Presentation / Step Mounts / Compositional Rules
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  1. #1
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    Default Presentation / Step Mounts / Compositional Rules

    I decided to bring this up here after the discussion on other threads. My goal is to clear up what I see as some misconceptions. Presentation is one of the elements in an image, whether it's art, photography, music, architecture or any other product out there. For non - masters you are given a standard size for consistancy, that size is 16x20 inches. This consistancy is to create an equal opportunity for all entrants and make it reasonable to handle and display the images. Think of this 16x20 as the background for your image to be framed and presented on. It can represent the wall the image is to be hung on. As an artist you can choose to "paint" that wall what ever you want to make your image have the greatest impact or to help evoke the emotion you are trying to convey with your image. The lip color or stroke or edge effect that you as an artist choose to complete your image is the "frame". Just as in your everyday work - you want the image displayed completed - probably not just a print stuck on the wall with no frame or mounting. The placement on the background (read wall) presentation is open to allow creativity. Again to evoke the emotions or add to the impact of an image. This is the same as deciding where to hang an image in the final environment, like above the fireplace or over a sofa for the best composition. The difference is you can not go into your clients home and repaint the wall behind your portrait to make it stand out better. We can and do recommend to our clients how we would display the image in comparison to the decor of the room and in doing so we use compositional elements (rules or guidelines) in placing our images in with their other belongings.

    By not requiring every entry image to be a 16x20 full flush - each makers is given freedom to decide size and proportion themseleves. They choose what size and what proportion (like 5"x20" or 8"x16" etc etc) is best for that particular print.

    As far as the rule of thirds - bakkers saddle - golden mean - whatever you call it. These are not "photography" terms. These come to us from art, architecture and nature herself. I think everyone is getting caught up in the "rule of thirds" because it's name includes the word rule. Instead think of it as the tool of thirds. You select the right tool to do the job. I don't use a hammer to sand drywall - even though a hammer is a pretty basic tool used in almost every job. It's just not the right tool for this job. Same with thirds - most times it's the right tool to use - but sometimes it just doesn't get the job done. Also - no judge ever gets up and measures a print with a ruler to make sure the center of interest falls exactly at the third intersection. It's a general vicinity kinda thing.

    In a traditional H&S portrait applying the "tool" of thirds means the eyes should be about 1/3 from the top. Obviously - because the eyes are set apart you cannot place them both at a single intersection. Whether the maker decides to slide the actual image area to one side or the other within the 16x20 composition is up to them. As a judge I evaluate what is presented to me - first for impact - which is effected by the overall composition. Where that image is placed on the board can effect that imact. It's just impact - I am not thinking - did this use the rule of thirds. Then I look at the image area itself - including how it is handled compositionally just within the actual image area. I have never once thought "I am gonna score this lower cause they didn't move the image over within the background area." I do not consider if it could be better moved one direction or the other. I rate it as I see it. In a challenge situation - I have to score what is in front of me - and if I am defending a lower placement - I may then take the position on the background into consideration as one of the reasons for not going higher. My advice would be to any maker - go with your gut. If it strikes you more strongly placed dead center then do it. Don't change what feels right - to achieve a rule of thirds.

    Keith
    P.S. - My own competition is in 11 days and I still don't have my own prints picked - so what do I know?
    Last edited by Keith_A_Howe; 03-18-2007 at 07:37 PM.
    Keith A. Howe
    M.Photog.,M.Artist, Cr.,D.F.Ph.

  2. #2
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    Thanks Keith for a well worded commentary about competition prints and mounts. I do have to ask since I was the one who became the most vocal oponent on steps mounts, when you describe the background as visualizing the clients wall and where you would place the print on that wall. You also mentioned sofa and fireplace. Would you ever suggest to a client to hang a wall portrait over a sofa or fireplace off-center and up to the right as in many of these step mount presentations? Or did I just not get it....again? Sorry Keith. I really am not trying to be argumentative, I just struggle with this whole (strange to me) style of presentation.
    Ron

  3. #3
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    Ron,
    The 16 x 20 is the WHOLE wall. If the image is placed off center, the couch (at least mine ) can be moved under the image- centering the image on the couch. Fireplaces may be a tad more expensive to move, but I'm sure it can be done .

    Keith,
    Let me know if you need help. I'll be glad to help you out- you know, with my "expertise".

  4. #4
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    Okay....maybe that makes a little more sense. I am slow but worse than that, I am stubborn. Oh my....what a surprise! So why don't they require you to draw a sofa or fireplace under the image for clarity? Kidding.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Jackson View Post
    Or did I just not get it....again?
    Ron - You are right - you are not getting what I am trying to say. The idea is not to place the image off center to the right or left or up or down. The idea is to place it where it creates the most impact or perpetuates the story of the image. It sounds as if you advocating that all images should be placed dead center. Would you hang an image centered on a wall - side to side - top to bottom? Look at most artwork hung in homes - it's usually 1/3 of the way down from the ceiling. It is usually postioned on the wall to create balance in the room - considering architectual features and other furniture and artwork in the space. Ever heard the term "negative space"? Sometimes that negative space is a tool we use in composition and placement. As I said in my first post "Don't change what feels right - to achieve a rule of thirds".

