Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Season of Show Entries - Part II


Maybe Santa could bring you one of these for Christmas.
(clip art from Graphics Fairy)



Last week I wrote an article on the topic of standardization for entries into competitive shows. I received an email from Ohio artist Shelley Brenner Baird relating to taking better digital images and a comment from Christine Mauersberger, another Ohio Artist, specifically concerning jpeg files, that I want to share. I have also decided to write to the venues who sponsor shows I have entered during the past few years requesting consideration of standardization for entries. I am giving names and addresses at the end of today's posting and I invite you to write them or any others who might lend an ear.

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Email Relating to Standardization

I have been thinking about this topic as well. The lack of a standardization (relating to image preparation ) makes you wonder what is happening at the viewing end of our work. For example, Ohio Arts Council wants resolution at 72, constraining and resampling, under 2 M. I have observed these images projected in a large room and they look fine. Other venues want 300 and it is suggested not to resample. The sizes required vary from 3" to 15". File sizes range from 2-5 Ms. Another pet peeve I have is the use of dpi when that is a printing designation and it should be ppi.

The first problem is that we do not know if all of the jurying is done as projection or if there is computer screen viewing first. (Which of course leads to all sorts of color calibration issues.) It is difficult to assess the quality of our projected images unless we have access to a projector (which is an expensive item). All of the images look fuzzy when zoomed on the computer screen, but appear sharp when projected.

The other issue is that the camera is not the human eye. (I have a MA in photography - from the film era). It is confusing to me why when there are object juries we can not use photo-editing to make our work appear as it does in person. There is also the fact that if you look at your work in different light (gallery vs home vs studio vs outside) it appears different each time. The camera may not record high contrast objects well (due to the light metering). Is bracketing your shots allowed? It appears as biased exposure when the file is opened in some programs. What does that mean to the jury? Digital photography is NOT complete at the camera stage. And in the days of film, filters were used as well as film processing adjustments (pushing the film, etc.).

So I feel that I have to submit work that is untouched, but not the best or most accurate representation of my work. Keeping that in mind, I did look at my work projected and this is how I got the best results in Photoshop Elements (It is ok to use editing for cropping and resizing ONLY.)

Open file, save as TIFF.
Crop.
Image- resize-image size
Change to 300 ppi NO resampling.
Left inches as is or adjusted them if they exceeded rules - did not increase size.
Save as JPG - usually had to select quality 10 or the file was over 5 M.

If you look at http://www.zapplication.org or http://www.callforentry.org you will find another important aspect that is discussed - format equalization. The projected format is horizontal, therefore it you have a vertical or square image your work appears smaller then the horizontal pieces. Rather than explaining it here, if you look at their examples it will be clear.

Make sure you make a duplicate of the original so if you need that file for another entry you do not have a problem with quality loss with subsequent changes. Once you have selected the image you want to use it may be helpful to rename it as "final" but include the file number so that you can find the original file. Then duplicate that and rename as necessary.

As for background color - it is easy for a publisher to change a black background to white - if you are viewing projected images in a properly darkened room (no ambient light please) black backgrounds allow the objects to float in space beautifully without a white or gray "frame" around the image. And if we cannot make "tint" adjustments often the white background appears to be pale blue or pink.

Shelley Brenner Baird

Thank you Shelley. Now let's hear from Christine.

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Excellent Explanation of JPEG Files.....It's Scary!

Excerpt from Comment posted by Christine Mauersberger: A JPEG; JPG is the abbreviation for Joint Photographic Experts Group. This group defined the standard for file compression. It is a common file name for bitmapped images (i.e. photographs).

A jpeg is a compressed file and are referred to as a "loosy" (meaning some data may be irretrievably lost). Imagine a rake running through your image with each time you save the jpg. It will remove tiny pixels here and there. It's removing what the program thinks you don't need to be able to see while making the file neat and tidy and small enough to send via email or to use on webpages.

Usually you'll find someone asking for a 72 pdi (dots per inch) jpeg to be used on the internet or to be used to project onto a screen.

You can save jpeg files that are large enough and nice quality for print reproduction. (so don't get upset if someone wants a 300 dpi jpg for print, it'll work just fine.)

The caveat is this: More quality is lost every time the JPEG file is compressed and saved again, so editing and saving a JPEG image over and over again is not recommended. Example: if you open a jpe and rename it for show A, then open it again and rename it for show B and so on, it'll continue to lose data.

How to resolve this issue, if you need to save files and give them different names each time? You should retain a high resolution TIF file as a permanent archived record of your images.

