You Got The Shot. Now What?
In today's digital age with seemingly unlimited cloud storage, it's easy to hoard or even forget about all those photographs we capture. Every now and then though, there are those few special shots that have a special place in your heart, and deserve to come to life. I found myself getting stuck in "analysis paralysis". It's pretty common in any profession, with science being no exception, where you get bogged down with the details, tweaking the numbers, trying different methods and basically cycling in place, to the point where even simple things morph into weirdness. Like when you wonder what a "Pro Bed" is, only to realize you're looking at the word "probed". True story.
It's no different for me when it comes to Lightroom, with the constant editing to get just the right lighting, the perfect contrast, balanced hue...you get the idea. It's why photos I took from my trips overseas never quite made it to paper. But then I also realized, I knew next to nothing about paper. Real paper. And so I've been devoting a good chunk of my time to discover art media. I've got much to learn and so this will likely be short and sweet, but I figure it's a good place to start for others that might be looking to get a piece printed and framed.
To me personally, Hahnemühle fine art paper is king. I just adore the finish, weight and feel but there are other brands out there that are just as good, and I've been trying to test those options too. Once I narrowed down a set of photos that I wanted printed, I considered its content, composition and - this will sound corny - emotion. How did the shot make me feel? How do I want others to feel when they see it? And then I read. A lot. And found that there's so much to choose from. For this run, I kept my photo set small and limited paper options to 4, lest it get complicated. First, a quick note - "gsm" is often associated with every fine art paper. The higher the gsm or grams per square meter, the heavier the paper. Your standard home printer paper is about 80-90 gsm. There's more to consider than just weight though, as texture and tone also vary with paper type.
Here's what I settled on:
Photo Rag Ultrasmooth 305 gsm. I've used this one before and find this to be my go-to for black/white shots because it produces some truly white whites and the blackest of blacks with a smooth matte finish. It worked perfectly for the "Toronto Skyline" shot. But, I found that it also worked really well for one of my all time favorites, the "Propaganda for All" shot from Hoi An, Vietnam. The dark, warm colors with some pops of light fit well with this finish.
Photo Rag PEARL 320 gsm. I had the Reykjavik street shot done on this paper, to give the scene depth, make the colorful architecture pop, and better portray the wetness from that rainy day.
- Canson's Arches Aquarelle 240 gsm. I used this for the Icelandic sheep shot (shown in the very first photo above). It's got more of a vintage paper feel, is a warmer white, and is textured (close up shown below), which works well with the sheep's wool pictured in the photo.
- Moenkopi Unryu Washi fiber paper 55 gsm. Guys, I love this one. The name of this paper apparently translates to "cloud dragon paper" and is made from course Kozo (mulberry) fibers using traditional Japanese Washi techniques. As suggested by the weight, it's a light, thin paper. It looks delicate and highly archival with woven fibers quite visible, yet is surprisingly sturdy. This one seemed fitting for the "Boat for One" photo. I plan to fray the edges and have it float mounted against a simple background. "Fray" even. Getting fancy, y'all!
Just like with paintings, the medium for a photograph truly makes all the difference, and imparts a unique character to each one. So go ahead and experiment, and bring the digital to life.