Chris Crisman Photography

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chris crisman photography how we travel tips and tricks

We travel a lot. So much in fact that you could say we have it down to a science. Before we even arrive at the airport, Chris and our team know that everything is in order – when you’re on the road and up in the air as much as we are, you can’t leave anything to chance. How do we do it? Keep reading for an in-depth look at how we travel…

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chris crisman weekly wrap up editorial advertising editorial tra

Whew. What a week. We’ve been working hard these past five days, waking up well before the sun and working late into the evenings down here in San Antonio, Texas – our home base this week and for most of April and May as we shoot an unprecedented tourism project the city. From tiny little flowers to giant orca whales, it’s really feel like we’ve shot it all this week. Want to see more? Keep reading for behind the scenes of our adventures these past few days…

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It’s been just over six months since we upgraded our camera game, retiring our workhorse 1Ds Mark III and switching up to the 5D Mark III. I have to admit that making the jump I was a little hesitant, but now that we’ve shot over 25,000 frames through the new camera, I think we’ve absolutely made the right choice. Keep reading for our full six month review…

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Earlier this year we received a call from across the Atlantic Ocean. The editors at Wired UK magazine had an incredibly ambitious project ahead of them that they asked us to be a part of: one week, four photographers, over thirty photo-shoots, and a triple gate-fold cover featuring sixteen of the brightest and most inspiring minds in the world at the MIT Media Lab. How could we say no?

This project for the November issue of Wired UK was one of the most interesting editorial assignments we’ve ever been a part of, and we’re going behind the scenes for you in series of posts here on the blog, starting with the massive three page cover itself.

Creating an image this complex deserves more than just a mention and we certainly have it for you – from behind the scenes photos to breaking down our lighting, and even an interview with our digital artist. Keep reading to see how it all came together…

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Almost as important as the creative process of making prints is the practical procedure. Chris and I were first exposed to this process in darkened rooms, working with trays of chemicals and watching images appear seemingly out of nothing on glossy sheets of Ilford, barely visible in the dim-red glow. Obviously this has changed and evolved over the course of our experience and careers. The stop and fixer have been replaced by usb cables and countless cartridge of expensive inks. The technology has changed in a way that lets us print at a level of detail and volume that was not possible before – and let’s be honest here, if we were printing as much as we do now with a darkroom setup, I would never get a chance to see the light of day.

Following the mantra of the post-it note: “WE MAKE PRINTS” means that we make prints -  a lot of prints. There is hardly a day that goes by when we are in the studio where one of the printers is not running something. It might be a quick page or two to update the portfolios, or a large format print of our most recent work to add to our ever-evolving wallpaper of the studio, but our printers are constantly running and therefore require a certain amount of constant attention, love and care.

To further complicate matters, having two inkjet printers creates a situation where you need to achieve consistency across multiple devices. In order to do this, we approach the problem from a few ways. The first is to eliminate variables. Currently in-house, we have two laptops, an iMac, and two Mac Pro workstations that an image could make it’s way across before even being put on paper. It’s necessary to keep all of these screens profiled so we have a benchmark to match our printed images to. To achieve this, we profile our screens monthly using X-rite software and hardware.

Once we’re ready to put ink on paper, we have two printers – they are both Epson and use very similar ink sets. We also use a consistent paper, Red River Aurora Art Natural; the Epson 3800 is sheet fed and we run rolls of the exact same media on the 7900. Thankfully we do keep these factors consistent and that helps to eliminate the inevitable problems that may crop up.

We use ColorByte’s ImagePrint software as our RIP (raster image processor for those who want to get extra geeky). The advantage of using a dedicated piece of software for printing as opposed to the build in modules in Photoshop or Lightroom is that we get to fine-tune our settings and tweak the way the two printers work together to ensure an even more accurate result. For example (I’m out to dive in here, so feel free to gloss over the next paragraph unless you really want to tech-out with me): when we brought the Epson 7900 into the mix, we knew that since it was a newer printer and used an expanded set of inks it would have a greater gamut than our 3800 and therefore be able to reproduce a wider range of tones and colors. At first glance, this is awesome news – bigger is always better – but we soon discovered that a wider gamut meant that even with the same paper, same images, and same target profile, our prints weren’t matching. The 7900 was simply putting too much ink on the page since it had a wider ink set to offer and that was causing our images to appear darker. Thanks to our RIP software, we were able to match the gamut of 7900 to the gamut of the 3800 (shrinking the range of tones and colors) but allowing for us to achieve a perfect match. This level of tweaking and adjustment just isn’t possible without using a RIP.