A TIFF or TIF is the abbreviation for Tagged Image Format. It is a popular file format for scanned and photographed high resolution images. It will not lose data.

Tiff files don't degrade. Jpegs do with each save. Not each time you close the file, but each time you SAVE the file.

If you're in the habit of opening your jpeg file, naming it, then tweaking the color or removing a smudge, or ropping it to tighten-up the edges and doing this repeatedly, it is better to discard the old JPEG file and start over from your archived TIFF master file saving that change as the new JPEG copy you need.

Thank you Christine. That's great information and gives me a totally different understanding of what a jpeg file is and how it operates.

***



Shelley recommended the following book:

Digital Essentials: the quilt makers must - have guide to digital images, files and more! by Gloria Hanson.

I have ordered the book but have not read it so at this point I can not recommend it from personal experience.



Here are the people and places I am writing in regards to the issue of standardization:

Donna Lamb, Executive Director (Quilts=Art=Quilts)
Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center
205 Genesee Street
Auburn, New York 13021

Kathleen Dawson, Quilt National Director (Quilt National)
The Dairy Barn Arts Center
8000 Dairy Lane
Athens, Ohio 45701

Nancy Campbell, Executive Director (Art Quilt Elements)
The Wayne Arts Center
413 Maplewood Ave.
Wayne, Pa. 19087

Sally Newkirk, Director
The Carnegie Center for Art & History (Form Not Function)
201 East Spring Street
New Albany, Indiana 47150

Gayle Pritchard, Curator (Artist As Quiltmaker)
Artist As Quiltmaker
Firelands Association for the Visual Arts
39 South Main Street
Oberlin, Ohio 44074

Charlotte Byrd, President ( Quilt Visions)
Vision Art Gallery
2825 Dewey Road Suite 100
San Diego, Ca. 92106

You can find a link to the letter I am sending under Pages at the top left of this page.

What do you think? What experiences have you had preparing entries for shows? How would you like to see show entry procedures change or are things working for you as they are? I love hearing from you and thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7.



18 comments:

  1. Terry, thanks for both of these articles on show entries. Thanks, also, to both Shelley and Christine. This is good practical information to know. I've made copies of the TIFF to JPEG procedure (for my own use!) so I can maintain better picture quality. I never knew how or why the JPEG images degraded, so I'm happy to have that explained - it makes sense now. The other question that I still don't understand is how an organizer can know if you have done a color or contrast correct. I'm not trying to cheat when I do that, but I want the work (hopefully) to look the way I see it in person. How can they tell if you've done that? Gloria Hansen's book is a great basic guide and I keep it by my computer for every time I do my entries. I'm not savvy enough to remember all the details between entries, and Gloria is a real expert! I know there are always new things to learn - used to be slide photography, now digital imaging - but I confess to feeling overwhelmed with it sometimes. It can take me several hours to get an entry done, and *that* does NOT make me feel very smart!! I have one to do today, so off I go and I will be using the new information. Thank you!

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  2. Great info, Terry. Especially on the inherent problem with jpg files, which I have been using exclusively. Now I'll save the first image as a tiff, and go from there.

    My way of dealing with the nonstandardization of images issue, is simply to not enter any shows that have unusually stringent rules and regulations about what I'm doing with my images. I'm just not interested in playing that game.

    I used to spend tons of money having my jewelry designs professionally photographed, and in the end it never mattered -- others' bad work and poor images still got in to the same shows I applied to. Apparently, making fantastic work on its own merit wasn't good enough. And I feel the same way now with art quilting. If jurors want to exclude exceptional art because the images aren't the right size (or whatever), then it's their (and the show's) loss.

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  3. Dear Martha and Connie, Thank you very much for taking time to share your thoughts. I agree totally that all of this takes way too much time and that is one of the reasons I would appreciate some form of standard procedures put in place. My husband does my photography and god bless him for that. We have really had to dig to figure out what to do with my files and this discussion has definitely pointed out changes we need to make.

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  4. Martha, I failed to respond to one of your questions. How does anyone know if you have adjusted a file image? I know there is very sophisticated software that can identify that but I feel confident the shows are not using this. In all honesty, my gut feeling is that this issue of adjusting files is more about strengthening the gallery or museums right to reject work that does not conform to the slides that were sent in. You might ask someone from one of the venues this question.

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  5. Lark Books says they can tell if an image has been adjusted. Who knows! I do agree with you that it should be ok to make the image look like the actual piece. My new DSLR is fantastic. I am now getting images that do not need adjustment. I shoot after dark with no ambient light - just my photo lights aimed at the quilt.

