I'm finding more channels to output my work now - such as print competitions and for 2009 a commercially sold calendar. There are some special considerations for each medium.
I have learned a few things from photography competitions, one of them being the importance of frames or mattes. There is also print size and paper type to think about. Get these wrong and your chances of winning are slim. I have some photoshop actions set up to show me what white or black mattes will look like cut to standard sizes. It's easy enough to do, just a few canvas size commands. I generally use black mattes, unless the image itself has a dark border, in which case I will use white. For most competitions I am required to use a 50x40cm mount so the only other variable is print dpi. I normally use between 240 and 300dpi depending on how I want the image to sit within the mount. Using the 5D, print quality is rarely an issue at these sizes.
towpath runner - 50x40cm white matte preview
I always use Epson paper, either archival matte, premium gloss, or premium semigloss. Since getting an Epson 2400 printer I have not been buying the matte black cartridge ( I use photo black instead ) and I have not made any matte prints. There are few subjects where matte paper can look good, for example stone buildings. However results on glossy papers are almost always better. They have deeper colors and better range of tones. The premium glossy paper gives the best appearance for competition, but if a print is going behind glass semigloss looks just as good.
Digital projectors for 1024x768 format are quite common now. Camera clubs have them so 1024x768 jpegs are now a standard format for competitions. I have had a few nasty surprises when the projector blows out highlight areas which looked fine on my monitor. The projector resolution is also a long way behind that of the digital cameras, but I find that most images still work reduced to this size.
There is a specialist framing company near me and I have been in there quite often. I order frames with a back that I can open, so I can change the the print if I want. I also specify 13" width for most of them to match the width of A3+ paper. I don't usually matte prints in these frames, I just cut the A3+ paper to the length of the frame. Obviously full A3+ ( 13"x19" ) is a useful frame size for me. So is 13"x17" which suits a lot of subjects and looks equally at home hung in portrait orientation. I have ordered white, black and dark wood frames. They all look OK but are best presented alongside other frames of the same color.
I also get some standard frames which are a lot cheaper. I have aluminium A3 frames which looks smart, although the perspex covering is not as good as glass - it can scratch or warp easily. Recently I have been getting thin black plastic frames in 12"x16" and 16"x20" sizes covered with glass. They feel a bit fragile but they look great.
Generally it is a good idea to have borders around prints, either using a matte or by leaving unprinted paper. The borders separate the print from all the other clutter around. However the frame serves that purpose too, and sometimes it looks better to print borderless. My borderless prints usually have a central subject and a large area of heavily out-of-focus background. The background then acts as a border. The effect is of the frame being like a window through which the image is viewed. Put several borderless prints together in matching frames - the effect can be striking.
I am providing the images for the 2009 St Clare Hospice calendar. A professional printer will be working on this, all I have to do is provide jpegs. This project is ongoing and I will be writing more about it later this year.
Presentation of images in books brings new creative opportunities if you have a sizeable image library to work with. It's also a way to present large volumes of material efficiently and to make it easily accessible to other people. I have produced two books so far using photobox.com and jessops.com, which I describe in detail here in another article. As technology is improving in this area, I'm expecting to be able to produce books of even better quality in years to come, and I will be trying out other service providers too.
In terms of image quality there is a clear hierarchy. At the top is a large format inkjet print; next are books and calendars; and at the bottom are images on web pages. You can only display about a 1mp image on a monitor ( without scrolling ). Although the contrast, color and sharpness are perfect, the amount of detail is severely limited. Good prints, especially landscapes, don't always transfer well to the web. On the other hand, images lacking the detail to make large prints can look fine on screen. If you are putting together a web portfolio, be prepared to look again at your image stock and judge on different criteria. Web galleries are cheaper and quicker to produce than anything else, and tend to get a wider distribution - I have had 100,000 hits on my pbase galleries.
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