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Review: Fine Art Printing for Photographers (2nd edition)

Fine Art Printing for Photographers (2nd Edition)Fine Art Printing for Photographers (2nd edition, rocknook publishers) by Uwe Steinmueller and Juergen Gulbins, is an incredibly thorough, well-written, and interesting book about fine-art printing of digital photographs using ink jet printers. It covers all aspects of the craft and is written explicitly for the “ambitious amateur” and professional photographer.

Read on to learn more about the book and find out how you can get a free copy.

I must admit I didn’t know exactly what to expect when rockynook announced the second addition of this book. Before I received it, I’d completely missed the subtitle (Exhibition Quality Prints with Inkjet Printers). So my initial reaction was surprise followed by excitement as I scanned the table of contents.

Steinmuller and Gulbins make the case that today’s inkjet printers can deliver exhibition quality fine art prints and explain all of the details necessary to achieve that goal.

The authors devote entire chapters to the topics of printing techniques, paper and ink, color management, workflow, practical tips, printing packages and RIPs, black and white, and presentation. And they thoroughly cover each subject with a tremendous amount of detail.

For instance, the first paragraph of the first chapter (happily) explains a topic many people find confusing: the differences between DPI, PPI, LPI, and image resolution; and they explain how those measurements are related and why they are important for fine art printing. They go into similarly detailed discussions of print permanence, the effects of paper thickness and coating, color models and profiles, tonality and color tuning, black and white conversion, and dozens of other important issues. The level of detail combined with the breadth of topics is very impressive.

A great deal of attention is also placed on software workflow (primarily using Photoshop CS3) with a focus on preparing digital images specifically for paper. Topics covered include highlight recovery, contrast enhancement, sharpening, color management, black and white conversion, and more.

The authors don’t actually recommend a particular printer, as everyone’s needs and budgets are unique, but they do go into detail about things you should look for in a fine art inkjet, paper, and inks. In addition, the appendix gives a summary of many different fine art printers and papers.

Digital fine art printing is highly technical, a fact that is acknowledged and reinforced by this book. It requires a special knowledge of printing techniques, inks, papers, software and image processing. But the authors argue that the “technical nature of fine art printing should not overshadow its ability to awaken the senses.” And that “when performed optimally, your printing can achieve a richer color gamut and finer tonal gradations that with traditional book- and magazine-printing techniques.”

I learned a lot about fine art printing from this book and I recommend it to anyone serious about getting into fine art printing or improving their prints.

Want a copy of the book? Leave a comment with a valid email address. Two readers will be chosen at random on Wednesday, July 9, to receive a free copy.

Buy Fine Art Printing for Photographers at Amazon.com

This book was provided to Photodoto free of charge for review.

The importance of focus and quick tips on how to get it right

Focus in photography is about a lot more than simply sharpness or being able to see what you are looking at. Focus can enhance a subject by making it stand out from or blend into its surroundings, focus can draw you in, and the right focus can create an emotional connection with the viewer. No matter what style of photography you enjoy, focus can work for you or against you.

Portraits

The number one rule when shooting portraits of people or animals is this: focus on the eyes. (There are always exceptions—like all rules. But really, focus on the eyes.) By virtue of millions of years of evolution, human beings are hard-wired to very quickly recognize and respond to faces. (It’s definitely an important survival trait in my family to recognize when someone is angry at you, for example.)

Sure, you could focus on the tip of the nose or the ears if you like (which might work really well in some dog photos…) but nothing draws in a viewer to a portrait like sharply focused eyes and a blurred background.

How do you do it? Use a large aperture (f/2.8 or lower if possible), longish focal length (50mm and up), and get as close as you can.

Landscapes/architectural

Landscapes, photographs of nature or the environment around you, usually aim to capture as much of the view as sharply focused as possible. The idea is to give the viewer a sense of size, of scale. A buffet of sights, a feast for the eyes. Landscape photographers often avail themselves of a little knowledge of hyperfocal distances to keep everything in the scene in perfect focus, from the closest flower to the furthest cloud.

When everything in a photograph is in focus, the viewer’s eye is drawn first to important bold elements in the composition such as a strong line, large blocks of color, and rule of thirds intersection points. From there, the viewer wanders through the photograph like a virtual traveler, exploring every nook and cranny and taking everything in.

In the photo above, for instance, my eye goes first to the bottom of the trail and follows it up to the cloud and then over the rolling curve of the ridge to the blue sky above.

How do you do it? Use as small an aperture as you can (f/11 or higher), focus on something in the middle distance (or use the hyperfocal distance), and, if possible, use a tripod. Very tiny apertures (f/11, f/16, f/22) lead to longer shutter speed so tripods are often necessary for maximum sharpness.

