I have always been of divided mind when it comes to printing photographic images on canvas. I have certainly seen inkjet canvas material in use at galleries and fine art fairs, where watercolorists, pastel artists etc use the material to create lower-priced copies of originals, making the art affordable yet attractive for many buyers. In fact, it’s a fairly easy bet that the great majority of the canvas coming off inkjet printers is used for just that purpose. The main use of photographic imagery on this material, in my experience, is for portraiture and wedding photography, where the image can stand on its own or gets painted over by artists for a premium touch, and price.
The Ilford name certainly echoes for those with a photographic memory, and now the Galerie brand name sits on a host of inkjet media, some fiber-based and quite a few RC-based products, the subjects of this review.
It must be said at the outset that any mention of RC-based papers usually makes printmakers head for the door. The bum rap RC gets is based on first impressions from 40 odd years ago, when it was quite clear that RC (Resin-Coated, plastic) base materials were poor relations used for convenience rather than quality. RC papers in the silver realm came a long way since their first introduction, and now Ilford claims that RC inkjet papers will do as well. While they have a fair amount of proper disclaimers about ink type and storage conditions, they state that when using pigment inks their RC surface papers will not undergo significant fading or discoloration in a range of from 30 to 100 years.
For years we have been working with the “traditional” Bayer sensor and its concomitant pluses and minuses, but we might soon see a change in the capture devices we have in our cameras. In this issue, Christopher Dack covers the recent work by Fujifilm, with a new filter pattern, Sigma’s Foveon sensor, and the elimination of the low-pass filter in Nikon’s coming D800E camera. As you’ll see, these moves challenge conventional thinking about the sensor we have become accustomed to in our cameras.
Ilford has relaunched their Galerie brand of inkjet papers, with one segment dubbed their “Prestige” brand. This is a first hands-on test of their Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss 215 gsm, based on pre-launch samples I was supplied.
In olden times printing papers were classed by weight, support (RC or fiber) grade (or VC, for variable contrast) and surface, and we’re beginning to see those classifications emerge again in the inkjet paper world, albeit in a different way than silver papers but nonetheless by weight and surface and support. If I were to classify this new Ilford Smooth High Gloss I’d call it a single weight, RC, and high gloss (Super F) "material", leaving grade aside of course as the contrast in digital is more determined by processing than paper grade.
Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 ($199, or $99 for an upgrade from previous versions) is the latest manifestation of image-altering software that works atop the architecture of Photoshop and Lightroom, that is, a plug-in accessible through the Filters menu in Photoshop and for Lightroom as an external editor.
To launch Snap Art from an image in Lightroom you first select the image (or multiple images for batch processing), and select Photo>Edit In>Snap Art 3. You can also right click on the image and select Edit In>Snap Art 3. When Lightroom asks you how to edit the photo, the company recommends you choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.” This will tell Lightroom to make a copy of the image for Snap Art. You can also check and uncheck the Stack command, depending on how you want to see the image in the Library—choose Stack and you can easily unstack the image later, or just have it sit side by side in the normal Library (unstacked) view.
While many cameras today have extensive on-board image processing, and offer numerous special effects and “retouch” functions, you are in fact relying on someone else’s opinion of how your images should look when you avail yourself of them. At Shutterbug we emphasize quality imaging, and part of attaining quality is taking control of your own images by getting involved in how they look and “feel” by taking them in hand and doing your own processing work.
Wacom recently introduced their new line of Bamboo tablets, and we thought we’d revisit the use of stylus and tablet tools to give it a try. For our test we worked with the Bamboo Capture, described by the company as most apt for enthusiast digital photographers, although there are three intros in this new line.
Having worked with numerous types and brands of “metallic” surface papers I have some expectations as to what they can deliver. Metallic is a bit of a misnomer as these papers have a glossy surface on a paper (here acid-free) base with an opalescent sheen diffused throughout the emulsion coating. This gives a spark and edge to a print that glossy shares, but there is an extra kick in the paper surface that works quite well with some images, and not so well with others. It is a particular choice, one that should be part of your printing arsenal but hardly dominated by it.
I generally feel it is best to ignore marketing copy, but sometimes it’s fun to see how folks spin their yarn. Moab’s has always been somewhat transcendent, here telling us that the surface is “reminiscent of the ultra-smooth and slick sandstone surface of the famous bike trail that loops through the desert plains of Moab…” Well, never having done the loop that may well be so, but if so the bike’s tires better have crampons, since this surface is quite slick. What is more to the point is that the copy makes a more straightforward claim that “black-and-white images shine on this new paper producing deep blacks and ultra-bright highlights.” That, and other matters, was the subject of my printing tests.
Think of the image you capture with a digital camera as a digital negative and that you are a master printer who can take that negative and make as good a print as you have ever seen in a gallery and you begin to understand the potential of each shot. The expectation that you can do something more with an image can be built into every type of lighting condition, contrast and exposure problem you might face. It is not that you can “fix it” in software, it is that you should think beyond the exposure to what can be done to the image later, right at the moment you make the photograph. This approach can open you up to many other possibilities and make you take chances when you work; it can also raise expectations of what you have obtained beyond what you see on the playback right after the shot.
Here are some suggestions for self-assignments that can aid you in getting a good handle on mastering your camera. Give each technique a full day then review the images, along with the EXIF data. As you complete these self-assignments you’ll start to make great photos every time you pick up the camera.