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Masters of Photography

Lesson 52 of 54

A perfect print

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

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Lesson Info

52. A perfect print
Albert explains where the passion began for printing his own work and how it has developed. Listen to his overview on how critical it is to print an image on the right type of paper in order to create the perfect print.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

A perfect print

(light piano music) After doing two years of general art at art college, I then began to specialize in graphic design, and with the graphic design course, you had to take a craft subject and then I chose photography, which I was very fascinated with, and as a big part of that course, I ended up in the dark room day after day after day, night after night, and I had a very good teacher who was a really fanatical dark room guy and I just absolutely fell in love with printing. So printing became a big part of my photography and I was someone who always enjoyed printing my own pictures. In fact, I'd be happy printing anybody's pictures. I once had a job while I was at college in a funny little place that printed all of the family snapshots from the royal family and I sat at kind of the stone countertop printing day after day, pictures of the queen on holiday, sort of thing. But basically I've been printing now for 45 years, 50 years, and I absolutely, even to this day, still love it and I...

'm a fanatical supporter of the photographer doing his own printing. I've always printed by own work. I've never sent it out to have somebody else print it. I've always printed by own work. So, printing is a really important part, so of course, for 45 years, I was in the dark room and still occasionally print in the dark room, but it was actually rather easy for me to move on to the computer and apply a lot of the same things that I'd learned in the dark room to the computer and that, I actually loved the computer. It's a different animal to the dark room, but I actually love it. I think there's many possibilities with it and there's a lot of creative possibilities with it, so we switched over, not entirely, but we switched over about 12, 14 years ago, onto a lot of digital printing, which I do like. But as I said, I still go into the dark room, so everything is based on a deep passion for printing and the fact that I really do think it's important for the photographer to print and see his work all the way through and not, I'm not a fan of people who're saying, oh, I have a very good printer in Los Angeles who does all my work. He does a beautiful job. I think a beautiful job should be handled by you. You should do it yourself. It should be your responsibility. There are too many variables once you release a print, a negative to somebody else or even a file to somebody else to do. There's too many variables. So you should really be controlling it yourself. When it comes to choosing a paper, this is very subjective, and what I would recommend is that you take one of your favorite images and select five or six papers. Sometimes not such an expensive one. You can also try an expensive paper, but take the same image and print it onto several different surfaces and then put those on a wall, just imagine it's your first exhibition and this is your gallery in front of you. So you look at that, however, I would say, see how that paper is affecting the image. How the contrast level is, how bright a white it is, is the paper changing the color from where you want it. So you've got to really analyze it. It's not just a simple thing. Now, a lot of times, photographers prepare, prefer, photographers prefer a matte paper. But in the end, remember, in the majority of situations, photography is gonna be under glass, so you might not like the surface of a chromogenic, and you prefer a matte, but put them both, both under glass and you might, you're gonna lose some of that matte-ness, obviously, because of the glass. So all of these things have to be thought about, analyzed, trial and error, and in the end, think about the image and how the surface of the paper is affecting the image. So, I chose this image here to have a look at. This is an image I did about four or five years ago, and I shot it on four by five film, and the film is then scanned and loaded in the computer and then a print is made from that. The way I did this was I built in a studio, a water studio, a studio that accommodates water, fairly large pool, because I wanted to get some colored light into the water. So the idea for this was to have a clean light above, which is this area here, and to have colored lights in the water. So I had two colored lights in the water, a cyan and a blue. So you see the blue light here, and the cyan is kind of this green, it's combining with the yellow in the skin that you're seeing under the water. So, I painted the bottom of this black. I didn't want any tiling or anything like that. So the bottom of this pool that we made is just simply black. And what was important here were the water droplets. I used women here that were very zoftig, or what you say in terms of fashion models, the plus size models, but they were wonderful to photograph. They had wonderfully full bodies that just had a great beauty. So that was the idea and the concept going in, so therefore as you go through the various stages of lighting and filtering and so on, you're keeping in mind the idea of the colored water combined with just pure light on the top part of the body here, the bust line. So that's how the shot was done. So you wanna hold onto that, wherever possible, once you go through the process, you're keeping in mind your original idea, the concept, and you stay true to that as you go through the various color patterns and the colors, basically the color statement that you're making here. So, you're doing, you know, any necessary retouching. There's not much retouching in this. Sometimes there's a lot, but in this case, there wasn't, and I love here, where you see just the water droplets on the white skin. She had very white skin and in fact, if you look closely here, which you may see on camera, the skin, you see the blue veins under the white. So that was a very important thing. So the idea was color, but with the pure white, peach-colored skin. So, you have to remain true to that as you go through the printing process and you just have to clearly work on that, do a test print, a test print, a test print, until you get it exactly the right mix of color and density and feeling and contrast value and emotion in the print. So it's not a tedious process because that implies that it's painful, but it's a process you have to stick with and not lose sight of your original idea. I had the original Polaroid from this and I even used that as a guide sometimes when I was doing the color but there's a little it of Polaroid color in this. So I held true to that as well. (light piano music)

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.