What makes a Winner?

G-LadySewingbyFirelight-Krawczyk-B-0215 (1)

I was recently asked to judge a year-end photo competition for a local and longstanding (79 years) photography club, The Springfield Photography Society. I was judging the event with two other individuals. There were, I believe, over 160 images for us to view. After viewing all the images, we agreed very quickly on Best in Show. Lady Sewing by Firelight by Barbara Krawczyk.

There were many excellent photos to view and judge, however, the winning piece was clearly evident to us. After the judging I wondered myself what was it about that particular image that made it easy to pick out as Best in Show? I realized there were several factors about the work that were not just appealing but were exemplary of certain artistic and photographic techniques. Lady Sewing by Firelight used several time-proven artistic procedures.

The first photographic technique (what some writers refer to as Photo 101) is the use of the rule of thirds. This rule is reflected in the crop tool in Photoshop. Some camera display screens are gridded in the rule of thirds.. The rule of thirds breaks the image up by two evenly spaced horizontal lines and two evenly spaced vertical lines. This divides the image space into nine even sections. The four points where the vertical and horizontal lines cross is usually considered the spot in which to place the points of interest. For more information on rule of thirds click here. rule-of-thirds

The winning photograph lines up nicely based on the rule of thirds.

Long used in art as well as found throughout nature is the spiral formed by the Fibonacci Sequence.  For an article about Fibonacci in photography click here.  Sometimes it is referred to as the Fibonacci ratio. The ratio is often found in natural elements from spirals in flower petals to the inside of shells. The spiral has been called the Devine ratio because of its universal use in nature. This piece exemplifies this artistic concept.fibonocci-curve

The artistic term, Chiaroscuro, use of strong contrast between light and dark with use of lighting, can be applied to this photograph. Use of chiaroscuro dates back to the renaissance period and has long been an important technique for depicting form and volume. In Lady Sewing by Firelight, the warm natural lighting evokes emotion from the viewer.

All of these elements together are important to a composition and the viewers reaction to it. Many other photographs in the competition also utilized these rules and techniques. So what makes this image special?

When looking at an image it is, of course, subject matter that captures a viewer. How the photographer is able to convey a mood or feeling in her work often needs to be carried by the subject. In this case, the subject appears unposed, almost unaware of the photographer. Her absorption in her work is evident and lends the work a sense of authenticity. Along with the character, her setting is authentic as are the clothing and tools the character uses. It is this authenticity that allows the viewer to accept that this is an other worldly (or other time) place and person. We, the viewers, are given a peek into another world; a world captured by a masterful artist.

Photo used by permission of Barbara Krawczyk. All rights belong to the Artist.

Three things to consider when entering a juried show

The Methodology of Art Show JuriesClick to view

Having been coordinator of a significant regional art show for a few years, I am often asked why a certain piece is picked by the jurors and other pieces are declined. The query is usually phrased “How could they have chosen that over my work?” To which I usually reply, “Because art is subjective and those were the pieces that spoke to them”. But I have noticed certain things are important if you want your piece to have a stronger chance of being accepted.

1. Originality: Your work may be the most proficient in style and technique but if it’s another lighthouse don’t be surprised if it is declined. Some jurors will bypass any piece that looks as if it were painted from a photograph, particularly a famous photograph. Trite themes or popular fads may sell but it might not get into a juried show.

2. Presentation: Your frame matters. If the frame does not complement your work, you are doing yourself a disservice. The frame does not have to be the most expensive, although sometime a nice frame can set your piece apart. But it should never over-power the art. The frame should not be the first thing someone notices.

Your work should be clean and the mat well cut. It should give definition to your work and be of a color that enhances the art. The mat should not be distracting, by overwhelming your art. Smudged or coffee spills will not get your work into the show so be careful of how you treat your original art work and don’t use the least expensive substrate to work on. If your work is worthy of your time and effort to make, it is worthy of quality materials to create it.

Clean the glass. Jurors notice the dust and think it is an old piece that you are trying to submit as new. They want to see the work you are currently creating, not what you were doing ten years ago. They want the serious practicing artists to get into the show. Dirty glass also indicates you do not think highly of your own work.

