A friend recently asked me about one of my new photographs, “what kind of paper do you use?” When I told her the brand and the finish (I recall it was a matte paper) her next question was, “why did you use that paper?”
My answer was, because that was the only matte paper I had on hand. Of course that response only begs the question, how does one settle upon one's choice of photograph printing papers. My friend describes herself as a beginning printer, so with that in mind I reflected on how I came to only have one matte paper choice in my digital darkroom arsenal. The following are my thoughts on the complicated subject of photo printing paper selection.
A search using the term "8x10 photo paper" at the website B&H Photo results in 147 hits. The same search on Amazon results in 56,700 hits. And the same search on the website of a local photo equipment retailer, Looking Glass Photo in Berkeley, Ca. results in over 100 hits.
So, it is clear that a photographer new to home printing will be immediately overwhelmed by the choices of photo papers on the market. When one combines the choices of manufacturers or brands with the varieties of paper coatings (matte, luster, or glossy), paper thicknesses (gsm weight), finishes (cold tone, warm tone), substrates made using cotton, fiber, plastic or metal, optical brightness (OBA), no OBAs; well the point is made that the variety of choices is overwhelming. There are for all practical purposes, more photo papers on the market than a single photographer can reasonably become familiar with.
In early 2009 I began using the Epson 3800 which was, at the time, the so-called gamer-changer in home printing because it allowed printers to change between matte and glossy inks without having to physically remove and replace ink cartridges. Michael Reichmann aptly described the problem the Epson 3800 solved in his January 2009 review for the photography website Luminous Landscape. " As users of [the prior iteration of Epson printers] can well attest, simply having to swap cartridges when switching paper types isn’t in and of itself the issue. The problem is that it requires standing in front of the machine flipping levers for about half an hour while the printer purges the ink lines, and it also entails a loss of about $75 in ink each time this is done; as much as $150 for a round-trip."
After getting my PC and my Epson 3800 to play well together, the next natural step was to start choosing the "right" paper. As many printers do, I started using Epson papers, under the assumption that the best paper for an Epson printer would be an Epson paper. So for several years I used a variety of Epson glossy, then luster, then matte papers. My go-to paper was Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper. Since I didn't know any better, the paper was fine.
The problem though was that my prints never looked as good as prints by other photographers I'd see. Of course, at first I thought it was me. I'm insecure about my photographs. One day, attending a photo critique session, I saw a print that just blew me away. I asked the printer, "what kind of paper did you use." She said something about ICC profiles, heavy matte paper, but she also said "Velvet Fine Art paper." That I remembered, and I thought to myself, "time to try some different Epson papers.
I have a test image that I use every time I try a new photo paper, so I can have some constant in addition to the printer and inks. I want to sole variable to be the new photo paper with which I'm experimenting. So, I purchased a packet of Epson Sample Pack papers that consisted of Hot Press Bright, Hot Press Natural, Exhibition Fiber, Cold Press Bright, Cold Press Natural, Velvet Fine Art, and my then go-to paper, for which the name, and price, had been changed to Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster. After some testing, playing around, and ultimately some success, I settled on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper as my go-to matte paper. I continued with the Epson Luster paper as my go-to glossy/luster choice.
This combination worked for me for a time. I also started to make it my practice to (1) frequently attend a variety of photo critiques and (2) always ask in those sessions, "what kind of paper did you use?" Epson was a frequent response, but I also started to hear manufacturer names like Canson, Moab, Ilford, Hanamuhele and Museo, among others. I started experimenting with several of these manufacturers' products. In addition, I began reading online reviews of photo papers. In many cases, the review alone was sufficient for me to decide that actually testing a particular paper was not necessary. One of the reviewers I've come to enjoy is the above-mentioned Michael Reichmann, who passed away last year. His reviews live on at the Luminous Landscape website. I also like Imaging Resource for its photo paper reviews.
Along the way, I've learned that for me there are other issues that come into play when choosing photo papers. I tend to like thicker papers. Every quality photo paper I've ever used includes a reference to its GSM (grams per square metre g/m²) to describe how heavy and how thick the paper is to touch. Heavier papers remind me of the papers we used back in the day in our wet darkrooms. I've also come to prefer cotton based papers for the same reason: Nostalgia. And there is one important thing I've learned while experimenting with papers of a variety of GSM ratings. The quality of the paper has little relationship to its weight. Just because a paper is heavy and thick in hand, does not necessarily mean it will provide quality photographs.
There is another photo paper quality that surprised me when I discovered it, but that simply makes me happy when I experience it: the paper's aroma. I'm certain this is a matter of taste, but I find the aroma of the Hahnemuhle papers, and in particular the Hahnumuhle FineArt Baryta, very appealing. It reminds me of the papers from the wet darkroom days. Again, nostalgia.
When considering and testing photo paper, no doubt the appearance of the finished print is perhaps the most important factor to consider. But other senses come into play when we experience a photograph: the sense of touch; how the print feels in hand, and the sense of smell: does the paper have an appealing aroma, none at all, or does it smell bad out of the printer and in hand. All of these factors are worthy of consideration when deciding on a photo paper.
