Way back in September, I wrote an article about The Power of a Print. I talked a bit about many of the things we do with our images these days– from editing and processing to sharing and blogging. What we hardly every do anymore, I pointed out, is actually print them. I’m not talking about the work we do for our clients. They’ve hired us to create those images, at least some of which almost always get printed. When it comes to the images we capture for ourselves, however, printing hardly ever seems to be at the top of our priority list. How many truly stunning images are living inside your computer, external hard drives, or even your phone? What sort of joy or sense of accomplishment are they bringing you from the deep, dark depths of their binary existence? I’m not going to rehash that whole post here (although I do encourage you to read it), nor am I here to lament the terabytes of unprinted pixels in the world. I received an email from a reader the other day asking me if I could clarify a few points for him on how to resize images for print. Rather than just dash off a quick reply, I decided to address it here.
It’s been a while since I’ve received “The E-Mail,” so I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise when it came today. I must have been living a charmed life, because it hadn’t reared its ugly head in quite a while. Yet there it was. Staring me in the face. Cursor blinking in the “reply” box as I contemplated my impending level of sarcasm. Sometimes it’s actually a phone call. Occasionally they come right out and ask in person. More often than not, though, it’s an email. I prefer the emails because they help mask my frustration in a way that actual conversations can’t. You know the email I’m talking about. Names and locations have been changed for obvious reasons.
“…If you’re saying in your head, ‘Oh, I’ll just fix that later in Photoshop,” stop what you’re doing and slap yourself as hard as you can.” –Zack Arias
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I’m a huge proponent of getting it right in the camera. Exposure, lighting, composition– all of it. As I tell my students, Photoshop is a tool, not a crutch. A bad photo is a bad photo, and no amount of post processing is going to miraculously turn it into a good photo. A good photo can very often be improved with a few well-placed tweaks and adjustments, but it’s just as easy to kill a perfectly fine photograph by going overboard in Photoshop. Still, though, photo editing is a fact of life and I think there are certain essential Photoshop skills that every photographer should know.
It’s confession time. I’ve been struggling lately with my creativity. The client work is fine. It’s the personal work– the stuff that’s supposed to satisfy my soul between the paid gigs– that’s taken a dip. I have a few theories, but a funk is a funk and sometimes the harder you try pushing through it the deeper it gets. Chances are I’m just over-thinking it. After all, we’re talking about art, right? You’re supposed to feel it, not think it.
Murphy’s Law: The inexplicable phenomenon of a fickle, spiteful universe which ensures that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Let’s also not forget its well-known corollary: The higher the stakes, the greater the fall. Nobody seems to have a truly definitive handle on the history of the term, although its sentiment was expressed in print long before Murphy’s name was attached to it some time around 1952. What I think we can all agree on, though, is that when Murphy comes for you you’re screwed. Plain and simple.
Yeah…I’m in that kind of mood.
Life is full of mysteries. Why is “abbreviation” such a long word? Do dogs get sore throats? How long do fish wait to swim after eating? Why is bra singular but panties plural? Which genius decided that the word “lisp” should have an “S” in it? But perhaps one of the biggest mysteries is one that strikes at the very heart of the photography industry. It’s a puzzler that I see all the time, yet I just can’t quite figure out a reasonable answer. Can anybody PLEASE tell me why someone would spend several thousands of dollars on the camera and lens, and then buy the cheapest memory cards they can find? ACME products never actually helped Wily Coyote catch the Roadrunner, so why would anyone think that cut-rate memory cards will help them succeed at capturing life’s moments?
With the Fourth of July right around the corner here in the United States, along with other summer celebrations around the world, photographers everywhere will be photographing fireworks over the next couple of months. Many will try, but how many will succeed? Fireworks photos, in my experience, are usually an all-or-nothing proposition. You either get the shot or you don’t. The good news is that there are steps you can take and tips you can follow that will vastly increase your chances of success. This is not a ranking. Missing any one of these elements can mean the difference between a crisp, dramatic photo and an over/under-exposed frame of out-of-focus smoke. Instead, I chose to list our tips for photographing fireworks in the order you’ll need them.
It’s a story as old as time itself. Client orders prints. Client picks up prints. Client wants to know why the 5×7 doesn’t look like the 8×12 or why the 8×12 doesn’t look like the 11×14. I can even see it coming, as they look back and forth from one to the other, as if the sheer force of will can make the two match up exactly. When supernatural forces don’t resolve the problem for them, they all ask some variation of the same question– “Why are they cropped differently?” And thus begins yet another explanation of aspect ratio. Forget that we had this conversation when they ordered their prints. Forget that I pulled out a set of sample photos I keep on hand for just such a conversation. Forget that I showed them with these very same photos on the monitor when they ordered. Forget everything that happened before the moment they laid eyes on their own prints for the first time. All they know is that the different sizes don’t match up exactly and they want to know why.
Okay– so, let’s be clear about something. He’s not actually MY cat. We happen to coexist in the same house, thanks to my wife and son convincing me in ways only they know how that it was time for a new pet and that he was just the pet we needed. Personally, I’m a dog person. Seamus and I, however, seem to have a love-hate relationship. As in we love to hate each other. Call it a restless detente. That may be overstating things just a bit, but this cat spends quite a bit of his time pissing me off. I actually believe he schedules it in some sort of kitty tablet (there’s an app for that). It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized this havoc-wreaking creature that my son loves so dearly might actually be able to teach a thing or two about photography.
It’s summer once again and the fortunate among you will be hitting the road, hopping on planes, maybe even boarding a ship or two, and getting the hell out of Dodge for some hopefully stress-free rest and relaxation. Regardless of whether your travels are taking you around the world or just a day’s drive from home, it’s important to not only pack your camera gear carefully, but to also spend time putting some safeguards in place to make sure that you and your gear not only make beautiful travel photography together, and that you both get home safe and sound.