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Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect


The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect

If you've watched my InkJet printing course you know that I'm just, don't think an image is done until it's on paper. And if you've watched Konrad Eek's Matting and Framing course you know that one of the things that you can do with that printed image is nicely matte it and frame it and hang it on a wall. This week on the practicing photographer Konrad is going to show us another way of presenting a printed image. Konrad, we're not going to matte and frame this week. We're going to do something else. >> Yeah, what I'd like to do with this image is mount it on board using an acid free adhesive and then varnish it as if it were a painting.
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  1. 6m 8s
    1. Pulling stills from a timelapse NEW
      6m 8s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 12h 10m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 56s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s
    79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
      4m 54s
    80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
      7m 16s
    81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
      2m 16s
    82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
      11m 19s
    83. Working with hair in post
      3m 28s
    84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
      5m 50s
    85. Getting inspired through the work of others
      11m 22s
    86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
      4m 21s
    87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
      3m 3s
    88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
      5m 38s
    89. Shooting stills from a drone
      6m 57s
    90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
      8m 0s
    91. Understanding lens profile correction
      5m 33s
    92. Working with models
      2m 40s
    93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
      10m 32s
    94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
      6m 18s
    95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
      3m 24s
    96. Tips for shooting panoramas
      7m 16s
    97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
      4m 44s
    98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
      5m 35s
    99. Evaluating camera-strap options
      4m 42s
    100. The 100th Practicing Photographer
      3m 31s
    101. Using light-pollution maps for planning night shoots
      3m 26s
    102. Shooting a series of star shots for a stack
      8m 32s
    103. Stitching together stacks of stars
      8m 59s
    104. Understanding how to clean sensor dust
      10m 27s
    105. Dry sensor cleaning
      6m 23s
    106. Cleaning the sensor with moisture
      7m 32s
    107. Composing in the center
      2m 48s
    108. Working with an electronic shutter control
      2m 50s
    109. Understanding how to use the Wi-Fi feature in some cameras
      2m 56s
    110. Exploring the software equivalent to graduated ND (neutral density) filters
      7m 8s
    111. Don't be predictable in your framing
      10m 21s
    112. Shooting with ND filter and flash to balance subject and background exposure
      2m 42s
    113. Understanding when to go low contrast
      3m 15s
    114. Reasons for shooting images alone
      4m 5s
    115. Working with colored lens filters and converting to black and white
      14m 4s
    116. Waiting for a subject when the light is good
      5m 2s
    117. Understanding options for tripod heads
      7m 23s
    118. Shooting a slow-shutter zoom-and-spin shot for light effect
      4m 47s
    119. Shooting and processing a long exposure at night
      10m 0s
    120. Getting creative with image curation
      4m 12s
    121. Why equivalent lenses don't always meter the same
      5m 42s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
12h 18m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Aug 27, 2015

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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect

If you've watched my InkJet printing course you know that I'm just, don't think an image is done until it's on paper. And if you've watched Konrad Eek's Matting and Framing course you know that one of the things that you can do with that printed image is nicely matte it and frame it and hang it on a wall. This week on the practicing photographer Konrad is going to show us another way of presenting a printed image. Konrad, we're not going to matte and frame this week. We're going to do something else. >> Yeah, what I'd like to do with this image is mount it on board using an acid free adhesive and then varnish it as if it were a painting.

from Ben's course you'll have learned that to get the greatest tonal range in the print, it's best to work with a matte surface paper. >> Uhmm. >> But sometimes, some people just prefer a luster surface. Sometimes, for display reasons, you might want to exhibit a print with a luster surface. And the technique that I'm going to show you here has some advantages. Because it opens the door to eliminate the matte in the glass in your framing process. >> So, by luster surface, you're talking about a shinier surface. >> Exactly, exactly. >> Do you differentiate between luster and >> Yeah, I think you can go to a high gloss, but that's difficult to accomplish with the tools we have here.

Even though the varnish we're going to use is a gloss varnish, its interaction with the paper and the brush strokes really kind of tone that gloss down a little bit. >> So I can just buy a luster paper. Why wouldn't I print directly >> Well I go back to the points Ben that you make in your printing course on the tonal range that you gain when you sh-, shift from a lustre paper to a matte paper. And, and I think to express the medium you want as much tonal range as possible. >> So using matte paper to get those deep dark blacks and a nice contrast range and a broader range of color saturation. >> Exactly. >> And then we're cheating it.