After all is said and done, I like to have only three papers choices on hand. My go-to luster paper, my -go-to matte paper and one specialty paper or experimental paper. These days my favorites are Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta for photo-black (luster) prints; Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin for matte prints, and Epson Metallic Photo paper for specialty prints.
After you've settled on your preferred luster paper and matte papers, give yourself permission to experiment with new papers that come along from time-to-time.
In my case, I'm experimenting with Museo Silver Rag glossy paper with good results. I happened upon Museo Silver Rag at a store closing sale. I picked it only because it was on sale for 50% off!
© 2017 Gene Dominique • GeneDominiquePhotography.com
December 13, 2017
On a recent trip to Italy I got to thinking about the fact that I don't know how to speak Italian.
Ultimately I decided that its not necessary to know much in a foreign language before traveling to a new country. It's an unnecessary anxiety and impediment to travel to limit ourselves by only visiting places where we are fluent in the local language. Most of us had a passing glance at a foreign language (mostly the romance languages) in high school. And you'll be surprised at how much of that long past exposure to foreign language will come back once you're immersed in the culture. However, there are some essential words and phrases that will ease anxiety when going to a foreign destination, and that will make your travel safer and even more enjoyable.
Here is my list of 12 things we all should learn to say in the language of the destinations where we'll be traveling:
2. Thank you.
5. My name is __________.
6. How much does this cost?
7. Where is ____________?
8. Excuse me.
9. Where is the toilet?
10. Do you speak English?
11. Help / Police.
12. I am lost.
And of course there is an app for that. Unless and until your mobile phone signal is absent when you need it. So why not have some fun before your next trip and learn how to say these few words and phrases!
How To Register Photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office
I'm excited about the potential interest in an image I created recently, a photograph called Man. I intend to promote it heavily, uploading it to a variety of social media websites, including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and of course on my own website. But before doing that I wondered whether I should protect the image by registering it for copyright. I've seen a lot of conflicting information lately about the scope of U.S. copyright laws, so, I decided to go to the source, the U.S. Copyright Office.
The FAQ on their website says that a work is copyright protected as soon as it is "created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." If that's the case, then why do you need to register your work with the copyright office? Isn't it enough to add the copyright symbol (©), your name, and the creation date to the work itself? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Yes, technically the work is copyright protected when it's created. But no, you will not be able to bring the full force of the copyright law to bear unless the work is registered with the copyright office. If it is copied illegally and you want to file a federal lawsuit based on the infringement, it will be much easier to sue the copyright infringer, prove the infringement, and collect damages if the work is registered. The copyright office puts it this way: "Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law."
With this in mind, I decided to register my image, Man. I started by doing a web search for the U.S. Copyright Office. A number of sites with similar names came up, all promising to register my work for a fee. You should avoid these sites. Make sure you use the real U.S. Copyright Office website, www.copyright.gov. All U.S. federal government websites use the .gov domain suffix.
In my experience, government websites are often hard to use, but the registration process on this website was much easier than I expected. Start by putting your cursor over the picture of a person at a computer that is on the site's home page. This brings up “Register a Copyright." Click that to go to the eCO registration page. eCO stands for Electronic Copyright Office. On that page, you can register online or download paper forms for registering. The bad news about registering online ("e-Filing") is that it can take up to 8 months for them to process your application. However, that doesn't look so bad compared to using paper forms, which can take up to 13 months. Still, while it takes a long time for the copyright office to issue a certificate of registration, "the effective date of registration is the date the Copyright Office receives your complete submission in acceptable form."
So, I decided to register online. I clicked "Log in to eCO," and then I clicked "If your are a new user, click here to register" at the bottom of the User Login box. Setting up an account was as simple as setting up an Amazon or Netflix account. You just enter some basic user information and then click “Register a new claim.”
At this point, you have the option of registering one work or a group of works. The advantage of registering a group is that it costs less per work. However, registering a group is time-consuming, because you need to enter identifying information for each work and then upload a copy of each. I only registered a single work, Man.
Completing the registration form consisted of filling in a dozen data fields including the name of the work, its creation and publication dates, the author, and so forth. Once I got through most of the data fields, I was presented with a “Special Handling” page. For a “significant" fee, I could have jumped ahead of other filers to get my work registered more quickly. I would have needed a compelling reason such as a pending contract deadline, or pending or prospective litigation. I chose not to use special handling. After reviewing the information that I entered, I added my copyright application to my shopping cart and checked out, using my credit card. (On the website, this is referred to as paying “via plastic card.”) Registering my image cost $35. (You can register a group of photographs for $55.)
To complete my submission, I still had to upload a copy of my photograph. This was easy and intuitive. The website provides guidance about acceptable file types and maximum file sizes. After I finished uploading a JPEG file, I received a confirmation email. The whole process of registering my image took about an hour. In 8 months or so, I should receive a registration certificate. Now that I have an account with the copyright office, and I understand the registration process, I will no doubt register more of my work.