3. Results: Try not to take the jurors’ decisions badly if your work is not accepted. Just because your piece was declined does not mean it is not worthy. Art really is subjective and some art speaks to someone and another piece may not. If your art is accepted don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to keep being creative. Next year’s jurors will likely have an entirely new agenda and prize winners this year could be declined the next year.

S. Phil Saffer 1927-2014


Berkshire Hills

Occasionally our lives are blessed by special people.  Someone who suddenly enters our lives and gives us new perspectives just by being who they are.  For me, one of those people was S. Phil Saffer.  I first met Phil when he stopped into my studio to learn about giclee printing. He came back with several pieces of art. He warned me his art was considered weird by some people. It was, he said, like nothing anyone else was doing. He thought I might not like it. I could not imagine what he was bringing me.

Loblolly Pine

Loblolly Pine

He was partly right. I had not seen anything like his work.But he was wrong about my not liking it. I was blown away. The first two pieces he brought me were “Berkshire Hills” and “Loblolly Pine”  It was love at first sight. Phil immediately became my favorite artist!

Over the years we worked on several collaborations and I had the opportunity to reproduce much more of his artwork.  As a giclee printer and gallery owner, I get to meet many artists and see a great deal of very good art. No one else has ever given me such a thrill when first seeing their work as Phil did. His work was so vibrant and energetic. So much like the man, himself. He was excited by color and patterns. His artistic style kept evolving, changing, growing into new and complex ideas. He kept demanding more of himself, artistically. A master of many different media and methods, he was always reaching for new techniques and ideas. He was not afraid to challenge himself.

Phil was a master sculptor, painter, construction artist, and inventor of strange machines. He was always creating, thinking, planning.  The world will be  little less bright because of his passing. I will be forever grateful that he happened into my studio one day, bring me colors and images I had  never imagined before.  Thank you, Phil. I will miss you.

Victorian Fairy Tarot


fairybrideWe are always amazed by the quality of work done by the artists we work with. One of our most outstanding artists is Gary A. Lippincott.  We are proud to be his giclee printer.  Take a few minutes to look through this gallery of the Victorian Fairy Tarot Deck painted by Gary A. Lippincott and written by Lunaea Weatherstone. Click on the links below for an in depth review

tarot watermark

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Here is a link to a review  Part1 and review part 2

NINE Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Do you have one of those hard to shop for people on your list?  Here are some welcome and unique gifts only from Giclée Printing & Framing of New England. Some of these ideas need planning ahead… so we thought we might just mention them now!

 Nine Holiday Gift Ideas:

  1. xmasA home portrait on canvas. Bring us your best shot and we can help you make it great.
  2. A favorite grandchild’s art work preserved on a laminate plaque
  3. A family heirloom painting reproduced for the whole family to share.
  4. Your pet, child, family, favorite place or anything else you have a photo of on a wall sized mural, printed on self-adhesive prepositional wall fabric.
  5. An Heirloom Collage created from your collection of photos.
  6. Old wedding or family photos restored and reproduced for family sharing.
  7. Custom Frame the art your spouse always wanted framed but is still in the box in your closet.
  8. Fair trade items for gift giving, from earrings to handbags to cozy scarfs.
  9. An amazing piece of art from a local artist or artisan.

Some tips for getting a good shot for printing:

  1. Hold the camera steady
  2. Before you shoot, look around for clutter
  3. If you are using a camera phone or other device, take a few shots to get a good one. Some are slow and your subject may move and blur the shot.
  4. Check your image after you shot it. If it is too bright or too dark move the camera slightly to find a new meter reading.
  5. If you are going to shoot a building or home, watch to see what time of day it looks the best. Then plan the shoot a head of time to get the best lighting.



