Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shooting For a Specific Medium?

I've previously mentioned that part of the motivation behind this blog was to not only share what I'm learning on my photography journey, but to continually expand my own knowledge into areas that will help me grow as a photographer.  After all, if you don't take the time to learn about a topic, how can you possibly write about it?

That was the driver behind the series of posts on the topic of printing over the last couple of months.  I was really interested in making sure that I and my clients were getting the best possible results from the time I pushed the shutter button to the time the print hit the printer tray (or the client opened the box).  Whether your using a commercial printer or generating your own output from home, it's still vital to understand what goes into making a good print.

One of the lessons we highlighted in this series was the need to adjust your processing for your targeted medium.  An image on a back lit computer display will most certainly look different than the same image printed on a piece of paper.  This past week, a client raised a question that caused me to consider not only how I might process the image differently, but how I might have actually captured it differently.

Here's the question - "Can I purchase this image as a canvas?".  Seems like a reasonable request, right?  Two concerns immediately came to mind.  First, I've personally not printed to canvas so I'm not sure what sort of processing corrections might be necessary to obtain the best result.  Regardless, I'm not too worried as I can lean on my commercial print partner to make the right decisions on my behalf.  Second, don't traditional canvas prints typically wrap around the edges? What does that do to the composition of my image?

After a little research I was able to determine that a traditional "extended" side canvas wrap will consume 2" from each side of your image.  That's not good news for this shot as you can see above.  Bye-bye sunshine.  "Well, maybe this processed image was cropped and the original will provide enough margins?". Nope.  "Well, maybe I can take it into PhotoShop, extend the canvas size and clone the sky into the new space?". Nope.  The position of the sun so close to the edge of the composition makes that a pretty difficult task. In fact, it's so close to the edge that just putting a print in a frame is going to impact the composition. :(

Evolution continues.  I can say with absolute certainty that when I captured this image in the early morning hours of October 10th, 2010 I carefully framed the image inside my viewfinder without giving a single thought about how the composition would be impacted by either the border of a picture frame or a 2" margin for a canvas wrap.  Consider me educated.

If you, like me, have been pushing the shiny silver shutter button and proclaiming, "Ugh. I make pretty picture" without first having a few key questions bounce around the ol' brain pan, here are a few parting thoughts.
  • Would this capture make a nice wall hanging? Yes? Provide adequate "buffer" at the edges of the composition to allow for the framing. 
  • Does your viewfinder provide 100% coverage and if not, how does that impact your composition?
  • Am I going to buy that frame at Wal Mart and shooting with a cropped censor? Yes? Consider how the image is going to look cropped in a traditional 5:4 ratio (4x5, 8x10, 16x20..).  If you can't make the crop you can either buy a bigger "traditional" sized frame and use a matte to save your bacon or begin your quest for a 3:2 ratio frame (4x6, 8x12, 16x24...).  If you find a good source, please let me know.
  • Would this make a nice canvas wrap? Yes? More buffer. 2" from every side!
  • Hoping to view your image on the cover of a magazine? Better rotate that camera and compose a portrait orientation.
  • I could sure make a nice calendar out of these!  Rotate again... back to landscape orientation.
  • Wouldn't this look awesome as a panorama? If you're 3,000 miles from home and the answer is even "maybe", then PLEASE set up your tripod and cable release and spend an extra 5 minutes.  Don't forget the buffer.
Do I vow to ask myself 101 questions before every shot? No.  Do I need to alter my shooting style some to improve my targeted output? Most definitely.  That revelation in itself should be enough to ponder in the 30 seconds between those low light sunrise/sunset shots to help improve my photography.

Do you have your own mental checklist before you "press the button"? Please share some of your checklist items using the comments below.

Until next time, keep click'n (with proper margins considered for your targeted medium).


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