February 11, 2006

Losing my edge... getting it back.

I've taken maybe ten thousand photographs since I first got a digital camera in March 2004, but I had never printed a single one. Has anyone else ever gone so long without printing anything? (Once someone printed one for me.) I finally chose a few to have printed through Flickr. They arrived in the mail, I looked at them and was nauseated by how dead they looked. I was horrified. I finally accessed the rational part of my mind and could ask: Did they trim off the edges? I went to my Flickr page and looked at the originals. Yes, they'd trimmed off the edges -- not much, but enough to wreck the meaning of every picture for me. I am appalled by the insulting assumption that a photographer is just looking at the center of the picture and does not frame a composition and carefully place things at the corners and edges. What I have here is a despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper.


Meade said...

Send them back with a copy of this post. Tell them you want your money returned.

(verification word: beburn[ed?])

Ann Althouse said...

No. They did them in a normal way. It would be like sending back your cheeseburger for not being a steak. They didn't cheat me. They just behaved in the conventionally inadequate way.

I don't demand my money back at the movies because the frame is curved (although I did once demand my money back because there was a visible black line down the center of the screen). (It's the large screen at Hilldale, for you Madisonians. A ridiculous screen, where some of the best movies are shown. Fortunately, they are tearing it down soon.)

Dave said...

"They just behaved in the conventionally inadequate way."

It occurs to me that you are looking to photography to be an art form. Flickr's business depends on the assumption that most people are looking for snapshots--the digital equivalent of point and click throwaway analog cameras.

Their business model likely does not mesh with the aesthetic ideals you are looking for.

In many ways, it seems that your experience with Fllicker mirrors your experience with Hollywood movies: both industries tend to address a customer base at odds with what you're looking for.

One option may be to burn your pictures on a CD or DVD and take them to a photo lab.

Robert Burnham said...

Most snapshooters focus entirely on the subject in the center of the image. In fact, optical viewfinders of most cameras don't show the full frame. Manufacturers know their main customers.

Given how few photos it seems you print, the best solution is to find a photolab that will deliver full-frame prints. Either that, or you will have to go out and buy a photo printer to make sure that each image is printed the way you want.

One big advantage these days is that a digital darkroom is less expensive (and a lot smaller!) than the old-style wet darkrooms were. (A drawback to that for some is the loss of technique and craft.)

If you're taking images that make use of the full frame, you've crossed out of the snapshooter's universe. Sounds like you should be making your own prints.

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meade said...

"No... They just behaved in the conventionally inadequate way"

Okay, but if I'm the proprietor of the burger joint where you order the cheeseburger and you are my customer who is not satisfied for ANY reason at all, you would be doing me a favor by giving me your honest feedback, whether it's reasonable or not, giving me the opportunity to find something I could do that would not have you walking out of my establishment dissatisfied.

Sissy Willis said...

I print my own -- when I DO print, which is only occasionally -- for Xmas cards and various custom cards of one sort of another from time to time:

What Americans want

FYI, I use Kodak Ultima Picture Paper and my clunky old Canon Multipass MP700 for sparkling results.

reader_iam said...

What a disappointment! I can imagine how sickened you must have been.

I know you're trying to get RID of things, not acquire them, but you really may want to invest in equipment to print your own. You can get relatively small all-in-ones which can print regular copies and photos and handle scanning, too.

I really, really resisted this hard when my husband urged this route. Boy, was I wrong, and he right.

Christian said...

I have a buddy who's a semi-professional photographer, and he uses www.ezprints.com. The photos come out looking great; when my parent's took the Christmas gift I got them to be framed, the people at the shop raved about the 8x10 print.

PatCA said...

What a shame. Maybe you could change your preferences, if such a thing is possible?

Art said...

I don't use a digital camera but I know that the aspect ratio of a photographic print isn't the same as the original negative. I suspect that's the case here. You're used to seeing the digital equivalent of a contact sheet.
The people who posted about full frame prints are correct, but I've never heard of any shops offering that (other than custom operations) with conventional negatives, either. Most people don't want the white borders that would result.

sonicfrog said...

Off Topic. Through a friend's blog, I just found a another wonderfull blog

AJD said...

"What I have here is a despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper."

Because they trimmed the edges off a little bit?!

