The title sounds ominous enough.
My first attempts to produce “snappy” pictures in print started in my sophomore year in college. I was the production manager for our college magazine and was determined to make the images in publication pop off the page.
I had no earthly idea how that was supposed to happen. I understood very little about either photography or the print reproduction game at the time. I remember accompanying the school photographer on assignments, asking him to shoot “high contrast pictures.” This was a little vague in direction, but it sounded like it should have an impact on the final print.
At that time I was working my way through college in the Reproduction Department of Tropical Gas Company in Miami Florida, running forms and reports and the company newsletter on the company’s Multilith 1250W duplicator (a small beginner’s version of a printing press).
Every time I wanted to print a black and white photo, I had to have the local “repro shop” produce a printing plate containing a halftone (a simulation of the photograph broken into variable size dots- see above). My halftone images usually printed flat, and I figured the fault had to belong to the photographer.
That was my early approach to QC in photographic images. I understood absolutely nothing about the photo/lithographic process but that was about to change big time.
What I came to realize shortly thereafter was that there were several VERY significant steps between the camera shot and the images coming out of the duplicator. Lighting in the photo was important, but it was only the first move in the production ballet. Then the critical steps of film development and photographic enlargement (the print) took place before the totally magic halftone conversion process happened. I found out that shaping the image after the photo was taken was the real secret to printed picture success. My learning “lights” began to turn on. Over the next few years, my quest for printed image clarity grew.
I determined to learn and take control of all the steps in the process, starting with the photography, developing my own films, enlarging my own prints, and shooting my own halftone images. The quest was turning into a plan and was headed in the right direction. The kid was taking control.
My love for the process eventually drove me deep into the high-end lithographic trade, running publication presses and producing color separations.
Funny how life unfolds. Here I am over fifty years later and I’m still on that quest for image clarity. After decades in the litho and photography trades, I’m still on track and still learning stuff. Digital images have replaced film emulsions, computer processing succeeded the rocking of film canisters and print trays, I’m editing on a digital display instead of dodging and burning under an enlarger, and printing on large format inkjet printers instead of spitting paper out of a small quick-copy duplicator.
But the goal remains: the perpetual quest for image clarity. Actually, it’s the same goal I’ve had all along, the game is just played on a larger field. No matter where you are in this visual journey, never stop learning. It’s an honorable and rewarding quest!
That’s the way I sees it.
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