    I like that you are taking this on!!

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  6. Thank you Gerrie for commenting. Happy to hear you are getting great results with your new camera. Ask Lark how they can tell. I think people would be interested....I know I would be.

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  7. Thanks to Shelley and Christine for their comments, and to you, Terry, for bringing up this issue. I do wish I could understand what we're talking about.

    One of the challenges in using advanced technology is to make it usable for lay people. I do not have Photoshop on my computer and the basic photo management program I have always used does not seem to have a lot of the bells and whistles Shelley refers to. Does this mean I'm aced out of the room for effectively dealing with my own art? I hope not. Nor do I want to have to get an MA in photography to do so.

    Just start with Shelley's step one: "open file, save as TIFF." I don't think I can do that.

    You know I'm often crabby, and this kind of discussion is what helps make me that way. I would hate to think that after I have my quilts photographed by a professional (because I want to make quilts, not learn photography) I then have to hire a professional to process the images.

    Bottom line, I support standardization of images for juried shows. I do not believe that we need (or jurors need) to have the 1000% pure image quality or color fidelity that's necessary for high-end coffee table books or museum-quality photo prints. I wish that we could be judged more on our fiber art than on our photography skills.

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  8. Thank you Kathy. I understand your feelings about the issue of having to be a pro in the area of photography. I myself am a "point-and-shoot" girl.

    A computer isn't much without software and software isn't much without someone to use it who knows what it can do and what you are being asked to do. I think part of the frustration is "if you don't know what the options are you may not know you aren't doing a good job" or you think you are following the directions but you aren't. Perhaps we are not being asked to be "professional" photographers but if the sponsors of a show are suggesting you consider hiring a professional photographer, we are likely competing against artists who do.

    This discussion has cleared up several things for me specifically related to the camera we are using. We have located setting we are going to try which previously we thought unnecessary and the whole jpeg issue is much more important and complex than I had previously thought.

    As to how we are judged for the competitions, I agree that while we may not need "museum-quality" photos for the entries, the better the image - the more information jurors have to base decisions and that's what this is all about.

    As to my letters to the sponsors of shows, it is really a letter asking for clarification and some uniform standard which would make all of this a little simpler.

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  9. I too was struggling with this this last weekend. I am mollified to know that I really need to take a class I guess...and was just about ready to chuck the whole thing. While I understood the jpeg, tiff stuff, etc. and can understand the concern, I guess, that people "prettify" their quilts in the photographs (after all, most of us who are gardeners can attest that often the color enhanced images look nothing like the real plant), I was vastly annoyed when I shot my pieces for Lark books to see that what I saw in the viewfinder wasn't exactly as it came out and I didn't detect the issues on the small screen...only on the computer.

    I struggled with this, as somehow the border included the edge of my foam board which missed being covered with fabric. I took this to mean that I couldn't crop out the foam board and I also couldn't take the quilt layer out and put it against a black background. Which of course means that my photo isn't as good as others who are better digital photographers or who had them professionally shot.

    I was also at a loss to know how I could save as a .tif file when it automatically downloaded from the camera as a .jpeg...and when I tried to save it as a tiff, something went terribly wrong and the shots were gone.

    One comment I can make, is that I noticed that some of the smaller venues are making a compilation of the rules garnered from larger shows, sometimes not understanding that what they were asking was contradictory.

    I regretted not sending mine in to be professionally shot, but I'm afraid my pockets aren't deep enough to pay the $50 per image that it would have cost me to shoot them. :(

    The problem is enhanced by the fact that it seems like the venues are using the submittal shots rather than shooting their own images for any publication purposes (catalogs, etc.) which accompany the show.

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  10. Dear Michigoose, You are expressing the exact concerns I spoke and you are definitely aren't alone. Please write the venues I have listed and express your concerns. This isn't a rant. These are legitimate concerns. Let me know if you write and if you receive a response. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  11. Hi Terry,
    Thanks for tackling a confusing and frustrating topic. I applaud your drive to standardize the photo format for submission. Having been on both sides of this I amazed at how bad photographs can be and at the same time frustrated by my attempts to get the best shot of my work. My conclusion is that all of us are grappling with understanding newer technology with varying degrees of comprehension and success.

