“Hope For The Best And Plan For The Worst”

You hear that a lot in South Florida every hurricane season.  It, like most slogans and sound bites, is meant for people with simple minds and simple plans.  Since “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”poem & translation, real-life planners and leaders need to do more than just hope.  They should routinely have backup plans allowing for success as well as initial failure, and they regularly update those plans as situations unfold.

With that in mind, we just applied for enough art festivals to finish up the season, even as we contemplate the need to cancel another festival next week (this morning’s surgery went pretty well, but it’s too early to know how long the recovery will take).  Stay tuned.

Our New Technique For Signatures & Titles

It was only five months ago that we changed our philosophy on printing titles and signaturesblog.  I just came up with another way to make our titles and signatures that’s even easier to adjust and stealthier than the way we have been doing it.  It turns the text into a mask for a curves adjustment layer.

Previous Title Technique
Previous Title Technique
New Title Technique
New Title Technique

Here is how it’s done –

To Make A Signature Mask

  1. On a separate layer, make a black signature the size, font, orientation, and location you need it to be. See Creating & Using A Signature File To Add A Signature To Your Photographs.
  2. In the Layers panel, hide all layers except for the signature layer. Select the signature layer.
  3. In the Channels panel, select the RGB channel (the red, green, and blue channels should also be highlighted). Hit the “Load channel as selection” button at the bottom of the panel.
  4. Return to the Layers panel.  Click Select ⇨ Inverse.
  5. Create a new Curves adjustment layer. Call it “Signature Curves” or something. The layer mask will also be created. The mask should be black everywhere with a white signature.
  6. Select the adjustment icon on the same layer (to the left of the mask). Click somewhere in the middle of the adjustment curve (on the histogram) and drag it either up (to make the signature lighter) or down (to make it darker) to taste.

For more complicated backgrounds, you may want to start by lifting the little square at the end of the curve in the lower left corner of the histogram until there is enough contrast in the darkest sections, then use the on-image adjustment tool (the little hand icon with the finger pointing left just above the three eyedroppers) and adjust the curve for different regions by clicking on the signature in that region and dragging up (to lighten) or down (to darken). This may need some trial and error.

Another option for increasing the visibility of your signature in complicated backgrounds is to add a “Bevel & Emboss” to the signature.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.

  1. Double-click the adjustment layer to the right of the mask to bring up the Layer Styles window.
  2. Click to select “Bevel & Emboss”.
  3. Click OK.

See how that works for you.

Bevelled Title Technique
Beveled Title Technique
  1. You may want to delete the signature layer and leave the curves layer. Maybe not. I use this same technique for the title, which includes the number of the print. I keep the title layer (hidden, of course) so that I can just change the number itself each time without redoing all the formatting for the other components. Then I can go to Step 2.

That’s it.  Congratulations. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. Thanks.

Our New Philosophy On Printing Titles & Signatures

Like the print numbering rules, there is no consensus on where or how to sign photographs, and indeed there seems to be some controversy.  Some insist that putting one’s signature on the face of the photograph detracts from the image and should never be done (even though pre-photographers (a.k.a. painters) have done so for centuries).  We don’t agree with those critics.

It has long been our policy to print the title/description and location in the lower left corner of the image followed by the print number (when appropriate – read our numbering policy here). Nancy would sign the print in the lower right corner. Initially, Nancy would do all of this by hand in one of four colors (black, white, gold, or silver). Finding a good pen for this task has continually been a challenge. Because of that, she recently decided to add all of this information to the file electronically before printing. Besides improving print quality, it also expanded our color options by several million. Then we started using the same philosophy choosing a text color that is commonly used in selecting mats – picking one that would complement the subject.  Our policy has now evolved once again.

Now, in what could (erroneously) be seen as an attempt to please everybody, we’ve adopted a stealthier approach.  We base the text color on the color of the image around the text, lightened or darkened enough to be readable, but not obvious or distracting.  Achieving the correct shade is a balancing act between those two requirements – one that we will continue to struggle with.

This decision may not please everybody.  There is some concern about whether a photograph that is hand-signed has a greater value than one signed otherwise.  After careful consideration, we can’t say we’ve seen any evidence of this.  If there is such a benefit, then the fact that our Certificates of Authenticity are hand-signed may mitigate this concern (for the status of our certificates, click here).

Finally, I would like to point out that although this policy now represents standard practice, we are considerate of the needs of our customers and are perfectly willing to make adjustments to this policy for special orders.  We’ve already accommodated one customer who wanted the signature in its normal lower right corner position but preferred the title, etc. on the back of a large gallery-wrapped canvas print.  If you have any questions or special requirements, just let us know.

