Printing and Framing Your Photos

Recently I was asked by one of my wife’s acquaintances if I would be interested in donating a photo of mine to an annual auction for a charity fund-raiser she is involved with each year. All that would be needed was a photo in a frame – something simple and straight-forward. Well, it sounded simple enough, and after all the proceeds would go towards helping out others who needed it – so,  sure that would be something I would be happy to do!

Initially I thought of buying a frame off-the-rack, and simply putting my picture in the supplied matte, and bingo,  bango,  bongo I’m done! Ready for the auction! But the more I thought about it the more questions I began to wonder about. Here I am ready to donate an image that I find special, and that should be something special enough for someone looking at it to bid on it,  and be special enough to them to display it on a wall in their home. I thought about pieces of art that I have in my own home, not that I have any pieces that are worth a  fortune, but I have them because I find something special about them. I also find it pleasurable  when others look at them and find something  that catches their interest. I also think that a nice piece should be presented tastefully ( in a nice frame, with complimentary matting, etc). so that it can be considered part of the decor of a room that really compliments the room furnishings. As I consider this a furnishing for my home, I would want it to last for a very long time as well.

So with these thoughts swirling around in my mind, I decided that I better take a look into not just simply framing a print of mine with the cheapest frame I could find, but to find a way that would present my image in a very pleasing, tasteful, and lasting way. In other words, when potential buyers would look at my print, I wanted them to notice that it wasn’t just a picture someone took and slapped into the back of a frame, but I wanted them to see that care had been taken – from the composing and capturing of  the image, to its overall presentation  that it really was something that required thought and pride to put together.

Of course, all of this can be done at an art gallery or specialty framing place. This is the definitely the easiest, albeit, more expensive route to go. I wanted to strike a balance between having something definitely  better than department store quality framing, but not uber expensive.

The First Step – Printing the Image

There is such a wide range of options available as to where one can print their images available – from online printing places, to your local department store photo place, and smaller specialty print shops. The place that I chose to print my images was Costco, which for those outside of Canada/USA, is a warehouse type retail shopping outfit. I have researched feedback from many sources about their quality, and have used them in the past – always with excellent results. You need a paid membership to shop at Costco and to use their photo imaging services. Their print quality vs their pricing is pretty unbeatable in my opinion and experience. The 8 x 12 enlargement cost $1.99 CDN. They have a service where you can upload your prints in-store from a storage device or over the internet via their website, with pick up the next day,  which is what I did. Their upload interface is very easy to use and offers some basic options as well, such as cropping, converting your print to B&W or sepia, etc. none of which I use because I do my post production work in Photoshop and then just upload the finished product from there. They also have another option that allows their printer to automatically adjust for overall exposure and color correction. I always leave this option OFF, because I want the finished product to look exactly as I see it in Photoshop. So, assuming that your monitor is correctly color calibrated, the reproduction from their prints is EXCELLENT. I have never had an issue yet with Costco about this. Many Costco stores  use high end professional Epson and Noritsu printers, and use the Fujifilm Crystal Archive paper, resulting in very good quality prints that will last a long time. So all things considered, I find this price/quality combination hard to beat.

Let’s Start Our Quest For The Frame

After I was satisfied with the quality and size of my print I wanted, my next step was a  quest for a frame for my image. Now here is an area that some money can be saved. Unless you have a very specific taste for the kind of frame you want, or an unusual size of print to be framed, an off-the-rack frame will save you quite a bit of money. Off the rack framing gives a good but limited selection. Custom framing offers a plethora of colors, sizes and designs. You will want a frame that will allow enough of a matte to go around your print. For a 8 x 10 print, you would likely get a 11 x 14 frame. My print was 8 x 12 (I didn’t want to crop it to an 8 x 10 because I felt all the elements needed to be in the image as it was originally composed in camera). So to accommodate the 8 x 12 print I was fortunate to find a 14 x 18 frame off the shelf , with a 10 x 13 matte inside. At a custom frame store, you can also get special glass that is anti-glare and UV resistant to protect your art. With off-the-shelf frames, you will more than likely have to settle for regular glass, which for me was an option I was OK with.

