Why compete?

Some say that competition is good for us. In technological circles and business in general, competition between rival companies is good for advancing our knowledge and expertise. 

But what about competition in the arts? Is there a valid reason for allowing competition to be part of what you do? I think so.

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As much as I personally have a big problem with photography competitions (more on this later), I can appreciate that as creative people, we photographers need to have a sense of drive in what we do. Creating good photographs isn't something that happens by just going out once in a while with our cameras and making a few snaps: there is often effort - a lot of it - applied in the pursuit of trying to create good work. Sure, talent comes into it, but I've met many talented people in my life who never complete anything and through laziness, never move forward with their art. Conversely, I've also met less-talented people out there whom, through a sense of drive and pushing themselves forward, are able to move their photography further. Talent is one thing, but drive or lack of, is another and you need to have talent and drive to move your work forward in general.

Any vehicle you can find, which will help move your photography forward (or give you a sense of drive) is a good thing. It could be; setting up a project, an exhibition, creating a book. Anything that has a goal attached to it will help focus your efforts and stop you from meandering lost and rudderless around in a mix of 'not sure what to do, or where I'm going'. So projects and goals are important to help you move forward with your photography

I have a dilemma though about competitions. Rating art is a bit like saying you like blue better than pink, or that vanilla ice cream is better than a cat. Fish are good but bananas are better. Photography competitions are meaningless, and the only result one can look for getting out of one is the pursuit of focus in what one does. Winning is irrelevant and meaningless. The focus that a competition can give you, is the real prize.

Life is full of competitive forces. Getting promotion at work, being first in the queue to get off the bus, first to get tickets for a concert before it sells out. Life is a competitive race and as a species we need competition to survive. Our genes and species didn't get here, and neither did you, without our ancestors striving to make this happen. So in a way, competition is built into the core fabric of every human being, and every living thing on this planet.

If I were you, and you are thinking of entering a competition: think long and hard about your motivations to win one. Winning is really meaningless. But the focus that it may give you in honing your skills, working towards something is more valuable than any kudos you may get from the winning.

Art was never about competition. And art shouldn't be measured or compared. But competitions do have their place: if they give you a sense of focus and drive to move forward with your work, then they are no bad thing. Just remember that winning them has nothing to do with your art, because art is personal. You do it for you. You don't do it to 'win'.

 

Working Titles

In a short while, I will be announcing a new book about the south American atacama. The book encompasses photographs from the Argentine, Bolivian and Chilean high plateau. It has been a work in progress for around 8 years.

I had the 'working title' for this book earmarked around six years ago. I find titles a great way to conceptualise and to think about which way to steer my creativity. Once I had the title 'altiplano', I felt I knew what should be in the book, but also perhaps more importantly - what shouldn't.

 The proposed title for my future central highlands of Iceland book. I hope to publish this in the next year or two.

The proposed title for my future central highlands of Iceland book. I hope to publish this in the next year or two.

I find projects or themes a great way to steer myself forward. My creativity is more focussed once I have the 'correct' theme in mind. But the theme doesn't always surface straight away and I find that 'working titles' can morph into something else if I live with them for some time. 'Working titles' are like clothing: you try them on for size and to see how they feel. You need to wear them for a while to see if you grow into them or to find that they really don't suit at all.

Altiplano was one title that stuck from the moment I had it. It made me realise that I couldn't add in other landscapes from around Bolivia - I had considered the mines and some other areas but they weren't part of the region that is defined the altiplano. Boundaries are important in focussing attention.

I don't know if I've discussed this on this blog before, but my graphic designer friend Darren and I have been playing around with themes and designs for a set of books. The first of which is coming out soon. We pretty much hope to publish a further two books over the next few years.

I'm hoping to publish one about the central highlands of Iceland - this will be a book with no 'popular' landscapes in it. No classic waterfall shots, etc. It's all about the remote interior, and I hope for it to include my images from my winter shoots in the interior, and also the dark landscapes I encounter throughout the rest of the year. 

 The proposed title for my Hokkaido book.

The proposed title for my Hokkaido book.

The other is about Hokkaido. You can see 'mockup's' above. I wouldn't take the designs or titles too seriously right now - I'm showing you these to illustrate the process I go through - these are just 'working titles'. Hálendi means 'Highlands', and Shiro means 'white'. Just working titles and it's too soon to say whether they will stick.

What these working titles give me, is a way of visualising the final books. I've already been collating the work from each landscape, and I've managed to choose around 50+ images so far. But I can already see gaps in the work - areas where I need to look for images to fill out areas of the landscape that I have either missed out on at times in the past, or that I know are still there to be photographed.

Working titles are a great tool to help steer you forward. Making individual photographs isn't enough. If  you find yourself feeling rudderless, not sure where to go with your photography, but at the same time know that you are creating good individual images, then I would suggest you need a concept: something to help you glue your work together. 

The whole is always greater than its parts, if you get a really strong theme or 'working title'. It can propel you and give your creativity focus.

Altiplano

Some advanced copies of new book have arrived, and I'm delighted with the reproductions: they are amazingly spot on. 

The new book is 12 inches square - larger than last year's Colourchrome book which was 10 inches square, and has a lot more pages.

I'm very excited about it, and there will be an announcement this September 25th about the book. Only 315 copies, so if you want one, better be quick :-)

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Don't automate it

Pre-amble: Everything I write on my blog is just my point of view. That's all it is. I don't for one minute assume that I am right all the time, and any views I express here are simply my own. I write them here with the hope of maybe helping you with your craft and you should take what I say as just that - a point of view.

A few weeks ago, I published a new e-book. It's topic was Photoshop curves and how to really get to know them, as the curves tool is very powerful in helping you transpose or adjust tones in a picture. I personally think there is no better tool out there for helping me get what I want in my photographs.

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I'm not a big fan of automated tools and I tend to keep this side of my photo editing to a minimum. I do for instance use the Pixelgenius Sharpener tool kit, because I am convinced that it has better judgement with regards to the degree of sharpening that is required. Many photographers tend to either over-sharpen their work. This tool avoids that.

In general though : I avoid automated tools that take the control or 'awareness' out of my own hands. By being involved in the creation or construction of your images at each stage, you gain a better understanding of what is going on.

Photography is your personal way of expressing how you see the world. To keep it personal, you need to be intimately involved in all aspects of the image creation from capture to print. Using automated tasks at an early stage in your own development may feel as though they are giving you a boost, but there are never any shortcuts: you gain in apparent immediate improvements, but rarely do you find your own self development has moved on or learned anything in the process.

