As one of the photographers/printmakers who played a role in the development of the HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon, I receive a steady stream of questions about digital fine art reproduction. Some people ask about the type of technical equipment and photographic proficiency required. Others are more concerned about the feasibility of getting into digital fine-art reproduction as a business. All of these questions are valid, and I will address many of them on a new post on this blog next week.
But if you’re seriously interested in entering the digital fine-art reproduction business, I would encourage you to attend one of the seminars I will be presenting in the New York and Washington, DC area in early June.
You may be surprised to see how much things have changed. A few years ago, the level of financial investment and technical skill required for digital fine-art reproduction was daunting. Now, the technology and software have advanced to the point that digital fine-art reproduction is no longer strictly an enterprise for a small elite.
The HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon helps make it more practical for more museums, galleries, artists, art publishers, and curators to convert more of the artwork in their collections into digital files and print them out in various sizes and formats as desired.
Applications for fine art reproduction include (but aren’t limited to): the creation of limited-edition reproductions of watercolor paintings, drawings or sketches for sale or exhibitions; the restoration and archiving of national collections of artworks; and reproductions of private art collections for family estates and heirlooms.
Once the art has been digitally captured and archived, the files can also be used to create various types of promotions for gallery exhibits as well as posters and other items to be sold in museum or resort-area gift shops.
Many museums, galleries, and art publishers may choose to establish their own in-house art-reproduction facilities. But many opportunities also exist in digital fine-art reproduction for enterprising photographers and print-service providers who want to diversify their businesses.
If you attend one of my seminars, I will show you exactly how the HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon works. First, I’ll talk about how to prepare your studio for image capture using the Nikon D3/D3x, then I will demonstrate how the HP Artist Software solution embedded in the Ergosoft StudioPrint RIP controls color, exposure, illumination, density and media selection. You will also see how the printing process is managed with the Designjet Z3200.
Best of all you’ll be able to see for yourself how the quality of the Designjet reproduction compares to the original captured with the HP Artist Software solution for Nikon. I think you’ll be amazed to see how much less labor-intensive and less expensive is has become to produce gallery or exhibition-quality prints.
In the seminar, I’ll also explain why I firmly believe most start-ups should be able to achieve the transition from break-even to profitability within a year. I’ve spent a lot of time doing profit/loss calculations for different reproduction scenarios and will be happy to share my findings with you. We will also review methods for recruiting artists or organizations as new customers, and show how you can help coach your clients to effectively market their art reproductions at reasonable cost. You’ll also receive access to a downloadable portfolio of supporting technical papers, how-to guides, and other documents. (For a preview, visit the HP Artist Solution for Nikon directory on my website.)
The first three seminars are scheduled for: Monday, June 1 at B&H Photo in New York, Tuesday, June 2 at Adorama Photo in New York; and Wednesday, June 4 at Mac Business Solutions in Gaithersburg, MD (serving the Washington DC Metro area). If you can’t attend any of these first three seminars, but might be interested in attending seminars in other cities, please let me know.
And if you’re still not sure whether Digital Fine Art Reproduction is an opportunity that makes sense for you, check this blog next week when I’ll be posting answers to the most frequently asked questions about the still-expanding field of Digital Fine Art Reproduction.
I started my series of blog posts talking about how to approach strangers you want to photograph. And I explained that in our FirstLight Workshops, we pre-arrange these interfaces beforehand, so students don’t have to worry about it and can immediately immerse themselves in shooting.
When I “pre-arrange” the permissions with community residents before each workshop begins, I explain to our potential subjects what we need. We not only want their permission to have a workshop student photograph them, but we also want them to grant the photographer enough time so that certain “moments” can present themselves.
This craft takes time. We need to spend a certain amount of time with our subjects to allow ourselves the chance to capture those fleeting moments that can make great photos. Such moments can occur in minutes. Or, they may not occur until hours after you’ve found a subject and stepped into their world to take pictures.
For the first 15 minutes, your subject may simply stand there—waiting for you to start shooting. Encourage them to continue doing what they would normally do. Once you become boring to them, the photo ops will start occurring.