Imaging for output Part 3

If you missed the Intro and Part 1 and Part 2 click on the links

Imaging for output part III

The final step in output is, of course, printing. If one is sending work out to a photo lab or giclée print shop, the end result should be one of collaboration. Work with the printer to ensure color fidelity and accuracy. Different media will have different effects. If possible ask for proofs on several different media to be sure you are getting the best choice for your image. Different images lend themselves to different media. A bright sunny day photo might look best on a luster finish photo paper, while a close-up image with lots of texture and deep tones might look best on a high quality art paper. A golden sunset might shimmer on a paper with metallic finish. A family portrait might be best printeded on a stretched canvas.

If you are doing your own printing, be sure you are offering your buyers a quality product. A print made from a desktop inkjet may not have the inkset longevity to create a valued print.  (Printers reviewed: http://www.dpmag.com/buyers-guide/printers.html?start=1 ) The cost of a good quality archival printer is not cheap. Add to that the costs of the inksets. The reward of creating your own prints and the ability to experiment is often worth the investment for the serious photographer.

Although printers usually are delivered with a print driver, professional printers and photographers who do their own work often invest in another piece of software called a RIP (raster image processor). The price of a rip can often be nearly as much as the cost of the printer. One popular RIP is Image Print by Colorbyte Software. http://www.colorbytesoftware.com/index.shtml This RIP works only with Epson Printers.

print dialog box

When printing directly from a software like Photoshop, one must be sure to disable the print driver and let Photoshop manage the color. There are various ways to do ensure the print driver is disabled depending upon make and model of the printer. The printing process through Photoshop can be daunting. Take the time to learn the process. There are many on-line tutorials like this one from Adobe: http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/printing-color-management-photoshop.html .


No matter what method you chose to produce your output, you will be more satisfied with the results if you are knowledgeable about the process and take a proactive role in creating your images.

Imaging for Output Part 1

When creating an image for output, one must remember the old adage, “Garbage in… Garbage out”.  If your digital file is not the best it can be then the resulting print will not be very good either.  The larger the output the better the image must be.  Many file defects can not be detected in a 4×6 inch print, but would be glaringly obvious in a 12×16 inch or larger print.   If you are reading this article, one must assume your goal is a larger and better image.  In many respects the quality of your digital file is the the most important factor in output.

The first step is to become familiar with your camera or digital capture device. Take the time to read and understand your camera’s owner’s manual.  Be sure your settings are set on the largest image your camera can capture.  It does not make sense to pay for megapixels and set your image size to small.  Memory space is no longer expensive so should not be an issue. The larger the file the larger the output. If your camera has the capability to shoot in Camera Raw, it is wise to use it. If you are used to shooting in jpg and just started using camera raw, you may find your images seem flat, not as vibrant. That is because the camera applies adjustments to the jpg image.  In camera raw, you must apply the adjustments. Some other advantages of using Raw are an uncompressed file, more digital information, more ability to edit and adjust the final image, and usually a larger image.

It will require some digital editing, but if your objective is to create the best possible printed image, then it behoves you to learn to edit your work.   There are many factors that affect the quality of your photo. If you find you are unable to hold the camera steady – use a tripod or a monopod. If you are seeing a great deal of digital noise (graininess), lower your ISO or use a flash.  Although there are software fixes for issues like digital noise, it is best to have a great shot to start rather than try to fix a bad shot.

DSLR cameras usually have a menu option for setting color space.  The default is usually sRGB. The sRGB color space is the color space of choice if you only intend to post your images to the web. It is the space most computers and other devices use.  However, sRGB is a limited color space, compressing colors and limiting color gamut.  The most widely used color space for output is usually Adobe RGB.  It has a wider gamut (more colors) and is compatible with most digital printing systems. If you set your camera to shoot in the Adobe RGB color space, you will want to use that color space in your  digital editing software as well. It is not advisable to go from one color space to the other  for output. By shooting in sRGB then converting to Adobe RGB in your editing software, you might find a drastic difference in color appearance. If you are using Photoshop for your editing software, you can designate your color workspace.  Go to Edit> Color settings and select Adobe RGB for your working space.  Under Color Management Policies it is a good idea to choose to “Preserve Embedded Profiles”  and to have Photoshop ask if there are profile mismatches. I do not change the color space if there is a mismatch for the color space as it changes the colors. If your camera does not have a setting for color space, it is best to assume you are shooting in sRGB.

