The Art of Composition

written by: Steve Mulligan

As crucial as technical expertise, a strong composition takes a photograph to a new level. When a photograph displays a high level of technical expertise, it has passed the first mile-stone of photography. The next hurdle is composition; no matter the level of technical expertise displayed in a print, if the composition and subject matter fall short, the final image will fail. As with most creative endeavors, composition requires a strong balance between creation and execution, between reality and intuition. Cropping A photograph is a carefully selected excerpt from the world around us. Choosing the boundaries of the scene is Read more »


The Art of Dodging and Burning

No matter how well you perform these vital photographic tasks, you can still do them better
written by: Steve Mulligan

Dodging and burning offer the final, finishing touches to the process of creating a fine black-and-white photograph. These subtle manipulations allow a photographer to elevate a decent print into the sublime. A fantastic amount of control is available by delicately altering certain tonal areas and by changing local contrast within select areas of the print. The golden rule for either technique is that no modification should be noticeable in the final print. Dodging Dodging is the technique employed to selectively lighten certain areas within the print by withholding light during enlargement, and it needs to be applied during the base Read more »


Split-Contrast Printing

Achieve richness and control using different filters for highlights and shadows
written by: Steve Mulligan

My preferred printing technique involves layering exposures, gradually building the print’s tonal range until a final, rich balance is achieved. Light is slowly applied onto the print through a series of exposures, gradually setting the tonal range, stretching it out, drawing the longest possible scale from any given paper. This technique involves the subtraction of light through dodging (reducing the exposure over selected areas), and through burning (adding light to small areas), which can make a huge difference in the final print. Gradual tonal layering such as this allows for an outstanding level of control, much more than any other Read more »