Luminosity Masks - the TK Toolkit

I played around with this toolkit, and although I think it's a great thing - it's only a great thing in the right hands. If you are still learning about how to adjust tones in a picture and specifically where you want to adjust them, then I would be very careful in adopting automated toolkits for this. My reasons are that I think the only way to really learn about tones is to adjust things manually. The Luminosity Masks tool kit might give you immediate results but that always makes me highly suspicious that I'm leaning towards convenience over skill. I don't mind using these kinds of tools later on once I've built up the experience and knowledge in my craft as to 'what I want to do'.

An analogy with Zooms vs Primes

This is perhaps a similar approach to using Zooms as a beginner. Zooms are great once you have built up a lot of experience of working with different focal lengths etc, but for most beginners, the convenience of a zoom means they are less likely to learn. Sure - zooms  'appear' to be the most obvious choice: why buy several lenses when you can have many lenses rolled into one? Well, my feeling is that when you use a zoom, you learn very little about the properties of the focal lengths you are working with. If, on the other hand, I give you a few primes to work with, you soon learn how they 'look' when you put them on the camera. If I give you a 24mm and 50mm lens only, you will soon learn to 'see' how they work and you can even visualise the scene in your mind in both focal lengths before putting them on. You also learn how their background / foregrounds are compressed, and you also learn what amount of depth of field each lens has. This is because most of the properties are fixed. With zooms, everything is variable. Much harder to remember what is going on.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, zooms make beginners lazy. We are more inclined to stay in one spot and force the landscape to fit to us (by zooming). If on the other hand, you use a prime, then the only way to get the landscape to fit correctly is to move. Moving allows you to find out more about the terrain you are on, and I've often found many great compositions as a result. Primes force you to fit to the landscape.

I think this is similar to using toolkits. On the surface, they give you a lot of flexibility but while doing so, they take the control out of your hands, and you don't learn. 

When I edit my photographs manually: I build up an intimate knowledge of how that photograph is constructed, how each object and tone in the picture interact with each other. I'm very doubtful this happens when I use automated tools, and I'm more likely to overlook aspects of the photograph.

So to recap: automated tools are ok, but I would avoid using them at the beginning of your photographic career. Build up your experiences first by constructing your edits manually. Then maybe years down the line, you can invest in certain plug-in's etc, but only after you've done the work. 

Summary

I know there are a lot of really cool things out there, and they all look like they give you great results, but I think that if you really want to learn, and become more informed about what you do : you have to do the work, and you have to do it manually from the beginning. It is only once you have done the work, spent the years learning to 'see' what in in your photographs and which areas need work, that you should allow yourself to use automated tools.

There are no easy short cuts in Photography. Convenience is rarely a word that is used by me in my craft as I know that to create great work, I have to put the effort in.

Gestation Period

I'm publishing a new book this September which has had a long gestation period.

If I had been less experienced in my creative efforts I may have given up on this project many times: it's often hard to know when something is paused (stopped temporarily) or has reached a point where things can't go any further.

 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Image © Bruce Percy 2012

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Image © Bruce Percy 2012

I'm more and more of the opinion that you can't rush things. Everything has its own time and place, and everything has its own non-linear pace. Feelings of great satisfaction as well as great uncertainty tend to mix and merge as we navigate through the ebb and flow of our creativity. Being a creative person is often more about reading and understanding when flow is working and when it isn't. 

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Pauses in our creativity can at first appear to be difficult times. No one, no matter how talented or creative they are suffers from periods of feeling stuck. I have often found with hindsight that these periods of inactivity are usually rests where a new direction is about to take place, or some new work is about to be created, and when I find that I can't go any further, I just let things be for a while and do something else to take my mind of it.

Altiplano was like that. This book has been in my mind since around 2012. I first mentioned the title of it to some friends long before I knew I had enough material to complete it. Had anyone asked me how the final product would look, I couldn't have guessed correctly: I just had to trust that future work would let the seed of this idea grow into something more concrete.

There were delays along the way. Many of them, in many different forms. Around 2015 I had reached a point where I felt I could add nothing new to the work. I had been to Bolivia many times and felt that my image making there was becoming cyclical : I was now settling into certain formulas with some of the locations I had been growing into over the years, and I was beginning to feel I was reaching a natural conclusion with this landscape. Then, without warning the image on the front cover of a travel magazine I noticed while waiting in my dentist's office found me looking at Argentina as a continuation of the project. The Puna de Atacama had sufficiently different landscapes that its Bolivian cousin to work on and all of a sudden the book was no longer finished, and I knew I had a few more years yet to work on it.

Then there were schedule problems. My workshops and tours are set up 1 year and sometimes 2 years in advance. Trying to find time within my working life to get out to Bolivia or Argentina to complete what I saw in my mind's eye was difficult.

 Cono de Arita, Puna de Atacama, Argentina Image © Bruce Percy 2017

Cono de Arita, Puna de Atacama, Argentina
Image © Bruce Percy 2017

And one mustn't forget that making a book is a slow process: as soon as you have other people involved in the project, things just slow down. Waiting to hear back from printers, waiting for your graphic artist friend to find time in his own schedule to work on the book meant that things started to become drawn out. The book was commenced in full last year, and then I had to shelve it for about six months. Then we re-commenced with it this January and all the text was mostly completed by March. Translations were required as the book is also in Spanish and that added further time to the project. And while all this was going on, we were finding that we were changing the format and concept of the book. I don't think Darren and I have changed our minds or reviewed a book so many times in the past six months.

 The Labyrinth, Puna de Atacama, Argentina Image © Bruce Percy 2017

The Labyrinth, Puna de Atacama, Argentina
Image © Bruce Percy 2017

Some things just take time. There has to be a way of pushing forward while at the same time not over-stressing it. Things need to be helped, but they shouldn't be rushed. Everything has its own rhythm, its own way of evolving and our task as creative people is to work 'with the natural flow' rather than against it. Force something to be finished when it's not ready to be and the work suffers. Don't put any effort into it and the project stalls. Finding the balance is a skill in intuition. Knowing when to pause and wait for an answer, and knowing when to push forward is key.

If the work is good, then you should persist (not give up), and if obstacles are in your way, just choose to look at them as pauses: they are often there for a reason. Keep thinking about where you want your work to go, and this will help you steer your creativity in the right direction. My 'Altiplano' book wasn't an effortless task, it had many delays and obstacles along the way, but it is here now, it is real, and that just gives me the confidence to understand that sometimes, when I think things are stuck or going nowhere, it is just a brief pause in the birth of my ideas.

Collating

Today I've been collating my images from Iceland and Japan, with the thoughts of putting together two future book projects. I've been struck by just how much work I've done over the past three years in each location, but also, how much is still incomplete in the sense of producing a book on each subject.

