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!

Professional Photographers of California 2011 Print Competition

PPC Print Competition for 2011 is coming up fast! Here’s a few details – if you want a shot at fame and glory, you’d better get busy!

2011 Print Competition January 25, 2011 Holiday Inn, Mission Valley 3805 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA

NEW FOR 2011! Prints and digital files are accepted. All entries must be in the same format. Online registration, image upload and online payment are required for all.


$35 first image, $10 each additional (max 6)


for digital and shipped cases 5:00 p.m., January 14, 2011


For delivery – December 1, 2010 – January 14, 2011 Marcy Dugan 726 W Maple Ave. El Segundo, CA 90245


January 24, 2011 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Holiday Inn, Mission Valley 3805 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA


Here’s the link to the PPC Website for more details, including rules and entry forms!

Link to New Workshops

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.

Off To Pasadena, Enter PPC/PPA Print Competition

Image of Model Sarah Muldorfer, "Elegance" 2009 © D Saffir

Important Western States/PPC Print Competition Coming Up

The Professional Photographers of California/PPC and Western States Print
Competition are coming up soon. This is a major print comp; images that pass the judging cycle
may be exhibited at the PPC Annual Conference, or even PPA:

Thu, 02/04/2010 – Mon, 02/08/2010,
Pasadena Convention Center
300 E. Green St.
Pasadena, CA 91101
760 743-4130

Doors Open: 07:00 am
Doors Close: 10:00 pm

Presented By: Professional Photographers of California, Inc
URL: Members can pre-reg for
free admission.

Proceed here to the print comp page:

Print competition rules and deadlines are posted. This is an
important competition – I encourage you to look at the prospectus and
consider the reasons for  entering.

Upcoming Seminar: Fotoweek, Nov 9, 2009, Taking Your Photography and Business To The Next Level

Tools of the Trade:  Taking your Photography & Business to the Next Level, Sponsored by HP and MEI Computer

Monday, November 9th at VisArts (Rockville Town Center) 155 Gibbs Street, Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20850

9:00-10:30 – Studio Planning & Set-up, Physical Environment and Ergonomics, Lighting, Display/Monitor Selection.Discover the latest software and hardware the pros use to manage workflow and achieve consistent results. 

10:30-12:00 – Getting the Most Out of Your Inkjet Printer. Camera to printer workflow:  selecting a printer, accurate color previews, printing from image editing software.Media selection. Printer troubleshooting, print correction, archiving. 

12:00-1:00 – Lunch With featured printing demonstrations.

1:00-2:30 – Fine Art Printmaking plus Fine Art Reproduction.  Create Fine Art and Decor Prints for other photographers and galleries.  Learn price points, media types, how to work with galleries and organizations.Fine Art Reproduction, tools for Fine Art Reproduction 

2:30-3:30 – Succeeding in Print Competition  Avenues for Success: Choosing a competition, understanding print comp terms and conditions,  Selecting images, printing, what the judges want to see, and more. 

3:45pm-4:30PM Fine Art Media for Limited Editions. Matching Media and Client Needs, Media Types for Social Photography Commercial/Fine Art/Other Purposes   

4:30-Finish: Q&A & Printing. Participants are encouraged to bring a high resolution digital file to print.

For more information and registration please visit MEI Computer’s web sign up page.