The role of the photographic printer

StairsI had an enjoyable day yesterday down with the Port Talbot Camera Club in a very sunny South Wales. I did a one day black and white photography Seminar for them. Contact me if your club or society would like a similar presentation.

The day started off with me talking about the allure of black and white photography for me still after 28 years. I get asked “do you do colour photography?” no, I am a purist, rightly of wrongly.

Then I gave a few hints and tips for the role of the photographic printer – the person not the lump of plastic and metal. What are their job functions?  Before the democratisation of photography with the advent of digital – hand as opposed to machine prints were generally made by a person other than the photographer. This person would have to make decisions about how the negative or file is / was to be printed.

So I will repeat the question what is the role of the photographic printer?

Here are a few of my thoughts on the role of the photographic printer:

  •  Reviewing
    • does the subject matter express the subject?
    • what does the photographer want to say?
    • is the subject clearly expressed and communicated to the viewer?
  •  Provide tonal balance
  •  Provide interpretation and alternative renderings
  •  Provide a clarity of vision – what will dominate, how this be done through global and local adjustments?
  •  To seek the highest potential for the print – when are you satisfied with a print.

When the photographer and the printer are the same person these questions still need to be asked. It’s all too easy for the creator of the print to say to themselves “its obvious what the subject matter is”.

I critique many prints for other people, my first question generally to these photographers is “what is the subject matter for you?”. Every print can have a variety of differing interpretations. The object of the picture is to communicate whatever the subject is to the viewer without confusing them.

The rest of the day was given over to demonstrating my techniques in Photoshop and Lightroom.

The print above is called “Comings and goings” taken last Friday evening in University of Bristol Senate House. It works well for me because of its apparent depth (down the stair well from the fifth floor) and the opposing directions of the people using the stairs, creating a triangular composition.

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

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2013

6 responses to The role of the photographic printer

  1. simon0252 says:

    Beautiful print, Andy. A fascinating Seminar for the camera club – I wish I’d been there. I like to print and mount my photos and then ‘live’ with them for a while. Some I grow less fond of and others more fond of as time goes by.


  2. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative read. So many questions that we have ask ourselves and to be objective. I really do enjoy your posts Andy as they really convey a man of passion about the world of monochrome. Thank you so much, best regards, James


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