Fine Art Photography: Imaging for output, Three Part Discussion

iris-as-printed

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.

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.

 

Have you been counted?

Have you signed up to be counted in NEFA’s CultureCount? NEFA (New England Foundation for the Arts) is a enormous resource for anyone in the arts in New England.  If you are an artist, run a creative business or represent a cultural nonprofit you should be counted. Click here to find out why you should be listed.  http://www.culturecount.org/public/whycreate.aspx

CultureCount is a free creative economy database.  CultureCount is a centralized source of descriptive, financial, demographic, and geographic information about cultural nonprofits, businesses, and professionals in New England.

CultureCount provides a comprehensive representation of the creative economy of New England that supports the advocacy, fundraising, cultural analysis, and policy development efforts of artists, cultural organizations, researchers, and policy makers. CultureCount users can log on to discover cultural organizations, explore their communities, and analyze economic impact.

It is important to our regional economy that those of us who are working in the Creative Economy be counted. If you are not sure if you or your business would be identified as part of the creative economy click on this link to see if you fit the definition http://www.nefa.org/sites/default/files/ResearchCreativeEconRptHighlihghts.pdf.

 

 

 

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 Calendar.com, has an extensive listing of art festivals. http://www.artfaircalendar.com/art_fair/new-england-art-fairs.html   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.

Minimizing risk when posting to the internet

When putting artwork or photographs on the internet,

it can become “fair game” to the whole world, despite copyright laws. There are complicated codes that can prevent images from being copied, but these codes are not used on all sites. Social media sites like Facebook or Flickr do not protect your images and what you upload, can be downloaded.

In this time of open sources, privacy issues in Facebook and other social sharing sites, and on-line stores, it can be difficult to protect your images. Placing a watermark in the middle of the picture is one way to protect it. However, that severely lowers the quality of your image. If you are trying to present your work to potential customers, you want it to be sharp and clear.  Additionally, with software like Photoshop CS5, a watermark can be easily eliminated.

 So how does one protect art work on the internet and still take advantage of the vast marketing potential offered by social media? You could limit your exposure only to sites where your work can not be easily copied, for example www.Artid.com.  Or you can recognize the risks involved and post only work that is “web friendly” but not “print friendly”.  Be aware of the resolution of the file you post. If your image is 500 pixels on the longest side, it will be large enough to see clearly on the computer screen but can not be enlarged beyond that size. An added plus to that size is how rapidly it will load. Your viewers will appreciate the quick load time.

 Accept the risk that the image might be “borrowed”. But since your work cannot increase in size easily, your file will not be very useful to the borrower.  Be sure to always mark or sign your work clearly. On social networks, friends will share images they like, not intending to steal but rather to share an experience. That is why we network. It is a great chance for your work to be viewed by a new and larger audience.  The internet is a great new way for artists and photographers to market their work.  If your name is clearly marked, someone who sees your work might become a fan.  Use the internet wisely and take care to protect your work as much as you can. 

 A helpful hint for those who use Photoshop:  To easily scale your image smaller and quickly, use the “Save for Web & Devices” Command under File. It saves your image as a separate file, either jpeg, png, or bmp. Resize in the dialog box to 500 pixels on the longest side and you are ready to upload.

Photoshop CS5 Review

Brief Review of Photoshop CS5

Having just opened the box late last night, I can not give a very thorough review yet. But I had to try out some of the new features that have been so well publicized. 

I will start with the feature I was most looking forward to, Content Aware Fill. It is all that was promised! Totally incredible. I was able to remove telephone lines through trees and sky without any problems, other than having to go over a couple of spots.  It also works on large areas using the delete key. I was able to remove a tree from the sky in only two short steps. Photoshop even grabbed a cloud from the other part of the sky and placed into the spot where the tree had been. All I can say is WOW!

Another new feature, I have been anticpting is the paint feature. This too is incredible, but not in the least easy. It looks like it should be but it is not. I love the idea but it will take much practice and patience to create a painting from a complex photograph.

I will post more reviews as I delve deeper into the Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium.

Art ID Blogging

Art ID

I was recently asked to join the bloggers on Art ID.  I was most honored to be selected as a giclee expert to share my experience and knowledge with fellow artists.  Art ID is an online gallery dedicated to marketing and promoting artists. Unlike many other online sites, Art ID is very actively working to find markets and opportunities for artists to sell their work.  Art ID takes no commission and offers sites from totally free to large and artist controlled galleries for a small fee. For artists without their own website, this is a very valuable service.  For artists with a website it is a way to further their on-line presence and get valuable marketing information and prospects.  The Blogs are full of good advice on marketing, painting and all things artistic.  If you are not already one of the thousands of members, consider joining.  An additional plus, is that this site was founded locally and the site owners and contributors are artists local to the western Massachusetts area.