Jonathan Penney has produced thousands of competition prints over the last 25 years. Here, he offers his top reasons for why you should consult an expert when it comes to creating competition prints (like for WPPI's Print Comp!).
1) They understand the tools of the process: Printers, ink and paper
Knowledge of the process gives the printmaker insight into what critical adjustments must be made to the file to be sure that the final print accurately reproduces what the photographer envisioned. The master printmaker is able to assess the image on the monitor and knows what corrections are necessary so the intended story plays out under competition viewing conditions.
2) They understand paper characteristics, and what images work best on particular papers
Choosing a paper appropriate to the style and tonality of the image can make a big difference in the final presentation; a master printmaker understands how a particular image will respond to printing on a specific paper and can make the appropriate recommendations.
When it comes to creating competition prints, like for WPPI's Print Comp, it's definitely worth consulting an expert. Photo © Gerard Tomko
3) They have experience with presentation/mounting materials and styles
The printed image will benefit greatly from a presentation that enhances the image without overpowering it, as well as being masterfully assembled to withstand the rigors of handling during the judging process. A master printmaker can provide insights on the best choices.
4) They have a depth of knowledge about what makes for a winning print
Decades of competition printmaking and working with thousands of images gives the master printmaker insight into which images make for strong contenders in competition and those that may be “weak” or have particular technical, stylistic or compositional failings.
Photo © Roger Mathis
5) They have an artistic vision to collaborate with the photographer in creating powerful imagery
A master printmaker understands that a strong story is the key to a winning print, and can consult with the photographer on techniques that will help in telling the story in a compelling way with both impact and style. Most printmakers possess the post-processing skills to make the necessary adjustments.
6) Most importantly: They save the busy photographer time and money
Fussing with printers, keeping up on ICC profiles and dealing with clogged nozzles is something the master printmaker is used to dealing with, but can eat up hours of the photographer’s time. Stocking papers, inks and mounting materials is expensive and time consuming, but part of the everyday routine for the printmaker.