Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Going Too Far

Printing is is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. I may try to make an image look great on screen, but that always pales in comparison to the effort I end up putting into trying to make a print that looks"perfect" to me. By the time I feel the work is done, I have generally gone through many iterations of the image, making local changes in tonality, contrast, and satuaration to get it to look just the way I envisioned it. I have always felt that the print is the 'final common pathway'; that it is where the artist's final statement is made. Much like the old adage that 'if you love it let it go', the final print is where the photographer lets go of his creative effort and lets it loose on the world. Perhaps a little melodramatic, but I put great stock in the importance of the final print.

Ah, but the purpose of this post is not necessarily to talk about my philosophy of printing. It is actually to pass on some advice I took from from Brooks Jensen regarding making prints. It is advice that I have found to be very helpful and that I thought might be useful to others as well.

Many months back, Mr. Jensen made a brief comment in one of his LensWork podcasts to the effect that (and this is not going to be a word for word quote) "you never know if you have pushed an effect far enough until you have pushed it too far". I realized just recently that this advice has been,for some time, in the back of my mind as I work on making prints.

With Photoshop, it has become so easy to add more saturation, more contrast, make local tonal changes etc, that it becomes hard to know before seeing the print on paper (yes, I know about soft-proofing and color management...but, still, while those may be important clues as to how the final print will look, they still don't replace seeing the hard copy and making appropriate adjustments) to what degree adjustments should be made. How far do you go? How much contrast, saturation etc? If some is good might not more be better?

Mr. Jensen's thoughts ring true to me. If you identify where the point is that you have gone too far, you know what the limit is. That is not to say that what is too far for me is also too far for you. That's what makes us all individuals. But once you know when an effect or idea has gone too far for you, then you can work within those boundries to fine tune an image and decide what type of feel you want to give it. It seems more manageable to work within a range or a zone than to work in a sea of endless possibilities.