    I have my work photographed by a professional commercial photographer. We have hacked away at this for years at times I'm sure he has been as frustrated with me as I have been with him as we work to refine the process. Although all the guidelines say don't alter the photograph any professional photographer who is any good will tell you that if you want the shot to represent the quilt you see you will have to make some adjustments. This is the most tricky part because it is all about the color correction and all monitors are not calibrated the same. Having watched the jury process what the jurors want is the photo to look like the quilt so there are no surprises when the work arrives to be hung. This is why you want your photo to represent your work as accurately as possible complete with any exposed hanging apparatus of what the piece will look like when exhibited.

    Of course what makes it more complicated as you point out Terry is whether the work is judged on a monitor or projected it would be very helpful to know that at the very least.

    I do think we need to make the effort to understand at least the concepts behind the photography. You don't want to leave your work subject to photograph interpretation by the juror when you have maybe FIVE seconds before that juror. In the larger shows that's all the time you get the first round. You need to grab their attention to make the cut. If you have a bad photograph that gives them a reason to cut you right away.

    So what do I do? I listen to Tom we work together he shoots we look at the monitor we adjust we take another shot etc. etc. etc. It is time consuming not inexpensive but he is a pro I am lucky to have the resources and I think it is important. As much work as it takes to make a quilt I do not intend to blow my chance of acceptance with mediocre or bad photography and I want my work to look as polished and professional as possible. I tell him what the requirements are for the submission he will re-size if another show has different requirements but I am working towards understanding this better myself so I can re-size with confidence.

    It's rather like anything in art it is a process and Gloria Hanson's book is a wonderful reference.
    Thanks again for taking this on.

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  12. Thank you Penny for your insightful and informative comment. Your point concerning the split-second decisions jurors are sometimes asked to make is well taken. They have to make decisions based on what they see and not what they think they see or hope they see. While I do not use a professional photographer, my husband and I follow somewhat the same procedure you described you use to get the best shot and it can be maddening. Our work is surprisingly difficult to document correctly.

    The second point that struck me was one that Kathy Loomis mentioned as well. The sponsors of the shows are grappling with the new technology just as the artists. My hope is that our show/competition sponsors discuss this and arrive at some informed and agreed upon format and standard. One which can be used widely until an improved one can be formulated and so on. I certainly don't have the knowledge or understanding to suggest exactly what this might be, but I feel confident there are people out there who could point us in the right direction. Thank you again.

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  13. Wow, this is quite a subject, Terry. I am really surprised to see that people working in fiber are not allowed to adjust their images for some shows. Painters and sculptors do not have this issue. I have never seen a show mention anything about adjustments - only specify size and resolution.

    One helpful hint for basic digital photographers is to buy Photoshop Elements. You can get this software via Amazon.com for around $75. The only part you need to use is the resizing where you can adjust both the resolution and size and save as a tiff or jpg. Here is where you change a big jpg that comes from the camera into a smaller tiff. I actually taught an editing session for artists where I reduced the editing process to 5 steps (one of which was adjusting the brightness and contrast - a very necessary step IMHO). Good luck on solving this problem.

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  14. Thank you Nancy for your great information. I find it very interesting that the shows you enter do not have these restrictions and we have them very consistently. I have no explanation for the guidelines but I welcome change. I'd love to read about all of your editing process. Sounds like a good topic for your blog. If you decide to share that info I'll be sure and mention the article here and on FB.

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  15. David Walker is another person with great camera knowledge and time spent as a judge. He recommends white or gray as a background. Always follow the rule that you can shrink but not enlarge an image. If you have a 72dpi image you cannot make it 300dpi and have crisp detail. Thanks for the subject matter.

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  16. Thank you Mary Ann. That is another great point. I just received my copy of Digital Essentials and hope to be able to report on the book soon.

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  17. Terry, it is so interesting that this subject came up today on the Artdigest list. I have spent most of the day on the computer getting an entry ready to email. I had to send three emails because the size they requested were to large to send in one or two emails.

    In my former life I was a photographer but when cameras went digital I decided that I would not invest my money or time learning more than using a point and shoot camera. I am working on learning PhotoShop, and have learned a great deal, but there is an endless amount of things to learn. I pick and choose.

    Needless to say it would make our life easier if we could have standardized forms. Thanks for tackling this issue.

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  18. Hi MarIlyn! That is very interesting! I did not know you were a photographer.

    Isn't it amazing that you have the huge body of knowledge that is not necessarily transferable to the new technology....I spent the last 12 years of my working life sitting in front of a computer working with digital images and that allowed me to learn photoshop and something about the computer. I am so glad for this because the best way to learn something is to have a NEED. Well we definitely have a need. The more I have heard from other artists the more convinced I am that standization is the way to go. Thank you for commenting and please come again.

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