Fuji X-E1 review by David Saffir, published in Photo Technique Magazine

Full text of the review I wrote published on Photo Technique web site: http://phototechmag.com/the-fuji-x-e1-print-sized-photo-powerhouse/

From the E-X1

From the E-X1

Creating Custom Folios for Self-Promotion & Presentation


This article was originally published in Photo Technique Magazine, Nov/Dec 2012. It appears here with some minor changes.

Creating Custom Folios for Self-Promotion & Presentation
by David Saffir

A teacher of mine once told me “nothing matters except your book” – referring of course, to my portfolio. Photographers use portfolios for self-promotion, to share a story or point of view, to help create a body of work, or to establish or reinforce professional identity.

The range of options in portfolio design and presentation makes for a number of choices—format, size, paper type, books, boxes, albums, printing processes and more. Other considerations: Budget? How much time to invest? Can new work be added, or can old work easily deleted? How do I pitch my work to different audiences?

In this article I’ll discuss a presentation option I’ve been working with lately and it’s one that I like quite a bit. Simple and inexpensive with straightforward construction, it’s changeable, elegant and a bit different.

The ready-made folio itself is made from a precision-cut sheet of heavy paper, folded to create a recloseable envelope or pocket that holds 10–15 prints. I’m currently using this design to showcase a dozen of my images printed on 310gsm Ilford Gold Silk inkjet paper. Each image is imprinted with my name, the title of the body of work and my web address.

Folio Cover – Closed and Opened

I created my own simple Photoshop templates (vertical and horizontal) that photo technique readers can download for free to create their own folio pages with a minimum of stress. (See link at bottom of this post).

Design Concept

There are pros and cons associated with any choice in a portfolio. I’ve experimented with options ranging from mounted prints to a bound book. The folio design I’ve settled on delivers a combination of versatility, artistic experience, modest cost, reasonable time investment and a degree of elegance.

I’ve always enjoyed books and prints. The experience of picking up a fine art book or print can’t be duplicated—a digital display doesn’t come close. I enjoy the experience of feeling the texture of the paper and seeing the print without glass in front of it. So one of my requirements—the tactile experience—is satisfied in this format.

Completed Folio – © R. Russell 2011-2012

These folios are versatile in that a photographer can create a body of work around a concept, story, location, culture or time period. Pages can be moved in and out of a collection, reordered, or reprinted and re-made. I use my folios as a marketing tool for my general photography business and also to promote sales of larger versions of my prints.

A folio like this can be shared with a group. Prints can be passed around, discussed and so on. A customer might un-bundle them and frame individual prints.The folio cover also has a die-cut window that allows creation of an introduction image with title—and of course this can be changed as desired.

Folio Materials

The folio consists of three components: the folio cover, a mat board inserted for reinforcement and the prints. Pre-made folio covers from Neil Enns of Dane Creek Photography in Seattle, Washington are offered in a variety of colors. The colors are cut from Royal Complements 100lb. acid/lignin-free paper, the white covers are made from Domtar Cougar Opaque. Mat boards are made from different sources depending on color and all are acid/lignin-free.

When assembled with a mat board the folio holds up to 15 pages depending on paper thickness. I am currently using Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk, which is about 310gsm. Thicker papers will limit the capacity of the folio.

Image Editing and Media Types

My image editing leverages the relative high Dmax and nice black point of this Ilford paper. This paper has a 96 brightness rating and a relatively warm baryta base. Working best with pigment inks, it’s a robust all-around paper and it doesn’t impose its personality on the image.

Of course you have many different choices for inkjet paper. Pick your favorite to showcase your images. I usually shoot in 16-bit RAW, and process in Phase One Capture One to 16-bit, ProPhoto RGB. Normal image edits in Photoshop or Lightroom usually include color correction, black/white points, midtone contrast and sharpening.

I designed a pre-formatted template in Photoshop to prepare each image for folio printing. I edit the image first then copy/paste it into the template. The screen shot shows the layout guides (in blue) that help me position the image on-screen. I use Edit>Transform to fine tune size and position to balance the image and text on the page. Adjust the boundaries and image size to your preferences.

Folio Template Screen Shot (Photoshop)

The pre-made folio covers also have a window on one side. Create a small image that is a bit larger than the window—perhaps including a title and your name and attach it to the inside of the folio. This adds a nice touch of professionalism and personality.

Printing

Given the 8.5×11 format of the folio, I’ve found it’s easier and less time-consuming to purchase cut sheets at this size. I’ve been using the Epson 3880 and the HP B9180 printers for these jobs, as both have nice ink sets and straight or almost straight paper paths. Printing on larger sheets or on roll paper could be less expensive, but there are issues that I’d rather not deal with such as including crop marks, trimming, paper curl and more. At current prices ink and paper together should be less than $1.50 per page. With 15 pages and the cost of the folio, the entire package should come in around $25.

