5 Things To Help You Get Better Scores On Print Night

In this article, we are going to look at 5 things to help improve your print submissions. Specifically, they will be

  1. Review the last article. Here is a link
  2. Cropping
  3. Mounting
  4. Matting
  5. Print title

Review the article on improving your projection score.

In my last article, 5 Things To Help You Get Better Projection Night Scores, we looked at technical issues that could either help or hinder your results on projection night. Specifically, they were

  1. Image sharpness
  2. Spotting
  3. Fringing
  4. Over sharpening
  5. File sizing

The things are also critically important to your print. If you have not read that article, I urge you to do so. If you have read it, you may want to review it. Here is a link

Cropping

Cropping, when done correctly, can go a long ways to improve the presentation of a printed image. When done incorrectly, it can go a long way to take away from the impact of an otherwise great image.

Use cropping to support the compositional elements of your image. One of the more common elements would be the rule of thirds. The basic idea being that you place your subject on one of the third nodal points. If you are unfamiliar with the rule of thirds, here is a short blog I wrote on the subject. Click here.

So how does cropping images for print differ from cropping for projection. When your images are projected, or you are viewing them on your screen, you see the image from edge to edge. When you are displaying a print, you will generally have a matt around it. The matt overlaps the edge of the print, typically by a 1/4 of an inch or about 5mm. Although this does not sound like much, it can completely change the impact of an image.

The solution is to make sure you add that extra space on to the edges of your image so that when you place the matt on it, you get what you expected.

Mounting

Choices around how your print is mounted make a difference to how your print will present. Different mounting will produce different results.

When a print is mounted, it is attached to some sort of firm substrate. This can be foam core, matt board, plastic board, wood. You can mount a print to almost anything, but, for a typical presentation at a club, mounting a print to a very smooth, white, matt board is often the best.

Many club photographers do not mount their prints and this is fine, especially for a fine art presentation. However, having an image that remains flat, is not damaged from handling, and does not shift in the presentation matt will usually improve your presentation.

Matting

Why do we put matts around the prints? I n the context of this article, I will offer a couple of reasons.

The first one is to standardize size. This article assumes that prints are being made and readied for club displays, critiques, and competitions. As such, there needs to be some form of size standardization so that each print is viewed with the same parameters such as lighting, viewing distance, etc. At my club, the North Shore Photographic Society, we use 16 inches x 20 inches as the standard outside dimension of the matt. For displays we use 16×20 frames so the matted prints can easily be installed into the frames.

The second reason that I would offer is that it adds a finished look to a print. It surrounds the print with a clean, non-distracting “frame” so that the viewer will not be distracted at the edges of the print and consequently drawn out of the image.

The prints inside the matt can be as small as 8×10 (at the NSPS anyways, it may vary at other clubs) up to 11×14. What is also great about these sizes is that a pre-cut 16×20 white matt with an 11×14 hole are readily available from your favourite art supply store or camera store.

So here are some tips around matting

  • Make sure that the matt is fresh and clean. A matt with dirt, smudges and worn edges will take away from your print.
  • Make sure your print is properly centred in the matt hole. You do not want to have the edges of the print showing.
  • The print and backing must be firmly attache to the matt.
  • If your matts are being custom cut, try having the holes placed off centre,

Print Title

What you call your image can go a long way to make or break your print. The goal of the title is to help draw the viewer into the image. It can support the story that you are trying to convey, it can spark interest from the viewer before they have even looked at the image, and it can easily disappoint the viewer if it is mis-titled

I hope these tips and tidbits have been helpful. If you have any tips of your own, please email them to me and I will add them to the comments sections.

Five Things To Help Your Projection Night Score

In this article I want to discuss some things that can impact how your image look when they are projected. If you are a member of a camera club that has a “judged” projection night, these items will impact how your image is is marked and scored. These are all technical things that should be taken care of on any image you produce.

So here is what we will be looking at.

  1. Image sharpness
  2. Spotting
  3. Fringing
  4. Over sharpening
  5. File sizing

Image Sharpness

This one is crucial. In fact, when I am editing my images after a shoot, it is the first things that I look at. I have seen many great images knocked way down in score because of sharpness. Often, the response from the image maker is to blame it on the clubs projector because “it was sharp on my computer”. And sometimes it is true – the clubs projector was not focused properly and the problem was not the image. However, more often than not, the problem actually does lye within the image.