Playing around with sequencing of my central Iceland photographs.

Visualisation is key in propelling me forward with what I do.  

By collating the work and laying it out in a visual sequence i'm able to build an emotional connection to how I see the work panning out as it continues to be supplemented with new work. This can be very inspiring for me, and I often find myself dreaming up some additional images in my minds eye.

This aspect of visualisation is usually down to 'lost opportunities' - those 'photographs that never were', as you spied them while passing by some place, or because the weather changed and you failed to make them on time. They leave an indelible mark on your imagination that trigger strong feelings of 'I must return here, as I know I am not finished with this location yet'.

As a result of all this visualisation and dreaming of expanding the work, there have been for the past few years, ongoing discussions with my Icelandic and Japanese guides as to new places I wish to research and photograph. Everything is a work in progress. This is all good stuff as it gives me purpose: I can see that there are still unfinished ties to each of the locations I've already made photographs in.

What is most exciting for me, is that I am acutely aware that I often underestimate how much new work will come out of further explorations. New work often enriches existing work by allowing it to take on a new identity. Sometimes I feel the work is one thing only to find out that once I'm done adding new work to it, that it has become something different entirely. And I find that just very inspiring.

Collating one's own work is a great way of figuring out what you've achieved, and where there are missing gaps in the work, and which direction you need to take it.

Playing around with sequencing of my Hokkaido photographs.

Pre book announcement

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Book Pre-Announcement

Last year I published a small book which sold out before publication. I got many emails from people who were disappointed that they'd missed out on it.

So this year, I have decided to give advanced notice.

25th September, 7:30pm GMT
 

Altiplano will go on-sale on the 25th of September via this website only.

There are only 300 copies available
+ 10 very special copies.

(Please Note: please do not ask to reserve a copy. The point of this pre-announcement is to give everyone a chance of owning a copy).

Restraint for certain global edits

As a beginner to editing my work, I would often apply broad sweeping global edits. Partly it was because I thought that this was the right thing to do. Partly it was because I didn't know any better. Mostly though: if someone had suggested I edit individual local areas of the picture, I wouldn't have known which areas to change or why I would want to change them.

Global edits may feel like the quickest and most obvious way to adjust an image; you get maximum effect for little effort. Want the image to be more punchy? - then just increase contrast across the entire scene and it will definitely feel more exciting to the eye. That's certainly how I felt about global edits when I started out editing my work.

Global contrast applied: Everything is 'hard-toned', and my eye is jumping from the black volcano to the sand in the foreground and then to the hill on the far right-hand-side. My eye is being pulled everywhere.

Image was left 'soft' and I applied careful local contrasts to the Volcano only.  This gives the  'impression' that there is contrast in the image, while maintaining softer tones in the frame. Thus resulting in a more 'calm' and less fatiguing image to look at.

However, In my experience, at the initial stages of an editing session, I have rarely found a global edit to be the correct thing to do: often the amount of change that I wish to impart on one area of a scene rarely works with other areas of the scene, unless of course, all the relationships and their proportions to each other are in place. This is rarely the case: often an image starts off with some areas requiring more work than others, or some areas requiring to be quietened down while other areas need to be made louder.

 By adding contrast and saturation at the very beginning of your editing session, you can lead your image down the wrong road. Lightroom's ordered panels that suggest a workflow encourage 'baking in' global edits at the very start of your editing session. Something I wouldn't recommend, unless you know you need to brighten / darken an image. But trying to achieve 'final contrasts and luminance here' is a bad approach.

By adding contrast and saturation at the very beginning of your editing session, you can lead your image down the wrong road. Lightroom's ordered panels that suggest a workflow encourage 'baking in' global edits at the very start of your editing session. Something I wouldn't recommend, unless you know you need to brighten / darken an image. But trying to achieve 'final contrasts and luminance here' is a bad approach.

The other thing that I don't like about global edits, is that I may (and often am) affecting areas of the image that I don't understand quite yet, or haven't looked at in greater detail / understanding. I am essentially blind to these areas because when I apply a global edit, I often only notice the areas that I'm interested in changing, and don't notice the areas that I don't want to affect.  Rarely do I understand until much later that my global edit has had a negative impact on some area of the picture I wasn't aware of.

Some things can't be undone

There is in my opinion, a lot of bad advice out there. The Lightroom recommended process of walking down the right-hand-side panel in order is, to my mind, prone to error. By trying to achieve final contrasts and luminance here at the very beginning of your editing session encourages baking in tonal adjustments to areas of the picture that may not require them, and will be difficult later to undo them.

Often when contrast is added, it is often difficult (read impossible) to undo it on further adjustments. This is similar to shooting in hard light: you can't take away shadows and contrasts if they were in the original scene, no matter how much contrast reduction you wish to add, but if you start off shooting in soft light, you have the luxury of adding contrast in to suit, and you can do it to varying amounts throughout the frame also. 

With this in mind, if we go back to thinking about our RAW editor settings, it makes sense to leave the blacks and whites and contrast at default settings, so that if there are any smooth tonal graduations in the frame : they remain intact.

More contrast means less smooth tonal graduations

This is really the key to this post today: adding contrast as a global edit at the very beginning of image editing will reduce smooth tonal graduations in the frame. You make the image tonally 'hard' and the eye is pulled all over the place - everything will be shouting for the viewers attention.

Conversely, if you take my advice, and deliberately leave your RAW settings so the image is quite soft and flat, you can add in the contrasts and punch to local areas of the frame that need it, while maintaining many of the smooth gradual tonal shifts. The final result will be more restful to the viewer's eye and will also reduce the chance of viewer fatigue.

Global edits are worthwhile

Having said all this, it is worth pointing out that global edits do have their place. For me, they are used to 'equalise' the picture once all my local adjustments have been made. Once I feel that all the adjustments are now in place, but the entire image needs to be either brightened, or darkened, or perhaps some colour cast needs to be removed, this is when I will work with global edits.

So for me, if I were to sum it up:

Local edits are for 'interpretive, creative  intentions'.
Global edits are for 'equalising' or 'finishing' a picture.

 

The value of understanding Colour Theory

I'd like to say a big thank you to those of you who bought my Tonal Relationship series of e-Books so far. If you've been reading and following them, you should know by now, that I'm big on working with tones in a photograph, much like how an artist painter would.

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Photography is not just about clicking a shutter and 'getting it right in-camera'. Camera's do not see the way we see. And besides, if one considers that anything after the shutter has been clicked is 'manipulation', then they are forgetting that the choice of lens they used, the position they were in, are all interpretive.

