Read the fine print in competitions

As many of you know, I spend a great deal of time each month searching for art and photo shows and competitions for our call for entries page. I try to find good local shows or national shows with great prizes. Recently I can across a call for entries for a local organization. It offered a modest prize of publication. Not all competitions need be offering large prizes. Publication and the publicity is enough for some budding Photogs. However, reading the fine print, this organization was claiming all rights to all the submitted entries! (not just winners).  I was quite shocked that for no compensation this group would claim ownership of the artists’ copyright.

I thought that perhaps the organization was misstating its intent. On the submission form, however, it clearly states that by entering the artist is transferring copyright to the organization.

“By submitting this form with the attached photograph, I certify that I own the copyright to this work and that I knowingly transfer that copyright to The Last Green Valley, Inc. for its use. The Last Green Valley, Inc. will credit me whenever the photograph is used.”

Be aware that when the copyright is knowingly transferred to another party, the artist no longer has a right to show, sell or in anyway use his or her own creation.  In a time when protection of  an artists’ work is difficult enough, it is a shock to see a respected organization trying to take advantage.  Be careful of what you give away and read everything before you sign away your rights and your hard work!

Another national photo competition in which the contestant is required to pay $25 entry fee, the fine print notes that all entries can be used by the “Sponsors” for whatever they wish to do with the images in perpetuity (Forever) without compensation to the artist.

USE OF ENTRY: By submitting an Entry, entrant grants the Sponsor and their designees an irrevocable, royalty-free, nonexclusive, worldwide perpetual license to use the Entry and his/her name, city and state of residence for credit purposes in Sponsor’s online galleries, without further compensation, notification or permission, unless prohibited by law. In addition, each winner grants to the Sponsor and their designees an irrevocable, royalty-free, nonexclusive, worldwide perpetual license to use, edit, modify, cut, rearrange, add to, delete from, reproduce, encode, store, transmit, produce, publish, rent, lease, distribute (directly or indirectly through multiple tiers), post, broadcast, publicly perform or display, adapt, exhibit and/or otherwise use or reuse or exploit (without limitation as to when or to the number of times used) and use the Entries and entrants name, city and state of residence (for credit purposes) in perpetuity in any and all media including but not limited to digital and electronic media, in Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo, HDVideoPro and Digital Photo Pro magazines, computer, DVD, CD, print, audio and audio-visual media (whether now existing or hereafter devised), in any language, throughout the world, and in any manner for purposes of promotion of this Contest and other Sponsor’s contests and/or for purposes of advertising and promoting the Sponsor and, except as otherwise stated herein, without further compensation, notification or permission, unless prohibited by law.

Another small regional photo competition offering modest awards did their homework.  They want to be sure they can use the images received but are aware that the copyright belongs to the originator of the work.  They are specific about how they will use the work while they acknowledge that the ownership of the copyright still belongs to the artist.

“Your Rights: Entrants retain ownership and all other rights to future use of the photographs they enter except for the following: Your entry to the contest constitutes your agreement to allow your entered photographs – and your name, age division, city, state, and country of residence – to be published on The Trustees of Reservations’ website, magazine, e-newsletter, and social media, and you grant to The Trustees of Reservations the perpetual, worldwide non-exclusive license to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the entry (along with a name credit) in connection with and promotion of The Trustees of Reservations, in any media now or hereafter known.”

The lesson here is read the small print. What you don’t know can hurt you!

Imaging for output Part2

It is not only frustrating to get a print that does not look the way you expect, it can be expensive.

One of the major issues photographers and digital artists face is a printed image that doesn’t match the computer screen. There are several factors which can cause this discrepancy and usually a combination of factors are involved. Firstly there is the fact that a screen image is viewed via light passing through the image, an additive colors process. The print is created using the process called subtractive colors.   A previous blog discusses this in RBG vs CMYK color-wheel--2 color-wheelSince these are fundamentally different processes, one can not recreate exact matches. Also many vibrant colors are out of the print gamut and can only be viewed on the screen.  The color picker in Photoshop CSx will warn you when you pick a color out of print gamut with an ! next to the new color box.

Color matching can  difficult to achieve.( Color Management is a complex science.) Without a calibration device and a monitor capable of being calibrated, it will be very difficult. For the most accurate screen viewing one must calibrate the monitor regularly to a specific profile.  Here is an excellent article on Monitor calibration.  I use the settings detailed in this article. I set my gamma to 1.8 and color temperature to 5000 degrees kelvin. With these settings, the colors are more neutral and will more closely match a print.

Additional screen issues include lighting on the screen, ambient light, kinds of lighting, screen resolution, graphics settings, monitor adaptability,  monitor age, monitor type, and whether or not you use a calibration device. You may find working in a dimmed room with no light falling on your screen makes viewing better.