I recommend that you print using “application managed color” and use an ICC paper profile in your printing. Most paper manufacturers offer paper profiles online for a range of printers. I’ve also gotten excellent results making custom paper profiles, particularly when using matte-finish fine art media. If you are using matte-finish fine art paper, consider using a spray or other protective coating to reduce vulnerability to scratching and scuffing. Some people use an interleaving sheet—but this may reduce the number of prints that will fit in the folio. I print these as unsigned open editions unlike my larger gallery-sized prints.

Texaco Station, The Palouse. © David Saffir

Collateral Materials

You can include an artist statement that might contain an introduction to your images, a description of the scope of the work, project objectives and the like.

Brooks Jensen who made some of the earliest digital folios suggests adding a colophon, which is a brief description of the provenance of the work and methods and materials used. Generally, the artist’s statement is placed at the beginning of the print series and the colophon at the end.

I feel that this design is a sometimes-overlooked option in presentation and promotion—it’s easy to set up and execute and the results can be very satisfying. I find it helps to differentiate my work—the form and format are different than books and boxes most commonly seen in the market. I certainly plan to continue to create and use these folios in the future!

Link to Photo Technique Magazine

Link to download page templates (please leave me a note if any problems)

© David Saffir

Back From Photo Plus Expo….

Had a heck of a great time at Photo Plus – got some new developments coming from a leading software company and a camera company, and finally found some web authoring services/software that are very promising. Saw quite a few friends and made some new ones!

I was very pleased with the response to my presentations on “Screen to Print Match”, sponsored by Datacolor and hosted by Midwest Photo Exchange. Inspires me to update some of my existing content on this subject, and create some new material.

Last, my article on “Creating Custom Folios for Self-Promotion and Presentation” was just published in Photo Technique magazine. Great reviews so far!

Thoughts go out to all affected by the storm, and wishes for a speedy recovery and a return to normalcy!

Complete Text – “The New Black and White” – Article Pub in Photo Technique Magazine May 2012

The New Black and White: Digital/Darkroom Large Format Printing

I’ll always remember my first experiences in the darkroom, watching my prints come up, feeling like something magical was afoot. In recent years, I’ve frequently wished that there was an effective way to use my digital images in the darkroom, and make prints on fiber-based paper that have that special silver-based depth and luminosity.

Mesquite Flats, © David Saffir 2011

Hewlett Packard Company has developed updated technology* that makes it possible to create a “digital negative” using a digital file or film scan. That digital negative can be used in a traditional darkroom to make prints of any reasonable size. HP calls this the Large Format Digital Photo Negative Solution. In this article, I’ll review the process in detail, including some of the methods used in the darkroom-printing phase.

The process consists of six steps:

1. Creating a base digital file via camera capture or film scan
2. Performing normal editing of the image through Photoshop or other application
3. Adjust image file for correct printing density
4. Flip and invert file
5. Print to HP Designjet Z3200 printer using the Photo Negative pre-set for the printer driver
6. Make a contact-style darkroom print, using your preferred chemistry

*Printing large format photo negatives with inkjet ink is an old concept. There are a number of books and methods that helped pioneer this. The goal in creating this solution was to make the process of printing large format photo negatives easier, and to achieve maximum quality using the HP Designjet Z3200 printer.

Creating a Base File

Image quality is, as always, a key driver in final print appearance. Obviously, a high-quality DSLR will (all else being equal) yield a better digital file and final print. Similarly, a high-resolution drum film scan will give better results than a scan made on a low-end tabletop flatbed scanner.

At the end of the day you’ll want a digital file that would also provide excellent quality as an inkjet print−a print the same size as the negative you plan to make. So, if you want a 16×20 negative, ideally you’ll want to have a digital file with pixel dimensions equivalent to a 16×20 @ 300 dpi. You can improvise at lower resolution, but your mileage may vary.

Image Editing

Initial image editing follows a normal path, with adjustments as needed. Keep a close eye on highlight and shadow detail−remember that you’ll be printing to inkjet film, not paper−and the film is somewhat sensitive to clipping, particularly in the shadows.

Flip and Invert

You’ll be making a negative, so of course you’ll flip the on-screen image horizontally, and invert it.

Flip and Invert The Image

We’ll make one last adjustment to the file before printing the negative−but first, we have to create a test chart and evaluate the results.

Adjust Image Density

HP recommends printing a test chart, and making a test print to set image density correctly. I’ve found that one can in many cases use a shortcut for this. I’ll review the process by the book in summary form, and then describe the shortcut. (Please refer to the HP instructions for full details).

The adjustment for image density enables creation of a negative that will yield a darkroom print with best possible shadow, mid-tone, and highlight values.

Print the 256-step target generated by the HP software. Here’s the original test target:

(The digital test target is printed on the inkjet film, and then a test image is printed in the darkroom.)