For me, photography is no different from being a painter. I may not paint with oils or watercolours, but I have to abide by the same rules and concepts that a painter has to: if you do an art class you will learn a lot of valuable lessons about composition. Indeed, I encourage you to attend an evening art class. You will learn so much about tone and form that is all applicable to the art of landscape photography.

Which brings me to the point about my post today: as landscape photographers, we not only need to understand tone and form, but if we shoot colour, we also need to understand colour. How many times have you thought you could boost a certain colour in your picture only to find that although it seems as if it's present in the scene, it actually isn't there. This my friend, is all down to a lack of understanding colour, how certain tones are made up by multiple colours. 

For me, understanding colour, is paramount in removing colour casts, and by tuning certain colours to fit with others. Rather than boosting a colour, I often find myself reducing colours that are at the opposite side of the colour wheel to the colour I want to boost. And it's not just a case of boosting / reducing colour that is required. Often I find I have to 'tune' a colour - by adjusting its hue I can remove casts or even 'tune' the colour to fit more in-line with other aspects of the photograph.

So I think this is what I want to write about in my 3rd instalment of my 'Tonal Relationships' series. Right now, it's more a flicker of an idea. I haven't really figured out exactly what the e-Book will entail and I find that sometimes leaving it for a while helps me clarify the aim of such a book. This is what happened with the Tonal Relationships part 2 e-book. That one took me more than a year to work on. I got stuck at times, unclear if I was heading in the right direction and when that happens the best thing you can do is back off, and go and do something else for a while. So when you return to the problem in hand, it is often much clearer to see.

So that's my intention. I wish to write an e-Book about colour, and how it applies to editing photographs and also what it means when we are out in the field choosing our compositions. You may have noticed that over the past while, I've become a colour obsessive. Perhaps you feel my photographs have become more muted, almost monochrome (and for some of you they probably do look monochrome now), but colour once you begin to really work with it, becomes something that you want to apply delicately. Overly-vibrant, loud colour photographs, I have a theory - belong to the beginner. Once you start to really see all the colour distractions, it becomes a case of trying to calm things down a little (or in my case: a lot). I'm not for one second saying that everyone should go for the more muted look that I have adopted of late: I'm saying that if you are able to interpret colour and understand it better: you'll make more sensitive and worthy choices during your editing.

Please don't hold your breath for this e-Book. I'm pretty sure it will take me a while to find the right approach to tackling this subject, and due to my workshop schedule, time is in short supply.

The importance of rest

I realise that for most, there is never enough free time to do what we want to do. Often our work and family commitments mean that our passion for photography gets much less attention than we would wish.

 Central Highlands of Iceland in Winter Image © Bruce Percy 2018

Central Highlands of Iceland in Winter
Image © Bruce Percy 2018

Right now, I'm doing the opposite. I am spending a lot of free doing things that are unrelated to photography. I haven't made a single photograph, nor picked up my cameras for over two months now, and I'm very happy that this is the case.

I like to give my love for photography a rest every year, and I deliberately step away from it, so that I can recharge my interest in it. Perhaps you find this odd - how can someone improve their interest in something by taking time away from it?

As the saying goes 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' is never more true when it comes to what we love. And likewise, 'too much of a good thing, isn't good', is also true.

If I were to keep going, every single day, making photos, it would soon begin to feel like a chore, and I doubt that I would have the needed time to absorb what I had experienced, and to grow from it. Growth comes from rest and so by giving my photography a rest, I allow myself time to recharge.

I have found that by the end of my rest periods, I come back to photography with a fresh view. What may have started to feel old and tired now feels exciting and fresh. And I often find that the distance away has allowed me to collate my thoughts and approach photography with a slightly new way of seeing and doing things.

This summer, I spent my 'vacation' learning to Kayak, and by working on music, and by just catching up with friends and doing things very unrelated to my photography. It has all been good, and as I see September approaching soon, it won't be long before I am standing in some vast black desert in the heart of Iceland, knowing and loving every minute of it. More so, because I chose to take time away from it, so I could enjoy the experience of getting re-aquainted with it.

If you are finding you aren't enjoying photography so much of late, or that you are wondering if you should stop, then I would suggest you take a break. Go do something entirely differently for a few weeks, even a few months. Rarely have I seen anyone drop a passion when they do this, but I certainly have seen people drop a passion through burn out.

Trying too hard?

I was talking to a sound-recording friend of mine recently, about the art of mixing music. I explained that when I work on a piece of music, I often want it to be louder and more impressive than everything else around, and that I'm not sure if it's to cover up a lack of mixing expertise on my part, or a lack of confidence. I suspect it's both.

 Transylvania, February 2018 Image © Bruce Percy

Transylvania, February 2018
Image © Bruce Percy

This got me to thinking about confidence, and its role in the creative-arts.

Many years ago, I had an art student on one of my workshops and she told me that 'it is easy for you - you have a lot of confidence in what you do'. At first I was surprised by the observation as I have never thought of myself as an overly confident person. Secondly, I had never thought that confidence had anything to do with the creative-arts. For me, doing anything in art was more about being free and going wherever you want to go. Indeed, I had often found certain subjects at school overly competitive - sports, academic studies where you are marked by your performance etc. Arts - such as drawing, painting, playing or composing music, to me, had none of this. It was a 'free for all' where there were no rules and you could just dabble with no pressure of being assessed.

I've had many years to think about my art student's comments, and I think she was right. Not just about me being confident in my creative-arts pursuits, but also that confidence has a role in it.

Confidence is vital, if you want to become good at anything you do. I'm not talking about arrogance, of thinking you are great or superior, I'm talking about simply being comfortable with yourself. That comes from confidence. Confidence comes from knowing yourself and also understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Confident people are comfortable to tell others when they don't know something, and they are also comfortable in realising where their own limits are, and understanding they have some things to work on. Conversely, people who lack confidence, tend to over compensate for their limitations or try too hard. I think that is why we see so many heavily manipulated images on the web - anything that is super strong, overly contrasty is probably suffering from a need to force a point over to the audience. The editor isn't quite sure the audience will 'get' what they're trying to do, so they tend to spell it out - LOUDLY.  When I often see overly-worked images, I tend to think there is a lack of confidence behind the motivation to edit in such a way.

Being a creative person does require a sense of confidence. Any decision you make in your art making has to be one that you alone have come up with. To have a sense of conviction or faith in what you are doing is important, and to do that, you need confidence. But don't confuse confidence with knowing what to do. Confident people may not know what to do, but they are willing to try, to experiment and are comfortable knowing that anything they try may fail.

If you have confidence in yourself, you are ok about it when you fail. Indeed, I think that failure is part of the creative process. So often do writers and musicians talk about how a finished piece started off as something completely different from the finished work. This means they were entirely comfortable to throw out the initial ideas when they found something better. To do that, you've got to be able to let go, and to let go, you have to have confidence in where you are going.