Wow. Sounds like we actually what have is a wild, hysterical overreaction.

lindsey said...

Ann, I really think you should complain and get your money back. You asked them to print some photos for you, but they didn't. They actually changed the photos you wanted. They didn't give you the photos you asked to have printed. I don't understand what's wrong with sending back a cheeseburger if you asked for a steak. You asked for one thing and they literally gave you something else. If you go to a deli and order a pound of Havarti cheese, but they give you a pound of Swiss, don't you point out to them they've given you the wrong cheese?

lindsey said...

shadow, there's nothing hysterical about it. As a photographer, chopping off the edges can mean the difference between a great photo or a mediocre photo. Imagine if someone chopped the hands off the bottom of the Mona Lisa. Hey, it's only a couple inches. Don't overreact.

Mike Lief said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Lief said...

Costco.com has a good on-line service.

According to professional photographers like Ken Rockwell, the pros use Costco all the time, for reasons stated in an article on photo printers here and an essay on the merits of film versus digital here.

Ken says, "I get my digital prints made at Costco and they look stunning. Mark the Costco bag "Print as-is. No corrections" and your prints will look like your screen, so long as you've left your camera in its default sRGB mode."

I've been happy with the prints I've made there, too, based on Rockwell's advice. And they're CHEAP, too.

Rockwell's site is well worth a visit for his many technique-related articles.

And no, I'm not a friend of his. I just find him to be extremely knowledgable and -- so far -- usually right.

Ann Althouse said...

As far as asking for my money back, there's no way this could beworth it for me. It didn't cost much, and it's trouble to write out a demand for a refund. (As opposed to writing a blog post, which is fun!)

"Wow! Sounds like we actually what have is a wild, hysterical overreaction." Wow! Sounds like we have a reader who doesn't get the blog called Althouse.

Henry said...

Mike, thanks for the suggestion. I'm amazed that (most) digital photo printers have yet to offer 3:4 prints to match common digital cameras.

After receiving first batch of badly cropped pictures from Snapfish, I prepare most pictures myself in Photoshop. I either crop according to my own preference, or I drop the 3:4 image onto a 4:6 canvas (or 5:7) and trim the excess after its printed.

thefewandtheplenty said...

"What I have here is a despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper"
Hasnt anyone wondered what in the world was in these margins that was so important. I mean...if those edges were so important why not make them the center of the picture and leave out the "inspidid disgusting" center?

These self parody posts are funny for a little while but then they get old.

JimK said...

If you want to start printing your own...I would lay down my life for the Canon PIXMA 950. The image quality is simply astounding, and I have total control over the appearance.

I have NEVER seen a printer like this, and I have owned about 15 of them in the last 7 years.

Squiggler said...

I got my first digital camera for Christmas in 1999, a Kodak. It was stolen and I replaced it with a Nikon. My daughter-in-law has a slightly higher grade model Cannon. I don't think I've ever printed anything taken with any of these cameras, except a Christmas letter one year that I did for my Mother and included some shots of her. I've thought about buying the printer dock that fits my camera, but couldn't figure out how to justify the money for so little need as good quality photo paper in my laser printer seems to do a satisfactory job.

My Mother was the photographer in our family, always looking for that artistic or unusual shot. I don't have that good an eye for composition and my final shot is never what I'd hoped or thought it would be.

Chris O'Brien said...

thefew said:
"These self parody posts are funny for a little while but then they get old."

Spare me. I enjoyed the post.I don't even wanna think about whatever "despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper" there are in your house contain.

Hollywood Freaks said...

I have a co-worker who is very serious about photography. One time, out of convenience he had the local supermarket quickly make him some slides of a couple of pictures. The lady working there took the liberty of cropping all of his pictures.

The worst part was when he refused to pay for them, she was insulted, because she thought she had done him a favor.

michael a litscher said...

As others have noted, there can be an aspect ratio issue when making prints.

If memory serves, you're using a Nikon D70, which generates 2000x3008 pixel pictures, which is very close to a 2:3 aspect ratio.

4x6 prints have the same aspect ratio. 5x7 do not, so some must be trimmed off in order to print full-bleed (edge to edge, with no borders). 8x10 has an aspect ratio that requires 2 whole inches to be lopped off (8x12 would have the correct aspect ratio, but they're oddballs).

