Selected Hints and Tips – Fine Art Printmaking for Print Competition

Selected Hints and Tips – Fine Art Printmaking for Print Competition

Sounds obvious, but only use your very best images. Test some of your better prints with friends and colleagues.

When you do this, watch for reactions. Which images create that “wow” response? tell a story effectively? show a subject in a new or unique way?

Composition – keep the “rule of thirds” in mind, and create a print that really provides focus on the main subject. Unneeded objects in foreground/background can ruin your score, as can distracting bright areas or intrusive shadows.

Generally, prints made on luster, pearl, or glossy paper show better in a competition environment. Fine art and “watercolor” papers tend to wash out under the bright lights used by judges.

Make sure that your colors, highlights, shadows, textures, and the like are presented as you want them to be. In general, you’ll want to see at least some detail in highlights and shadows, colors should be smooth, realistic, and show detail where appropriate, etc. Make sure uniform colors, such as skies, are free of digital artifacts like banding.

Make your prints a little darker overall than usual – again, we’re working with very bright lights.

Think about presentation – prints should be mounted on firm, flat stock, no irregularities, bumps, ripples, orange peel, and the like. Watch for color or saturation changes after mounting; although this rarely happens, mounting at high temps can ruin a great print.

If you use an outside printmaker, provide a digital file that is edited and ready to print. Use Adobe 98 RGB or ProPhoto RGB color if printing on inkjet, and usually sRGB if you are using an outside lab (ask them). Take care with your pixel dimensions – a 16z20 print can be 4800 x 6000 pixels at 300ppi. Ask your printmaker about image preparation.

Good luck!

© D Saffir

Click here for details of our upcoming Palouse Photo Tour, June 2012!

Succeeding In Print Competition In The New Year

Yesterday I entered some images in an annual print competition. On the way home, I remembered that I wrote an article like this well over a year ago – but given the timing with the New Year and print comp season I thought posting a revised version would be helpful and appropriate.

Print competition is one of the best ways to help you master your craft. It can also help you get recognition for your work.

Staircase, Barcelona

Examples of judging criteria

Impact: Does this image grab attention? Is its message understood immediately?

Style: Does the image seem to be an extension of the sensibilities of the photographer? Will this image hold up over time?

Composition: Look at the structure of the image. Is there movement or is it static? Is it balanced by use of negative space? Does it have depth? Is there a primary focal point?

Creativity: Does this photograph show creative intent? Is it innovative and unusual in some way?

Technique: Was this image created with the use of any treatments or Photoshop tricks? Does the technique support the image or does it distract?

Lighting: Does lighting compliment the subject matter? Is it well-controlled?

Print Quality: Are there any flaws in the print? Does it seem too light or dark? Does the printing style enhance the message in the image?

Print Presentation: Does the presentation (mounting, matting, etc) of the image support or upstage the image?

The judging process can be educational and emotionally challenging for the photographer. Judges may see an image much differently than you do. They may notice flaws you are not aware of, or compare it to images that you’ve never seen. They may also see unique, positive qualities that you’re unaware of, or have discounted as unimportant.

Tips for printing your competition images:

Print your images without flaws, if possible. No “digital footprints”, rogue pixels, dust spots, scratches, bumps, or other distractions.

Use your image title to help tell the story. A title can sometimes make or break a score, believe it or not.

Lighting used in print competition is usually very bright. Ask about this before you enter. If lighting is intense, adjust the print brightness down so that it shows well.

Make presentation of your print clean, stylish, and understated. Use matting if you wish and if the rules permit it. Matt color can be very important.

In most cases, media types should be limited to semi-gloss or glossy photographic-style media. Inkjet is fine, of course, if well-printed. Fine art, or watercolor papers generally don’t show well in judging environments.

Keep print dimensions, mounting, and matting within the competition rules. An oversized or undersized print, or mounting board, can get you disqualified.

Parting Thoughts

Enter several events a year. Experience is the best teacher…. and a good showing gives you bragging rights!

Enter your best images, or images that have style or content innovations that you want to test in the “real” world.

Remember that judges are only human. They can be maddeningly stubborn, excitable, distracted, or bored. They also frequently find the diamond in the rough, and give it the attention it really deserves!

See the Workshops tab above for info about the new Mastering Digital Printing seminar coming up in February.