These days, displaying digitally captured images has unfortunately become posting a cell-phone snapshot to Facebook, or similar “social networks.” While there is little doubt that the quality of the cameras which are built into today’s smart phones are awfully good (indeed, better than the early, $10,000 digital cameras that first made the scene), there is something almost regrettable in the ubiquitous sunset over the lake or on the beach that has become the staple of social network walls (is it just me, or have other photographers noticed that the vast, vast majority of ocean beaches and inland lakes appear to slant remarkably to the right?).
These days, displaying digitally captured images has unfortunately become posting a cell-phone snapshot to Facebook
I “display” my work here, and on my LightCentric Photography website, as well as on Flickr, Facebook, FineArtAmerica and Google+. I do it in hopes that others will enjoy and appreciate it, and perhaps as importantly want to have a print to hang on their wall. Because in the end, for many of us die-hard, traditionalist photographers, it is that “wall-hanger” print that is what we ultimately seek. And as photographers, we know that there is a vast difference between a “thumbnail” sized screen print on a personal computer, ipad, ipod or smartphone, and a large, photographic quality print. I have prints ranging from 5 x 7 images up to 24 x 36 images hanging in various places. It generally takes something a bit more than a smart phone snapshot to produce prints like these (although I am impressed by the quality of the images made on my iPhone 5).
As a much younger person, I had the good fortune to be a staff member of my College Newspaper and Yearbook, and was exposed to the mystery and delight of the photographic darkroom. I am not sure I’ll ever miss that acetic acid smell, or the wet chemicals and drying and spotting of prints. But the allure of bringing the photographic image into a presentation format was there, and sparked the fire. Fortunately, in my view, digital photography and high quality inkjet printing has become available to everyman at affordable prices — replacing the wet darkroom or yore. I currently have the capability to print my own images on pre-cut paper up to 13 x 19 inches and roll paper 13 inches wide by theoretically unlimited lengths. These printers are very affordable. If you want to go larger yet (up to 24 inches wide), printers are available, but cost begins to factor in pretty significantly. Today, Epson (my printer of choice), Canon and HP all offer affordable 13 inch models. Making a traditional darkroom print look the way I want it to used to be a bit of a “crapshoot,” working with the third party film processor and trying to get it “right.” With the inkjet printers of today, and some calibration software, you should be able to produce prints that match your own expectations at least as well as a commercial printer would be able to, provided that those expectations are realistic. There significant “physical” differences between an electronic “pixel” display, and traditional paper, canvas, and other “substrate” displays. Perhaps the most significant difference is between electrons and ink. Trying to explain this is way outside my “wheelhouse,” so I’ll leave that to the experts.
Black, in most cases, “pulls” colors in a color image better than any other color, including colors complimentary to the image itself.
Which (finally – ) brings us to the topic of the blog. Once you have captured, and printed that special image, what do you do to display it? There are numerous methods for mounting and hanging a print. Many photographers today mount on canvas or suspend the image in a Plexiglas or framed type mount.
My own rather traditional preference is to display the print with in a traditional wood or metal frame, behind glass, with an “overmat.” For a modest investment, you can purchase a mat cutting jig. I have a medium sized rig, with a bevel cutting blade and track, manufactured by Logan. With a few necessary tools and a setup like mine, it is easily possible to cut and assemble your own mats for a substantial savings. After some trial and error, I have learned to keep it simple. 99% of my mats are cut from an off-white material, with a second layer of black used to create a small, 1/8th inch border around the image. My research and reading indicates that black, in most cases, “pulls” colors in a color image better than any other color, including colors complimentary to the image itself. This keeps things simple. I purchase off white and black (black core) mat board from my local hobby shop (Hobby Lobby seems to have the best prices and sales in my community). I use a drywall hanger’s T-square and a Dexter straight cutter to make rough cuts of the board to size. Another necessary tool is double sided tape. There is a “trick” to cutting a double mat, but once you get it, it is really easy, especially with the mat cutting guide.
For years, I have used the “archival” hinge-tape method of securing my prints to the mat board. I used a piece of foamcore as backing and tape the print to it with archival tape. Serious artists and archivists will caution you to only use acid-free, archival materials. Without meaning to deprecate their advice, here is my take on that. In days past, a 13 x 19 print from Kodak would set you back a few dollars, and often, getting it right was a matter of trial and error. So when you got a print made, it was fairly important that they be cared for in an archival manner. Today, it takes me a matter of about 5 minutes to reproduce an exact replica image with my inkjet printer. So, at least for my own purposes, I don’t worry about archival materials or methods. Besides, it seems to me that in many cases, by the time an image has faded noticeably, its probably time to hang a new and different one, anyway. If you are selling images, then it is a different story. Customers have a right to expect a certain archival quality. For the most part, my prints are sold through SmugMug and FineArtAmerica, and they provide the prints, matting and framing, so I don’t concern myself much about that. My own prints are going to last longer than most buyer’s lifetimes today (assuming they use some caution in display methods). So, archival issues are not huge to me.
For my own purposes, I don’t worry about archival materials or methods
This is a good thing, because I have recently moved away from the hinge-tape method of mounting prints. Once of my peeves has been the inability in most cases to achieve a nice, flat, print, when hung. Particularly in landscape format, the images invariable develop “waves” (due to changes in humidity and temperature, and to the overall structure of the print paper), which are visible (and just ugly) at certain viewing angles. I have tried the sticky-backed foamcore and it is very difficult to use without developing bubbles and wrinkles (even more ugly than the waves). It is very unforgiving. I have also tried the spray adhesive. It is messy and generally the results are inconsistent. I have long known that “dry mounting” would be my preferred method of affixing prints to the backing board. However, finding a shop that will do this has become almost impossible. I began to do some research about the process and ran across an old Blog Post by my good friend, Mark Graf about this very topic. About 5 years ago, he came to the same epiphany as me, and went through the same analysis. He suggested looking for a used press (they are quite expensive new – in the thousands of dollars) on eBay or Craig’s List. Following his lead, I found a reasonably inexpensive used Seal 2000 press (capable of handling my 13 x 19 images with ease) and bought it on eBay. After some “elbow grease” cleaning of the platen, I had a working dry mount press. A few more tools and supplies later, I am now in business.
I have been fortunate to have the advice of others to follow and started out with the correct tools and the benefit of others’ experience. I mounted my first two prints this afternoon, and had great success. I wonder now, why I waited so long to take this step.
For my own purposes, I have the following “process” for displaying prints. I post-process mainly in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop (liberally using the Nik Software Plugins I have written about here). I make (usually 13 x 19) prints with my Epson R1900 Inkjet Printer. I have a Huey Pro calibration tool and software to keep my monitor and printer calibrated. I have found that with Epson, my best results are to use Epson paper (I prefer the traditional photographic look of their Premium Lustre Paper) and let the Epson printer driver manage the color process through printing.
Once I have an acceptable print, I cut a mat for it and use the dry mount press to permanently mount the print and then put it in a frame. While I have tried making my own frames, most of the time, I have the best luck finding ready made, pre-cut frames on sale at places like Hobby Lobby and Michaels. I generally tape kraft paper onto the back to keep dust out and hang my images with picture wire and mirror hangers screwed to the back of the frames.
Filed under: MUSINGS, PHOTOGRAPHY | Tagged: Andy Richards, color, Dexter, display, dry mount press, dry mount tissue, Epson, ink, Inkjet, LightCentric Photography, Logan, mat, mat cutting, paper, paper trimmers, photographic paper, PHOTOGRAPHY, printing, prints, Seal 2000 | 8 Comments »