While you can get a decent enough frame from off-the-rack, the one area of concern would be the matting and the backer board that comes with them. Many of these ready-to-go frames have mattes and backer board that may leach acids over time onto your fine art print. So this was an area that I wanted to make sure of good quality paper that was going to surround my print. Also the matte was already cut in this frame to 10 x 13, whereas I needed a 8 x 12 matte.  To get that, I went to my local framing shop, and got them to custom cut me an acid-free or conservation matte. The other ‘bonus’ that comes with getting your matte cut is that you also get to choose a color that will compliment your print. I chose a color that was in my print but a very light shade of it. Because my print was darker in overall color, it was ‘anchored’ nicely in the frame, with the viewers eyes being drawn toward the print immediately. Getting this custom matte was $20.

With off the shelf framing, having multiple mattes is usually not possible, as there is not enough depth to accommodate this. While multiple mattes can be very appealing, the single matte around my print worked very nicely. Next came the mounting, which there are a few ways to do it, the most popular being using acid free hinging tape or photo corners. The best way to mount your art print is to make sure that it has enough room to expand and contract independently of the other materials around it. It is also very important from a conservation point of view,  that an art print should be easy to remove without damage from the matte that it is mounted to. With my art print I chose to use acid free corner mounts. If you are going to use corner mounts, it may be advisable, but not a requirement,  to make a 1/4″ border around your print, which is what I did.

To Sign Or Not To Sign – That Is The Question

Well, looking around at the art prints I have displayed around my home, all of them, are signed by the artist. I think that most people, including myself, put an added value to an art print when it is signed by the artist. We expect it. It can also be a confirmation that the artist has seen and approved this piece for display. In the world of fine art prints, I am no one of any consequence. But I do take pride in my work,  and to me  from the moment I composed the image in my viewfinder and pressed the shutter button to producing a print, I put my thought and creativity into each piece, and all photographers really do,  so I think it is only appropriate to sign your print. For signing I usually write the copyright symbol and sign my name either on the bottom left or right corner of the image. There are different schools of thought on where an artist should sign – on the matte, below the print, on the bottom white border of the print, or on the print itself. Some sign on the back of the print itself, but I don’t personally see the value of doing this – but with that said, to each his own. I prefer signing the bottom corner of the print itself – that way if the person decides to switch frames, and/or mattes, the signature is not lost. I like to usually use black, but sometimes I use colours that are close to what is dominant in the print, that way you strike a nice balance between being unobtrusive yet not lost in the background. Be sure to use a pen that doesn’t ‘bleed’ into a blob when signing, and one that uses permanent ink.  I used a Sakura Microperm pen. These pens can usually be found in specialty craft stores in the scrap-booking section.

One final personal touch I added with my framed art print, is a brief description of the photo, in this case a little blurb about the history of Peggy’s Cove, how I took the picture (brief EXIF information), and a little bit about myself on a card in an envelope which I affixed to the backer board of the print. Along with this I make sure the customer has the information about my personal website. I feel that doing this adds something personal to the print, as well as brands the image for you, which is what I assume all photographers and artists are desiring to do.

IMG_5901   After looking at the finished product, I can truly feel that it is a print that I would hang in my house. I feel satisfied for having taken the extra time to research and think through the entire printing and framing process with a bit more care than I initially started out with. The thought of knowing someone will enjoy this print for many years to come, and the fact that it has raised some money for a noble cause are  additional rewards that are an end result of this entire process.

This is by no means the only way of printing and displaying your special prints. I  have tried to strike a balance here between framing with quality in mind, but also  trying to accomplish that in a cost-effective way. I hope that you have found some of  this information educational and useful. If you think others could benefit from this  blog, please feel free to share this with others.

Happy Shooting!

The Canon Right Angle Finder C – A Very Useful Addition to Your Camera Gear

Many of us that have been photographing for any length of time have built up our basic camera gear that we feel is essential to having for shooting what we love to shoot. That is most of us have the essentials of the large hardware component of our hobby – the camera, lenses, flash, tripod, etc. But no matter how long we have been photographing for a living, or for the joy of it, most of us are intrigued by the constantly evolving and development of peripherals or ‘gadgets’ if you will, that could enhance our photography experience.


anglefinderOne of these gadgets we will look at is the Canon Right Angle Finder C.  The fact that I call this a ‘gadget’ in no way undermines the usefulness of this little device.

