by Terry Hansen Published 01/01/2003
FORTY years ago this January, straight from school, I became a photographic assistant in a general practise studio. So you might consider me one of the old school of photographers, but in my own defence I would say that I have always tried to move with the times and in many cases, ahead of them, having introduced several ideas that have been adopted by other photographers in the UK. My early portraits were taken on 5" x 4" glass plates and retouched by soft pencil on the negative. My current portraits are shot digitally, retouched in Photoshop and printed on my Fuji Pictrography.
Over the years I have seen many changes, from plate to roll film to digital, from black and white to colour and now back to black and white and sepia. Huge improvements in equipment and quality right up to the digital and ink jet output of today. You would, therefore, think that the finished product presented to the customer is constantly improving. In most cases, yes, particularly in presentation, but judging the monthly print competition and examining panels for qualifications, I do see some worrying images.
In my early years we worked in black and white and undertook all our own printing, which was pretty straightforward. Then along came colour. This was a whole different ball game and most photographers sent the printing out to a laboratory, which was usually excellent. As I had been taught to print in my first GP studio after leaving school, I made the decision to carry on and I have always printed my own work. Even now, although I use digital for fifty percent of the work, the other fifty percent is still shot on film and processed in my own darkroom.
Then along came digital and everyone was on a learning curve. Most of us still are, but what concerns me is the quality of some of the prints I am now examining. When I give a few words of critique on the monthly print competition, time and time again I am having to say, "would have scored higher with better printing". There are all sorts of problems. Banding, colour changes across the print, but mainly poor colour balance. I think the problem is that many photographers are undertaking their own digital printing but have no previous experience in printing colour photographs from negatives. Part of the problem is that the prints submitted are not examined under consistent lighting conditions. Sometimes they are looked at by daylight, sometimes by tungsten light, there is no common standard. All work should be examined under the correct viewing conditions and that requires daylight. However, daylight is not always available and anyway, it varies during the day. Get yourself some daylight balanced bulbs, a couple of angle poise type lamps and make a viewing area. A good source for bulbs of all types is Lyco Direct: (Telephone: 0800 525 980 or web site www.lyco.co.uk).
When you are manipulating your images on the computer, try to avoid extraneous light falling on your monitor screen, work in subdued light and try attaching baffles to the side and top of your monitor. Setting up your equipment accurately is also absolutely essential. If you attended the digital roadshow which the Society have just completed with Nikon, Epson, Adobe, you will be well on your way. Read the articles Editor Mike writes concerning printing and if you are still having problems, ring head office for details of forthcoming seminars.
Another thing that I have become aware of is that many photographers either do not use fill flash or use is incorrectly. I was brought up to use fill flash before we had automatic flashguns, or TTL metering. It now seems to be a dying art, not helped, I have to say, by the move to digital. The Fuji S1 for instance has no flash socket, minimum ISO setting of 320 and a low sync speed of 125th second. If you are a wedding photographer you might be better looking at the more expensive digital cameras with a higher sync speed the Nikon D1X etc. The new Hasseblad with sync up to 800th sec and a digital back would be brilliant. In Britain we lag behind American photographers in the use of flash as part of our wedding coverage. We mostly only use a single flash on camera. There is little evidence of bounce flash, off camera flash, multiple flashes, slow sync and many have never even heard of bare bulb, let alone know how or when to use it. When did you last see a bride full length in front of the altar lit from behind to highlight the veil, a touch of flash from the front to clean up the dress and the shutter dragged to show the warm ambient lighting?
To those of you new to "plug-ins", these are programs that work from within Photoshop to perform additional functions. There are hundreds available, mainly by downloading over the Internet.
For fancy borders, vignettes etc. I would recommend Extensis as being an easy to use program that, once loaded, appears under the filter menu. You can select different types of borders, resize, rotate, invert, change colour, all in a quick and easy to use piece of software. See their web site www.extensis.com.
If, like me, you have been in this business a long time, I expect you have a large selection of soft focus filters. If you want similar effects and the ability to chop and change diffusion digitally see www.andromeda.com for a range of plug-ins, but in particular, the Scatterlight range.
www.autofx.com have different software. Auto Eye 2.0 enhances images automatically by rebuilding colour detail, sharpness and image vibrancy. There is also Dream Suite for twelve visual effects.
www.appliedsciencefiction.com. Digital ROC automatically restores colour quality by removing casts from faded images etc. Digital Sho reveals hidden detail in shadows. Digital Ice removes scratches, dust, fingerprints from scans. Have a look at details of Digital Pic an amazing machine that develops and scans 35mm film. Digital Gem reduces grain.
See www.eyeheart.com for a range of digital templates.
www.alienskin.com ( don't these Americans sites have great names) repairs over compressed jpegs and repairs and retouches blemishes.
www.lizardtech.com are makers of Genuine Fractals software. A very interesting piece of software for increasing the resolution of with minimum pixelation
www.flamingpear.com for texture and warping effects. There is even free software to download.
www.bibblelabs.com for software maximising raw data that is being produced by the latest digital cameras. Nikon D100/ Canon C60 Kodak 760 and Fuji S2. This could be very interesting as there is a move to recording Raw images that are then processed in the computer to reveal detail that is normally lost if you shoot in TIFF or JPEG mode.
So if you thought that Photoshop was all the software you needed, think again. Try searching the Internet under Photoshop Plugins you will be amazed at what is out there.
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