Technical Phases to Printing Photography as a Giclée
Phase One: High End Photographic Work
Despite a popular misconception, photographic film is capable of higher quality image than digital photography. This is especially true in low light level atmospheres with varying light qualities that are sometimes abnormal. Richard has also found using film produces greater tonal values. He also chooses mostly to use negative film as opposed to transparency film, especially when mid tone ranges are a critical part of the photograph. It´s interesting to note that many Hollywood producers still prefer film to make movies.
Most of Richard´s photographic work is taken with large format view cameras. One reason is because he has always loved making very large prints which are not possible to make using 35mm photography.
The misty atmospheric images also posed a technical problem with contrast and detail. Lower light produces less contrast and less detail so large format photography was Richard´s solution to capturing these very evasive landscapes.
Phase Two: Drum Scanning
The traditional way to print a photograph has been a colour enlarger. A colour enlarger actually softens the image because it uses an opaque piece of plastic to disperse the light instead of a set of condensers as used in a black and white enlarger. This was designed for the benefit of portrait photographers who wanted to soften flesh tones. However, it is not desirable for landscapes where a photographer sometimes strives to achieve detail.
So Richard uses a state-of-the-art drum scanner to convert the photographic analogue image of film into a digital format and uses a computer to view the digital image that will eventually be printed.
Richard has extremely high end software for his scanning called Digital Photolab. This software is made by Aztek Inc and is designed to optimize the control of converting the analogue image on film into the digital format. Aztek has worked directly with Richard to make profiles for the scanner for the film types he prefers and also for the lighting conditions of early morning that most of his work is taken.
A drum scanner is superior to an entry level flat-bed scanner. A drum scanner will produce the highest possible quality. Richard can scan up to 5,000 times optically which means that the images do very little, if any interpolation, which is a computer method of making something larger by multiplying what is there. Interpolation does mean less tonal range and less detail. Images from the Kraus collection are scanned at very large file sizes which can be as large as 500 megabytes in order to keep the quality high, even at very large print sizes.
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Phase Three: Colour Correction and Image Enhancement
Once the image has been scanned it is brought into software called Photoshop where it becomes a visual reality on the computer monitor. This software enables Richard to correct the contrast, colour balances and alter the scanned image according to the way he wants it to look. This process is very exacting and does require skill and patience. Working on large files (typically 500Mb) is time consuming and the efforts to make an image come alive takes a comprehensive understanding of colour and is an artistic skill in itself.
Traditionally there was a limitation in how much a photographic artist could do to enhance and manipulate an image in printing. For instance, once a photographic film was developed, the artist was unable to change the contrast of the final image. The only way that contrast could be changed would have been to re-photograph the subject with more or less exposure and compensate the development time. So for instance, if the exposure time was decreased and the development time was increased so would be the contrast. However, that's hard to do with atmospheric landscapes that are only there for a fleeting moment.
With a digital platform, the art photographer can easily change the contrast, but even more control that was unavailable to him using traditional methods. Colour can be corrected in different density readings instead of just all over. So the shadows can be controlled separately from the highlights.
Individual colours in the spectrum can also be addressed. This is needed because film does not see light the same way our eyes do. For instance, a brown horse in the setting sun still looks brown to our eyes, but film may see the horse as red. In traditional photography one could only colour correct to make the horse look natural, but it would also lose the dramatic colours of the sun setting in the process. In the digital domain you can accomplish both making the horse look natural and keep the warm colours in the sunset. .
Phase Four: Giclée printing
Even with high end equipment, a print looks different than the monitor does. So a series of proofs are needed to fine-tune the image in preparation for the final printing.
Once the digital images are ready to print the computer is used to send information to a high end digital printer. The printer has much higher quality than can ever be done with offset litho printing. Richard Kraus prints are produced using Roland, Canon, Epson and other high-end printers. Each colour is capable of printing up to 1,440 dots per inch. The printing heads also use a variable dot, which produces a smaller dot in highlight areas, and a wider, fatter dot in shadow areas. Its so high quality that you can not see a dot, even with a 30 powered magnifying glass!
The colour ink-set is also responsible for producing incredible tonal values and depth. The inks are pigment, and not dye based. Accelerated UV testing, by the ink manufacturers, indicates that our pigmented inks should have a life span of up to 200 years if displayed under normal lighting conditions.
The other wonderful aspect of printing on a digital printer is being able to print on canvas, something an offset litho machine can not do. The canvas we use is normally 100% pure cotton artist canvas (300+gms) which is ideal for the reproduction of Richard’s photographs and gives added value to your artwork. Our canvas Giclées have an extra special protection coating over the canvas print to make sure it does not get damaged from scratches or splashes and for greater UV stability.
If you choose to print on paper, we only use the highest quality acid-free paper as you would find with any fine water colour painting. It is suggested you mat them and place them in a frame under glass as you would with any watercolour painting.