Photography and Art

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mounting Prints Part II

At a recent workshop with Alain Briot, our group was sitting around a hotel room listening to Alain review prints from some of the participants. The next person to have his images reviewed was a photographer named Loren. He'd been on a few Briot workshops before, so he knew the drill very well. As a result, he had a collection of very nice images from a previous workshop and he knew that the presentation of your portfolio was very important. While the rest of us had presented naked images, basically as they had come off the printer, Loren had mounted his prints on matte board and had brought them along in a portfolio case. As a result, his images were presented beautifully and he came across as being a notch or two up the ladder compared to the rest of us.

Alain made a point of stressing that the presentation of your work is very important. If you don't love your work enough to mount it and sign it, why should anyone love it enough to buy it or exhibit it?

In my previous post, I described Natalie Briot's mounting method, a method that I've now adopted for all my portfolio candidate images. But, I neglected to talk about cutting mattes, a subject that comes up sooner or later in the career of every photographer. There are four stages of matte cutting:

  • Stage 1: you pay other people to cut mattes for you. This is problematic on two fronts. First, it is expensive. Second, it encourages you to produce standard size images that are easy to matte instead of cropping images where they want to be cropped.
  • Stage 2: you start to cut your own mattes using a steel ruler and an Xacto knife. For low volumes, this is certainly an option. But, it takes lots of patience, steady hands and tolerance for the occasional little error. Try not to throw the knife or the ruler when you manage to screw up a matte on the fourth edge!
  • Stage 3: after putting up with stage 2 for a little while, you realize that you are accumulating a backlog of images that need to be matted. It's time to get some help. Fortunately, there is gear that can help. I recommend Logan Matte cutting tools from the Lee Valley Catalog. For just over $100, you can start to produce nice neat edges in a reliable way. The cat no longer need worry about dodging flying tools.
  • Stage 4: if you are good and lucky, you'll start to sell your work in volumes that demand a better tool set. Enter the computerized matte cutter! Be warned, the price isn't quoted, but you can have one of these babies for as low as $79 a month. This is the method used by pros like Alain Briot.
I've graduated to stage 3 and can produce a decent matte in about 10-15 minutes. The process is relatively fool proof and is perfect for my relatively modest print output. I aim to produce 1-2 portfolio quality prints a week.

If you want a little more detail on this, Alain Briot has written a tutorial on the subject.

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