Adding luster to it later. >> Exactly. And so it's really a fairly simple procedure. I've get some acid-free glue. It's a water based adhesive. >> We do acid-free so that it won't degrade the paper. >> Exactly, exactly. This whole process is archival, and we shouldn't run into any issues of >> Now, what is this board? >> This board is a birch faced plywood that I picked up at the local hardware store. And, then I cut it down to size. I have a table saw. If you don't have a table saw, at a good art supply place you could probably get boards like this cut to typical sizes.

other artists use it for plane or painting. So you can see I put just Glue all over the board, and then I'm using this piece of cardboard to spread the glue evenly in a thin layer. And I'm going to add a little bit more glue. I didn't get quite enough on there the, in the first place. >> You want full coverage of glue everywhere? >> Glue everywhere, all the way to the edges. Think of it as, you're buttering your morning toast, and we all know what a drag it is to get to that last bite and it's just a little bit dry. I hate it when I don't have glue evenly spread on my morning toast. >> Yes. Well, you want it to stick to your ribs, don't you? >> Yeah, exactly, right. >> Okay, so I'm being very careful to get it all the way to the edges because if, if you're going to get a failure in the glue joint, it's typically going to happen around the edge, has been my experience.

And then you don't want. >> because it's going to give you the print peeling off. >> Exactly. And you don't want any super thick areas of glue, either, because those'll create little ridges. Now, what are looking for in a board? >> What you want is a very smooth surface I typically use these hardwood plywoods because I end up with allot of scrap from other projects. And I carefully lined up the corners and I'm going to cover it with a piece of wax paper And then I'm going to take a, this is a j-roller, you can use a j-roller or a brayer. and I'm going to go over the whole surface applying some pretty serious pressure just to work out any air bubbles.

And to make sure we get good contact between the board and the artwork. One thing to remember going back to your question about board, avoid Lauan, there are some other plywood material out that have some more texture to' em like an oak surface plywood. That texture in the wood on a thinner paper might show through. >> So, this looks like a pretty forgiving process so far. You're not really at risk of getting bubbles or, or bubbles in the print, or... >> No, it really. And now, the paper I'm using. This paper is a pretty stiff paper, and that helps.

It's, it's thicker than normal. so now that I've applied the glue evenly. >> Now you didn't pick the paper with the idea that it's particularly suited to this process, you picked it for the tonal range. >> Exactly, and this is one of my favorite papers to print it on, it's, it's got a lovely texture surface, it holds detail very well and it, it carries a great tonal range. Once I've got the glue evenly applied I take the wax paper and put it on a flat surface and then set the print face down. And then put a weight on it. And I will typically do these and let them sit overnight.

>> Okay. Now this board is warped. Does that matter? >> the weighting will help with that but when we put it in a frame, the framing process will flatten the board. >> ' Kay. >> what's happened to it, there's a humidity change from where I cut it to where we're actually doing the demonstration and that's Cause the board to bend a little bit. >> Okay. >> So moving on, last night I went ahead and took another board and another copy of this print and I glued it down. So you can see it's evenly adhered and I just wanted to go ahead and now and we'll move to the varnish phase. And for the varnish what I'm using is Liquitex Gloss Varnish.

You can find this really at any art supply place. typically a bottle this size will cost about $5, it's not an expensive material. The glue once again, any art supply place will have an acid free glue like that it'll be $3 or $4. So, the materials we're working with are not really expensive. you want a gently swirl or stir this if you get real aggressive on shaking or stirring it you can get air bubbles in it which are not good, and then I'm just going to pour some into this little cup here. And then, it's important to use a good quality brush, I just happen to buy a new sash brush, for, we're going to be doing some work on the house touching up The reason you want quality, is the cheaper brushes tend to shed bristles.

And if the bristles shed they will stick into the varnish layer and you will have, essentially, a bristle in there which is not a very attractive thing. So I'm going to dip the brush in and just lightly wet it. And I will start at one corner and work my way down one side. And notice my brushstrokes here. I'm not just painting this like I'm painting a wall, I'm trying to be sort of consistently random in going in sort of little crosshatch directions with the brush. The other thing you want to be careful to, you don't want to overwork the varnish.

Because if you overwork it, it can get milky. >> Overwork it, meaning moving it around too much? >> Moving it around too much. Too many brush strokes to the same area, and that's why I'm not loading the brush very heavily. I just want to get, usually on a piece this size on a loaded brush you can kind of get once across the board. >> Now from where I can. Where I'm sitting I can see there's a big blob right there. Does that matter? Okay to leave some blobs? >> No, blobs do matter. You want to eliminate them, and one of the things I recommend doing is we're working in pretty soft light here just so it's easier to film.

When I do this I'll typically work in direct light and it really helps you see the varnish. >> And do you want that light at an angle to give >> Exactly. And so what I'll do is I'll kind of turn the piece and tilt it up so that I can get a better view of what's happening with the varnish. So as far as the don't overwork the varnish, if I do find a big glob on it it's okay to go back. >> Yeah, it's okay to go back in. I think, you know, you won't run into problems unless you get into one area of the print and, and really go to town on it with lots of strokes. The other thing that happens when you tilt it up is you can see Matte areas that you've missed completely.

