Bringing Low-Contrast Photos to Life Digitally

written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

This Master Printing Class is about managing photos with low contrast. It’s an important topic because creating the right amount of contrast is an image is always a key task. The two factors to consider are contrast and perceived detail smoothness. Why do I mention contrast and detail together? Have a look at Figures 1 and 2. Some will say that Figure 1 has less detail than Figure 2. Actually, they have the same level of detail (Figure 2 is just a lower-contrast version of the first image), but in Figure 1 less detail is perceived by a human observer. Read more »


Getting the Most from a Digital Capture

Raw format, 16-bit workflow are key
written by: Paul Schranz

One of the problems with working in an analytical art is that we are forced to deal with the real-time element and the actual lighting of the space we are in at the moment. Merely making an accurate reproduction of the subject seldom reflects what we perceive about it. While a large part of expression comes from the content, a greater portion of its overall impact results from how we enhance the image, how we make an image more about the way we see its subject. The image, Catwalk, New Mexico 2006, was captured in Raw format on a Canon Read more »


Achieving the Right Balance

Adjustment layers and cropping prove vital in saving an image
written by: Michael H. Reichmann

Some photographers regard landscape photography as being more akin to fishing than to hunting. Not I. For me, landscape photography is often a chase; a chase of subject and light, for when they come together to create a special, and usually fleeting and unique, moment. So it was when I captured the RAW file that became Rainbow Lake. Three other photographers and I had been driving in heavy rain for three days along the eastern coast of Iceland. Seeing no break in the weather we decided to head inland, toward the highlands, hoping to get above the clouds. It wasn’t Read more »


Improving on Reality Using Digital Tools

Across River at Dawn, Prague
written by: Dan Burkholder

Many photographers take pains to make their prints an accurate portrayal of the scene they photographed. For me, taking three-dimensional space and putting it on a flat piece of paper is already a huge departure from reality. That’s why I have zero qualms about taking any and all steps to make the final print emotionally honest as opposed to literally honest. It goes without saying— though you will note that I am saying it anyway—that I can take these liberties because I fall into that least lucrative of all photographic realms: the fine-art photographer. (Photojournalists play by a very different Read more »


Pre-visualizing Tone Placement in a Digital Print

written by: Paul Schranz

One of the most important tasks in creating a rich print is controlling the highlight and shadow detail. In my film days, I worried about Zone II and Zone VIII. When working with digital imagery we set white and black points with a similar goal. In the process I’m going to describe, I actually set two different points: one for a dark gray above black, and another for a light gray below white (yes, Zone II and Zone VIII again). The process starts with printing an assessment target to determine the RGB values that produce these highlight and shadow values Read more »


Using HDR to Craft a Waterfall

written by: Dan Burkholder

No camera technique or Photoshop trick is ever as good as having a subject that is beautifully illuminated in the first place. But just because the light is beautiful doesn’t mean that our sensor will translate that quality to the final print without some—ahem—creative intervention on our part. I was reminded of these challenges recently when photographing a waterfall set deep in the woods. The overhead light, while giving a wonderful glow to the flowing water, also made for extremely dark shadows that detracted from the gentle, peaceful feeling of the setting. Film shooters have the Zone System; digital camera Read more »


Experts Share Their Favorite Inkjet Papers

Paper specifications can only take you so far, and, realistically, the vast range of inkjet papers currently available is beyond anyone’s ability to thoroughly test. With that in mind, PHOTO Techniques asked some of our regular contributors what their favorite inkjet papers are. The answers, not surprisingly, depend largely on their needs and tastes. Michael Reichmann Ilford Galerie Gold Fiber Silk (GFS) is part of a new generation of papers that are made of real paper rather than plas- tic (see “Second-Generation Papers,” on page 30), but which allow the use of photo-black ink. Ilford GFS has become my current Read more »


Fiber-Based Inkjet Papers

Good news for photographers who want to make inkjet prints on high-quality papers
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

The future is looking great for inkjet printing—and the present is quite strong too—as new fiber-based inkjet papers continue to appear regularly. It wasn’t always this way. Until about 2005, inkjet printers had two main categories of photographic fine-art papers to choose from: satin, luster, or semigloss resin-coated (RC) papers; and matte cotton or wood- fiber-based fine-art papers. Both had advantages and disadvantages. RC papers RC papers (I’m excluding the ultra- glossy papers here because they are rarely used for fine-art prints) have a good densest black (Dmax) of 2.2 or higher on current pigment-based print- ers by Canon, Epson, and Read more »


The Modern Digital Negative

A digitally produced negative can mean better, easier darkroom prints
written by: Dan Burkholder

Recently I was invited to address a regional photographic organization on the hows and whys of digital negatives. One participant—a film-based photographer who didn’t use Photoshop—was puzzled as to why you’d want to make another negative if you already had one from the camera in the first place. I fumbled through multiple attempts at explaining how I’d exploited digitally produced negatives for the past 16 years, using them to print on materials ranging from silver gelatin to cyanotype to platinum/palladium. I could see that I wasn’t getting through to this fellow for whom photography and computer had nothing in common. After Read more »


Perfecting Digital-Tone Reproduction

A Shortcut to Better Digital Prints
written by: Dick Dickerson & Silvia Zawadzki

In the July/August 2009 issue of PT, we discussed the Ideal Tone- Reproduction Curve, a product of research conducted more than a half century ago that identif ies, for a scene element of any luminance value, the shade of gray (ref lection density) at which it is “best” reproduced in a black-and-white print. We also raised the question of how readily this ideal tone-curve is achieved in a purely digital workf low—the subject of the present article. With the magic of Photoshop, any kind of tone reproduction can, of course, be realized with exacting precision. But what is inherent to digital Read more »