era of film photography, only a few of the very best photographers could ever hope to achieve that kind of audience. There is a price to this connectivity, however.

As a photographer, I see two issues with looking at photographs on the internet. The first issue is "repeatability". Web browsers are not colour managed, so what I see on my computer screen is not quite what you see on your computer. That is a pretty profound problem for a visual art!

The second issue is "detail". The size and resolution of internet images is such that many images cannot properly convey the richness of the message the photographer intends. Imagine reading Hamlet on your cellphone as a txt msg snt to U by Shkspre, speling errs andf all. You could get the gist of his story, but you may have to work harder than normal to get it and it might be missing some of the subtle points.

The implication, skill-wise, is that I don't have to be as good as if I was printing everything for viewing in a gallery. I have fallen into this trap these past few years: I have never finished my workflow with a print in mind.

To rectify this, I have selected a number of images to print and hang on my wall. I have grouped most of them into themes or studies and the first study I printed was a series on old abandoned trucks. I chose four to print in a black and white grouping and after I mat and frame them, I will hang them something like this:



I chose three to print in colour and intend to hang them in a group like this:




For the record, here is my workflow:

1. "Compose and Expose" in camera.
2. Transfer RAW files to laptop, add copyright and location metadata.
3. Back up transferred images.
4. Preview and select images worth pursuing further in Adobe Bridge.
5. Batch process RAW images for white balance using Adobe Camera Raw.
6. Back up images.
7. Process images in a batch for noise reduction and initial sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
8. Process each image individually, "Composing and Exposing" the basic image, as well as applying further sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
9. Back up images.
10.Choose output medium (web, book, print), resize and sharpen for this medium using Photoshop CS4.
11. Generate output image and post or print.
12. Back up images.
13. Transfer only selected, edited images to hard drive for long term storage.
14. Back up long term storage hard drive.
15 Delete images from laptop and laptop back-up.

I'm currently spending about 2 hours post-processing for every hour of shooting. That's still orders of magnitude less time than in the old days using a wet darkroom.

While the limitations on the internet will hinder your ablity to view these images exactly as I have printed them, I hope enough of their esseance makes it through to your screen to enjoy the grit and mystery of these old beauties. A Flickr slideshow is here.

Jay M asked me to help him with a photo he wanted to print, which made me realize that I was "cheating" in my workflow and on my images, so thanks Jay for the kick in the pants to get back to printing.


Jason Sparks said...

need to come back and read this again. I have a terrible workflow in my photography... and do not have good digital processing sills yet. I feel like I am hamstrung with the basic stuff.

JayM said...

Happy to kick, Scott! I couldn't agree more on this post. Epson has as their mantra "it's all about the print" and that really says it all. There's something unique about holding a physical print that can't be duplicated with an on screen image. Particularly when you get to enjoy the tactility of some of today's great papers like Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

I try to make a habit of bringing images through a complete workflow right to a print. The danger is falling behind and that's when images stay as files. But it also presents an opportunity to fill your time with photography even when not out shooting. Find some images and print! Today's photo printers and papers are of sufficient quality that you can do amazing things with them. I have an Epson 2880 and want for nothing in terms of its output (although I am lusting after the new 3880 to go even bigger). You can also buy 13x19 format folios to store images that just can't make it into a frame (face it - you only have so many walls). And I just enjoy the process.

Great post Scott. And the B&W conversion you did for my daughter's picture was stellar. I couldn't get it to where I wanted it but you nailed 'er.