As we discussed in the previous post, color space can affect your colors, as can the paper, inkset, printer type, and viewing light source. One way to visualize the effects of the paper you print on is to do a “soft proof” in Photoshop.   If you print yourself, find your media manufacture’s online site and down load the correct ICC Profiles . If you have a professional printer produce your work, ask what brand of papers are used and how to get the profiles.   For example, I use Breathing Color  or Lexjet products.  In Photoshop, go to the menu item View>Proof Color>Custom. A dialog box will pop up.  Use the drop down arrow to find the previously installed ICC Profiles for the media you intend to print your image on.  If there is a great deal of out of gamut color in your image you might see a drastic change. If it is a good match you may see no change.  If there is a great change you may want to adjust your colors or forgo printing that image.

In Part III I will be discussing the printing process.

Fine Art Photography: Imaging for output, Three Part Discussion


The end result of photography is not as it used to be. In the days of film photography the only way the photographer could view the image was as an actual printed photograph or sit in a darkened room and

original on screen irisview a slide show. If the processed photo was excellent the photographer might consider an enlargement for display. Unless the photographer had access to a dark room the film and print were created by “photo labs”. The photographer usually did not have much input into how the image was processed and developed. The only way others could view or enjoy the work of the photographer was to actually be there and view the physical print or the slide show. Occasionally, professional photographers were published in magazines and were able to share their work with a larger audience. Most photos, however, were developed, printed to a small format and then stuck in a drawer and forgotten.

Digital imaging and the internet have changed everything. Photographers can now share their work with the entire world. Through social media sites like Flickr, Smugmug, Facebook or email photographers can display their work and get feedback. With tools like Photoshop, Lightroom or Picasa the photographic artist can enhance, create and process his work in the “digital darkroom”. With the cost of film development eliminated, an artist can be as prolific as she wants to be. One need never create an actual print to consider oneself a digital photographic artist. As one develops as a photographic artist in this digital age, the mastery of imaging software is the first step in becoming a fine art photographer.

 There comes a time, however, when the photographer wants to have an actual print. Whether it is to enter competitions and art shows or to hang on the wall, the printing of one’s digital work is a logical next step. Often there is a surprise and disappointment when the resulting print does not come close to matching the image on the computer screen. The photographer then realizes that there is another element to learn in this process. There are many factors that effect digital imaging output. From defining and working in a color space to specifying profiles for the print media, the variables in printing can be daunting and mysterious.

In this three part discussion, we will start with image capture, processing and color space. Part two will discuss media profiles, screen calibration and print drivers and software, part three will cover the printing process, printers and media.

Plug-ins for Photoshop

Photoshop Plug-ins… What are they? Why do I need them?

Plug-ins are typically third party software that works in conjunction with a specific software or software products. Adobe, makers of Photoshop, is company that encourages developers to create plug-ins for its products. There are several plug-in products that work with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom that enhance their capabilities.

However, since Adobe Photoshop is such a powerful feature laden product why would anyone need a plug-in? The answer is that despite Photoshop having many features, some of the features work better with plug-ins. If you have ever tried to use the noise reduction filter in PS, you have likely been disappointed. While it does a fairly good job of reducing digital noise, it softens the image to a point that it loses focus. Using Unsharp mask in PS often enhances the left over noise negating the previous adjustments in noise reduction. The end result is often unsatisfactory.

Some of the more popular plug-ins are made by Nic Software. Recently Nic Software was acquired by Google. This is good news as the price of the entire plug-in suite is now less than a single product was previously. For $149 (look for coupons for even more savings) you can buy the entire suite. Beside the two plug-ins discussed here the suite includes HDR Efex Pro 4 for creating high dynamic range photos, Color Efex Pro 4 for filters to enhance the color of images, Silver Efex Pro 4 for Black and white enhancements and, my personal favorite, Viveza 2 for spot editing.

Click to open images. Click again to see large size.

Creating Panorama Photographs

A panoramic photo captures an image that is at least twice as long as high.  Usually a photograph with an aspect ratio* of 2:1 or higher would be considered a panorama. For example, 10×20 or 8×16 inch prints would be considered panoramic, with a view that is twice as wide as high.  An image that is as great as or greater than the viewing field of the human eye would be panoramic. A higher aspect ratio, of 4:1 or even 10:1 would be panoramic.

Quabin Panorama Photo

There are cameras which will create a panoramic image with a single shot. There are multiple lens and software to help create panoramic photographs as well as 360° photographic images. But for most of us, our usual still digital cameras using a standard lens along with some stitching software will be more than adequate for pano creation.

