Well, finally, some 22 months, 3 weeks later, after that nasty bug arrived and stopped us all in our tracks, Photocraft was able to welcome Chris Palmer FRPS EFIAP DPAGB APAGB to our hall! As the name of his talk hints, this is not one for a screen and it was a pleasure to see and hear Chris talk about and show us his prints, whilst sharing many tips and insights into what he likes to photograph and the thinking process he uses to determine the paper to print on.
Chris is an ambassador for FOTOSPEED paper and LONGRIDGE mount cutters. Indeed, Chris has a huge input to Fotospeed and their products so it was always going to be interesting to hear from him on this subject. He did share with us that he’d once had a conversation about the “value” of his talks – materially that is. Looking at his kit, his prints, his time and his knowledge, he came to an estimate of some £6,000 worth. I think we got very good “value for money” on Wednesday!!
Chris clearly keeps his notes in order and opened by telling us that Photocraft is the 269th camera club he has presented to! He also sits on many local Photographic Association panels and holds several key positions within the RPS Distinctions Judging panels.
I think it fair to say that Chris’s attention to detail stems from his career as an Air Traffic Controller. That might need some clear sight and attention! He has led workshops around much of Europe (Tuscany looks beautful) and the USA with Iceland being one of his favourite locations.
Getting back to meetings in person again is important as far as Chris is concerned. Like many, he strongly feels that photography is all about the final printed image. It is the tangible output from the photographer – a permanent record – rather than what is on a screen. There are far too many variables when showing images on any screen, be it your phone or a 100cm one on a wall in a competition. “Print is the end of the Journey,” said Chris, so take control and make your print the best it can be.
We began with a selection of monochrome images, some of which were taken by Chris on film. The key for him in many was the graphic design and he wanted to make sure of the end result so he began with a 10′ x 8′ print to see the image as shot. Some play in the darkroom produced the end result with this taking “hours”. Controlling the print process was key to this. It was clear that this experience has counted for so much over time.
Whilst Chris now uses Photoshop (almost exclusively), he does strive to get as much as possible correct “in camera”, as a result of his time with film. One favourite trick is to take a UV filter and smear the outer edge of it with vaseline. This has the effect of blurring the outer parts of your image as you take it, making the main subject stand out from the background. Indeed, Chris shared many tips with us about how we can lead the viewer to look where we choose to, in our image. Chris feels we should always describe someone as “looking into” a photograph, rather than “looking at.” I agree!
When it comes to sharpening, Chris made an excellent point; why do we often choose to sharpen the whole image? This should be targeted on the areas of the image we want to stand out. By creating a layer copy of just the bit you want to sharpen, the result will often work far better than simply hitting the “sharpen” tool of your choice. In a similar way, another option that can work well on some images is to make a copy of your image as a layer and then apply gaussian blur to that copy. By playing around with the opacity, you can create some excellent effects to lead the viewers’ eye to where you want them to look.
In many of the prints Chris shared with us, he accurately guessed where we would be drawn to. This was no accident – it was clever composition and editing plus the use of the right type of paper.
For “what paper when”, there is often simply just the subject matter to take into account. Most of the mono prints we saw were printed on matt paper – working well with patterns and graphics. Many of Chris’s woodland images were also on matt, especially ones on misty days. “After all, the mist does not shine.” If you are going for that “artistic” look, then matt is best. Fotospeed Platinum Matt is his “go-to” matt paper.
The choice of paper can be made as early as at the time the shutter is pressed – some images immediately say what paper they need to work best. With portraits and people, again, Chris believes that matt paper will be best, especially for the details in a person’s face. In many of Chris’s work, he had spent a little time engaging with his subject and more often than not, he got the result he desired. For the best general purpose paper, the choice is Fotospeed Pigment Friendly Lustre.
Chris has built up a wealth of simple yet effective tips and thoughts over his many years – on both printing and paper choice. Here are some I noted on the night:
Use matt for anything that is naturally non-reflective – rocks, mist, wood/trees. It can reveal lots of detail, especially in monochrome. It allows the subtlety of the images to show. The lustre paper named above is great for most colour images but again, choose to fit your desired outcome for the viewer.
We saw examples of images printed on Cotton 300 – a paper created in association with Joe Cornish. This is best for emphasising textures in the image. In the end, experience is key and the more you work on this basis, the better you will get.
Yes, there are many papers and brands to choose from but there are only three places in the world that produce printer papers! But, as we have heard before, he does ask why so many people are happy to spend ££££’s on their equipment and yet choose the cheaper options for prints and give control away by getting their work done by someone else?? Chris recommends finding no more than three papers and sticking with these for most of your output. in the long term, you can “save” on your printing costs.
Much of the work we saw was taken with a small aperture – Chris often wants the whole image to be sharp and is not afraid to break the conventional views to get his desired result.
A polarising filter can also be used to slow down your shutter speed. it need not be polarising to do so as well! I think it can offer between 1 to 2 stops but be careful not to polarise or be sure it is gentle enough to work in the final shot.
Always look at the small details. Look down or up and try for something more intimate – it does not always need to be the “Big Vista”!
Make the most of local knowledge or ensure you have researched where you are going. Best time of day/year; weather; viewpoints. etc.
Chris trusts his camera’s auto white balance settings and will amend the output in post-production as he shots in raw. He might also use “Daylight” if it gives him the right light in his frame. You do need to meter correctly for the scene.
WHEN TALKING TO POTENTIAL SUBJECTS TO PHOTOGRAPH:
Don’t ask a Yorkshire farmer how many sheep they own! Especially if you’re in Thwaite!
Finally, Chris did bring along a selection of Fotospeed papers and booklets for those in the hall to look at and he offers us a discount code that gets 15% off all orders.
I will share this via email to members.
Right, I have taken enough of your time. Chris has provided some images to add to this and here they are:
Please also take a look at his excellent website: https://www.chrispalmerphotographer.co.uk/
For me, this was an excellent and informative night and I hope those of you who joined in online or in person also learnt a lot. Thank you.