Monday, March 31, 2008

Basic Editing in Adobe Photoshop

This is a photograph from a series of photographs that I started working on the first month I began photography in 1970. This particular photograph is of a store window on Madison Ave. in New York City. I have been photographing windows on Madison Ave. since the early 1970s. Over time I have expanded this series to other cities. Some of the other photographs in the window series can be seen at


It began with a photograph shot on a rainy day. The camera was protected from the rain by an awning over the storefront. The camera used was a Nikon s7c. The ISO was set at Auto and Image Mode was set to High. The file was transferred to an Apple Macintosh computer for editing.

I began the editing process by placing the file on the desktop and duplicating the file. I duplicated it by clicking on the file. It appears highlighted. I then went to the File menu and chose the option Duplicate.

A second image appears on the Desktop with the same name and the word copy added to the original file name.

It is important to do the editing on the Desktop rather than opening the file from a CD or flash drive. Sometimes when editing is done on a CD or flash drive the file becomes corrupted.

I then went to the Edit menu to assign a profile

From the Assign Profile window I clicked on the radio button Profile. I then scrolled down the profile list using the navigation arrows on the right side of the Profile box and chose a profile to match the paper and printer that I use

For this print I used Epson Watercolor Paper Radiant White and an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer. The profile code is Pro38WCRW.

Next I open the duplicate file and go to the image menu and choose Mode. From the Mode submenu I change the file from 8 bits to 16 bits. This will give me more error room in the editing. This step probably isn’t necessary if your objective is to post a photograph to a website.

To edit any photograph in Photoshop, it is important to change the resolution to 300. This is done by going to the Image menu and choosing Image Size.

In the Image Size window look at the resolution box.

If the number it shows is less than 300 make sure that the Resample Image box is unchecked and then once it is unchecked change the resolution to 300.

My camera actually defaults to 300 not 240. I have changed this for the example since many cameras default to a resolution less than 300. What you are doing by unchecking Resample Image is you are changing the height and width of the image with the resolution. This keeps the file size the same. If you accidentally make the file larger it will not print as clearly as it does when the file size is not changed.

Next I convert the file to the TIFF format. This is a better format for printing than JPEG which has a more limited color range. Go to the File menu and choose Save As

From the submenu I choose TIFF

I have stopped working on this post and will probably not complete it. I know some people have found this helpful as is so I will leave it up incomplete.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

James Welling

While recently in New York I went to the Whitney Biennial and saw some photograms by James Welling. A photogram is a cameraless photograph. The process begins at the printing stage. A simple photogram would be to take a leaf from a tree into the darkroom, place it on a sheet of photographic paper, expose it to the light of an enlarger and then run it thru darkroom chemicals. Other variations on this process are to place objects between two pieces of glass and put them in the negative carrier of an enlarger, use alternative darkroom processes such as cyanotype, gum bichromate, platinum printing or using a large sheet of film to print the objects on and then contact printing them. The digital equivalent would be to place this same leaf on a flat bed scanner, scan it and print the file on a ink jet printer with photo inkjet paper. This is not just a trick to be used by people who are getting tired of their cameras limits. Significant bodies of work with photograms have been crated by Joan Fontcuberta, Adam Fuss and Abe Morell.

Welling’s photographs at the Whitney are from a series called “Torsos”. He took aluminum window screening and shaped it in such a way that when placed on color photographic paper in a darkroom and then processed in darkroom chemicals the end result is a photograph that does look like a torso. Why do this when you can photograph a torso? I don’t know Welling, so I can only guess at this. Much of making art is trying to create something visually that never existed before, but is close enough to existing art that it gets a viewer’s attention. This work got my attention. A very informative article about Welling appears in the current version of Aperture (#190 Spring 2008).

All text unless otherwise noted is ©2008 Paul Light. All rights are reserved.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Henry Wessel

Today I’ve been thinking about a photographer who has had a tremendous influence on contemporary black and white photography. From his choice of everyday, almost snapshot-like subjects to his luminous use of grays in prints, his imprint is seen in much of contemporary black and white photography. You may recognize the style, but unless you live in San Francisco you’ve probably never heard of him. He rarely exhibits outside of California. His name is Henry Wessel.

Wessel can take an ordinary space and make it look amazing, because he knows just how to position himself relative to the subject. Take a look at this photograph.

It’s merely a photograph of well trimmed bushes but they jump out of the photograph as mesmerizing sculpture due to where Wessel chose to stand. Choosing where to stand is the principal shooting strategy of contemporary photography, as seen in modern masters such as Lee Friedlander.

In 1974 Henry Wessel's photographs appeared in Aperture (Volume 19, Number 1 - The Snapshot). The photograph I remember most is a photograph of a man in a suit standing on a beach with his back to the camera.

The photograph is shot from an odd perspective; the camera is held low, making the man look like a towering figure. Also, the photograph shows only the man’s back, so it is very mysterious. Why is he wearing a suit at the beach? Why is he holding his arm in that position? Why is the beach so empty?

If you’ve never seen Wessel’s work, you should definitely take a look at it. Even if you have seen it, it’s worth a second look. A good starting point is a feature that public TV station KQED created about him. There’s a short profile, some links, and a great video about him.