There are a number of software stitching programs on the market. One of the most popular is PTgui. ( ).  Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements have Photomerge feature and does an excellent job for most panoramic stitching.  More recent versions (CS4 or better) do a much better job than earlier versions.

No matter what you use to create the final image, it is the photographic process that will determine how good your final image is.  It is possible to hand hold the camera and still create a panorama but it is much easier to use a tripod. You can purchase specific heads for your tripod to create panoramas, from the inexpensive LensPen Pananic head for about $20 to a Manfrotto Spherical Panoramic Head Kit at $650.

If you chose to forgo the expense of a special head for your tripod there are a few rules to keep in mind. If you are shooting without a tripod, try to use your body as the center point. Plant your feet firmly and turn from your waist. As with any shot, take a breath and hold it before depressing the shutter button.  If you are shooting with a tripod, it is best to level the head if you can before shooting.  The most important rule, however, is to overlap your shots by at least 1/3 of the scene you are shooting. I usually pick out a land mark in the shot about 1/3 from the edge and make that opposite edge on the next shot.

It is also important to keep the settings the same in the camera. If you have auto focus turned on be careful with the focus. It could shift based on the image and it would destroy your panorama.  You may want to shoot in Manuel Mode in order to avoid that from happening. A shift in meter reading could also make the creation difficult, although the software will do some blending of edges.

Try re-positioning yourself and trying the shot from a slightly different angle.  Take several multiple shots from different perspectives. Your first perspective might not work as expected when you start to turn the camera.  The number of shots you use to create your panorama is dependent on the scene you are shooting. I find that for a 180° shot that I will need 5-7 shots.

Creating a panorama photo is fun and rewarding. Going beyond the limits of the lens and camera opens up a whole new way of seeing through your lens. Capturing a wide view makes the scene more memorable and closer to what the “mind sees”.  Try turning the camera for a vertical shot. This will make your panorama wider and capture more of the scene. Good luck and keep shooting!

*Aspect ratio is a measure comparing width to height. Most digital cameras will produce a 3:2 aspect ratio.  The resulting print size of 4×6 or 8×12 is an example of 3:2 aspect ratio.

Color Mode: RGB vs CMYK

As a giclée printer, I often see confusion about color mode.   For this discussion I will focus on RGB and CMYK, although there are other color modes with different functions and uses.

RGB (red, green and blue) refers to the additive or “light” color process.  When these three colors of light are combined; white light results. The absence of these colors of light appears as black. This is the idea behind display devices, like your TV or Computer Monitor.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are subtractive colors. These colors reflect light back. Theoretically when combined the three colors should produce black. Because the resulting color is not a “pure” black, printers add black (K) to the combination resulting in CMYK.

RGB refers to light (additive) while CMYK refers to pigment, inks or paint (subtractive). Because all printers, be it inkjet, laser, or offset use the subtractive process to produce color it seems reasonable that when creating files for printing one would work in the CMYK mode. This is true for traditional color printing often called offset or 4-color process. The technology behind this printing process is to create 4 separate printing plates. Each plate was originally created by photographing the image to be printed four times using a filter for each color.  The resulting separations representing red, green and blue were then reversed to create the negatives for its color opposite.  For example red is opposite cyan on the color wheel, because cyan is the result of mixing blue and green light and the absence of red light.

Although the inkjet printers and devices that are used today by many professional printers use pigmented inks that are CMYK or variations of CMYK, the file mode format should be RGB.  This is because the files are converted by the print driver or RIP (raster image processor, fancy name for print drivers), into CMYK.  If the files are not in the RGB mode, this process still happens but sometimes with unwanted results because CMYK has a smaller color gamut.

So should you produce files in RGB mode or CMYK mode? The answer is it depends. If your files will be sent to a printer who uses an offset or 4-color process press then you should convert your files to CMYK.  If your printer uses a digital process and prints on an inkjet printer, you should keep your files in RGB mode. If you are unsure what process your printer uses, ask.  If you want the best possible color for your image, be aware of how it will be produced.


After the Storm Photo Show

Western Mass Tornado Photo Show Fund Raiser

So many incredible photos have been taken of this devastating event. Many photographers have felt the need to record and preserve the images of the profound change that has happened in our region. Giclée of New England, Inc Gallery will be sponsoring a Photo Show as a fund raiser for the victims of the June 1 tornado. We would also like to see before and after photos in this show. Photos of rebuilding and clean-up efforts will be welcome as well as those that document the massive destruction.

There is a $10 donation fee  for two images. You can enter as many times as you like. We will find space to hang all entries. All entry fees will be donated to the Disaster Fund at the Monson Savings Bank. Giclée of New England, Inc. will offer printing, framing or mounting of photos for this show at deeply discounted rates.  Videos can also be entered for showing.