Even when printing 4x6, in order to print full-bleed, the picture must be enlarged to the point that some of your picture gets trimmed off at the edges.

The cure to all this is to use your computer to crop the image to be printed to the aspect ratio you'll be printing at, and then add a white border to the image. Then, what little will get cropped off by the photo lab will be part of your white border.

The white border also makes mounting and framing your picture much easier as well, as you won't be hiding the edges of your picture under a matte - you'll be hiding your white border under the matte.

michael a litscher said...

The thing to keep in mind when composing your picture in your viewfinder is, if you intend on printing the shot at 8x10, zoom out a little so you won't loose the subject when it comes time to crop two whole inches off your image for printing.

If you do the cropping yourself, you can choose where those two inches come from. You may crop an inch off of either side, but more likely you'll crop more off of one side than the other.

thefewandtheplenty said...

'I don't even wanna think about whatever "despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper" there are in your house contain.'

Chris: You sound like a member of the Arab street.

Dale B said...

My camera takes pictures with a 1.33 aspect ratio, essentially the same as my computer screen. This won't fit on standard print sizes without either cropping or leaving unexposed bands on the top/bottom or sides depending on the print dimensions. Below are the standard print sizes most places use.

print aspect
4x6 1.50
5x7 1.40
8x10 1.25

I usually take my pictures framed a bit larger than I really want. Before I have my pictures printed, I crop them myself (on my computer) to the proper aspect ratio for the print that I'm ordering. I also turn off automatic color correction. I do the color adjusting, filtering, etc. myself. I use Costco and they allow no color adjustment as a processing option.

This way the person operating the printing machine has less opportunity to mess things up.

Chum said...

For me, the point of using a digital camera is so that I can play around with the framing and cropping myself, then I print how I want. I don't even have a 'photo' printer, just a good quality Canon, as I've found the quality of the printing largely depends on paper quality.

I've been thrilled with the results. Some I sent to my office computer, a laser color, to print very large copies.

AJD said...

I am embarrassed to admit that I fell for this. Temporarily.

I really thought you were serious. But then my rational mind started working again and I realized that a grown person could not possibly throw this kind of tantrum over something so little.

I guess my irony detector is off a little today. I really thought you were serious. But obviously, a distinguished law professor wouldn’t take such a huge deal out of something so small.

Silly me!!!

lindsey said...

If you intend to matte and frame your picture, depending on the pic, having a black border around the edges makes the picture pop out more.

Reading about all the people with digital cameras makes me sad. I love printing black and white in a dark room and can only imagine as I get older that such activity will be looked at as some sort of horse and buggy weirdness.

Steven A. Stehling said...

You can upload the pictures to Walgreens, have them printed at a store near you and pick them up. Or you could have them mail them to you. I know people that do this and they haven't complained about the service.

HaloJonesFan said...

Ann: Just turn comments off. Just do it. You've gotten yourself on the shit lists of both LGF and DailyKos. Why fight it? Just submit to the censorship of the trolls.

reader_iam said...

Why fight it? Just submit to the censorship of the trolls.

Because then they win. And they don't behave like winners.

Ann Althouse said...

Halo: LOL. It's the mystery of why people who don't like the blog read it. That mystery got old quite some time ago.

W said...


W said...

These are pics of where i goes to smoke dope and masterbates.

Barry said...

Ann, you got what you paid for.

For high quality prints, invest in some photo editing software (I like Photoshop 7.0), burn your edited images to a CD-R, and take them to a professional photographic service bureau. A good lab will return exhibition-quality prints.

Christopher Tyler said...

Some online photo services do provice a 4:3 print ratio. I use snapfish, and they will actually suggest 4x3 prints when you upload a digital photo in that ratio. Then I don't have the crop problems either.

Sigivald said...

TheFewAndThePlenty said: I mean...if those edges were so important why not make them the center of the picture and leave out the "inspidid disgusting" center?

Because the middle is inspid and disgusting only without the edges, and the edges themselves are not that hot as the mere center of a photograph?

I invite you to contemplate the idea of composition and its interaction with aesthetics.

(Me, this next week is vacation time, and I'll be using a few rolls of 120 film in a 6x6 medium format camera. And I'll assure you that the best compositions are not always (or even usually) those with one interesting thing dead-center.)