How does one teach someone confidence? Well, I think it's all about trusting in your own decisions and also applying a healthy degree of forgiveness when you make a bad decision. There are no rules, and there shouldn't be when one is involved in the creative arts. And you should have the freedom to try things out, without the fear of being judged, either by others or more importantly - by yourself.

Letting go, and letting things flow where they want to go, is the best approach. Accept that you don't know all the answers, and you never will, and that nothing is ever finished. You are not doing your photography to be measured, nor for praise from others, but for self enjoyment and self development. If you are able to take this approach, then I think confidence will grow within you.

My art-student friend was right. I did have confidence in my abilities. I don't tear myself down when I create bad work. Just because you may only see finished work on my site, there is a lot of stuff that doesn't make it. If you realise that everything out there that really impresses you and moves you as a piece of art, most likely had to go through several re-works to get it right, then it should give you comfort to know that it's ok to not get things right first time. Good artists are ones that are able to keep re-assessing what they are doing, without judging themselves too harshly, and to do that, they need to have confidence.

Advanced Photoshop Curves e-Book is here

Last night I released my new e-Book on Photoshop's Curves. It is part of my 'Tonal Adjustment' set of e-Books.

Perhaps you feel that learning Photoshop isn't for you, or that you are very happy with Lightroom's toolset. It is a really nice software package after all, and easy to get to grips with.

But Lightroom only goes so far, and I find the controls rather too broad (as I type this in July 2018).

I've prepared some  on-line tutorial videos for my Curves e-Book which are included as part of the purchase.  Above is an excerpt from the videos. I hope it will show you the power of the curves adjustment tool for doing nuanced edits. 

There is also a message in this tutorial that has nothing to do with Photoshop. I discuss very much how the eye can be tricked into thinking an image is bright enough when it isn't. So if you edit in another software application, it is still worth watching.

Advanced Photoshop Curves - The Art Of Tonal Adjustment
15.99

Includes access to on-line video tutorials
+ free copy of Fast Track to Photoshop!

£15.99

The Photoshop’s curves adjustment tool is your gateway to fine tonal adjustment. It is an immensely powerful tool that once you become familiar with, will be at the core of all your editing in Photoshop for years to come.

Through the use of many editing examples and QuickTime movies I aim to cover in detail how the curves adjustment tool works and demonstrate its unparalleled power for the image editor.

Prerequisites

  • You need to already be using Photoshop to work with this e-Book.

  • You need to be familiar with Photoshop’s Curves, Layers and Masks.

  • For those who aren’t familiar, I’ve included a free copy of Fast-Track to Photoshop. I would recommend that you read this before attempting to understand the content of this e-Book.

Features

* 2 x Adobe Acrobat PDF documents.
* 15 PSD Photoshop example files.
* Access to several on-line video tutorials.

* E-book format: Adobe Acrobat
* Download format:  Zip file Containing 2 x PDF e-Books + 15 PSD Files, plus access to on-line video tutorials.

Add To Cart

Sometimes, things just take a while

No activity on this blog is usually a sign that I'm quite busy with other things. For the past month or so I've been slowly but surely working towards completing a new e-Book and also a physically printed book.

Hokkaido-2018-(22).jpg

There have been numerous delays, complications, setbacks or hold-ups. 

And it has reminded me that sometimes the creative 'flow' just doesn't. Sometimes there are blockages, dead-ends, delays and no matter how much you try to push it, it has to go at its own pace.

I often wonder why that is so, and I have often considered that when things are right, they tend to flow, and when they aren't, they don't. I would say I still hold this view, that good things tend to come together easily. But sometimes, just sometimes, the best ideas and the best creative decisions result in delays, setbacks and put quite simply: hard work.

As much as I would suggest to you not to push your creativity too hard, sometimes you just have to. You just have to keep forging ahead, even if it feels like you are walking in treacle, or that every 2 steps forward also means 1 step backwards.

Everything is a learning process. Failure or difficulties often mean we are going through some kind of learning experience: should we wish to take the lessons on board and this is how I am reminded of it right now. My new e-Book is slowly but surely taking shape and is becoming more than I had anticipated, likewise my new physically printed book is much tighter now, for all the reviewing and corrections we've put into it, and also for living with it for so long: the text was complete in its first draft around February this year, but it has had to go through this long birth to get to where it is now. Sometimes there are no shortcuts and things just have to be born when they are ready, and not any time sooner.

Photoshop's Curves Adjustment tool

In my opinion, the finest degree of control you can apply to your images is through Photoshop's Curves Adjustment tool. I know, it's not intuitive, and neither is Photoshop. But with some perseverance it is worth getting to know.

I know my e-book on Photoshop's curves has been promised for some time. I just find my schedule gets in the way, but there is also something else that gets in the way: preparation time and absorption time.

I tried to sit down to write this e-Book last December during some time away from workshops, and I found I kept hitting a dead-end with it. I know from experience that when that happens, it's best to back off and leave it. Often I find that things become much clearer if I leave them to surface when they're ready.

It's always interesting to me to find out that within a few weeks this new e-Book came together very quickly. But it did require about six months of gestation! Some things can't be rushed, and I often find I need time to sort out what it is I want to say, whether it's in an e-Book or with my photography.

I'm more convinced than ever that the subconscious is always working, sorting things out and figuring out how best to approach things.

Well, I'm delighted with what I've managed to put together for this e-Book. It just needs to go through some review time before it is finally released.

Apologies for my lack of blog posting. I only feel that I should write when I have something worthy to say, and right now I'm busy taking a break from my workshop schedule. But behind the scenes I've been writing this e-Book, and also preparing a new printed book for publication later this year.

The creative edit

Today's post is all about the creative edit. I'm been very kindly given permission to use one of the images that was discussed and edited during my Digital Darkroom workshop this past May. Many thanks to Orchid for allowing me to share this image with you.

 Disko Bay, Greenland Image © Orchid Fung, workshop participant, Digital Darkroom class May 2018

Disko Bay, Greenland
Image © Orchid Fung, workshop participant, Digital Darkroom class May 2018

There is often an image hiding within an image, and often a re-interpretation hiding within an interpretation. When we first compose a scene out in the field we often look at it from the point of what was there, often focussing, composing, setting up with the intention that we are going to record faithfully what we see. But when we come to edit or to review the image later, we often re-interpret the original composition and see other crops or other compositions within the original frame. This I believe is perfectly normal and should be encouraged.

I think if you are a photographer, you are always 'seeing', but also, you should always be interpreting, and that means even re-interpreting. To look at a photograph and see something else within it, is a similar process, if not identical to the one that allows us to look at the original world view and choose how to interpret it with our initial capture.