Macros

Macros are the ultimate close-ups. Often focusing on a single, tiny subject, macros require special techniques and a lot of patience to get right. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I’d bet money that the rate of mental illness is higher among macro photographers than the rest of the photography population.

Macros are well-known for their ability to isolate and enlarge a single subject that often goes unnoticed to the naked eye. They’re also characterized by extremely shallow depths of field (sometimes just millimeters).

The shallow depth of field is usually a consequence of the very short working distances between the camera and the subject often required of macros (just inches). Counter-intuitively, with macro photography it is a constant struggle to increase the depth of field as much as possible so that the right amount of the subject is in focus.

How do you do it? Attach your favorite macro lens or use the macro mode on your camera, get as close as you can focus, and use the smallest aperture you can (f/8, f/11 or higher). Small apertures and close working distances sometimes mean low light as well so you may need to bring extra light, a tripod, and/or use a higher ISO setting.

Environmental portraits

These types of photographs are a blend of standard portraiture and landscape photography. The idea is that a portrait subject is shown in surroundings that tell the viewer something about that person. There are many different approaches to this type of photography but in general, since the person is primary subject, the person should always be in focus. Whether you keep the background in focus (and how much) depends a lot on the composition of the photo, whether the background is cluttered or clean, and how much emphasis you want to place on each (the subject vs. the environment).

Since these usually aren’t close-up portraits (head shots), focusing strictly on the eyes isn’t as important.

How do you do it? Use a medium aperture (f/4, f/5.6, f/8), a medium to wide focal length to include some background, and a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the portrait subject.

Five Photography Projects to Get You Motivated

Unlike most people my age summer is actually a busier time of year for me than the school year is. Often one of the first things to fall by the wayside when I get busy is my photography. Even though I love it it’s time consuming to get out and shoot photos and then do something more than just dump them in an unnamed folder on your hard drive. I don’t want to miss out on one of my favourite hobbies this summer so I’m planning to set myself a fun, non-work related, project to work on and hope it inspires me to keep snapping away through the warmer months. In an effort to get myself and anyone out there like me motivated this summer, here are a few photography project ideas:

1. 365 Days Project – we’ve all heard of this one. You take one photo each day and you have a pretty cool way to look back on a year of your life. You may also get some insight into the things that are important to you, and you’ll be photographing the ordinary, everyday aspects of your life not just the exceptional. I have wanted to try this project before but a whole year is just too daunting to me (I am not a forward planner, I barely know what I’m supposed to be doing next week, let alone next year) so if I pick this type of project I would probably scale it down to 30 days (a la Morgan Spurlock) and if I can manage that continue on from there.

2. Home Project – I move house usually once a year and have lived in some pretty cool buildings over the last 5 years but I have little photographic evidence of this fact. Before I move again (in exactly 30 days time!) I’d like to document the place that’s been my home for the last year. Not just the outside of the building but all it’s little nooks and crannies, the decor, the different angles and views. I think this would be a good project not just for someone who’s moving but for anyone with a home they love. Homes are important to us but for some reason we rarely photograph them.

3. People Project – Again this appeals to me partly because I will soon be moving but I like the idea of photographing all the people that are important to me in a place that is important to them. Then I’d make either a scrapbook or a collage of the finished photos. I think this one would be especially interesting because you would get to find out which places were most important to the people in your life.

4. 30 Viewpoints – One photo a day for 30 days of the same object/person/place but with a different viewpoint for each photo. I think this might reveal some interesting new angles to shoot from. Plus I think it would make a very cool collage once all 30 shots were finished.

5. Charity Project - I’ve actually done this one a few times before and always have great fun and get to meet lots of wonderful new people. Simply find a local charity and offer them your photography skills for free. Many charities, especially smaller local ones, need someone who can take some good quality shots of the  work they do which they can use to promote themselves. Pictures often speak louder than words and this can be especially true for charities trying to get support from a community. Make sure you are willing to let them use your work for free if you decide to do this and if you want to be able to use the photos in your own portfolio remember to get model releases for any people in your shots. Really though this is just a great way to give a little something back to your community and meet some new people.

Do you have some photography project ideas to get me motivated this summer? If so, please let me know in the comments. I am always looking for inspiration!

Friday grab bag

A National Geographic photographer brings her kids to work. It’s the ultimate photography internship. What a great opportunity for a kid.

The growth and birth of a chicken in pictures. Despite this, I will continue to enjoy eating eggs.

60 photo links you can’t live without over at CameraPorn. No, it’s perfectly work safe, trust me. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Olympus has a really neat new super zoom with the “soul of a DSLR.” You can’t change lenses, but why would you? The SP-570 UZ covers 26-520mm (f/2.8-4.5) with built in sensor-shift and digital image stabilization.

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