Last but not least, the process relies on continual observation and testing to make sure everything looks the same. As with any piece of equipment, printers are prone to error and require maintenance to keep them in-check. Nozzles get clogged, inks need to be replaced, paper jams, and sometimes you just need to pull the plug and restart the whole damn process. Sure, it’s a lot of work – especially so if you don’t already have a system in place and you’re looking to get started. It may seem a daunting process, but the time invested in the front end pays for itself once you have a reliable, consistent, workflow that produces high quality prints.

Also keep in mind that I’m speaking specifically about the process we’re using in our studio. It’s complicated because we have so many different devices to factor in. If you’re just getting setup, your variables are eliminated by default; it’s a helluva lot easier to match one printer with one type of paper to one computer. Just remember, get your profiles set and troubleshoot by only changing one variable at a time. If you don’t believe me, set aside an afternoon and give it a try.

So what’s the takeaway from all this muddling with technology and process? Why bother? For me it comes down to the idea that if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. Printing is an essential part of the creative process and when you invest the time and energy into perfecting the workflow, your final product looks that much better. It may not be the inherent magic of an image appearing on paper in a tray of developer, but there is a certain unique beauty to watching a bunch of ones-and-zeroes get translated to ink on paper.

Inspiring? Confusing? Let us know – drop a line in the comments with any questions or thoughts you might have, or reach out to us @crismanphoto and @robertluessen on twitter.

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What do you get when you gather an international crew of photographers and creatives to a hub of technology and innovation in Boston, Massachusetts to work on an unprecedented editorial project? I wish we could revel the answer right now, but unfortunately we’ve got to wait until the magazine is released. For now though, keep reading for a sneak peek of what we can show…

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A few months after I started working for Chris, I came in to the studio one morning to find a post-it note on my desk. Simply stated and in all capital letters it read “WE MAKE PRINTS.”

Puzzled for a moment, curious if I was being reprimanded for some unknown offense or unmentioned procedure, I stared at the note and began to ask a very valid question – why?

Although I failed to realize at that moment, the answer was right in front of me. Whether sitting in Chris’s portfolios on the shelves, hanging on the walls of our studio, or cut and stacked ready to be mailed to potential clients.

Prints are absolute. The physical act of putting down ink of paper has a finality to it that completes the image making process. Whether that final outcome is to be hung on a gallery wall, sent to a client, shown in a portfolio, or bound in a handmade book – once you put the ink down on paper, you’re making a statement. You’re confirming that you value your work enough to take it beyond its digital and arguably transient state.

The workflow of digital photography allows for and often encourages a constant state of change and modification in our photos. This is an amazingly powerful creative tool that allows you to continually hone your process and refine your result – it can also be a crutch that keeps you from finishing a photograph, and therefore committing to your vision. The process of making a print may not be the be all end all, but it’s a step in the right direction of finalizing your creative process.

In the end of 2010, we made room in the studio for an upgrade of sorts, a bigger brother to the desktop printer Chris has had for years. The Epson 7900 is a behemoth, sitting on its own custom stand, sucking up ink from ten different tanks and spitting out yards and yards of paper. This upgrade wasn’t merely a “bigger is better” decision, it was the logical next step to allow for our work to be seen in a new way. Why did we make the move to a larger format? It was that same year, 2010 that Chris started to work with landscape photography and shoot photos that ultimately became long horizontal images – this new work was best shown on a grander scale than our desktop printer could provide.

It was also in 2010 that we decided our studio needed new wallpaper – a constant reminder of our process and the photographs that it creates. We decided to fill the walls with these images, adding and subtracting as we create new work, evolving the space around us in order to reflect and inspire. We make prints to commit to our photographs, and we put those those photographs up on the wall as a reminder of why we’re shooting them in the first place.

So what is the takeaway? We could easily write a blog post that outlines the technical details of our printing process and how we achieve consistency across multiple printers and paper surfaces (and if you want us to, I certainly will), but we felt it was more important to answer the “why?” rather than the “how?”

If you don’t have a printer of your own, then make friends with someone who does – make a few prints, the quality doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve selected your work and committed to it. Hang them on your wall or put them on your desk, look at them, interact with them, learn from them.

Do you make prints? What do you think? Leave us a comment or let us know @crismanphoto, @robertluessen.

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