The devil in the shadow detail

The road from the NorthToday I want to talk about something that is dear to my heart in photography that of shadow detail. Depending on the type of photographer you are, more or less detail in the shadows can be an intriguing question.

I’m currently working on a project which at the moment I propose to print on a matt paper called Fotospeed Smooth Cotton 300. This is a relatively new paper introduced last year after its development with the British landscape photographer Joe Cornish. Joe is one of the professional Fotospeed photographers, as am I.

All Matt papers loose shadow detail when printed. All Matt papers must be allowed to dry properly for about 20 minutes before assessing the remaining shadow detail.

There is a process to go through to help you see the full range of tones in your image on the monitor. The first thing would be to work in a room with subdued lighting where you do not have bright lights shining on your monitor from any direction. Secondly not all monitors will show you the the same illumination when viewed from different angles. If you are working on a dark and moody print I suggest you do not have a white background behind in Photoshop if you right click on the outside of that area and change it to Black you will be able to see into the shadows. Also raise the monitor so you are looking at it at 90 degrees will help.

Monitor calibration is also an interesting and can be useful experience. The standard of monitor brightness is 120 Candelas, most calibration tools will allow you to select between 80 &120 Cd. You will probably need to use the advanced settings for your spider or XRite product to get this type of control. I would start with 80Cd as all monitors have a contrast range that is 100’s if not 1000’s times greater than that of all photographic or inkjet papers. Your monitor probably has a contrast range of 1000:1, all papers have a maximum contrast  range of 64:1.

Probably the most important thing to say is when you measure the percentage brightness of a very dark shadow say around 6% which should be just about visible, this should look and feel on your monitor like a very dark shadow. If it looks and feels far too bright then your monitor needs adjustment.

Shadow scaleAnother way to assess how dark a particular percentage of shadow is would be to actually print a shadow swatch of predetermined shadow brightness percentages on a particular paper, printed with a profile, that you can hold in your hand. See the example on the left.

This is the graphic representation of the shadows before you make the print. Therefore if the darkest shadows in your print are say between 3 and 6% then you will know exactly how that part of the picture will look.

Notice that there is separation in the shadows between 3% and 0%.

I hope this has been useful.

Not long to go now to the first of my Seminars with Calumet Photographic in Bristol. See previous posts for details.

A big hello to all the followers of my little blog this week.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2013

3 responses to The devil in the shadow detail

Please share your thoughts on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s