Are you making prints on a regular basis? Why? Or why not?
I think printing should be a regular part of your photography. Nothing will test your photographs more, stretch your abilities, and force you to learn new photography skills, than the process of making prints.
I’ll go so far to say that, if you can consistently produce fine quality prints from your photographs, you will have successfully mastered key components of the craft of photography, and you will be equipped to explore even greater depths of the art.
First, you have to understand that prints are the ultimate expression of a photograph.
Stop thinking that what your monitor or device shows you is what your photo really looks like. The screen is not even close to the accuracy of a print.
Professional printing devices are capable of producing a much wider range of colors (color gamut) than a screen can. They are capable of higher resolution, greater detail, more delicate highlights, and delicate shades of gray in black & white. It’s the difference between a flawless live performance of your favorite music, versus a YouTube video of it from a crummy phone.
Because of this, the print is unforgiving. It will show every flaw and every error in judgement, exposure, focusing, color balance and processing. It’s not a 1500 pixel square on your phone; it’s the real thing, raw, fully laid bare for all to see. And that’s why it’s so powerful. It will test you, measure you, raise your expectations, challenge you, sharpen you, and make you a better photographer.
Don’t do it alone. You need someone who has already mastered the skill to guide and critique your progress; to tell you it’s too contrasty, your highlights are blown out, or you didn’t focus properly. This is an integral part of formal photography training that is lost if YouTube is your only teacher.
Take a class at a local college, go on workshops, and share your work at local photo clubs. Seek out people who make prints you admire, and beg, borrow, or buy time with them to be mentored. Some of the best photographers in the world are easily accessible through workshops. Take advantage of that.
Then find museums and galleries close to you, get on their mailing lists, and go look at prints regularly. Seek it out when you travel. Develop a mental impression of what you think a great print should be. See how artists handle shadows and highlights, color, focus, and paper choice to make their expression.
Lastly, make prints regularly. You’re going to learn more working on a fifty prints in a year than you will just ten. Don’t get caught up in what’s “print worthy” or not. If you think there is something there, print it and start working the process. Hang them on the wall, live with them, and see if they stand the test of time or need to be reworked, or abandoned. Start with 8x10 prints then work your favorites up to larger sizes. Fill your walls, and your friends! Give them as gifts, and let others enjoy them.
Making prints is the fast-track to improving your photography and refining your craft, making you into an even better photographer than you already are.
November 17, 10am—5pm
To make Photoshop work for you, you need a workflow; a process and a structure that guides what steps to take, what tools to use, and when to use them.
This workshop takes you through my Photoshop workflow. I’ll teach you what tools I use, what order to use them in, how they work, and why I use them.
Through hands on exercises, you’ll learn how to use adjustment layers for a non-destructive workflow. You’ll also learn to use layer masks, one of the most powerful features of Photoshop. Special attention will be given to the use of curves to control contrast, density, and create rich highlights and shadows.
You should walk away from this workshop feeling confident that you can learn and use Photoshop to create top-notch results. My workflow is simple yet powerful. It doesn’t rely on tricks or gimmicks, but on the fundamentals of photography.
I’ve used these tools and workflow to make gallery prints for some of America’s finest photographers. They expect prints that don’t look “digital” or “fake” from over-processing or poor technique. It has been used to create tens of thousands of prints by me and the Master Printmakers who worked under me, and taught to hundreds of photographers on workshops like this one. It is a proven workflow that will unlock the full potential of your photography.
My workflow is so fundamental to the results I achieve that this workshop is for you regardless your skill level. I know you will benefit from this information, gain a more in-depth understanding of Photoshop, and the creative approach to its use.
The class is hands-on. After each lesson, we’ll practice it to ensure you’ve grasped the concept. Mac laptops with Photoshop are available for free, or you can bring your own.
Register on Eventbright
Technology Engagement Center
306 Minerva Drive
The new Nikon mirrorless system has everyone buzzing. Even my pizza guy was talking about it with me the other day while I was waiting on my pies, a conversation prompted by the Sony a5000 around my neck.
So what do I think?
I think you should be thinking about lenses. For most photographers, the latest camera isn’t going to do near as much for your photographs as better lenses will. That’s because, if you are like most photographers, you are probably using lenses that don’t make the fullest use of your sensor (and that’s true even of your expensive zoom.)
The reality is that the sensors in all the major camera brands have gotten pretty good. If you are using a pro body instead of a consumer body that is of recent vintage, the improvements are going to be incremental. Even the top of the line Nikon d810 only offered incremental improvements over the d800, and while I might be able to see that extra little bit when working the file in Photoshop, once you get to the print, there are no tell tale signs to tell me which was from the D800 vs D810.
In fact, the differences between even different brands of sensors with a pro-ish body isn’t something you can readily identify by looking at typical prints. ~24 MegapixelNikon/Canon/Sony/Fuji all produce really good results.
You probably have more to gain by buying a better lens than a new camera. Because while the camera brand you used might not be noticeable in print, the lenses you use will be.
Prints don’t lie. If your corners are fuzzy, with low resolution even at a higher f stop, then it’s very telling of the quality of your lens and how you used it.
For years the standard with film SLRs, and now DSLRs, has been to accept lenses that were sharp in the middle and gradually lost resolving power towards the corners.
But while this was the standard in 35mm size SLR bodies, it was not the standard with medium and large format film cameras used by many professionals. On my 4x5 film camera that resolves upwards of 200 megapixels, I expect the image to be sharp from corner to corner as well as in the middle. After all, what’s the point of using such high resolution film if you aren’t getting all the incredible sharpness and resolution it can achieve?
So I come to DLSRs with a different expectation. It is possible to achieve this corner to corner, high resolution sharpness with a DSLR…if you pick the right lenses.
Zeiss is the first lens brand that comes to mind, as well as many of the Sigma Art lenses. Select lenses from Nikon and Canon lenses are also very good, but most lenses from Nikon/Canon/Sony/Fuji are are just average…which is really true of all the manufacturers. Nikon/Canon/Sony/Fuji et. al. make lenses at a wide variety of price points with a wide variety of quality. This is especially true of zoom lenses. It requires careful research to separate the multitude of average lenses from the few really great lenses.
Picking these lenses is a topic for a different article, but a good starting point is looking at the MTF curves for a lens. Another great resource is Lloyd Chambers site diglloyd.com. Instead of made up testing metrics, Lloyd lets you see full size images from most of the high end lenses and camera systems made in real world situations (although you do have to pay for access.) I find that looking at actual images tells me more about a lens than the average opinion, and Lloyd lets me do that without having to buy or rent a plethora of lenses. Or you can put things to the ultimate test and use them them side by side, which is always very enlightening.
Lenses are the long term investment in a system, not camera bodies. The rules of physics don’t change, and a great lenses today will be a great lens for a long long time. You are likely to keep your lenses for over a decade or more, and use them on a series of different camera bodies. So before rushing out to buy the latest greatest body, take a look at your lenses, and see if you should be adding one or two really sharp primes to your bag instead.
Honestly I’d rather use a 24 megapixel camera with a couple of really sharp primes than an 36+MP camera with just average glass. The difference is that striking. Getting a better lens is the lowest hanging fruit you can pick, and will improve every photograph you make with it much more than a incremental body upgrade will.
This blog is for sharing my photography. Find my photo tips and tutorials at CraftingPhotographs.com.