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Sunday, October 1, 2006

John Isaac: Master Printer

The former U.N. photographer shares his experiences in creating superior prints

John Isaac: Master Printer
Isaac will create a Burning and Dodging layer by creating a layer and filling it with gray.

With the blending mode set to "soft light," he uses Photoshop's Dodge and Burn tools to lighten or darken isolated portions of the image without dramatically impacting color.

But it's always color that Isaac is attempting to control and enhance in his photographs.

While his global adjustments (meaning that they affect the entire image) are important, he finds that controlling small ranges of color and hue can be critical.

"If I have a slight magenta cast in my white areas, I go to Selective Color (Image > Adjustments > Selective Color) and select "white" as the individual color that I want to work on. I'll then move the magenta slider to decrease the colorcast in my whites. This is a very helpful tool, as you can go directly to the affected color area and change the color without messing with all the other colors in the photograph.

"With digital, I've found that my printing is far superior to my conventional silver and chemical printing," he continues. "My color prints are more vibrant and more accurate."

Because color accuracy is so crucial, Isaac stresses the importance of having a color-managed workflow.

"Having your monitors calibrated is a must," he says. "You also have to use the right printer profiles for each type of paper that you put through your printer." By maintaining a color-managed workflow, he feels you save yourself both time and trouble.

Adds Isaac, "The fewer steps you create for yourself making a print help you to not only save time, but also improve quality. I believe less is more. I've seen many people use too many moves and adjustments and actually ruin the quality of the original image."

Printers And Papers

Isaac currently uses the Epson Stylus Pro 7600 printer to produce prints up to 24 inches in width. He has frequently used this inkjet technology to produce his own prints for exhibition, something that would have been difficult for him to do using a traditional color darkroom. But besides the size of the prints, Isaac has been especially excited about the variety of paper surfaces available to him and the resulting opportunities to experiment.


Isaac has been working recently with the Media Street line of paper and inks and is enjoying the possibilities this alternative system offers for his printing. He's especially attracted to the bulk ink system, which he feels is ideally suited for the high number of prints he produces.


Carefully storing his prints is a key step in his process as well. Poor handling and storage can quickly ruin a day's work.


"I have a shelf with trays," he says. "I store prints carefully between interleaving tissues in a big, oversized portfolio box if they're big prints. One of the things I've noticed is that papers with a matte surface have a tendency to scratch easily, so I quickly learned to take great care when handling all of my prints. It's always a good thing to use white cotton gloves when you're handling your photographs."


And for Isaac, it's the moment that all his work and effort are building toward.

"When you're holding that print in your hands," he says, "there's nothing like it."

Visit www.johnisaac.com.




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