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Jury Slide Lighting Issues
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From a Professional's Perspective
Larry Sanders Discusses Shooting Jury Slides

I work, basically, in a cave (no windows), never seeing the light of day for hours at a time so I tend to shoot at night when it doesn't make any difference. I could grow mushrooms. Control, control, and more control is the only way to get great results and get them repeatedly. Many people tell me that they couldn't handle the pressure of doing jury slides for artists. I find the best slides are a result that I get in collaboration between myself and the artist whose work I'm shooting in a very intense shooting session that often lasts for hours, from 2 to sometimes up to 10-12 hours.

I shoot with a minimum of 2 lights for most 2-D work and up to 8 or 9 lights with 3-D work. I use almost exclusively strobes and occasionally hot lights. Strobes take a little getting used to but I like the color consistency that I get with them and the power that they produce. Pottery I most often shoot with 3 lights and almost always use polarized light. It does tend to make it a little warmer but not necessarily uniformly over the color range. Reds and yellow get exaggerated. Of course these can be corrected digitally and that's great if what you are looking for is digital files. I would not shoot in a white tent as this masks the natural look of the glazes which are all important for potters and ceramicists. It gives it a white glazed over look. I know professional photographers who do shoot this way. I can spot their slides a mile away. It does make a shooting session go faster but it is a quality compromise. I don't like to make those compromises and I market my work as top quality jury slides of fine art and fine crafts, not almost top quality of fine arts and crafts.

I have done quite a few digital slides and have tried a variety of suppliers. I have not been happy with any of them. The argument could be made that digital slides are just good enough for jurying; however, promoters tend to use slides for promotions unknowing that they are digitally produced. The results are most often poor.

Digital slides, in my opinion, will never stand up to the comparison between first generation slide film and digital slides. They are not sharp and this is not a function of PS sharpening but the film recorder technology or lack of current technology and in my opinion will never be upgraded. The colors are inconsistent, blacks are often weak. I could go on and I find that making a great digital print and copying them as a piece of 2-d art onto camera original 35mm slide film of your choice is much, much, much better. When I go to a slide jury I can usually pick out the digital slides. They are like 2nd or 3rd generation dupes.

But don't get me wrong. I love digital. I just bought the D2X and am amazed with what it can do and the quality of it's images. I use it for proofing every 3-D job that I do to get the lighting down pat. And of course I use it when someone just wants digital files and no film. I also have an Nikon 4500 which I bought, mistakenly, for a studio backup digital and for a personal point and shoot. I find it more difficult to use than either my D1X or D2X so I rarely use it now and may sell it now that I have the new D2X.

The responsibility that artists give me when they send or bring in their work to my studio is not taken lightly. I not only have the responsibility to show the work in a manner that will let others understand it in a short period of time, I also have the physical responsibility to handle the work while it is in my studio and in shipment back to them so they don't get damaged. We all know how expensive good art is. However, things do happen.

I was recently shooting four marvelous deerskin handbags made by a prominent Native American artist. Leather can be a difficult medium to shoot. It absorbs light more than most fiber, it will shift colors unexpectedly due to the dyes used and at times it's more delicate than it appears.

As I was examining the bags I noticed that the front flap did not lie dead center over the body of the bag. So in my best photo perfectionist style, I used professional duck tape to hold the front flap centered over the body of the bag which is behind the flap. I shot this job over three days; Friday, Saturday and Sunday. When I received the film back from the lab on Monday and saw that the slides were perfect, I started to remove the tape holding the flaps in position. Well not so quick. The tape pulled the front layer of the delicate leather off and ruined two of the bags and left residue on the other two which could not be removed with any solvents. These are $500 bags, not your ordinary handbag. When I told the artist what was going on he told me that he couldn't even use an easy release tape like painters masking tape as it would pucker up the leather. Well needless to say, this was a free photo session which includes not only the film but a bunch of additional digital work that needed to be done. In other words I can not charge when the product is damaged. There is no negotiation. My reputation is at stake here. He's going to give me the ruined bags though and the better news is that he will continue to use me as the quality of my photography exceeds anything that he had seen before of his work. This was certainly an expensive learning experience.

Larry Sanders
http://JurySlides.com
877-726-3377
414-672-6727
1522 West Pierce St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
 

Web site content Larry Berman, Chris Maher, or the originating artists

Chris Maher
PO Box 5, Lambertville, MI, 48144
.

Larry Berman
PO Box 265, Russellton,  PA  15076
412-401-8100

Web Site Design by Larry Berman and Chris Maher