You can print from an image-editing application, or directly through the HP Z3200’s Embedded Web Server (otherwise called EWS−Postscript model). Quoting from the manual “If the printer driver is used to send the image to print, make sure to select “no color management” in the application used to print the image and “application color management” in the driver. Select the plug-in preset for the digital negative film type using “HPPhotoSilverNegative 1.0 for clear film, and HPPhotoSilverNegative 1.0d for translucent film. The printing parameters must be “maximum quality,” “no gloss enhancer” and “more passes.””

The figure below illustrates the settings to use when printing using the EWS’s “job submitter” interface.”

This “gray” chart negative can now be used in the darkroom to create a print using your silver paper and your standard printing time−once completed, find the patch that yields “paper white”. The “value” of this patch in this case is 200. This value is used to adjust the digital image file when printing the digital negative (described below).

Final Image Adjustments: Printing the Negative

First, go to the Channels palette, and fill the Red channel with black. (Select the Red channel, then Edit> Select All, then Edit>Fill>Black).

Next, click on RGB in the channels palette to reselect all channels. Create a Curves adjustment layer, select the Red channel. Left click, hold and drag the low left point of the line upward until the output level indicates 200.

Generally, an adjustment in the red channel between 195 and 210 will get the job done. Keep in mind that small adjustments may have significant impact on image appearance, particularly in shadow detail and midtone transitions.

Printing On Inkjet Film

Print the negative the same way you printed the test target, above. Please keep in mind that these negatives are a bit fragile; handle the film and printed negative with care. Use lint-free gloves. Carry the negative in a folio with interleaving sheets to prevent scratching.

Darkroom Printing

We used fiber based fine art papers in our darkroom printing. Here are a couple of examples of methodology:

Example 1
Silver Halide Paper: ADOX Premium MCC VC FB (glossy)
Enlarger: Omega Super Chromega D Dichroic II
Developing: LPD, Hypo cleaning, Selenium Toning,
Archival Wash and Dry

Example 2
Silver Halide Paper: Ilford Multigrade FB Fiber
Enlarger: Devere 810 w/ Dichroic Head
Developing: Dektol D 72, Sprint Record Fixer/ Sprint Archive Fixer remover
Archival Wash and Dry

Prints are made using a contact frame. You can purchase one or simply adapt an old picture frame as we did. Ensure that the frame is completely flat, and that there are no gaps or spaces between the glass, negative and paper.

Given the size of these negatives and the material used, tend to attract dust. When possible, handle with lint-free gloves and use a hand-held blower when mounting/dismounting from the contact frame. We also used an archival-style washer that featured continuous low flow of clean water.

We used enlargers listed here for a number of reasons, including the ease of filter selection, and high quality adjustable lenses. On the ADOX paper, for example, we finalized settings of f/22 or f/27, approximately 24 seconds, with magenta filter (ranged from 45-80).

Islands in the Stream, © David Saffir

Tips and Hints:

The manufacturer suggests that any light diffused light source can be used. Certainly we tried this; however I have found that sharper prints can be made with a lens mounted in the enlarger. Another benefit of this setup is that an adjustable aperture makes exposure easier to control.

Use reasonably fresh chemistry. Once you immerse the exposed paper in the developer, try to be patient. It may take a while for the print to come up (be visible) and then the process seems to accelerate a bit to completion. If you’re working with a low-key image, watch the shadows carefully; it seemed that even with the modest contrast of the ADOX that it was possible to over-do and lose detail in this area. I suggest in-process inspection (after initial wash), as you may find that you’ll want to make small adjustments.

Some photographers suggest that they like the idea of using dodging/burning to enhance the image in-darkroom, however, it’s a pretty big negative for this. My personal preference is to do as much of the image editing on the digital file− if nothing else, once the adjustments are “locked down” in the digital file, the printed negative can provide very consistent prints.

We also found that image contrast continued to improve, as did some high-light detail, after dry-down. Take a close look at this stage−if you find that shadow/highlight detail, or transition areas are not exactly as you’d like, consider making a small adjustment to the density of the negative using the curves adjustment described above. You might also try adjusting the enlarger filter settings.

Results

It all starts with the negative−it has to hold its own in critical areas. The darkroom work is straightforward−just be sure to attend to the details. We made a number of prints, ranging in size from 8×10 up to 20×24. I feel that image quality was excellent, showing good depth and dimensionality, holding up well in shadow/ highlight areas. One model I had photographed had very fine blonde hair and the detail shown was remarkable. Another image with strong textures held up very well, even at larger sizes. And of course, silver-gelatin fiber-based prints are unequaled for their inherent luminosity and presence!

This process asks that the photographer/printmaker adopt a modified workflow. I found most of this work to be only moderately demanding, with the curves density adjustment requiring a few trial and error cycles be-fore I felt completely comfortable. Overall, the prints looked great and it was well worth the effort!

My sincere thanks to Tony Zinnanti, print-maker, of Santa Clarita and Eric Luden of Digital Silver Imaging for their support in this project.

Photo Technique Magazine

SPECIAL NOTE: We have a new photo tour and workshop in the Palouse (Pacific Northwest) coming up in June 2012. For more information, click here.