Think about what you need to achieve before you pick up the camera.
The best way to make a great print is to know what one actually looks like. The only way to learn is by looking at a whole lot of work from great printmakers throughout history, and hopefully the best of your own time period. Looking at photography books is nice but is really looking at a simulation of a print not a real artwork (unless you are a book artist). There is no substitute for the real thing.
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Originally a Photoshop file format plug-in, Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) has evolved into an essential tool for processing digital camera Raw image files. Raw processing is versatile and necessary for image quality control, workflow ease, and efficiency. It provides a powerful method for working with all aspects of digital capture. In fact, new versions of ACR can be used to reprocess legacy Raw files. A Raw file is the digital equivalent of a film latent image that hasn’t been developed. As the software improves, the processing can improve. There is no analogue to this amazing technology in traditional (film-based/wet darkroom) photography. Check the Adobe website for ACR updates regularly.
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Only a few years back, most companies stopped making film scanners. The game was up; scanning equipment no longer pulled a profit. The future was in digital capture and the world marched on without looking back. It left educational institutions in a pickle. They were already reeling from high silver costs and a change in photo curriculum. Suddenly companies stopped updating software for Intel chips and repair service on older scanners dropped like a stone. It put pressure on the education world to go all digital and those ripples were felt everywhere. For us high-end scanning labs that were outside of the educational “prosumer” world, we fared ok although young clients were coming to us with 8 megapixel files instead of 40 megapixel (equivalent) 6×7 film. We already went through this in the early 2000s when companies stopped making drum scanners. Over the years, most of us learned enough about our various drum scanning machines to fix the beasts ourselves. Third party service vendors, mostly past employees of the very corporations that build the crazy things in the first place, took care of the rest. But recently the support has slipped and it gets harder every month to maintain high-end equipment. Today, prosumer scanners are taking the same track but at a more accelerated pace; everyone feels the heat including professional photographers who prefer 35mm film.
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There is a great deal of confusion among photographers and artists, and those who sell and collect art, over exactly what the term “archival” means. Labeling a photographic print archival implies that it has met or exceeded a standard.
What is the standard? Is there one standard for all photographic images: color, black/white, inkjet, and alternative process? Is there a different standard for other, non-photographic prints?
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This paper addresses two complimentary ideas. First, it is an example of the evolution of a photographic project and the cumulative effect of decisions made along the way. Second, it is an example of critical technical practices and how in-depth knowledge and uncompromising application can lead to a superior result. Taken as a whole, I trust it will illustrate the necessary synergy of the two.
The project examined here was photographed in 1995 using an old 11×14 Folmer & Schwing camera with a 10×12 back, a 14” Goerz Blue Dot Trigor, and 10”x12” Super XX film. I purchased the equipment with the notation of doing alternative process contact prints. It did not suit my shooting needs at the time and sat for many years. When I embarked on this studio project it seemed the perfect choice for the images I wanted to make. Super XX had long since been discontinued but a test proved that my supply, though less than perfect, was usable. Palladio, a manufactured palladium/platinum paper was available at the time and, since my enthusiasm for hand-coating paper had dimmed, it seemed a perfect choice. The paper proved capable of producing beautiful prints. Ultimately, I made a print set for the model and one for me. The project was then put away for a long time, never really resolved to my satisfaction.
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