by Terry Hansen Published 01/06/2006
Our Mentor Me programme has got off to a flying start with over 200 members now signed up. The next step is applying for qualification. To this end there is a new booklet available from head office setting out the requirements for submission. The wording on our website has also been greatly simplified to be more user-friendly. See the dates when submissions should be sent. It's worth examining the main reasons for failure when going for qualifications, in the hope that more applicants are successful.
One silly reason is that the applicant has not read the requirements for submission or for some reason thinks that they do not apply. For instance, the rules clearly state that for Licentiate, 15 mounted prints are required between 10 x 8 inches and 20 x 16 inches and yet we get wedding albums of different sizes submitted for judging, with the request that we look at that one in this album and those two in that album, etc. The bottom line is that you should treat the judging panel as you would your clients. The client tells you what their requirements are: so many prints of different subjects and which size. You would not supply a different subject or the wrong size or the wrong number of prints, so why do we get panels that do not meet the required criteria?
Another recurring problem we see is poor print quality. In the days of film the labs where good at producing colourcorrected prints from a variety of situations, under exposed, over exposed, sun, shade, mixed lighting, etc. Now with the move to digital, colour balance is in the hands of the practitioner and this places more demands on the skill and workflow practice of the photographer. It is fair to say that this change has had the effect of moving the goalposts quite substantially to reflect this fact.
We get great support from the laboratory trade and it is possible to have a qualification panel printed at a greatly reduced cost (ask the office for details), but before sending your files to the lab why not send a single file to ensure that the image you see on your monitor matches what the lab will produce. This will only happen if you are using a properly calibrated monitor. Therefore calibration and correct workflow are new skills which must be mastered before you are ready to submit your panel for judging.
The next major problem is focus and/or sharpening. Too many pictures are spoiled due to reliance on auto focus. Great when the subject is central and with varying contrast for the camera to lock on, but not so great when there is too much of one tone and the camera struggles to focus. Yes, even on my expensive Nikon D2X. Also not great when the main subject is offset in the composition and the camera focuses on a bush in the distance. So please engage brain before operating the shutter.
The associated problem is unsharp pictures because the photographer has not appreciated that digital photographs are inherently unsharp and that at some point in the workflow the images require sharpening. Knowledge of when and how to do this is vitally important.
So you can see that the fact that we are embracing digital has had the effect of moving the goalposts regarding qualifications. New skills are required and there is more input necessary from the photographer and the labs are not the ones to cover up poor technique.
Finally we should all be aware that we are dealing with a far more sophisticated and educated public. Using the internet it is easier for customers to surf the websites and make comparisons of quality and style before choosing a photographer, it is therefore of importance to use the obtaining of qualifications not just as a means of gaining letters to put after your name but to encourage you to challenge yourself to improve your photography. When you put those pictures on your website guess who is going to get more bookings?
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