>> Okay. Now you're doing this random strong thing because part of what this effect does, we are not actually creating the look of a flat, smooth, luster paper. We're creating something that's got more of a natural meaning. >> Exactly. We, what we really want is sort of a painterly effect and not all paintings are varnished but quite a few paintings that you see will be varnished and that's where part of the interesting surface texture comes from is the act of varnishing it. And, I was actually taught this technique by a painter I work with. >> So, if I've got a paper that could stand up to ink cut printing.

it should be able to stand up to having this much liquid varnish. >> Yeah, it should, and one of the things I've not experimented with non-archival inkjet printers. >> Right. >> the reason being I fear that the, the interaction with a water based material might make the inks run. this was printed on an Epsom printer and I've never had any problems with their inks running when I've applied the varnish. >> Now one thing you can check into is a lot of the dye based printers now do claim a certain amount of water fast. That's nice.

So and you can even test that ahead of time. You can just get a print and pour some water on it and see how it looks >> See, or what I'd suggest before you go to all the trouble of mounting on board. Go ahead and invest the $5 in the varnish. And then take a work print or maybe the color balance isn't good. And just get a brush and brush a little on, and see how it reacts. Without being glued to the board, it will probably curl and buckle a little bit. But that way you'll know you're not getting a bad interaction with the varnish. So after we've put our first coat on and I've kind of looked around on it to make sure there's no areas that I missed, that it's even.

I'll go ahead and wash my brush, soap and water cleanup, and then this needs to cure for three hours at least before you apply the second coat. >> Oh, so you do more than one. >> Yeah, you do two coats of varnish, and the second coat will go on just like the first one. But you'l be conscious when you put on the second coat, it will not absorb as much varnish. The first coat gets absorbed into the surface where the second coat really is kind of sitting on top of the surface. >> Okay. >> and that's where once again, don't load your brush too heavily and be real conscious of how much you work it on that second coat.

and like with any artistic process practice is really going to help with this. The more times you do it the, the more success you'll have. And then finally the result we get with two coats is this print right here. And I think one of the things if you see this in more direct light the differences between the two will become more apparent. And you can see to if you compare it to the original. If you look in the shadow values you can see how we've richened the blacks quite a bit in these tonal areas, and I really feel that in the, in the, colored areas here, the rich color of the mountain side here we're getting allot more pomp in the color to, the, the saturation seems to increase while we go through the process.

>> So you said that one of the advantages of this is we don't have to when we're presenting it, we don't have to put glass in front of it. Glass will cut out a lot of contrast, no matter how great a print you have. It'll cut a lot of color saturation, and so a process like this, this hanging on the wall, that, that black is just going to leap across the room. >> Yeah, no, it'll really jump, and you notice we do have a white border. That's not really a concern because the rabbit on a typical picture frame is a quarter of an inch. And so that will cover this quarter inch border. And I would typically do these to standard frame sizes, so I can just go to the any hobby shops where they have open back frames, and just select from the over the counter ones, and standard sizes.

Then it's just a question you slip, slip it into the frame. Go in from behind with a couple of framers points. And you've got a piece of work that's ready to hang on the wall. >> And you say just even that, just those framer's points will take out >> Yeah. If you've got a little bit of warp in the board, what I'll do when I put it in the frame back is I'll start on one end and make sure that's tight, and then add pressure as I work my way across. And I'll work the warp out of it as I go across. If you don't have a framing pointer, you can also use offset clips, like you'd use for mirrors.

Where you've got a little basically z shaped clipped that would screw in, in the back of the frame and apply pressure to the back of the board. the advantage of that, if you're using these for exhibitions and you want to rotate things out. That's an easily reversible process. >> So these are eight by ten prints. Does this scale, is there anything that I need to do differently, if I'm doing a 13 by 19 or? >> No what I do is just go to your local hobby shop and see what you know standard size frames are available. You may have found a frame at a garage sale or a thrift store and you can print exactly to that size.

Double check the depth of the rabbit to make sure that you're going to have an image that disapears under the rabbit. the only thing about working larger is in the gluing phase, I'd add a little bit more glue so you've got a little bit more working time. If you get to a big surface, you may find that this dries pretty quickly as it gets absorbed into the paper. Also, I've done a few very large kind of panoramic ones. And what I did on those is I started the glue evenly on one end and got about 10 inches in and then start, I had the print rolled up, and then start gluing the print down, and then applied glue, rolled out the print, applied glue, rolled out the print.

And we used the brayer at intervals as I went down. >> With a glue like this, how long do you typically have before you, before any of it. Its set too long >> Minutes really.Yeah, because, and part of it's the absorption of the board. if you're working on a surface like masonite, its not quite as thirsty as this plywood surface is. You'll gain a little bit more working time. I would not recommend using any of the spray adhesives. as I was kind of perfecting this technique I did a couple where I was in a hurry and I thought, well I don't have time for the glue to dry overnight and so I used a spray adhesive and then when I was in the varnishing phase they started to bubble up.

>> Okay. >> And so instead of gaining time I actually ended up wasting time because I had to make new prints. >> had to do another print. >> Yeah. >> It's a very distinctive look. It looks really cool. It's definitely not something you normally see and it is a way of taking a photo and making it a, a little bit different than how we're used to with photo presentation. Very inexpensive something that's easy to try and thanks a lot Conrad this is very cool. >> Thanks, my pleasure.

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