Image resolution is another concern when thinking about image output. Resolution can be very confusing as it refers to several very different things. There is first the image resolution – how many pixels per inch in your digital file.  There is screen resolution, the pixels per inch on your computer screen, and finally there  is print resolution- how many points per inch of ink the printer puts onto the printed media.  All of these measures of resolution are different but are often confused. For this part of the discussion we are mostly concerned with image resolution.  The image resolution is directly correlated to your image size.daliah100

I often hear and see the concept that to be printed an image must be 300 ppi (pixels per inch).  If one is planning on outputting to a published source – newspaper, magazine, etc., that is correct.  The publishing industry maintains a standard of 300 ppi and if an image is sent in another resolution it will become a different size when placed into the publisher’s document.  For consistency and  convenience published material should be submitted at 300 ppi.   Often images published in newspapers and magazines are small.  Meeting this size requirement is not difficult.

image size box

The 300 ppi publishing rule does not have to correlate to image printing, however.  If the image is good, it can be printed with its native resolution to whatever size it continues to look good. I have read numerous articles about what resolution the image file must be in order to have a great print. Despite what many “experts” say, in my 10 years as a commercial digital printer  I have printed images at 72 pixels per inch resolution that look as sharp or sharper than images printed at 300 ppi.

The major factor here is “native resolution” – The actual pixel size that your camera captures.  When you import or download your image from your camera to your software it is the pixel dimensions set by the image sensor of your camera that dictates the resolution size, and not the other way around. That is the resolution does not (within parameters) dictate print size but the print size dictates the resolution.  Consider the first image size box. The native resolution of this image is 5616 pixels x 3744 pixels.  By resizing the document size resolution I can change the image size output. If I wanted to print this image at 8×12, it would increase the document size resolution to 468 ppi but not alter resizethe native resolution of 5616 pixels x 3744 pixels. If my original image is sharp at 100% view in Photoshop, it will print sharp at 12×8 or 23.4×15.6 or even 78 x 52 at 72 ppi.  (One thing  to note is that at the smaller sizes the printer device will eliminate pixels but it done by algorithms and is invisible  to the user). The images of the daliah above would print fine at 72ppi  with the native resolution, but as you can see would print badly at 72ppi when up-resed.

If you decide to up-res an image (add pixels) then you are changing the native resolution and your image will begin to degrade to the point where it is often destroyed or at the very least quality compromised.maxsize box

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.

Focus Stacking, Trends in Photography

finished stack 20 exposures

finished stack 20 exposures

A few years ago HDR (high dynamic range) be came the rage. It seemed that every online photo site was discussing how to do it. HDR photography was showing up every where. How-to instructions are easily found. With over 200,000 hits on Youtube for HDR tutorials, it is easy to see how popular this technique has become.

The newest trend is focus stacking. This technique increases the Depth of Field in macro photography. By combining a large number of exposures with the focus point moved incrementally one is able to create an extreme close-up with sharp focus throughout the subject.

The process is done using a sturdy tripod and a good camera. (Remember if you are using a tripod to turn off the image stabilizer on your lens.) Starting at one end of your subject take a series of shots. Move the focus point slightly back (or forward if you stated at the back of your subject). The more focus points the sharper your image will be.

Open all the resulting images in your software. In this case we are using Photoshop CS 3 or higher. Place all the images in one file as layers. Keep the layer in order. Select all the layers at the same time and go to Edit>Auto align layer. When that finishes, with all layers still selected go to Edit>Auto blend layers. You may find some anomalies around the edges so crop that part and you have finished your image.

There are other software products that will do this as well. Helicon Soft is one of the leading software in this technique. http://www.heliconsoft.com/ . Another choice would be Photoacute: http://www.photoacute.com/index.html This software not only does focus stacking but has a killer noise reduction feature and HDR. There are several opensource free software as well, Picolay is one http://picolay.de/ .

If you find that this technique becomes one that you want to master, there are several devices that can automate the process. Cognisys produces several items such as slide rails and remotes to aid in the focus stacking process. http://www.cognisys-inc.com/stackshot/stackshot.php