Fine Art Photography: Imaging for output, Three Part Discussion

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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.

 

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.

Initial Post

goneinc logoWelcome to the initial post of the GoNE, Inc. website.  The intent of this site, as well as our business mission, is to be the prime on-line resource for our regional artists.  New England is an area brimming with talented artists and artisans. Our goal is to be the first resource New England artists and photographers turn to for information and inspiration. To reach this goal we will need your input. Let us know where and when shows are happening. What classes you are teaching. What awards you have won. Send all your art news and art press releases to goneincnews@gmail.com

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