There will be awards (prizes if we can get donations) for :

  • Before & After
  • People
  • Rebuilding
  • Clean-up
  • The Worst thing I saw
  • The Best thing I saw
This Gallery Showing will be from July 9 through August 31.  Opening reception July 9, 2-5pm, and refreshments will be served.  Click here for show application in PDF form.  A 20% commission will be added to works for sale to be donated to the Tornado Fund.


Creative Communities Exchange

Last week I had the great opportunity to attend the NEFA’s (New England Foundation for the Arts) Creative Community Exchange in North Adams. This event, hosted by Mass MoCA and Berkshire Creative, focused on how development of creative spaces and creative economies has benefited towns and regions throughout New England.

The event was made up of workshops presented by cultural and creative community leaders.  The presenters focused on the successful implementation of developing the creative economy in their towns, cities or regions. With four different workshops in each session time slot, it was a difficult choice to decide which workshops to attend.

On Wednesday, May 18 the activities began with a tour of Mass MoCA lead by Joe Thompson, Director of Mass MoCA.  This was an intimate look behind the scenes.  It was wonderful to hear the story of space and exhibit development from such a knowledgeable person.

Thursday, May 19 was the start of the actual event.  A marvelous breakfast was served to attendees.  After a brief welcome we went to our chosen workshops.  The first one I attended was the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP). It was about the art challenges of a rural community and how developing the arts in Rockingham VT brought culture and economic growth to the area. The next session, Pittsfield Dept of Community Development: Downtown Renaissance was truly inspiring.  How a city of 44,000 with minimal art and culture presence was able to develop a thriving and healthy creative economy was the focus of this workshop.  After a delightful lunch, there were three more workshops. These covered developing creative partnerships and how small towns developed “Down Street” art centers.

Friday, May 20 started with another great breakfast followed by a “Spark” event designed to stimulate networking.  The workshops followed.  For the ending events an outstanding meal was provided with awards and speakers. Most notable among the speakers was  National Endowment For the Arts Chairman,  Rocco Landesman.  He is a powerful speaker with a meaningful message. His slogan, “Art Works” has inspired me.

I made several connections at this event. I hope to be able to implement some of the ideas presented in our region and I do hope to be able to attend future events of this kind. If anyone is interested in a more in depth discussion of what I learned, please phone me or send me an email and we can delve more fully into this exciting subject.


5 top questions you should ask your giclée printer

Finding someone to reproduce your artwork may seem like an easy thing to do.  Google “giclée” and 20 million hits come up.  You might narrow the field down by adding your region (“giclée Western Mass” has only 27,000 hits), but the numbers are still daunting.  Finding the right printer for your artwork is like finding the right doctor or the right insurance company.  I suggest that you work with someone who, if not local, is still close enough so you can meet with them and see their operation.  As an artist you put many hours into your work.  You want to find someone who appreciates your effort, respects your work and makes you the best possible reproduction.  Asking the right questions can help you evaluate the printer. The following is a list of questions that I feel are the most important.

  1. What is your back ground in printing? In art? In digital technology?
  2. Are you able to give references of satisfied customers?
  3. What techniques do you use for image capture, printing, finishing?
  4. What products or brands do you use for printing and why do you choose those products?
  5. Do you guarantee your work and do you stand behind your product?

This is not a complete list of questions but they are a starting point. You are building a relationship with your printer. You want to know and trust that individual to handle your work with professionalism and competence.  Your prints will reflect you as an artist and as a professional. Know your product. If your customers ask you about the digital or giclée process you want to be able to answer with authority and confidence.  No one expects everyone to be an expert, (that is why you go to a giclée printer) but you should be knowledgeable enough to be able to state why your giclée prints are worth the price you charge.

Art Festivals

  Arts and crafts festivals are one way to market your art or fine art craft. For some artists this is a way of life. For others it is a good way to supplement their art income by doing a few shows each year. It can be a grueling and exhausting, yet for some artists it is very profitable.  If you think your work would sell well in the festival setting, try out a few local venues.  An online site, Art Fairs, has an extensive listing of art festivals.   Many of the on-line listing sites charge membership fees for information on festivals and calls for entry. Subscribing to one or more may be worth the fees in the time saved by searching.  However, if you wish to enter or attend a specific show or two, paid subscriptions are likely not worth the expense. Most venues have on-line information and applications forms.    

 Now is the time to start your applications, if you wish to participate in the 2011 season. Most summer shows have March or even earlier deadlines.  If you have not participated in a festival be prepared.  Start with small local venues, unjuried if you are new to the process. Go to the shows you would like  to enter and get a feel for the set-up and ask the participants how they are doing.  Find shows where your art fits in.