"The negative is the score, and the print is the performance." - Ansel Adams
How I distinguish the term, “fine art photography”, from just a “photo”, is that fine art means that the artist put their emotions into their work and create with great care. The world is flooded with cheap photos and print options these days on sites like Fine Art America and Art.com. The only reason why someone would post their photos on a platform like that is because they don’t put much value into the art of printmaking. Those sites use mass-production, factory processes to create these prints at low cost. Meanwhile the artist gives up all control over how the work is output. I take the opposite approach. Within the article I will detail my extensive process step-by-step from the moment I press the shutter button all the way through to the shipping & delivery so you can get an idea for how intensive the process is for creating my artwork.
File Transfer & Backup Storage
Once I come back from a photoshoot, whether it’s a one-day shoot or a two-week trip, I always download the photos from my camera’s memory cards within a day. My 16 bit Camera RAW files are transferred onto a Synology NAS RAID drive and an external Western Digital Drive which is mirrored to a Backblaze online storage account. Every six months or so I also make another backup onto a small external hard drive which is stored offsite of which I have several. While all of these hard drives and backup storage solutions do start adding up in terms of cost, there’s no greater cost than having a catastrophic loss of your life’s work. Redundancy is extremely important for digital artists such as myself if you care at all about your artwork. Once my backup process is completed then I move onto the next step.
Editing The Photo Shoot
The photos that you see on my website represent a small percentage of the photos that I shoot. I start this editing process within Adobe Lightroom by scanning through the photo shoot and putting a flag on the photos that I may want to revisit again later. The number of images that I flag might range from 10 to 20% on a good day. Once I’ve looked at every photo in the folder then I’ll filter by the flagged images and decide which ones I’ll do basic processing in within Lightroom. This subset will include quite a few similar images with slightly different composition or elements within the frame. It will also include images that caught my attention in some fashion. From this point I’ll maybe process a handful of images or even none if they’re not adding a new dimension to my existing library of processed master images. Watch this YouTube video for a more comprehensive view into my thought process during the editing phase.
Once I’ve decided which images I want to work on then I’ll make some basic edits in Lightroom then open the image as a smart object within Photoshop. At this point I’ll use Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Mask actions to make targeted contrast adjustments as needed and do the same with saturation. After completing my processing, I’ll add all the necessary keywords and meta data to the file before saving the photo as a master file to my various backup sources. I base all of my future prints and licensed photos from these files.
A certain percentage of my processed photos get uploaded to my photo website for purchase. Each photo on my website gets an art title and description along with various print sizing options ranging from 24” all the way up to 120”.
Working With Art Buyers
Prospective art buyers frequently contact me to ask questions that range from measuring wall art sizes to print substrate options to custom art requests. I'm always happy to respond with detailed responses and try to do so as soon as I'm available to. For clients that request it, I'll even schedule video conferences via Zoom to answer questions. While about half of my clients know exactly what they want and buy artwork without any sort of consulting, I find that developing a personal relationship with my clients can help with the decision-making process.
How The Print Process Works
When I receive a print order, I work off of a master file to create an output file for print. Initial adjustments include selective noise reduction (if needed) then capture sharpening at the native file size prior to sizing for the final print size. Capture sharpening is essential for counter-acting the blurring effects of anti-aliasing filters that camera manufacturers place over the camera sensors. Once optimal detail has been extracted from the original photo, I then size the file accordingly then do several rounds of creative sharpening and occasional detail blending to portions of the image that would benefit from it.
Once the sharpening process is complete, I soft proof my files according to the ICC profiles from my print labs. This allows me to simulate how the final print may look compared to my original file. No print is ever exactly the same as how a photo looks on a computer screen so it's important for the artist to know the difference so I can create a print that's true to my artistic intent. Since prints are a reflective medium as opposed to an illuminated medium (computer monitor), I generally increase the exposure slightly in my print file to compensate. After this step, I then sign my print files with a Wacom tablet for provenance unless requested otherwise. After this process I then do one final review of the print file prior to sending to my print labs.
Making The Print
Once my printmaker has received my print file, they inspect the file to ensure that it will make for an excellent quality print. Quality is of utmost importance to me so I find that working with printers who may charge a bit more is worth the money so that I can have another set of professionally-trained eyes viewing my work prior to printing. There are a lot of cheaper options out there who cut corners by automating the entire fulfillment process and using inferior materials. If you want price then I'd encourage you to purchase art from another source, but if you're looking for artwork that's created by an artist and hands-on printers then you've come to the right place. Here are the following steps used to create a TruLife acrylic face mount once the print file has been green-lighted.
- Print the photo on an archival photo paper specifically-designed for acrylic face mounting
- Permanently bound the print directly onto museum-grade acrylic with an optically-pure adhesive which prevents bubbling and de-lamination
- Add a second permanent adhesive layer to the back of the print which mounts onto a sturdy backer medium
- Place a rear-mounted hanging system onto the backer medium to allow for hanging
- Polish the acrylic by hand until crystal clear
- Build a custom shipping crate for the print
- Ship the artwork directly to you
I'm Here To Help You
I offer personal consultations with my customers to determine which style of print is best for you and produce custom print files tailored to your needs. Printing and shipping of my landscape and nature photos are handled by world-class professional print labs. I’m here to help you through the process as you consider purchasing artwork for your home or office. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.