For the most part, when I upload an image to a social media website, I assume it will be liked, favorited, given thumbs up, and perhaps even misappropriated. That's a simple fact of life online. I don't intend to register every photograph I post online. But I do recommend registering photographs that are important to you, especially work you intend to publish widely online.
© 2016 Gene Dominique
I've been thinking about blogging. I just haven't had anything useful to say. However, based on my recent experience with a hard drive crash, it's time to talk about data backup and restore issues. I say backup and restore because in my experience, to the extent users do any backup at all, most never check to make sure the data can be restored when needed. And, truth be told, based on conversations with more than a few friends and colleagues, people are still not backing up data using a well thought-out data protection strategy.
Data backup is a necessary chore. The saying "it's not whether but when" is particularly apt when it comes to computer disk drives. Hard drives will fail. And I can pretty much guarantee you a hard drive failure will happen at the most inopportune time to the most critically needed data.
Modern disk drives are a marvel, spinning at anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 rpm and capable of storing 4 terabytes of data or more at lightening speeds. For some perspective, a one terabyte drive can store approximately 4.5 million 200 page books or 300,000 photos, give or take. The flexibility of a modern hard drive highlights its fragility. Things that spin generate heat; things that spin really fast get really hot. And things that get really hot break down at some point. Thus, the need for a well planned data backup and restore strategy.
I use a Windows PC for my photo editing; my computer has three internal hard drives with a total of 10 TB of storage space. To help me keep track of the health of my computer system I use a software application called PC Doctor. On April 15th (the day AFTER I had completed tax returns) PC Doctor warned me that "A HARD DRIVE FAILURE IS IMMINENT." Yikes! Yikes! Yikes! What to do? What should I do?
Nothing. That's what I advise. Resist the urge to panic. Resist the urge to jump up and down. Cursing is fine, but mainly, take a step back and think: Is the data on the failing drive backed up? If the answer is no, then shut the computer down and take it to a reputable repair shop for them to sort things out. With any luck, your computer will have the ability to start-up one more time. The repair tech can fire it up and retrieve the data on the failing drive before it becomes a failed drive. After a drive fails, things get dicey. Data retrieval from a failed drive can be done, but it may cost thousands of dollars.
In addition to PC Doctor, I use backup software called CrashPlan. CrashPlan comes in several flavors from free to various pay-to-play options and it does real time constant backup of data. I invested in a multi-year plan that allows me to backup data to local hard drives as well as to Crashplan's cloud service. I run two separate local backup drives, one internal and one external. I also backup to CrashPlan's servers so that I have a copy of data off-site. (This protects against the fire, earthquake and other end of times problems.) Plus every month or so, I put an external backup drive of the most recent data into my off-site safe deposit box.
Am I paranoid about data protection. Yep! Is my backup strategy overkill. Nope. In my view, it's the bare minimum of redundant protection. A lot of people do more than what I do. My strategy is based on the fact that I have over 100,000 image files that go back 10 years or so. And this does not include my music files, and our financial and tax information. I can't replace what I lose. So my goal is not to lose anything. And I test the Crashplan data restoration capabilities once a month or so by deleting several files I don't care about and restoring them from a local drive or from the Crashplan cloud. I love Crashplan because it works and it works with minimal heartaches. I have had to resort to Crashplan tech support in the past and those interactions went well and my issues were resolved.
When I got the "imminent failure" warning I shut the computer down and took it to my local trusted tech. My machine did have a few more start-ups in it, so it was easy enough for the tech to copy all of my data off the bad drive and restore it to the new drive she installed. No muss no fuss so far until I got the repaired computer home. I checked my photo editing application and learned that 8060 image files had been corrupted and were missing. Corrupted data is one sure sign of an impending hard drive failure, by the way. Since I had not been recently using any of the corrupted files, I had not known they were lost prior to looking specifically for all missing files.
This is where my backup strategy is put to the test. I walked away from my computer until the next day, to give myself time to think things through. I knew exactly how many files were missing. knew exactly where they belonged. And hoping against hope that Crashplan would come through, I knew exactly where copies of the damaged files could be found. Crashplan allows you to identify the location of the backed up data, pick the folders and files that need to be restored and pick the option of restoring the files to their original location or to a new location.
I picked the folder to restore which contained all of the missing 8060 files and told Crashplan where to put the files. And it worked! It just worked! After getting notice that the restore was complete I went back to my image editing software and looked for missing files. The result was 0. All of the missing files had been replaced in the place they belonged! So, with a new disk drive installed and my missing data retrieved I am back in business. Thanks to PC Doctor, Crashplan my backup strategy and a good repair technician, my hard drive incident was a non-issue. It could have been fatal, or at least prohibitively expense. Back up your data. Or at some point you will regret not doing so.
I've had good results with PC Doctor and Crashplan, but those are not the only software applications that do system monitoring and data backup. Look around, talk to people, read reviews and come to own conclusion about which applications will be best for your needs. But most importantly protect your data.
Copyright © 2015 Gene Dominique. All Rights Reserved.