This is when you watch for that certain moment. It may be a gesture that your subject makes. Or it might be the laughter between two friends, or a saddle-maker immersed in the process of hand-tooling a saddle. You also watch the light, you move back, closer, higher, nearer and look for the angle and approach that will help make an arresting image.
Don’t get caught “chimping” (admiring your work in the camera’s monitor) while your subject is involved in their craft/business/whatever.Inevitably, you’ll be engrossed in looking at your camera when that certain “great-photo” moment does occur. Stay with the scene. Remember, your viewfinder is your canvas.
Once you’ve captured those few fleeting moments and returned to workshop headquarters, don’t forget another really important aspect of a participating in a workshop—showing your subjects that you appreciate their time.
Most communities are happy to open their doors and hearts to photographers when a workshop is held in their town. Usually all they want in return are a few prints for their time and patience, which is certainly a fair trade. But few photographers go to the effort of following through on this simple request.
It seems like a no-brainer, but all too often I’ve heard from people who feel that they were burned by a photographer not reciprocating their hospitality and kindness.
If you participate in an on-location workshop, I strongly urge you to take the time to print a selection of your best photos and send them back to the subjects you shot that week.
More than likely, your subjects will be proud to display your work and tell their friends about what an accomplished photographer you are.
I encourage those students who are waiting for their edit sessions to pull up a chair up and listen, because the advice given during every edit session can prove to be one of the most educational aspects of our, or any, workshop.
We also do a daily show of our students’ best work. It is mandatory that all students be present for this, and I really want them to bring their voices to this. The daily show can open your eyes and creative spirit, because you may see how another photographer shot the horse round-up at dawn in Dubois. He may have shot it in a way you hadn’t even considered.
At the end of each workshop week, we invite residents of the community to our print show so they can see how the photographers at the FirstLight Workshop have depicted their lives. These shows are wonderful! Jay Kinghorn (my co-author on Perfect Digital Photography, long-time FirstLight instructor, and our IT guy) uses our two 44-in. HP Designjet Z3100 printers to output large prints of each student’s best photos. Each student receives four or five 13 x 19-in. prints as well as one 18 x 24-in. print.We chose to use HP Professional Satin Photo Paper for all of the prints, after we discovered that prints with a lot of contrast or deep blacks didn’t look their best on the fine-art paper we’d been using for some prints.
Every photographer I know has favorite papers for different looks, but we wanted one paper surface that would provide the visual and surface feel we wanted for all the types of images our students were shooting. Our print shows generally feature a mix of black-and-white images, portraits, and landscapes, and HP’s Professional Satin Photo Paper really covers the bases beautifully. We have yet to find that image that doesn’t “glow” with this paper surface.
I rent/borrow gallery space in which to hang the show. Hanging the show is fairly simple. We inset the photos so the image has a one- to three-inch white border. This creates a simple matte feel without adding a mind-boggling amount of work! Our hanging system is usually equally simple: clear pushpins. Not fancy, but the images are so powerful that no one has yet to complain about this inexpensive, fast and non-obtrusive hanging method.We hang the show for the final night of the workshop. The students contribute elbow grease in cutting prints, organizing the groupings, and hanging the show.
In our Dubois workshop in Wyoming in July, I was up in the workshop HQ finalizing the show when Jeff Vanuga, one of our FirstLight instructors, came up to me to tell me we had a problem in the gallery. The students had finished hanging their work and were standing in front of their panels with big grins, not moving.
Initially, when we took the show down we would give the smaller 13x19 prints to the subjects who were in attendance the night of the show. Now, the shows have become so popular that we leave them hanging in the community for a week or two. Our students leave a self-addressed mailing tube and we send each of them their large print post-event.
There are a lot of great workshops out there, and whether you are a pro, advanced amateur, or aspiring “wanna-be,” taking time out from the daily grind of producing client-directed images that may not ring your own bell can refresh your love of photography.
I know this renewal of passion occurs, because I routinely see it happen when I teach a FirstLight Workshop for serious amateurs and established pros. (FirstLight has hosted events in: the mid-Pyrenees of France; the western Highlands of Scotland; Barcelona, Spain; the Eastern Shore of Maryland; and Dubois, Wyoming.)
So what criteria should you use when choosing a workshop?