If you get good at choosing what to put into the frame and what to leave out , then I see no reason why this should not continue when you come round to reviewing your work and then deciding to re-crop or make another photo out of an existing one.

Which is what we did here with this photograph.

The original capture (RAW file with no processing applied) it shown below. My intentions are to illustrate that sometimes there are strong shapes and motifs in a photograph that will get stronger if we manage to remove the other things that are competing for our attention, and also, that it is perfectly ok to depart fully from what was captured.

 The original raw file

The original raw file

During my workshop, we discussed how as visitors to a location, we are often caught up in the experience of being there. We live in a 3D world with real objects and we often tend to separate them in our mind because we know they are physically different things. I also believe that we look at tones in different ways when we look at scenery compared to how we look at tones when we look at a photograph. I am convinced that my dear friend Orchid thought the highlighted snow in the foreground was a pleasing part of the photograph because I too, have done the same. I have also taken many many photographs where I was inclined to put a foreground into the picture when non was required. This is, I believe, because as physical beings we wish to represent what was immediately in front of us. Foregrounds are a way of allowing us to step into the picture after all.

 

 

It is only when we review the image later that we find that perhaps the foreground is too distracting, or maybe it doesn't have enough aesthetic beauty to support the rest of the frame. Which is what we discussed with this photograph. I know the photograph was taken because of the mountain peak in the background and I believe the foreground was put in there because of such a need to have something to help us walk into the frame.

For me, I'm fascinated by the disconnect between a photograph and reality. I do believe that we see differently while on location than we do when we are reviewing photographs. For many of us the process is different, yet I have a very strong feeling that it shouldn't be. We need to be able to 'see photographs' while on location. Not scenery, and this is the hardest thing to do for most of us because we've had a lifetime of thinking and seeing the world as a living breathing 3D reality.

So what of the final edit? Are you shocked at all by how different it is from the initial capture? I'm curious because for me, I think of photography is the art of creating an illusion. Photographs aren't real, even when we don't alter them, they still do not convey what we saw or how things actually were. We could get quite philosophical if we chose to on this one.... but for me, photography is a creative-arts endeavour where our aim is to create a beautiful illusion. How we get there is a matter of personal ideals of what photography is and what it isn't. I have my own thoughts on what is photography (dodging, burning, cropping) and what isn't (blending, HDR, merging, superimposing things) but that is just for me. I realise that each and every one of us has our own boundaries of what is and what isn't photography and I respect that you may be happy to merge or superimpose things - there are after all no rules, and nor should there be. It's an arts endeavour we're discussing here.

I think my interpretation I made of Orchid's photo takes the viewer to the heart of the picture - that beautiful peak at the back of the original frame. By softening the tones down dramatically across the picture, we have removed a lot of textural details that would be vying for our attention. Doing so enables that beautiful graphic zig-zag shape to emerge in the photograph a perhaps the reason for the photograph. It was there all along, but it was competing with so many other elements that it was being drowned a little.

I think editing is an enormously creative process. It is a space that I can spend hours and days in, and it has taught me never to judge my work at the point of capture. I never really know just what the final images may end up being like, and I've certainly had images that have become personal favourites when I almost never worked on them because I wasn't convinced they had enough merit.

Photography is the art of looking again. And again. Of being open, and willing to re-interpret something another way. I hope today with this example I've shown you exactly that.

Many thanks to Orchid Fung for allowing me to reproduce and discuss her beautiful image.

You've gotta hand-craft it

Many years ago, before my current occupation as a photographer, I used to be a budding musician with lots of nice synths at home to play with. This was the 90's and an era where most synths turned up with lots of nice sexy factory presets to play with. Indeed one of the issues with 90's synths was that they only usually had one slider on the front of the panel and thus were a nightmare to edit the sounds, so most people would tend to use the factory presets with almost no changes to them at all.

This past month I have returned to music and I'm presently busy building a little home studio of some nice synths to own. I've deliberately chosen to look for machines that have lots of knobs and sliders on the front panel so that they will encourage me to shape the sound to my liking, rather than hope or rely on some preset to work in the music I'm making.

You may wonder what this has to do with photography. Well quite a lot.

I don't believe that plug-in's that offer presets to work with are a good way to start, or to continue with for the long-run. I can sympathise and appreciate that they may feel like a really great way of kick-starting your editing, or that they perhaps influence or inspire you, but the chances of them actually being exactly what your images need is pretty slim.

I've reached the conclusion that the best approach to image editing is to hand-craft it. Here's my reasons why I think it's good to go the slow manual way:

  1. You are given the opportunity (through having to figure out what you want to do to an image) to learn what components of tone, colour and form your image is made up from.
  2. You learn a lot about what works and what doesn't when you have to go in there and deconstruct  your image. Presets don't encourage this.
  3. Presets will rarely, if ever, give you exactly what you need and they will not encourage you to look or study deeply into what is going on in your work.
  4. Hand-crafting your work means that you build up skills to interpret what you've created, and also to think about what you might want to look for in future when you do return to shooting outside.
  5. It should go without saying, but each image you create does not conform to a preset. It has its own character and therefore needs to be treated on an individual basis.
  6. Photography is about being creative, and convenience should not be part of the creative vocabulary. Making good or great images isn't easy, and we have to put the work in to learn.
  7. Perhaps the most important point - you get to tune the image exactly the way you want.

Perhaps you think that presets are a great starting point, and that you still tune and edit manually anyway. My thoughts on this are that when we apply presets to our work, we only see or understand a little of what has been changed. if you wish to iron out some of the effect it's a little bit like going 10 steps forward to have to retreat 8 steps to get to where you want to be. I'd much rather walk each step at a time and build up a good understanding of what it is i'm doing with the edit at each stage.

I used to rely on presets for synth sounds in my music and often found it hard to get certain sounds to mix in well with others. Now that I have a collection of synths at home with tweak able parameters I can shape the sounds to fit in more. It brings me confidence when I hear certain sounds just shift into focus as they are tuned to fit into the music. Rather than flipping through thousands of presets hoping for the 'right sound' I am creating it myself.

By taking the reigns of your editing and pulling the decisions and control back into your own lap, you are giving yourself the opportunity to learn about your yourself, your work and to improve your own visual awareness. As tempting as certain presets may be, I'd suggest going the manual way for a while and see how it goes.

First draft of New e-Book is complete

Part 2 of my Tonal Adjustment Series

It's been slow progress, but I'm really delighted to discover to day that I've finished writing my new e-Book about Photoshop's curves adjustment tool. I've been trying to write this e-Book since last year - I remember doing some work on it in December, and then it got shelved while I was so busy running tours and workshops.

tr.jpg

It is my 'holiday' time at the moment. I'm at home for the next few months, and the only work I have to do is finish this e-Book and also one other special project. 

