Last weekend I attended Charles Cramer’s Digital Printing for the Fine Art Photographer workshop. (That’s Charlie pictured above, about to take a look at one of my test prints.) It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, and I’m glad that I did. I had a great time and came back energized to take my printing to the next level.
Charlie’s workshop is a three-day intensive class, going twelve hours on Friday and Saturday, and nine hours on Sunday. It is limited to eight students, allowing for plenty of one-on-one time with Charlie, who has devoted much of his life to making the finest photographic prints possible. (And his prints absolutely glow.) For the first half of the workshop we reviewed post-processing techniques for making fine art prints from our photographs using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Personally, I’m an Apple Aperture user and the archiving and organizing features of Aperture are so superior to Lightroom that I don’t intend to switch anytime soon. Nevertheless, it was good to absorb Charlie’s Lightroom/Photoshop workflow and the finer points of using Photoshop to improve images, many of which also apply to Aperture. I learned a number of techniques that either I hadn’t thought of before, or which I had been unaware. This will definitely help me in the future.
We also did print critiques. Each student brought ten prints, which we reviewed as a group. Charlie believes in positive reinforcement, not the other way around. Charlie is an excellent teacher and a pleasure to be around. As a fellow student expressed via email, Charlie and his assistant, Rex Naden, treated all of the students with patience and respect, regardless of their individual levels of technical or artistic development.
For the second half of the workshop, we were turned loose on our own images, putting the techniques we learned into practice. The small class size allowed for plenty of one-on-one time with Charlie. In my case, I would get started on an image and then explain to Charlie what I had done and my thinking behind it. He would then offer suggestions and nudge me toward a better direction. We had access to large format Epson printers and were able to make several test prints. Charlie helped us evaluate them to determine what else needed to done to shape the image into an excellent print. Once satisfied, we then were able to make 17×22 prints, and one print up to 33 inches long. Many students worked on images they brought for the critique, and the improvement in them was quite evident and impressive. I was able to finish four images for large printing (see below), and got a good start on a couple of others.
Charlie emphasized that just because an image looks good on a computer display, it doesn’t mean it will look good as print. But an image that makes for an excellent print will also look good on screen. Therefore, to properly evaluate an image, you must make test prints as you process it. One thing this encourage me to do is to be more deliberate in my printing. In the past, I would often just print images to see what they looked like, accepting that some worked and some didn’t, and rarely taking it further than that. Now I’m excited by the concept of developing “master” images, or a true portfolio of finely printed images.
Of course, that will depend on my ability to put what I learned into practice. I’m pretty confident about the Photoshop techniques, but the hard part is that I won’t have the benefit of Charlie’s aesthetics and wisdom to guide me. Nevertheless, the workshop will serve as a base from which to continue developing. I may well take Charlie’s alumni class so that I can absorb even more from a master photographer and printer.
Here are the four images I finished at the workshop.
1225 At Dawn
The Blue Doors of Encino