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Fine Art Photographers Embrace Digital

By Amber E. Watson

Catherine Hall: In Control with Digital Photography

Catherine Hall, director and principal photographer, Catherine Hall Studios, is an editorial and a renowned destination wedding photographer—but she classifies herself as a “people photographer.”


Hall’s interest in the medium blossomed in high school where she excelled in photography classes. Practicing photography with traditional film for many years, she waited until 2004 to go digital. “At first, I thought I would do both film and digital, but once I got into digital, it was hard to go back,” shares Hall. Though she fully appreciates the convenience and control of digital printing, she does not discredit her experience with traditional film. “I believe my experience starting off with film worked to my advantage,” she says.


With the use of her Canon U.S.A., Inc. EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR camera and Epson digital printing equipment, Hall runs a full-service photography business out of her studio in the East Bay of San Francisco, CA. “My studio and Web site are my marketing tools,” she states. Her work also appears in galleries around the world including France, Italy, and New York.


Digital production allows Hall to be a successful small business owner. “The space required for a darkroom and the cost of everything from equipment to chemicals just wouldn’t be realistic,” she says. Instead, Hall is able to produce high-quality prints on a 17-inch Epson Stylus Pro 3880—a desktop model ideal for eight- by ten- to 16x20-inch prints—and an Epson Stylus Pro 7900 color inkjet printer that produces output up to 24 inches in width.


The UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta Ink Technology ink set in the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and UltraChrome HDR ink in the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 produce the color quality Hall relies on. “Advancements in ink continue to amaze me. Even B&W images look stunning.”


Hall is a fan of printing large prints on canvas. “Canvas looks great in large sizes and it does not require the added steps of cropping or framing,” she explains. “I sign the bottom front corner of the print, and it feels like I have created a piece of art.” Epson’s Exhibition Canvas is her preferred media.


Digital ensures Hall maintains control of her work. “As an artist, it is important for me to control the process, so I can retouch or fine tune the print. The more people that touch it, the less it is ‘me,’” she explains.


With the advent of new and better tools, digital printing, like digital cameras, has improved. To view samples of Hall’s work visit


Boone Speed: Turning Action into Art

Boone Speed, an action sports and lifestyle photographer residing in Portland, OR, possesses a playful, experimental approach to the photographic process. Raised by a bronze sculptor, Speed was introduced to this creative outlet at an early age. “My father and I used to play with different cameras when I was young. Later, I took photo classes while studying graphic design and enjoyed experimenting with multiple exposures, cross processing film, and manipulation in the darkroom.


Traveling the world and capturing it through a lens satisfied Speed’s adventurous spirit. “The years I spent climbing and traveling the world and seeing it from unique perspectives made it clear that photography was my passion.” In addition to action and lifestyle shots, he also photographs abstract textures and landscapes. Speed mainly shoots with Canon cameras, such as the EOS 5D Mark II, when he intends to blow the image up to large format. These images are often enlarged and printed as wall murals.


Because the size and scale of Speed’s output varies depending on the intended installation site, Speed outsources his printing needs to Flavor Paper, a print shop located in Brooklyn, NY. Flavor Paper specializes in large format, full wall graphics and is able to handle a large volume of prints. “Wall murals are scaled to each customer’s space and particular wall dimensions, so size is unique to almost every print,” explains Speed.


Partnering with the right print shop also helps boost sales and marketing. Customers are able to purchase Speed’s work through his personal Web site as well as through Flavor Paper’s.


The print provider uses a Roland DGA Corporation SOLJET PRO III XC-540 with eco-solvent inks to print Speed’s work. “The ink set provides a very bright consistency and beautiful image on a number of material options,” states Speed. Media choice depends on the size of the output. “For a three-foot print or smaller, I like to use Hahnemühle Photo Rag or ideally William Turner 310 gsm. If it’s the size of a wall, I try to match the media to the photograph the best I can,” he explains. “For example, I might use a latex saturated paper for a nice flat look, or Terralon for a more eco-friendly approach with commercial durability. Other prints look best with a glitter impregnated vinyl that adds a touch of glamour and contrasts nicely with the photograph’s subject material, adding depth to B&W coloring.”


Speed enjoys the reliability and options that digital provides. “Nowadays it seems possible to print anything at any scale and match it to the perfect media. As an artist I am able to realize my vision knowing that whatever I shoot, however I see it, can be recreated.” View more of Speed’s work at


Kevin Syms: Controlling the Color Lab

Kevin Syms produces commercial photography for hotels and resorts, as well as fine art. His background in printing started in the early ’80s shooting ski action shots and running a color film lab for the Sun Valley, ID ski resort.


