Make a Print on a Bath Mat?

This past month I got into large format printing (and printing in general), making 24x36-inch prints on my Canon IPF 6100. What fun! Printing has added a new dimension to my photography. I actually can't believe that it took me this long to get into home printing.

In looking at the prints, I was reminded of two famous quotes about printing:

1) "I don't care if you make a print on a bath mat, as long as it's a good print." Edward Weston (Weston, for newbies, was one of the greatest photographers and printers of all time.)

2) "If you can't make a good print, make a big print." Overheard at a bar, I think :-)

I know what Mr. Weston was saying. The material does not matter – the artist does. Today, however, I think you might void your inkjet printer's warranty if you try to shove a bath mat through the paper tray!

As far a making a BIG print. Sure, it can be more impressive than a small print. But who wants to look at a big print of a bad image?

Well, speaking of quotes/tips about printing, here are a few of mine (that apply to all size prints):

1) Make the best possible in-camera image. Screw up big time, and you can't fix it in Photoshop.

2) Make the best possible file in the digital darkroom. Among other things, use Adjustment Layers and sharpen (selectively, of course) for the viewing distance. Nik Sharpener Pro does a good of this.

At this point in the process, remember: garbage in, garbage out.

3) Calibrate your monitor... at least once a month. If your monitor is set too dark, your prints will look too light. If it's set too bright, your prints will look too dark.

4) Calibrate your printer - for the paper you'll be using.

5) Use your printer's color management software. Check each setting very carefully.

6) Use the right paper for the right profile.

7) Don't expect your print to exactly match the image on your monitor - when you make your first print. For one thing, different ink jet nozzels act differently, even from the same-model printer to printer. (The same is true, by the way, for cameras: you'll get slightly different colors from two same-model cameras.)

Here is something else to consider: ink dries at different rates depending on the humidity in the room. Different dry times means different results.

And perhaps most important, keep in mind that reflected light is illuminating your print; unlike your monitor which projects light. View your print in different lighting situations, and your print will "magically" change colors.

Consider your 1st print a test print. See what went wrong. Print again. But... wait at least four hours for the print to fully dry.

If you are feeling a creative low, get into printing your own images. I think you'll find it a rewarding process. After all, when you make your own print, you have total control over the final result.

Explore the Light,

P.S. Want prints to last a very long time? Use pigment inks rather than dye inks... but know that dye inks look a bit brighter than pigment inks.

Life Is An Illusion! Create One This Weekend

Click image to enlarge before reading.

In photography - as in all art forms - we can create illusions. Photographers can use in-camera techniques and digital darkroom techniques to create illustions. I created the illusion that two tigers are hunting side-by-side by combining two images of the same tiger into one image.

And speaking of illusions, check out the illusions by Akiyoshi Kitaoka. One of my favorites is shown here. As you'll see, you can make a wheel "stop" moving my simply looking at it. Dong forget to click the image to enlarge.

So here is a self-assignment for the weekend: Create an illusion with a plug-in in the digital darkroom. Have fun with it.

Maybe share your illusion on my Facebook page.

You can also send me an illusion image for the Plug-in Experience. Must be around 5x7, 72 PPI, JPEG.

Explore the Light,

Fine Tune Your HDR Images

Click image to enlarge.

Here's a shot of my living room. After lunch, I kicked off my shoes and decided to look out the window and relax. Too much blogging this week :-)

After my relaxation session, I got to work back in my office (a bit neater than my living room) on a series of five pictures that I took for an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image!

The average exposure from my series of images is on the left. The center exposure is the result of processing the set of images in Photomatix and cropping the image. Check out the high dynamic range of that image.

The image on the right is the result of:

a) processing my Photomatix image in Topaz Adjust (using the Spicify filter) and then fine tuning (desaturating the image, among other things) the image with the adjustment sliders;

b) playing around with the Shadow/Highlight, Levels and Contrast controls in Photoshop.

The next time you are creating HDR images, don't settle for the default settings in your HDR program or plug-in. Fine tune your images for even more creative images in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

I'm outta here! My living room looks too inviting to be sitting here at my computer.

Explore the Light,

P.S. You can get a discount on Photomatix on the Plug-in Experience Web site. You'll also find more examples of HDR images on the site.

Respect Your Subject

Several years ago, my friend from National Geographic, Sarah Leen, gave me some good advice on photographing people: "Respect your subjects and they will respect you."

I thought I'd share this quick tip with you because it is so very important.

I photographed this Buddhist monk in Cambodia. The respect I showed him helped me capture exactly the picture I had in my mind's eye. Basically, he let a total stranger into his life - and trusted that stranger - for a few brief minutes. I think you can see the trust in his eyes.

Explore the Light - and respect the subject,

Follow Your Heart And Listen to Your Ears

First, click to enlarge this pair of pictures that I took in Cuba.

The bottom image is blurry - due to accidentally using a very slow shutter speed.

Hey, I made a mistake. What can I say? It was the first time ever :-)

I jumped in this car at a moment's notice because I really wanted to get a photograph of this cute couple. It was hot as hell and I knew I had to shoot fast. I was not thinking. I forget to boost the ISO and reset my aperture. I had been shooting in the Av mode (as usual) in bight sunlight.

I might not have gotten the top photograph, my favorite from the trip, if I had not "listened to my ears," hearing the sound of the slow shutter speed. Upon hearing that sound, I boosted my ISO and selected a wider aperture, which resulted in a faster shutter speed and a sharp shot.

In photography, it's good to follow your heart - photographing what you love. It's also good to listen to your ears - listening to the sound of your camera's shutter. It's also good to listen for the focus confirmation beep.

And here's some more advice, given to me by a guide on an African safari: Go where you are looking. :-)

Explore the light,
P.S. Any one remember the Minolta Talker camera? "Too dark, use flash."