We’ve Changed Our Numbering System Again

What The Numbers Mean

Probably the only reason we number our prints is that some art festivals require it, based on the questionable belief that numbers add value by assuring the buyer that we are not flooding the market with that particular image and thus adversely affecting the buyer’s resale value.  Unfortunately, there are no standards (that I have found) on what the numbers represent.  Print numbers are usually expressed as a fraction, with the first number (the numerator, for those more mathematically inclined) indicating how many prints we have made so far and the second number (the denominator) representing a commitment to the maximum number of those prints that will ever be made.  I believe that for most photographers, citing historical reasons that no longer apply, the number pair only refers to prints of a particular image of a particular size, meaning that a number of 13/200 on a 12″ by 18″ print of a particular lighthouse picture means that you are looking at the 13th 12 x 18″ print made of that picture. The photographer may also have another 95 (of say 100) 16 x 24″ prints of the same image.  And after s/he sells just five more of those 16 x 24″ prints to reach the maximum promised, s/he may either start printing a slightly different size (maybe 18 x 27″) or make just enough changes to the image in post-processing to start the numbering all over again. To further game the system, some photographers also add a few artist proofs to the collection, while others have been known to hold back the first block of say ten numbers to sell at a theoretically higher price after they’ve hit their agreed print limit.

Furthermore, in the old days it was more practical to print in batches, so the denominator represented an actual number of prints on hand with the understanding that another batch couldn’t be made without great effort. Today prints can be made individually as needed, so the denominator is only a promise by the photographer to show some restraint.  Theoretically the smaller the denominator, the greater the value of the print, which means that the denominator has no other function than as a marketing ploy.  Based on that theory, there should be an ideal number of prints for each image to maximize the artist’s profits from the picture.  Unfortunately, there is no practical way for the starving artist to know what that ideal number is.  For some of them, this is like a game of blackjack, where it is important to guess as low as possible without going below the number of prints you are actually likely to sell (whatever that number might be).

How We’ve Done It

“In the beginning”, a few years B.C. (before canvas), we printed on an assortment of fine art and photo papers.   When we were required to add numbers, we decided that we would have just one numbering system for each image, regardless of size.  We set the maximum at 300 prints, and retroactively reserved numbers for everything we had already sold.  Although the note cards that Nancy makes by hand with a 3½ x 5″ image on the front are the same quality as the rest of our work, they were not included in the numbering system. When we started printing on canvas, we felt that it was different enough to justify its own number system.  When some festivals required a denominator of 250 or less, we acquiesced.

The New Rule

We are now simplifying.  We will merge the two number systems and will print no more than 250 copies of any image in any size* on any medium.  This means that for a particular image, if we’ve printed 12 on paper and 8 on canvas, our next print on either medium will be 21/250.  If or when we start offering acrylic or metal prints, they will still be part of the same numbering system.  How we handle the numbers that have already been issued is still under consideration.

* Note cards are still excluded. In fact, Nancy doesn’t generally sign or number anything smaller than about 11″ (although we still need to formalize that number).

Our New Glass (And Other Examples Of Our Evolving Standards)

We’ve always used Tru Vue glass, but early on changed from their Premium Clear Glass to Reflection Control (which means non-glare) glass because we found that the glare got in the way of our image enjoyment.  We’ve also found that the negative effects of non-glare that have been reported elsewhere were insignificant.  Typically that decision added about five dollars to the price of the picture (around 3%).

Now we have decided to move to Conservation Reflection Control glass.  Whereas the glass we have been using (both clear and non-glare) blocks about 45% of ultraviolet (UV) light, the Conservation glass blocks 99% of UV light, which should drastically reduce any fading of the image or mats.  This could increase the price of a picture about eight dollars (about 5%).  The other two types of glass and other options will still be available by special order.  For example, Tru Vue has Museum glass, which is truly amazing (check it out at a frame shop near you).  That, however, would add more than $30 to the cost of a picture (compared to Reflection Control glass).

This glass change is consistent with other changes we’ve made (but forgot to mention).  For example, we have also upgraded our mat board.  This decision was actually harder because it had more than just economic considerations.  Crescent Cardboard has several lines of mat board; their Decorative line, although not conservation quality, has a much wider selection of colors than their Select and higher quality (and price) lines.  The same goes for Bainbridge Matboards and the other brands we use.

Improvements have also been made in our backings and our papers.  We will continue to look for ways to give our customers the best value (without disregarding price).