In my opinion, the most critical aspect of a good workshop is the ratio of instructors to students. At FirstLight Workshop, we have four instructors and a maximum of 16 students. This allows our students a lot of face time with the instructors. If you have more students and/or fewer instructors, you can create an environment in which the more reticent students won’t step up for their fair share of critique time and editing.
Here are a few questions I would consider asking before I signed up a workshop:
What is the maximum class size?
Having too many students with two or fewer instructors can’t provide the ideal environment for learning as much as you might hope to.
How do the instructors handle the type of subject matter we’ll be shooting?
Will we have to find your own subjects to shoot? Or will there be a list of suggested subjects in the area? Some workshops consider finding subject matter part of the learning process. But if that’s the approach, ask if students at previous workshops have encountered any difficulties in photographing the local citizens.
What will be the end point of the workshop?
Will we be creating a slideshow? A DVD? Or prints?
What is included in the fee?
Does it include any flights, hotel, meals, or other amenities? A good workshop provider will have all these details spelled out so there are no surprises.
Does the workshop get many repeat customers?
Repeat customers are a sure sign of a well-run event.You can also ask to see how past attendees have evaluated the workshop.
Can I talk to a previous attendee or two?
When you talk to these references, find out whether they considered the program to be successful. Did they get sufficient edit time? Were the comments from the instructors valid and helpful? Don’t be afraid to ask the most vague and important question: Did they grow and benefit from the workshop? If so, ask how and in what ways. (These questions may seem somewhat personal, but this is your hard-earned money and precious time you will be spending. Buy wisely.)
How will my work be critiqued?
Some events do a group edit, with each student submitting x-number of images. Others require you to edit your own work down to a specific number of images which the workshop leaders will then critique. Some workshops are really just shooting events, without any time set aside for editing/critiquing. If you’re serious about improving your photography, finding a workshop in which your work will be professionally critiqued can be quite valuable.
Can the photographers leading the workshop teach me what I want to know? Do they share my style and interests?
This is important for both sides of this relationship. I essentially “interview” each potential attendee, and I’ve sent a few to other workshops that I felt it would be a better fit them. I can’t offer the best learning experience to students who aspire to be the next Ansel Adams. Our strengths are not in that particular genre.
Will the well-known photographer who drew my attention to this workshop be there for the duration of the event?
Or will he or she just be an opening speaker or featured one-time speaker?
After you’ve decided to register for a workshop, carefully check the dates on the website or catalog as to: (1) when deposits are due; (2) when you can drop out without sacrificing your deposit; (3) when the total tuition is due; and (4) when the last opportunity is for you to cancel. These policies vary from workshop to workshop. Some operate like a fancy resort, where the money is due upon registration and you have little or no recourse to cancel.
Finally, if the workshop organizer can’t seem to spare time for you or doesn’t answer all of your questions, you may want to continue your search.
To get the most from your workshop, you need to bring a positive mindset. You’re spending precious time and money on the workshop, so it’s important to get the answers you need so you can make a wise choice. By doing some research before the event, you can come fully prepared to enjoy the full benefits of the experience.
It’s part of our business. But it’s a task that many aspiring pro photographers (and even some established pros) find intimidating. Walk up to a perfect stranger and ask to spend time photographing them? What if they say “no”?
Whether I’m in Delhi or Dallas, if I see someone doing something intriguing, I won’t hesitate to approach that individual and explain that I am fascinated by what they’re doing. Everyone I approach this way seems to enjoy having their activities validated as relevant or interesting. Thus, a camera can be a tool of validation.
Still, I understand that it can take new photographers some time to overcome their innate reluctance to approach strangers. That’s why when photographers attend one of my FirstLight Workshop sessions, I make it a point to pre-scout locations and pre-arrange permissions before giving students their assignments to go out and shoot. If I can eliminate that often frightening dynamic of approaching a stranger, it will help get my students into the process of shooting more quickly and allow them to fully immerse themselves in capturing their subject(s).
Some workshop participants may find this hard to believe, but over the past 30+ years, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve been refused when I asked to take stranger’s picture. The key to getting permission to photograph a stranger is showing a sincere interest in both your potential subject and what they are doing at the time you encounter them.