Back in the day, and with all due respect to those who still shoot with film, the perception of the photographer that handed in a spool of film at a lab was that the prints produced was a true reflection of what the photographer actually shot. Luckily we now know that a view basic re- touching processes helped us in that under or over exposure was corrected with up to 3 stops, contrast adjustments were made to give the image more punch, and saturation levels were also adjusted to give the image a more vibrant appearance. The new generation of digital printers also increases the sharpness levels of the image with up to 15%. Unfortunately the photographer could never accurately analyze their mistakes unless it was specified that the photos should have no corrections or alterations.
We often find with our new generation SLR’s that images may appear to be very flat and sometimes disappointing when downloaded straight off camera. These digital images also need to go through the same enhancement processes used with film.
There are a couple of software packages that offer these filtration processes without crossing the line between enhanced images, and digitally manipulated images. One needs to be very aware though that unless specified your local lab may still do corrections from your digital media over and above the corrections that you made, unless specified. Be sure to mention that your work needs to be printed, “as- is”.
The image on the right shows how adjusting the sharpness level, contrast and light intensity can enhance the appearance of the photo without it looking synthetic.
Cropping can also make a significant difference to your image. It’s suggested that unless you go for a very tight crop that you try and fill the main object with about 2/3ds of the frame. Shooting at a very high megapixel with a low compression ratio will give you a bit more leverage to crop away unwanted background. Raw file formats, if supported by the camera, offer the best results, as these file sizes have no compression what so ever. After cropping view the image at 100% to see what the quality loss is. As a guideline you will reduce the printable size of an image with the same percentage cropped. Crop away 20% of an image and you will also reduce the printable size with approximately 20%.
The following crop shows how a marginal crop can elevate the subject from the distracting background without loosing too much quality. Printable size was reduced from an A0 to an A1 size print because of the crop.
Print presentation is the final step where you can really dare to be creative. By simply adding a border and some author detail you immediately theme the photograph as if used in a commercial publication. You will require some editorial skills in software packages like Adobe Photoshop to finish the print off but this simple application will make a world of difference and make your prized shot stand out. Less is always more as some photographers clutter their images with fancy borders and designs. This tends to lead attention away from the image and will have little or no impact on the viewer. In terms of background colours used, experiment with colours that can be found in the main image. Black and off- whites are always a good choice and will work with almost any theme of photography.
Sample 3 – final