    But I am really getting curious - why are you so vehemently against something that does not effect you, you said you do not plan to participate in and no one is trying to convience you to do. I always like to understand what motivates people and I don't get why this is such a thorn in your side when you aren't interested in entering prints. You have a right to any opinion you want, but if you aren't interested in participating in competion, why are you so interested in changing it? I think your input would be taken much more seriously by the people who can effect change (PEC)if you at least tried entering a couple times. You wouldn't take my advice on placing a bet in a poker game if you knew I had never played poker.

    I started this thread to share what I know with those people who wish to enter. I am asking you as a favor Ron - if you want to continue this discussion on whether off centered placement and step mounts is acceptable - please go back to the tread where you originally brought it up. I will be glad to debate with you there as my time allows. Cluttering this thread with our discussion does not benefit the makers that wish to enter. The system is what it is. Please allow those of us with experience in this system to share the way things currently work without derailing this thread.

    Keith
    Keith A. Howe
    M.Photog.,M.Artist, Cr.,D.F.Ph.

  6. #6
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    No Keith, I actually think I get it. You have posted twice that each time made more sense to me and I really appreciate it. It's out of ignorance as I claimed before that I have been trying to understand this and you have been very good at choosing the words to get it through this thick skull.

    Please understand that it has never been explained this way. I went off on this when I began seeing an image that was being presented by different people and drawing lines on the "mounted image" showing the Baker Saddle and such. My comments then was meerly to try and not confuse new commers to photography with the idea that if they didn't follow the basic "tool of thirds" (I love that!) then they could fix it with a step mount.

    I will also say that I have learned to never say never about anything. That goes for the competition as well. I am still struggling to get this business running steady and having just months ago moved into portraits, my time is very limited and I am still not in my comfort zone. I can see in the future becoming more involved and possibly competing, it's just not right for me at the moment. I do however cheer all who do. I think it is a great thing for many.

    Forgive me Keith for being so hard headed about this and once again I think you have put it in a way that it is much clearer and I am completely accepting of that answer. I will no longer poo poo the idea of step mounts. I promise and that is because of you. Well put.
    Thank you very much.
    Ron

  7. #7

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    Hi Keith
    I just got back from the APPI convention. I spent a few hours in the print judging and even saw one print score 100!! Anyway as I was driving home I was trying to come up with an idea for a new thread and behold, you beat me to it. Kinda.....I'll bounce this off you and you can let me know if it fits in here or if I should start a new thread. I was thinking I would post a non-competition image (Meaning something I know would not merit, maybe one of my Scouts, flat light boring pose etc.) so that it doesn't look like I'm asking you to build me a merit. And then ask you, and anyone else who knows, to demonstrate the mechanics of producing a competition print. Meaning, would you go back to the RAW file and save as TIFF instead of Jpeg? What size would you crop the image in Photoshop (8x10, 16x20, 4x5?) how many DPI, 300? Then where to set the density using the tools you and others would use in order to prep a file for your lab or yourself to print a competition size and density print. D.Craig has posted his step-mount tutorial and I've got that printed out but if he would he could re-post the link to that here and anyone with different methods for presentation could chime in here as well. The saddle and the thirds etc. I think by using one image posted in it's original format to illustrate all the steps would be pretty valuable for all. By using a low impact image people could focus on the mechanics of preparing a file instead of the image it's self. Here's one that has been re-sized to upload here with the aspect ratio in tack as if it came straight from the camera (20D). The only other change I've made is to convert it from RAW to Jpeg. It's original height was 1500 pixels per inch and the width was 1050. Where would you go from here to turn this file into a competition print file? (Remember I'm asking about a lab-ready competition print file not a merit print). Just let me know if this should be it's own thread and I'll delete it. Thanks! - David
    Last edited by David_A._Lottes; 12-07-2009 at 08:49 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks, Keith.
    ____________________
    Dave Cisco M.Photog, Cr., CPP, F-TPPA

  9. #9
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    Keith,

    Thank you for the post and guidance. Being new and wanting to compete it is posts like this that help me understand the process. I cannot imagine what it was like for new members to enter their first competition without the benefit of having information like this.

    I do have a question now that I think follows on to what you have said. I think I know the answer based on your opening post to this thread but I will ask anyway.

    Scenario, I have taken a photograph of a sand doller. I have isolated the sand dollar laying on the beach due to distracting elements around it. My vision is to show the sand dollar as a small ellement on a vast beach. I choose to print the photograph as a 4x5 in a 16x20 brown step mount. My question is would the 20 square inches of image be to small an area of the overall 16x20 size? Is there a point in the judges eyes when the image in a step mount was to small no matter what vision I am trying to achieve?

    Thanks for your time and good luck in your upcoming competition.

    Sincerely,

    "Because Memories Are For Generations"

  10. #10
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    Keith, thanks for your post and starting this thread.
    --Elephants can swim...
    ...and very gracefully.
    Knowing that,
    I do believe
    Anything is possible for me.

    Kirk Darling, CPP

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