All I can say is that I had no idea I could write 50 pages about the curves adjustment tool. One of the best things about writing this e-book is that it's helped me clarify in my own mind just what is actually going on when I do any curve adjustments.

The new e-Book now needs to go into review mode, where I will check for errors and discrepancies. It comes with around eight Photoshop files to illustrate some of the more difficult to understand features of curve adjustments. And I'm hoping to put some QuickTime movies together to show you some screen sessions.

But it's all come together well so far. I'm very pleased with the results and I think it's going to be a very nice e-Book if you're interested in developing your knowledge of curves. The curves adjustment tool really is the most powerful way to modify and transpose tones.

Winter Sunrise from Lone Pine - Ansel Adams

As part of my Digital Darkroom and Printing workshops, I enjoy enormously showing the beautiful Ansel Adams photograph 'winter sunrise from lone pine'  to my class. It's a great illustration of the 'creative edit' and well worth discussing in detail. 

'Winter sunrise from lone pine', the achingly beautiful image with wondrous print interpretation by Ansel Adams
Image © Ansel Adams

Before I dissect the image, I am curious if you can actually see the edits that Ansel has done to the image? Are they very apparent to you? I only ask for the sake of wondering how much skill each of us possess at deconstructing an image, or whether each of us simply just 'buy it' when we look at the photograph? My own thoughts on this are that great images tend to cast a spell on us and we are too enwrapped in enjoying the spell we're under to think more about how the image is constructed. As part of our 'learning to become better photographers', I think it is natural to be able to 'enjoy an image' as well as dissect it.

I think great photographs cast a spell on us with their imagery, and whether they are 'real' or not is irrelevant. 

Ansel Adams was a great illusionist. When I look at his images I believe them, even though I know a lot of work went into the manipulation of the negative in the dark room. To me - this  is what photography is all about..

Let's break down Ansel's image into it's core parts:

lone-pine-dissection.jpg

Ansel's image can be broken down into four summary edits (I'm sure there were more, but these are the ones I see he has attempted), which I've illustrated above in different colours:

Image Analysis

Blue area:
The Sky. Which seems to have been printed with as little contrast as possible to try to reduce the brilliance / emphasis of the cloud at the far right of the picture. If the clouds had more contrast then they would be competing with the white mountain for attention, and ultimately, stealing a little bit of the mountain's main attention grabbing ability.

Orange area:
The snowy mountains and dark hill. This is the high-contrast area of the scene and the area that is the 'initial pull'. Although this area takes us into the picture, it is not the last thing our eye settles on.

Green area:
Ground area, a necessary part of the picture, because it gives us context, even though it adds little interest to the image.

Red area:
Forest & horse. The part of the image I consider the 'easter egg' - that special bit of surprise that you see after you've looked at the high contrast mountains.
 

 

Making the print

Let us now consider the image from how Ansel may have chosen to print / edit it. If I were to make a guess on what choices Ansel made, I would assume the following:

Blue area

He would have reduced the contrast here as much as he possibly could. His aim would have been to suppress that white cloud on the far right hand side of the image, so that it does not compete with the brilliance of the jagged mountain range. He wants the white mountain to be as bright as possible, and the only way to do that is to suppress bright tones elsewhere in the image. The key is - if you want something to be brighter, darken everything else around it. So I believe that Ansel has darkened the sky for two reasons: it makes the mountain appear brighter, and it also reduces the distraction of the cloud.

Orange area

This is the main part of the image: what we are really coming to look at. It is perhaps the most 'closest to reality part of the image',. The white snowy mountain had a lot of directional hard light on it and the shadows are sharply defined here. If the image had been made on a soft-light day, even by adding a lot of contrast the shadows would have still been very diffused. So I think it's fair to say it was a high-contrast day, and Ansel has let the mountains be what it is: a high contrast subject.

With regards to the dark curvy hill, my guess is that it is impossible to put in a sudden separation in tone if there was none in the negative. So I would assume that the hill was dark, or underexposed, but by burning further in, Ansel has allowed the dark nature of the hill to become more prominent.

Green area

The contrasts in this part of the frame need to be kept under control so that the eye goes straight to the mountains and secondly to the horse. So Ansel has had to finely balance the ground so that it's not too dark or or light: not too dominant in either way: it needs to be wallpaper to a degree so the eye can scan over it and not get stuck in there.

Red Area

This is the 'easter egg' of the picture. It's the 'surprise element' that you only see after you have been drawn to the mountains upon first viewing. 

For this part of the print, Ansel has chosen to dodge the surrounding area around the horse, to give the illusion that the sun is highlighting the are where the horse is. To do this he has deliberately avoided exposing the paper at this region to lighten up the forest, but he has also had to make sure that the horse stays very dark even though he is dodging. I think he would have altered contrasts here to accomplish that.

 

In summary

This image is really about two subjects. The primary one is the mountain range of extreme highlights and dark tones contrasting with each other. The secondary subject is the horse. It's what you see after you eye has moved away from the mountain range.

To accomplish this, Ansel has darkened down a good proportion of the image and left two subjects to be as bright as naturally possible: the white mountains and the area around the horse. He has masterfully orchestrated our eye to initially be attracted to the brightness and contrasts of the white mountain and dark hill, and then to move straight to the horse in the lower part of the frame. Everything else has either been darkened or had contrast removed so the viewers eye does not get pulled away from the main areas of interest in the picture.

It is a masterpiece of editing skill and it always amazes me when I look at it.

Editing is indeed a skill. It is a life-long endeavour to search for the underlying meaning in our work and to bring it out. Sometimes to emphasise certain areas of the picture, we need to reduce surrounding areas by a large degree to let the areas we are interested in stand out. This image is a great example of that.

 

 

 

Flow or Force? Which is it to be?

I feel I've hit a creative slump right now. But I know that this is perfectly natural. No one can be 100% creative all of the time, and as with everything, there is aways an ebb and a flow.

Which makes me think about how I deal with my basic happiness in my creative pursuits. Many years ago, any creative slump would have been very unwelcome. I feared it. But I have come to accept and indeed embrace these moments because I now realise that are needed pauses in the creative process. Sometimes these 'slumps' are really periods of growth in their own way; although no work is generated, I'm sure there are things going on in my subconscious. I often feel that there are pauses before something new is to come through.

I have come to know that with creativity, it is best to not ask too much of it. To have expectations is to suppress an energy that has its own path. You can try to steer the river in a different direction but it is wasted energy that will only cause you frustration and delay the inevitable natural course that it is on.

