After editing this and re-editing, I finally decided to re-do it as a three-parter to keep it readable. Even my eyeballs glazed over trying to read it ;-) The first part is about image prep, followed by the jury image, and finally the booth slide.
There was a most interesting set of workshops on February 1 and 2, Friday evening and Saturday put on by the St, Louis Cultural Festival to help applicants prepare their work for jurying. Congratulations to Cindy Lerick and Laura Miller for putting on an excellent pair of workshops; the Friday Evening Photographing Artwork Workshop lead by Larry Berman and Saturday’s Artist image workshop where Larry served as one of three jurors.
Both workshops were held at the Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel. The Saturday workshop started at 9:00 AM and was scheduled to end at 5:00 PM although it continued on until 8:00 PM in order for everyone’s work to be reviewed. The images and audio are posted on Youtube. The links to the images and discussions are at the end of this post.
If anything can sum up the purpose of the workshops, it would be the recurring theme that all this is literally about showing your work in the best light. This is one of those situations where metaphorically and literally you want to show your work in the best light in order to bring out the best in your artwork.
Competition is stiff out there, in some media there are 10 to 15 applicants for each booth space available. At SLAF, there are 1500 applicants roughly for 180 spots. I just checked on Krasl, and while I don’t know the total figures, for photography there were something like 171 entries for roughly 15 spots. With numbers like those, you have to have the best presentation to go along with your best work. It’s perceptions that count, all other things being equal, the application that takes the time to polish the presentation for the jury images and the booth slide is the one that wins the tie-breaker.
Since information from the two workshops has overlapped, it will be easier if the material is broken down into three areas for simplicity. We’ll deal first with software requirements and the image prep work needed to be done first, jury image requirements next, and finally, booth image requirements and fixes. The Friday night workshop was conducted by Larry Berman which ran for about three hours, and the Saturday mock jury ran for about twelve hours. The Saturday mock jury mirrored the same issues Larry addressed on Friday night, except it was more individually directed.
Image Prep, Formatting, and Software Adjustment
Setting your monitor
One of the first issues to deal with is to make sure your monitor is calibrated as closely as you can get it. Ideally, your monitor should be calibrated or profiled with a software package and a colorimeter probe on your screen. The ZAPP projectors aren’t calibrated, but you might as well have your images close as possible to being calibrated.
An alternative that sets the gray scale, but not color rendering, is available free on the net at several locations. My favorite is a test target located at; http://www.photofriday.com/calibrate.php. The directions are very simple; go to full screen display, check to see if you can see all 26 steps on the top bar. If not, adjust Brightness until there is a slight difference between A and B steps at the bottom. Next adjust the Contrast until you see a slight difference between Y and Z.
Make sure your monitor is set to sRGB color space, and a color temperature of 6500K. The ZAPP system is set for that color space. Deviate from it and your colors are going to shift, and look dull during projection.
Setting your camera
Set your camera to sRGB color space when you’re shooting jury images. Keep the work flow in the same space whoever possible. For those who have files they already have, verify they are in sRGB or change them when you save the image.
Formatting, editing, and saving files for ZAPP
The ZAPP format is a 1920 square format with black bars where you don’t have image data. Some literature says you can use a 1400 pixel image. One word; DON’T! When these are projected, you wind up with a smaller image than everyone else and the quality of presentation slides down the dumper. Stay with the 1920x1920 format and you won’t go wrong.
Resizing and saving the image are significant tasks that have some other issues tied in with them. Camera images have EXIF data that gives time, date, and location if the camera has GPS, lens data, shutter speed and a host of other information. You don’t want this data going out, particularly in light that some shows are becoming picky about work being very new, in some cases less than 18 months old. This EXIF data is readily available to the jurors if they choose to click on it. Make life easy on yourself and strip this data out with a simple method of Save for Web which is next to the Save As command on the File menu.
If your camera has RAW files, edit with RAW as far as possible within your RAW editor, then convert to TIFF for further editing. If you don’t have a RAW editor, PS Element does have a RAW conversion section. When you convert to TIFF, save the file with the sRGB color space. Use the Save for Web function in order to strip out EXIF information when the editing is complete,
If your camera has Jpeg only files, make sure the camera is set to the maximum resolution and sharpness possible, and at the lowest ISO speed available. This will ensure that you have the sharpest and clearest image going into the editing process. Open up the image or convert it to TIFF for the editing process to avoid degrading the image as you work on it. When finished, convert back to jpeg using the Save for Web function.
Another suggestion offered was to transfer the data to your computer and downloading the images by removing the card from the camera and using a card reader. The card reader can be either a USB plug-in device or in most cases built into the computer.
During the image editing, make sure that you can see the shadow and highlight details that are important. A frequently overlooked function is the Shadow/Highlight function. This is located under Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlight. The shadows adjustment will need to be returned to zero and then gradually adjusted. Seldom is more than a few percent needed. The highlights slider will reduce hot spots and bring detail in bright areas as it reduced the brightness of the highlights.
Instead of using Save As, use the Save for Web command instead. A few things are in order here. If you’re starting with a large size file, the menu panel will tell you the file size is too large for web applications. You already know that, so ignore it. Go over to the destination panel on the left and set your longest dimension to 1920 pixels after the preview function finishes which could be a little time because of the large file. As long as the Constrain button is clicked, the other dimension will auto set properly. Adjust the quality slider gradually down in small increments until the file size is under what the limits are, which I believe is now 2M.
If you are using the full version of Photoshop, there are a few extra choices available. Make sure the Convert to sRGB button is clicked and in the bottom right corner of the panel, there is another Quality drop down menu. Select Bicubic Sharper for best results. Otherwise the steps are the same as PS Elements.
Larry Berman points out that you don’t use sharpening functions of any sort for the jury image. No sharpening at all is not noticeable at the distances the images are viewed at, but over sharpening will introduce artifacts and noise into the image which will stick out like a sore thumb.
This was an overview for getting your computer, camera, and software in the proper shape for submission. Once this part is done, you can go on to getting the images set up. The next installment of this covers the things you need to do for the jury slide, where we talk about setting up for 2D and 3D artwork to get the best out of your work.
Part Two, on preparing the jury slide, is here.
Wow Robert, this was a lot of work putting this together. I hope this helps everyone.
We look forward to Part 2 and Part 3.
Reworked some of my images today and discovered that if you don't check "Embed Color Profile" when you "Save for Web" the sRGB setting is stripped out.
Thanks for the tips. I knew many of them but had not calibrated my monitor. I was surprised at how much "darker" my monitor has to be to be calibrated, my jury shots appear to be in shadow once I do that. Back to work on my images!
Send me your before and after (calibrating) images to review. It sounds like there may be something wrong.
I ran it again with a darker room (my monitor is next to a window and the first time I did this was a sunny day) and it was a little better, but I'm always happy to have you review :). What is the best way to get images to you?
Wow! That is the most thorough evaluation I have ever read.
Me, I use Photoshop elements and do all the things you talk about. Larry taught us those things years ago. You reinforce it.
Thanks for taking the time to do it.
I really have a hard time believing all of that technical is necessary for getting a good image, but I'll bow to the experts.
I couldn't resist clicking into the YouTube for the photography. Nice work, in general, but repetitive imagery -- and it was great to see about 15 minutes in the new body of work by Nels Johnson. It really stood out, great color and interesting imagery. Even in this small group of images I see all of those landscape photographers (with good work) having to beat each other out. What a challenge for them.
Wow, Robert, you got so much information down it is a wonder you even saw the presentation. Thank you so much for this helpful post.