I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce you to a wonderful new friend of mine, the incredibly talented Jessica Cantlin. Jessica is a Seattle-based fine art printer, award winning photographer and a travel writer. Our paths crossed last year in the digital printing lab where we both produce our prints. I have been studying digital fine art printing for several years but Jessica has fully mastered the techniques and now owns and operates her own fine art printing business which has become the darling of Seattle photographers. Her fine art photography is full of depth and quiet beauty, reflecting a sense of place whether it is Seattle or abroad. And her travel writing (accompanied by her own photos) will have you scurrying for your passport and suitcase. I feel certain you will enjoy getting to know Jessica better.
You studied fine art digital printing for years and have now launched a business printing for photographers in Seattle. What would you say are some of the key points photographers should keep in mind as they prepare their digital files for printing?
After studying fine art digital printing for several years, I realized that there was a demand in Seattle for quality fine art digital prints. So a couple of years ago I launched a small print business out of my house that mainly serves professional photographers. I’m hoping to expand my business later this year by moving out of my house into a legitimate studio space.
The digital darkroom is just as complex as the wet darkroom. Since I have the opportunity to see the work of many photographers, a few of the things I always tell them to keep in mind are: 1. Only work on a monitor that has been calibrated. If your monitor isn’t calibrated, then the color of your prints won’t match the color of the images on their screen. If you don’t have one, buy a calibration device, they aren’t that expensive and they make a world of difference. 2. Always work from high-resolution RAW files to ensure the best quality image and print. This is especially important for producing large-format prints. 3. Try to avoid using presets. I am purist when it comes to color accuracy in my own photography. I view presets as a quick way to give a photograph an aesthetically pleasing effect that isn’t true to image. Presets are never going to be perfect, so there is always going to be something about the color correction that is not quite right.
I am asked about paper selection all the time. I explain that there isn’t a right or wrong paper per se, but that the characteristics of the paper (warm vs. cool, textured vs. smooth, glossy vs. matte) will have an impact how the print looks. Do you have any general suggestions that could help people make these decisions for themselves?
There are so many things that go into producing a beautiful fine art digital print – similar to challenges of creating a print in the wet darkroom. Until you have a good understanding of papers and inks and how you want your image to look, it is best to make test prints. For example, matte paper is very popular among my clients, but a high contrast image with lots of black doesn’t always render well on matte paper and the tiniest imperfection or scratch on the surface of the paper will always be noticeable.
You and I both have an affinity for printing very LARGE. Are there any tips you can share for someone interested in printing their work large format?
Making large format prints is lots of fun – because bigger is always better, right? But not every image is meant to be big. I struggle to explain this to clients who insist on enlarging an image they shot with an iPhone, for example – though iPhones have gotten pretty good. There are boundaries to how big any image should be enlarged. This mostly depends on the number of pixels in each image. There are definitely ways to cheat and push that boundary, by using enlarging software and other photoshop techniques. But when it comes to large format, you really have to consider whether the image will benefit from being produced at that size, and whether you are willing to compromise on some of the fine details of an image.
In addition to your printing business, you are a travel writer and an award winning fine art photographer. This is such a powerful combination and I love the way these facets come together. Tell us more about that.
This is an interesting question, because up until five years ago I was a practicing criminal defense lawyer. I decided to change gears and focus on raising my family after the birth of my second child. This gave me more time to devote to my photography, which until then had always just been a hobby. After being away from my law practice for a few years, I realized that – among other things – I really missed writing. So, in 2015 I decide to combine my love of photography and writing with my passion for travel. I launched a website, Feed My Wanderlust, to showcase my photography and a travel blog to publish my writing. Needless to say, the last couple of years have been filled with lots of rewarding travel and shooting experiences.
Are there certain themes you like to explore in your photography?
Not only do I love shooting in bad weather, but I have a strange obsession with photographing wintering birds – they are curious creatures en masse. I am also drawn to photographing people in the landscape. My series, “Captured by the Sea,” is an evolving body of work that explores the intersection of people and the seaside.
What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?
I’m having an exhibition of my work “In Winter” at two locations in Seattle, a new design studio called Jackson St. Studio in Pioneer Square and at Glazer’s Camera in South Lake Union. My main goal for 2018 is to keep shooting and building my portfolio of work. I am also steadily growing my printing business, which gives me a lot of pleasure. I hope to open a small studio and gallery later this year, which will showcase emerging artists like myself.
Pretty amazing, right? If you have any questions about digital printing, feel free to ask in the comments section.
Where to find Jessica: