Creating Something Special?
What makes something special?
Special - I thought I'd be clever and insert the dictionary definition of the word, but with so many variants it was difficult to pinpoint one relevant to my point. With examples including special offers to special education needs I figured I might be better providing my own context. We all know what it is like to feel special, to own something that is special. A person that is closely admired or beloved would be a special person, and something that you covert and desire would be considered special to you.
It's this concept that I have considered when revising my Etsy store to increase 'legitimacy' and improve, for want of a better word, desirability. To achieve this I have stripped my metaphorical shelves bare with a view to start a fresh, only this time offering a product that has more of a story and can be considered special.
Those following closely will note that we scrutinized my previous e-commerce practicing habits and diagnosed flaws in the procedures, or lack thereof. These could be simply summarised as being shoddy, lacking any form of personal touch and disconnecting the prospective buyers from me, the artist. I recognize that I need to span the digital ether more and connect with whatever audience I have, which was largely the reason for starting this blog in the first place.
As discussed in my previous post on this subject (click here to catch up) I talked about the outline of this concept, the number of prints and the upgrades I have made to my postage and packaging to improve the purchasing experience. This, as it turns out, was the easy bit. The real challenge now was selecting from the many 100's of shots that are potentially good enough to print, how do I settle on the one for this project?
The selection criteria I have employed was quite clinical with large splats of personal taste mixed in. Staring with some 120 shots I had to start cutting them down or I would never get this project off the ground. To cut the numbers quickly, I ranked each image between 1-5 on a variety of key factors including:
📸 Quality of composition
📸 Effectiveness of color
📸 How location specific the image is
Why location specific? Well, my thinking here is that I would like this first print to appeal to as wider an audience as possible, for instance, not everyone can relate to a picture of the Eifel Tower and it is a bit of a cliché (OK, a lot of a Cliché)!
Each image was given a score and the location-specific box I used to weight the images in favor of those where the main subject isn't a particular place. These results were quite surprising, as there were some shots finding their way into the top 20 that I didn't expect. This is where my heart took over my head and made some fine tuning, not to favor images a personally like, but to review the scores a little closer. Now I have a list of images that I can rank and filter.
This is what the top 10 looks like:
These first three shots which were taken in Vienna (left to right, 1 & 2) and Paris (3) are the only black and white images that made it into the top 10, and despite all being strong images, I did not feel that the subjects here were strong enough to make a solid first impression. Crucially though, the images could have been taken anywhere and do not lend themselves to either of the locations that they were taken in.
Next, we have these images here which were taken in Paris, Havana, and Edinburgh. The location is not that strong in the case of the space invader, but I guess you would easily assume that the 2nd and 3rd shots were taken where they were. It's not uncommon to find tartan-clad bagpipers all over the world, but still, for the purpose of this exercise, I felt the image was a little too niche.
Before I unveil my final selection, these 3 images were very much runners up and strong contenders for this project; I poured over them long and hard before making the final choice. It was at this stage that my heart took over a little as my ranking system produced an ambiguous result for the 10th image due to a duplicated result being generated, so the image on the right taken in Cambodia I included in the final 10 as this has always been one of my strongest photographs.
The shot to the left taken in Paris, and center, captured in February of this year in London again were two shots that I am very happy with. I do feel that when the first edition has made a sufficient return to fund the next project, that one of these 3 will be chosen for the second edition. Each of these images has clear subjects, are free from distractions and are easy on the eye as they follow simple rules of composition. Something I do find surprising is that the images that have risen to the top of this exercise were all shot in portrait, which surprisingly is something I do not do that often compared to landscape, so perhaps there is something in that and I should seek to shoot vertical more often.
And so, my final choice. Drum roll, please.........!
My choice for edition no. 1 is this street shot captured in Budapest last November. Throughout the process, this image has jumped out at me for a few reasons, most of which is the mystery that surrounds the shot. Who is the man? Where is he going?
Despite being taken in Budapest, featuring the iconic city tram in the foreground and the glorious Hungarian Parliament building in the background, the subject isn't exclusive to the city. The image has strong leading lines that take the viewer on a journey through the entire photograph and pull you back to the main subject.
The image is not without flaws, which is largely the problem I had settling on a shot in the first place. I turned to face this scene and was not fully prepared to start snapping as the figure was in shadow before and I had insufficient time to read the situation. The consequence of this being that the figure of the hatted gentleman isn't quite in focus, but the depth of field employed does mean that the focus isn't too far out. There is also the car turning right which is a little distracting and ideally, I would have preferred a clear street to ensure the subject had pride of place, but this is shooting in real life. You don't get second chances and I am proud to stand by this shot as an example of that.
Ready to Print?
Followers on Facebook got a little sneak peek of some of these images as I posted my first set of test prints which included many of those shown above, and it was at this time that the Shadow Man really jumped out at me. Using Loxley Colours excellent and free test printing service (paying postage only) I checked a selection of images for print quality as it's always unclear how some shots will appear in the transition from pixels to ink.
Each shot is provided in duplicate on an A4 page with the print labs color corrected version adjacent the original file. I am pleased to say that despite my lack of a calibrated monitor, my files do generally render exceptionally well and do not require significant alteration when printed.
With the image now selected, it was time to do a full-size test print and check the image in full size for quality before ordering the first run. Any project would not be my own without a complete balls up along the way, and fortunately, this occurred at this early stage.
I am working this edition around a standard A4 size frame as this is a commonly recognized size and easy to frame. For some bizarre reason, I ordered my first test print in A4 which I was led to believe would be the image size, plus a border. The print turned up however being A4 including the 1" border, and so overall much smaller than I expected. Thank God this was just a test print and I did not end up and a heap of oddly sized photographs!
Test printing is an important part of the process as an image viewed on screen is vastly different than one on photographic paper held in your hand. Despite the smaller size, I was able to spot various things in the shot that did not sit right with me. Located below is a revised proof that I have subsequently printed as a second artist proof (full size this time), with some small modifications to the original image above.
A keen eye will notice amendments to the aspect ratio which produces a small crop to the overall image. The closest print size I could get to A4 is 14 x 11" (A4 is 8.27 × 11.69") which does mean that a very small amount of the shot will be concealed by a mount with an exact A4 opening. This dimension equates to an aspect ratio closer to 1.3, instead of 1.5 and so the image file needs to be cropped to meet the smaller ratio.
Shooting at a fairly high resolution means that cropping a little hear and there will not affect the overall quality of the image. This does mean that I lose a little of the image from the top and the bottom, but this is the compromise I have to make for the size I have chosen to print to.
The adjustments do not stop there. Something that is not obvious in the original image is the gum plastered all over the street in the shadowed area, which in the digital file was not that obvious. When printed the unsightly gum is brightly reflecting the sunlight, like ripples on the ocean, but not quite as pretty. Street photography purists would insist the image remains unedited, but I fall into the camp of producing an attractive image rather than a mere record of events and so removed the most obvious and glaring of the ill-disposed confectionary.
Choosing the image is one thing...
but how do I now makes this project special? How do I make it stand out against any other image? How do I legitimize my work and create something special that appeals more to potential buyers?
This is where the process of creating a limited edition now comes into effect. I have opted to print this shot in A4 being a modest and recognizable print format with an edition run of 66 so as to include some of my personal brandings in the series. Each print will have my name, the date the edition number and number in the edition handwritten on the 1" border of the prints, but I couldn't help but think something was missing and more could be done to legitimize the work.
I did some further research and another thing that stood out was a certificate of authenticity. This became an instant no brainer and would go a long way to add a sense of legitimacy to my work. There are no hard and fast rules regarding certificates, provided some key information is included. I have designed the below certificate for my work and used this information to authenticate my work:
1) Certificate No - A unique identifier including the edition and total edition numbers
2) Title - The title of the image
3) Year/Location - The year and location in which the image was recorded
4) Medium/Size - The print finish, the paper used and dimensions of the print
5) Artist Proofs - The number of prints made prior to final edition
6) Edition No - Edition number the certificate relates to
7) Total in Edition - Total number in the edition
8) Signature - My signature and final seal of authenticity
Having to procure some textured paper to print the certificates has increased my base costs for the project, but it has I feel added to the product considerably than if I had not included it.
And that's about it then; the final image is selected and the prep work is almost complete, just the shipping materials and print order to go before unleashing the edition out into the wider world. Watch out for details of the launch of this print through my Facebook page here.
Until next time guys!