01:32 – Mistake #2 – Basic Selections
03:00 – Mistake #3 – Not Using Intensity
07:25 – MSI Creator
08:00 – Mistake #4 – Keeping Adjustment Layers in The Fill
08:40 – Mistake #5 – Thinking of Gen Fill as a One-Click Solution
Plus 7 Extra Go To Printing Resources To Help You
Face it, we’ve all done it, that is overdone it, when we’re trying to make great prints. As important as it is to learn what you can do and how far you can go, it’s also important to learn how far not to go and why. You learn what to look for as well as what to look out for. These trials of error can be beneficial. You’re sure to learn a lot when you make mistakes. And we can learn from each other’s mistakes as well as our own. One of the many benefits of teaching printing for over twenty-five years is that I get to learn from my mistakes and from many other people’s too. There are some classic printing mistakes I see made time and time again because the approach is correct but the practice has just gone too far. If you’ve never made some of these mistakes, I recommend you make them – once.
Here are some classic mistakes I see so many people make when they’re printing – and the cures.
It’s Too Light
You want your print to be more luminous so brighter’s better right? But your image ends up looking washed out. The solution is to lighten the highlights more than the midtones and shadows. It’s a specific kind of contrast you won’t get with a Contrast slider but you will get with a Highlights slider or even better with Curves. You might also darkens shadows slightly. It’s the apparent contrast between highlights and shadows and in the midtones that will make your images glow. Most prints on average are weighted darker than middle gray so that their highlights will pop.
Whites Without Detail
So once again you’re chasing lightness and you push your highlights too far eliminating detail. There is a limit to how far you want to go and you just stepped over the line. Pull back. You can move in that general direction just don’t go so far. Don’t push the Whites slider so hard and pull your Highlights slider down a little, plus remember that you can get a second pass of Highlights and their neighbors Lights with Curves. You want highlights to have full detail and to be bright but not so bright you feel like you have to squint to see the picture better.
Whites Touch The Frame
Sometimes you have exposure that don’t have much (or any) detail in very bright areas. This is particularly problematic when they touch and break the rectangle of the frame. If you’re not going to clone detail into those areas, go old school and “fog” those areas, that is print them slightly gray. Using a brush lower the Whites slider (maybe the Highlights too) to build up some density without texture and restore the frame. You don’t need a lot, just enough to make the frame coherent, keeping the eye from wandering out of it and minimizing the distraction. Alternately, in Photoshop you can use a Curves adjustment layer and lower the white point slightly, then readjust the rest of the Curve to keep all the other tones glowing; paint on the mask to isolate this effect.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of two icebergs passing by outside the window of our ship. I seized my camera and ran to the back of the ship. The pair glistened and glinted in a glowing haze of diffuse fog. I check the first few frames. Perfect exposures. And I continued shooting until they disappeared.
Thrilled, I returned to my cabin to download these beautiful new images. I opened the camera and found there was no card in it. To fix a recently developed quirk, I had reset all the settings on my camera to their defaults, which was to fire without a card, a behavior I disliked before and loathed now.
Yet again, I was forced to learn from my mistakes. The pain and frustration of what was lost drove this lesson home deeply. I redoubled my efforts to keep my systems streamlined and my habits well maintained – plus periodically check them.
It’s only a small comfort that Thomas Edison, one of the most innovative men in history, set a monthly quota for making mistakes; he felt that if he wasn’t making a certain number of mistakes, he wasn’t pushing the envelope enough. Easier said than done, the trick is not to make the same mistake twice. I had made this mistake before. It was already on my checklist – Mistakes I’ve Made.
A black cat mysteriously failed to appear in exposures I made as a small child with my mother. No one had a camera the day we released a magnificent rehabilitated golden eagle. On close inspection, exposures from the Scottish highlands were found to be out of focus. A dozen sheets of film used inside Chartes Cathedral were re-exposed to light before being processed. A roll of film shot in Death Valley’s Golden Canyon was improperly processed. A camera shutter failed to open despite making its customary noise at Point Lobos, California. Files made in Chile’s altiplano were deleted from a hard drive. A camera fell to the bottom of the ocean in a Maine harbor. The list goes on. I keep looking for the book people refer to when they use the phrase “every mistake in the book” – but until I find it, I’ll continue writing my own.
To this day, I can see these images in my mind as clearly as if they were made yesterday. But you can’t. They’re the ones that got away. In their place, I have lessons learned.
What can you learn from your mistakes?
How many lessons can you learn from a single mistake?
What can you do to try not to make the same mistake twice?
How can you learn from other’s mistakes?
What can others learn from your mistakes?
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.
I made a lot of mistakes on our South American Cruising Through Life workshop. It could have been that I was getting used to a new camera – Canon 5D Mark II. It could have been that I was out of my element and trying new things. Am I kicking myself? No. I’m learning from my mistakes. Sometimes I feel like I learn more from my mistakes than my successes.
Here’s one example. Shooting hand held bracketed bursts (one scene, 3 exposures, 1.5 stops apart), I often found I hadn’t set or reset the bracket function correctly. It takes setting the mode and then confirming the settings on my 5D Mark II. I often missed the confirm step. And if I got distracted, I often forgot to take it off auto bracket mode, which means single shots were varying exposure unexpectedly. After repeating the mistake several times, I’m now on alert every time I slip in and out of these modes. In fact, I think this camera and this experience has made me more vigilant about all of my camera settings.
Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from your mistakes. And making mistakes in situations where the pressure’s not on and stakes aren’t high is ideal. I recommend you make a little time to shoot and use it to become more conscious of your equipment and your habits.
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Find out more about Cruising Through Life here.
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