Firstly, and most importantly, the reason for having one of these in your gear bag is that it allows you to see through your viewfinder for composing and focusing on your subject from a comfortable position, that would not be possible, or at least be extremely inconvenient, doing it the conventional way.

For example, many photographers love shooting from low to the ground, that offers a more interesting perspective for a variety of subjects. Shooting from low to the ground requires, at the least, getting on your knees, or even your belly to do so. Framing and composing the image while in this position is at the very least, uncomfortable. If you are not a spring chicken anymore, you know it is with some grunting and complaining, to resume standing up after you’ve taken your shot.
With the Canon Angle Finder C, this becomes much easier to accomplish. I have used the angle finder quite nicely with my Gorillapod tripod, when shooting landscapes from low to the ground.

imagine lying belly down here - no thanks!!

imagine lying belly down here – no thanks!!

For those that like to photograph children, it is much easier with the angle finder to be at their ‘eye level’, which makes for the best ‘natural looking’ composition for these kinds of shots in my opinion, rather than shooting ‘down’ on them.

Macro photography is another area where having the angle finder is indispensable. Obviously, doing macro work often means being low to the ground. But there is another feature on the Canon angle finder that comes in extremely handy. It is the ability to flip the optics from 1.25x magnification to 2.5x. This magnified view of your subject is great when you are using manual focus, as it allows you to be ‘tack sharp’ in your focusing. Some photographers use the cameras ‘live view’ to achieve the same result, but if you need to conserve your battery this is a great alternative. Also, using ‘live view’ when conditions are bright, may not be the best, with the angle finder you can look through the eye cup and have a clearer view as this blocks out most of the light.

Other situations that the angle finder would have practical value is for those that do astrophotography, and in situations where you may run out of space shooting in confined areas, i.e. interior architecture or objects where your camera may be backed up to a wall, making it impossible to get ‘behind’ the camera to look through the viewfinder.
Some of these situations, we may not run into very often, but this is where having the solution can easily fit into your bag, without compromising on weight and space concerns.

The Canon Angle Finder C comes with in a nice little pouch, and has 2 viewfinder attachments (metal in construction) that will fit any EOS camera. All you have to do is slide off the eyepiece that’s on your cameras viewfinder, and slide on the angle finder. It makes a nice solid connection. The eye piece also turns on one plane, with detentes (soft stops) at 45 degrees.IMG_0161
When you attach it to the camera, you then must focus the diopter ring until everything is in sharp focus. In the 1.25x position, you will be able to view the entire viewfinder, including the information the camera displays at the bottom of the viewfinder. If you switch to the 2.5x position, you must readjust the diopter for sharp focus, and on my full frame camera, all 4 sides of the viewfinder are trimmed back. This would be what you would want to use if you are using manual focus, especially for macro photography.

Should I buy Canon or a third party angle finder? The Canon Angle Finder C is solidly constructed with good optics. There are after-market varieties available, but with Canon, you know what quality you can expect to get with their products, and if you ever want to resell your gear, you will get a much better return with OEM equipment. As with anything you buy, do your research, and go check it out at your local camera outlet, before spending your hard earned money.

 

In conclusion, having the Canon Angle Finder C as part of your gear will add another dimension to your photography. When you confront situations that will present viewfinder challenges, and certainly if your joints are not as forgiving as they used to be to get up and down, you will be glad for this little ‘gadget’ in your bag.
Happy shooting!

Reasons to Invest In A Comfortable Camera Strap

One of the few accessories that come with the purchase of your dslr (in this blog we are referring to medium crop body as well as full frame dslr’s) ,  is a decent looking camera strap, which the camera manufacturer supplies.  The strap may be of decent  material, meaning that it is of ample strength to hold your new camera securely around your neck, and most likely has the camera manufacturers name and/or model emblazoned proudly on it. After all, who of us isn’t proud of the brand of camera that we use?

So at first glance, we may wonder if there are any reasons to justify spending extra money on an after-market strap. Well, lets examine some compelling reasons why it is money well-spent.