 Finding flow in the landscape Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil, 2018 Image © Bruce Percy 2018

Finding flow in the landscape
Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil, 2018
Image © Bruce Percy 2018

One of the biggest problems I see in our modern lives is the need to have immediate resolution. There is a need to fix our problems immediately, a need to know how they will pan out.

I would say ‘not knowing the answer’ is a great place to be. Rather than feeling the unease of not knowing what the outcome will be, I am now aware that when I am at this point: anything is possible, and it's very inspiring to know that there are lots of possibilities.

For me, I have come to realise that ‘trying to know the answer’, is just to force things when they're not ready to be concluded. Creativity as in life, has a way of flowing where it wants to go, and our task is to trust it and become comfortable with uncertainty. Everything has a way of following towards a natural conclusion - in it's own time. To rush it, is to force it and to wreck with natural advancement.

We have to trust. Control is an illusion and it just gets in the way. To trust, we have to surrender and let creativity take us where it feels it must. Indeed, I have found that when I go where life is guiding me, then things tend to go from strength to strength. If it feels good then you can't go wrong with that. If it's moving and flowing, then you're on the right path. If you are constantly hitting barriers or obstacles, then you are most probably forcing it and you should re-evaluate what it is that you're doing. Either it's not right, or the timing is off and you need to wait. I often find that waiting allows things to come forward and show me the way forward *when the time is right*.

Creative anxiety - the feeling you're not getting what you want, or that things aren't happening the way you want them to - is another way of *forcing it*. It is another example of you trying to control things. You have to surrender and let your creativity show you where it wants to go.

Similarly, trying to outdo yourself is not the way forward either. Your creativity naturally fluctuates. Some days we will create bad work, other days we will create good work. This means nothing except that your creativity has an ebb and a flow. So measuring yourself against your last great work is folly.

The key is to listen - when something good comes, we tend to know it, and this is when we run with it. When it’s not working, rather than being dejected or downbeat about it, just know that this period of what feels like 'going nowhere' is more like reconnaissance. You are just surveying, experimenting, testing things out. All good ideas often come when you least expect them, from things that start off as small ideas that lead to big ones. Just don't assume that your less successful work has no point to it: all of your work - either good or bad matters - it all contributes to where you are going, so long as you are willing to let it flow where it wants.

You need to print to Verify your edits

I'm just home from my first printing workshop. We had a great time and as much as workshops are there to teach my participants, I always learn a lot too. No one's learning is ever complete.

At the start of the week I explained to my group that although having a tightly calibrated / profiled monitor that matches what we see in print is something we strive for: it is not ideal. The truth is, that the only way to verify what we have in our files is to print. I am not alone in knowing that even with a highly profiled monitor I can be mislead. It is only the print that is honest: it shows me what is right and also what is wrong. Errors that I did not see on the monitor become evident in the print, and once I return to the monitor to check if they were there also, I see they were there all along.

The great American photographer Charlie Cramer has often said that 'computer monitors have their own reality distortion field. The more you look at them, the more your eye adapts. The only way to see what is really in your file is to print'.  I'd sure love to attend one of Charlie's workshops sometime. He is someone I have heard consistently great things about: he sounds like a great teacher.

The thing about profiling computer monitors is that you can't trust the software. It is always 'aiming for the target you set, but often finding out that it can't reach it'. So when your calibration software says 'your monitor is calibrated', what it is often saying is this; 'I did my best'. There are a few reasons for this: firstly, depending on the monitor hardware, it may have a difficult time trying to reach the white-point and luminance levels you are asking for. I know my old Eizo lost shadow detail when I tried to calibrate it down to 100 candles. It was too low for the monitor.

I use BasICColour's Display 5 software. Below it shows you how 'close' it got to what I was aiming for (known as the delta). You can see that my colorimeter and software got very very close indeed. But this still only means that the software got close to what I aimed for. But you may be aiming for the wrong result......

 BasICColour Display Calibration & Profiling software shows you just how much of a delta there was between what you aimed for, and what you got when you calibrated / profiled. You can see I chose a luminance of 100cdm, and the black point of the monitor can't reach absolute zero, so I've set it to what it's physically capable of reaching (0.26cdm). Even with this report showing me the delta, I still need a verification test proof to compare with my monitor: the only way to confirm your profiling is visually.

BasICColour Display Calibration & Profiling software shows you just how much of a delta there was between what you aimed for, and what you got when you calibrated / profiled. You can see I chose a luminance of 100cdm, and the black point of the monitor can't reach absolute zero, so I've set it to what it's physically capable of reaching (0.26cdm). Even with this report showing me the delta, I still need a verification test proof to compare with my monitor: the only way to confirm your profiling is visually.

You need to have something to verify against. Just because your software says 'I did it!', means nothing. If you are finding that your prints look warmer than your monitor, then you are probably using the wrong white-point setting. To find out what that should be, requires you compare your calibration with a day-light viewing booth. On the image below I have a daylight viewing booth (colour temperature is D50 - 5000K) and to match that, my computer monitor is around 5,800K. Each monitor will vary. Some may be higher in colour temperature while others may be lower. Just because I asked my calibration software to reach D65 (6,500K) means it is only a target it is aiming for. In truth, D65 on a monitor is far to cool.

You can't trust the numbers, only the visual inspection. That means iterating around the profiling / calibration software looking for a white-point that matches a viewing target. Once you find that colour temperature for your monitor, you now have a place to evaluate your prints.

 Even though my monitor is tightly profiled and calibrated to match my GTI viewing booth, I still see errors in the final print that were actually present in the monitor representation. I now feel I still have to learn to 'interpret' what my monitor is telling me, and not to trust it too much.

Even though my monitor is tightly profiled and calibrated to match my GTI viewing booth, I still see errors in the final print that were actually present in the monitor representation. I now feel I still have to learn to 'interpret' what my monitor is telling me, and not to trust it too much.

Once I have my monitor showing a close representation of what is under my viewing booth may I evaluate my prints. And this is where the fun begins: this is when you will find tonal distractions, colour casts and other distractions in the final print that you 'thought' weren't on your monitor. Looking back at your monitor to review, you will find they were there all along. 

The human eye is highly adaptable. One thing I have learned is that my visual system is constantly trying to lie to me. Monitors only get me so far. I have to print to verify what I think is in the file. Even if the calibration and profiling of my monitor closely represents what is on print.

I'd go one step further by adding in what Charlie Cramer has to say about the printing process:

"Poor images can look great on a monitor but will always look bad in print. Whereas great prints always look great on a computer monitor"

Your images aren't complete until you've printed them, and then further optimised them.

You have to print.