Make A Print
Let's talk about printing and print quality. This is a very important step for everybody. I've been printing for more than 50 years. Color, black and white, large scale, small, all of it. I print digitally now, it's gorgeous. But, having prints is one of the most important things for a photographer to learn from, but a print also has it's qualities. And how do you arrive at the most delicious, delectable, subtle, print quality? If you give your work to a lab, they're likely to do a kind of general print and not satisfy you. So, let me show you a couple of tactics to consider so that when you make a print or you're judging a print that's made for you, you have a way in, in an interesting and very personal way. Here's a photograph I made on Cape Cod. It's really simple, it's a picket fence with sunlight moving across it. It was one of those moments that happened just for a brief little flicker of sun coming through the cloud and then it went away, and I made a print. And...
this print is very delicate. I feel its got everything I want in the print. They gray of the cloud is subtle. The luminosity above isn't burned out. It's got a feeling of cloud. The quality of sunlight and the shadow that's beneath the pickets. All of this feels to me to be a master print. Here is another version of this print. To me, the first one has it and the second one doesn't. And look how close they are. This print is just slightly colder. The gray on the bottom has a little bit of a kind of blueness to it. You have to understand, the bottom of a cloud the most neutral thing you're going to see, because all of the sun's rays come through the mixing chamber of a cloud, which is nothing but droplets of moisture. Chilled to a particular temperature that makes this cloud form. And when sunlight goes through it, the entire spectrum comes through and at the bottom it mixes into a neutral gray. You can count on that, that's just the way nature is. And so this gray, just a little bit of a twist towards the blue, is less satisfying to me than this gray, which is just precisely neutral. Perhaps you don't see the significance or the difference in it, but I do, and it's my job to help you understand that there ways of differentiating one from another. Just have to know where to look. So, keep in mind that a neutral gray is the thing that sets a photograph in a fixed position and you can relate to everything else in the photograph by this neutral gray. It's why Kodak used to make the gray card. It's a way of establishing a basic neutral. So, have some prints made, be very curious and careful about looking at the way the prints look, and see how you feel. If you feel that it's lost something for you or it feels to dark, what's the correction if it's too dark? Make it lighter, it's as simple as that. Go have some fun and make some prints. (upbeat music) We've been talking about printing and I realize it's important to discuss the paper that the print is on. Now in the past, when it was just the wet darkroom, before inkjet printing, you could mostly get papers that were either glossy or semi-gloss or a kind of a matte that gave you sort of three surfaces. Today, we have many more papers because all kinds of manufacturers have made different surface papers for all the different printers that are out there. And I had the good fortune to work with HP and develop a paper for photo printing, and I wanted a paper that delivered an image, a photographic image that when I picked it up, I thought it was a photograph. I didn't think, oh, is it a digital print, because lots of digital prints when you look at, you see funny little edging where things don't fit together. Like the blacks end and the whites are just the paper and there are flaws in the way the papers are made. But HP made an incredible paper which is a sort of premium satin is what it's called, and now every paper manufacturer makes a premium satin. And premium satin delivers a beautiful, photographic surface on it, and so when you hold the paper up, and you look at the photograph, you think you're looking at the real thing. At the photograph. But, what papers do you use for what subjects? For my every day photographic work, I believe in this kind of paper that has a satin surface. But, recently I've been making still lives, and I found when I made the still lives, and I put them on the satin paper, they became distant, the objects were sort of removed from the present by the slight shine on the surface. So, I decided to try a rag paper, a 100 percent photographic rag paper called Canson Rag Photographique. And it is amazing. For an object in a still live, this dryness of the paper, the rag content, allows you to actually feel as if you can reach in and pick the object up. There's a tactile quality to it that pleases me and makes me think about the paper. When I'm making the photographs, I'm already transferring it to the paper, I can feel the way it's going to come off. And I know that many photographers in the past, have thought about the same thing. I once had the pleasure of speaking with Ansel Adams about his printing. He was a great printer, and he said, "Oh, I pre-visualize the image on the paper when I'm out there in nature. I see how the blacks and the grays and the shine on the water, and the quality of light on the snow." He said, "I see it in the print even before I'm in the darkroom." And I completely get it. When I, when I make my still lives and I know that they're aimed like an arrow (click sound) right at this paper, I can begin to feel the weight, the weight of the shadow, and how open it is. I can feel the curve of the object, and how it goes from the highest, most lit part into the softest shadow part. It is rendering itself in the moment, right in front of my eyes as a print to be made later on. So, by selecting papers through trial and error of course. I can't tell you what paper to use. You're going to have to figure that out yourself. That's part of the fun, but it's interesting to make the experiment. Let's say you have an image you love, and you print it on five different papers, by two different manufacturers, two or three different surfaces. Whatever the combination is, and then when you have the prints afterwards and you look at them, you'll say, "Well, it's dead here and it's limping along here, but these three are really popping, and this one of all of them makes me feel like I've got the print that is absolutely expressing how I felt in the moment I made the picture. So, in a way there is an alignment to be arrived at, and you can do it through trial and error. And that's part of the great fun of printing nowadays is that you can make a profile for the paper you're using, you can pump in out in that profile, and you've got it from that point on. That profile sits on your printer, and you say, "I'm gonna do all this work in that Canson profile." You go, and you will make incredibly authoritative works that will have your voice. So, try that.