You are always going to get those images that when you look at them, they are just out of focus – and no amount of work is going to save them. Do not use these images. If, on the other hand you intended for the image to be out of focus for artistic reasons, then you achieved your goal. For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume that the intent was for the image to be sharp and in focus. So, if an image is out of focus, move it or mark it so that you will not have to see them again. What should be left is the image that appear to be sharp.

So here is the thing, the smaller the image, the sharper it will appear to be. Most of us are seeing our images on smaller screens such as our laptop or maybe even a larger desktop monitor. However, compared to the size that the image will be projected to, these are very small screens. Therefor, the final test for sharpness is to zoom into the image and see if the areas that need to be sharp still appear sharp at this magnification. I primarily photograph portraits. My focus point is almost always on the eye closest to the camera so I zoom in on the eyebrows. If I can see the detail in the eyebrows then I know that the image is sharp enough to hold together on the large projection screen.

If the image is not sharp at magnification, then you may want to consider a different image or know that your image may loose points because of it. Interesting thing to note, because viewing size plays such an important role in an images apparent sharpness, an image that does not appear tack sharp when projected may look just fine when used as a print on print night.

Traditionally, Images that are not sharp can not easily be sharpen to the point where they are usable. The process of sharpening tended to create just as many problems as it solved. There has recently been released sharpen software that is getting great reviews. I have not used any of them myself so I cannot give any personal recommendations.

Spotting

Spotting is the process of going carefully over your image and removing any unwanted spots. There are many reasons for these spots. They include

  • Dust on the camera’s sensor
  • Dust on the camera’s lens
  • Artifacts
  • Dead pixels
  • Anything else that left an unwanted mark in the image

Spotting is easily done in Photoshop using the spot removal tool. Most of your spotting can be done when you first start working on an image. If you do any manipulation to the image, carefully check your work when you are done. Your work may inadvertently leave artifacts that should be cleaned up, Artifacts are marks in your image that were introduced electronically through the digital process. They will show up in different ways, quite often as white dots, but not always. You will know them because they look like they are not supposed to be there.

A dead pixel will show up on your image as a spot. Sometimes it is black, sometimes it is coloured. Regardless of how it manifests itself, you need to get rid of it.

The key here to spotting is to go very carefully over your image to remove any unwanted and/or unexpected marks in the image.

Fringing

Fringing happens mostly where a dark colour is adjacent to a light colour. It is a ghost image that is typically purple in colour but sometimes white. It can also be a little bit tricky to get rid of, but if you leave it in it will hurt your overall image score. There are a couple of tricks I use in Lightroom to minimize fringing. One is to go to the lens profile and check remove chromatic aberration. The other is to go to the HSL sliders and remove that colour. There is lots of information on how to do this on YouTube. Also, Wikipedia has a good definition for fringing. Here is a link to check it out.

Over Sharpening

Sharpening is an important tool for photographers, as digital cameras and lens’s get better and better, it is becoming less of a concern, however, most images still need a some. So what does sharpening do.  When applied, sharpening increases edge contrast (acutance). the result is an apparent image sharpness. the problem is the tendency to over-sharpened images. Rarely a good idea. Here are some of the outcomes of over-sharpening

  • increased contrast
  • Sandpaper effect when “grain” is sharpened
  • Can create unwanted saturation
  • Pixilation and artifacting, particularly on narrow lines like hair.

Below is an example of some of the things that can happen if you over sharpen an image.

sharpening is a complex image adjustment. There is no one right fix for all images. There are many good articles on the web that can help you through this.

File Size

Output file size is very important final step in preparing your image for viewing on projection night. Most clubs will have the required file sizes posted on their web site. The North Shore Photographic Society recommends the file size be 1400px horizontal and 1050px vertical. This will allow your image to fill the screen with the best clarity possible for the projector while still keeping the file size small enough to transfer easily over the internet. When you output your final image, I also recommend that you never goes less than 80% quality. If you do, there may not be enough information in the file and the result could be banding. If you are not familiar with banding, here is a link that may be of interest.