Sun Valley, ID, Syms’ residence, offers an abundance of photographic opportunities. Whether shooting commercial advertisements for a resort, spa, or ski lodge, or capturing the beauty of the surrounding area for fine art prints, location plays a crucial role subject matter. “Sun Valley is a resort area and galleries showcase local images,” he states.


To accommodate this trend, Syms prints limited edition fine art prints in various sizes. He explains, “I start with 150 limited edition prints; the price goes up when 100 are left, and again when 50 remain.”


Syms waited until the quality of digital was up to his—and his clients’—standards before making the switch in 2002. “Even then, digital was only good for certain uses; the resolution wasn’t very high, and it was slow, so I couldn’t use it for action shots,” he shares. “About five years ago the frames per second improved to the point where I could shoot digital.” He primarily uses Nikon Corporation and Hasselblad camera systems and still shoots landscapes with a Toyo field camera when possible.


Popular print sizes for Syms’ work includes 30x40 and 40x60 inches. While large images have greater impact and fill more wall space, Syms cautions against the assumption that smaller prints require less work.


Syms enjoys maintaining full control of the photographic process in his fully digital studio. He approves of the quality and versatility of his Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8300 large format printer, which uses 12 inks and is capable of printing 44 inches wide. “I am impressed with the color gamut and the blacks,” says Syms. “The Canon LUCIA inks do a great job to eliminate bronzing and metamerization.”


Moab by Legion Paper Entrada Rag Natural 300 fine art paper is Syms preferred media because it shows great detail and has a nice natural finish. Large canvas prints are also popular among buyers. “I typically display my work on Epson Exhibition Canvas Matte because it eliminates the cost of framing. I then give buyers the option of purchasing the print on canvas or fine art paper,” says Syms.


“Now that everything is done in house, I am able to get images precisely the way I want them,” he contests. “I used to send my film and printing to a photo lab, and had to keep my fingers crossed. For the most part, I got back the lab’s interpretation of what I wanted—not always what I envisioned.” Still, he credits his color lab experience for his knowledge of color and achieving an exact result. To view more of Syms’ photography, visit


John Preston Ulmer: Embracing the Evolution

John Preston Ulmer’s career in photography is a natural progression from his fascination in different artistic mediums. “Photography gives me the ability to portray various ideas through the perception of a single photograph,” he explains. Located in the Wynwood Art District of Miami, FL, Ulmer spends his time producing fine art, advertising, editorial, and catalog images with his Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and a Hasselblad H4D-40.


Ulmer developed techniques under Peter Langone, a photographer famous for capturing fine art nudes. “As I developed, I applied lighting techniques that were more artistic to my still life and commercial work,” explains Ulmer.


He enjoys evolving as an artist, and advancements in digital make that an ongoing process in the photographic space. “I don’t shoot anything on film anymore. I went digital in the late 1990’s and, luckily at the time, had not yet amassed a large amount of equipment,” he shares.


“The key benefit of digital is that prints can be manipulated, transmitted, color corrected, sized, cropped, and archived without chemical processing,” states Ulmer. “It also gives photographers the ability to print photographs larger and faster at more affordable prices.”


Ulmer produces prints at various sizes depending on the job. He notes, “When it comes to fine art photography, I try to stay with larger prints such as 36x54 inches, or 40x60 inches to create the best visual impact.”


Digital also affords photographers the chance to experiment without breaking the bank. “Generally, if I am working on my fine art photography, I tend to print more because I like to experiment with different colors and subject matter,” says Ulmer.


Ulmer prefers the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 large format printer for fine art and still life, which prints up to 64 inches wide. It features Epson’s UltraChromeK3 ink with Vivid Magenta. It also has a MicroPiezo TFP printhead designed with nine separate ink channels. “The result is extremely sharp and accurate placement of ink droplets,” he says. He finds that Hahnemühle Baryta FB photo paper yields the best results for his work.


While Ulmer prints images up to 13x19 inches in house, he does outsource some of his larger, more complex fine art prints.


In today’s market clients are constantly changing. As Ulmer evolved as an artist, so did his clientele. “When I first started, I had more customers who were consumer based, but as time went on; I refined my skills and began to work with more commercial clients. Now the majority of my clients are advertising agencies, magazines, and production companies,” he shares. To see more of Ulmer’s work visit


Feb2012, Digital Output

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