If you’ve ever been to a popular tourist destination, where you may see dozens of people with cameras, many of them have their camera hanging around their neck with the camera sitting somewhere in the middle of their chest. First off, carrying your camera around like this makes you look like a dork.  If you have ever been on an excursion, hike, or other full day event which required walking and sight-seeing with this typical camera/strap setup, you may have wondered the following day why your chest felt like it had been used as a punching bag. The reason is that with every step you took the day before,  the camera took a little bounce off your chest, multiply it by the hundreds or thousands of steps you did that day, well no wonder you felt like you’ve been beat up and you probably had a sore neck as well from the strap rubbing against it.  With a  camera dangling around your neck, it also makes it awkward to bend over and the chances of banging your camera/lens  into doorways or other things that you may go through during your ‘relaxing outing.  I can stop here, and this should be reasons enough to go out and get a professional after-market strap for yourself.

Personally, I like to use straps that sling over your shoulders and go across your chest, with the camera hanging at your side .I have used both the Black Rapid and the Carry Speed  brands, with my preference being the Carry Speed Pro.

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This is a much better and more comfortable way of distributing the weight of your camera and lens then having it hanging off your neck. When you are on an outing for the better part of the day, you will immediately notice the difference. Another huge advantage of these straps, is the way the camera is attached to them.

The camera can ride up and down the length of the strap with ease, making it very quick and easy to grab your camera at your side and bring it up to your eyes in one fluid motion, ready to catch that shot instantly.

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The one big advantage I like about the Carry Speed Pro is the wide, flexible and soft material that is used for the shoulder strap. The wide strap once again helps with the weight distribution, the flexible material adjusts with whatever lens you may have on the camera, in helping with the weight distribution, and the material is soft and extremely comfortable around your shoulders/neck area without having to worry about it gouging into your skin.

strap

This section also has perforated holes along the length of it to help with air circulation. The underside of this strap (which is the side that rests against your body), is a rubbery material that ‘grips’ your clothing, preventing it from sliding around with every movement you make.

The strap is plain-looking, and the camera hangs around your hip or side which is nice to keep things inconspicuous. The strap also has an ingeniously designed feature which allows you to pull your camera up from your hip area closer to your body, so it stays stable when bending down etc. and by grabbing the camera and pulling it away from your body it releases easily to allow for enough slack to bring it up to eye level when you need to take the shot.

 

Another very well designed security feature is found on the buckle. Most buckles come apart when both sides of the buckle are depressed, but with the Carry Speed Pro you also need to depress a third button to unlock the buckle. Maybe this feature is overkill, but its nice to have extra peace of mind when you may have thousands of dollars worth of equipment hanging from your camera strap!

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The Carry Speed Pro comes with a steel plate that attaches to my cameras tripod socket. This plate has a machined steel ball that fits inside the connector on the strap, and  has a screwing lock mechanism which securely holds your precious cargo.  The ball socket allows for freedom of movement for the camera, whilst being restricted from making  contact with the body, thus avoiding scratching and damaging your camera body. The plate has several machined screw holes to make secure connections of quick-release plates for various makes of tripods.  It works reasonably well with my Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with the 804 RC2 tilt head.

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The one annoying drawback I have with the ball connector on the base plate, is that it makes it impossible for me to put the camera into the portrait position on my tripod as the ball connector prevents it from tilting to the vertical position completely. Actually, this can be  pretty annoying. I have heard that Carry Speed has since redesigned the ball joint on the base plate to be retractable; in other words it will fold down flat below the profile of the plate without protruding, thus eliminating this annoyance. I have not been able to test this version out yet myself.

I have had the Carry Speed Pro on my camera for about 2 years now, on many hikes, trips, horseback riding, etc. and am very happy with its performance. Its solidly built, performs well (with the exception of the situation mentioned above), and is extremely comfortable even carrying a full frame camera with a zoom lens. The price point is on average with other after-market camera  straps ~ $70 US.

When looking for an after market camera strap try out various makes, to see what feels the best for you, and will be most accommodating the equipment you will use and the environment you will be in most time while shooting. When you make the change over, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. It will mean less strain and pain on your body, and that will bring the fun back into your photography!

Happy shooting!