Soooo, outputting the file to 1400 x 1050 is not that big of a deal. Just fill out the boxes correctly when outputting the image and there you have it. The problem arises when your image does not fit that dimension, for example, let’s say your file is vertical. Making it fit into the required dimensions would call for some interesting cropping or a very distorted image.

If you use Lightroom, the easiest solution is to select the longest edge option in the image sizing section of the export function, then enter the 1400 if the image is horizontal or 1050 if the image is vertical. Problem solved. There is a more elegant method however that could increase the overall impact that your image has. What I like to do is create a black border around my images. Here is a sample of what that looks like.

This can be done in Photoshop or Lightroom. In Photoshop, create a new image that is 1400 x 1050 and fill it with black. With the image you want to enter, resize it to fit within the 1400 x 1050 dimension then drag it to the new image with the black background. You can then place the image anywhere you want on the black background and resize it by using the transform command. You can also do this in Lightroom using the Print module.

So that is all for this month. Next month I will look at some things that you can to up your game on print night.

Understanding Projection Night

The first Monday of the month is projection night at The North Shore Photographic Society. Most camera clubs do the same, or similar thing. In a nutshell, members submit their images as digital files to be shown at the club meeting through a projection system. The images are then critiqued by a club member or another person who is called in from outside the club. Sometimes both at the same time.

The intention of this process is to help the members of the club become better photographers, regardless of their skill level at this point. And for the most part, it does work.

The goal of this article is to help you understand the process of Projection Night.

I am going to be using the North Shore Photographic Society (NSPS) and their process as the example because it is the club that I am a member of. It will be up to you to adapt the information to your specific club, but, the overall concept will be similar if not the same.

The NSPS uses a star system to help the members have a sense of how they are developing as a photographer. For those of you that have studied martial arts, it is not unlike the belt system that is used to measure the athletes growth. There are 5 star levels that the photographer can move up through. When you first join the club, you are put into star level 1.

It is important to understand that this is not a competition. This is sometimes really hard to remember because on projection night your image is given a score by someone that is being called a “judge”.  So how is this not a competition? Well, the score is to give some indication as to how the print fits into criteria that the “judges” have learned through their own experience and training as well as the criteria of the star level you are in. The image is then given a short critique with the intent of offering suggestions that may improve the image. It is up to you as the maker of the image to see how this information stacks up against feedback you have received previously on other images and learn from that process. You may not agree with what was said or how the image is scored, which is ok. What is important is that you learn something from the process.

So here is the criteria that each star level is being looked at (not judged) with.

1 Star: Correct exposure, subject in focus, and basic composition.
2 Star: Above requirements, plus appropriate depth of field, no distracting elements, competent use of composition, and suitable light.
3 Star: Above requirements, plus critical depth of field, creative use of light.
4 Star: Above requirements, plus creative photographic technique, attention to detail.
5 Star: Above requirements, plus high artistic merit.

At all star levels, the images will be looked at for technical and compositional elements.

When your image is reviewed by the “judge’s” (I really do not like that word for this process but I don’t know of another one that will work), your image will be assigned a score based on the criteria discussed above. Here is a breakdown of the scoring at NSPS.

1 point:         No award – a poor projection
2 points:        Bronze – a fair projection
3 points:        Silver – a good projection
4 points:        Gold – an excellent projection
5 points:        Certificate of Merit – an outstanding projection

Your image score is then recorded and those points go towards moving up to the next star level. (When there is more than one judge, the average of the scores will be used.)

You will move from one star level to the next when you meet the following criteria.

Move from Star 1 to Star 2:  Gold Awards/Certificates of Merit Plus Total of 20 Points
Move from Star 2 to Star 3:  6 Gold Awards/Certificates of Merit Plus Total of 40 Points
Move from Star 3 to Star 4:  12 Gold Awards/Certificates of Merit Plus Total of 60 Points
Move from Star 4 to Star 5:  20 Gold Awards/Certificates of Merit Plus Total of 200 Points

Please remember that this information applies to the North Shore Photographic society but most clubs will have a similar system in place. The important thing to remember is that the purpose of projection night is to help you become a better photographer.

Happy shooting

Len