Don't fear the repro

Staff PhotographerSeptember 4, 2008 

Reporters sometimes lay awake at night, worrying whether they got all the facts right in their stories. They tear at their hair in anxious anticipation as an internal debate boils over calling the late editors to check for the fourth time that they found every mistake they had made by spelling "Johnston" as "Johnson." They pace around on the bare concrete in their hovels until the bottoms of their feet blister, waiting for the paper to be delivered so that they may catch a couple fleeting hours of rest before doing it all again.

OK. It's not that dramatic but ask any reporter and he or she will tell you that this anxiety is part of the business.

And if not? Either he doesn't care about his job or she has an ego befitting a much more lucrative form of employment.

Or he's lying because I certainly am not.

I wouldn't do that to my readers, most of whom I probably know personally because my blog is so hard to find.

Every once in a while, I will have a similar experience over a caption but the number of facts and names that I am responsible for is dwarfed by all but the briefest of news briefs.

What does make me nervous is how my photos will reproduce — or repro, as we usually say.

From camera to computer to the copy that ends up on your doorstep, what you see is definitely not what you get. The offset printing process will pick up on certain colors that were very subtle when viewed on screen. Darker tones are especially tricky to reproduce, as I found out on July 5 this year.

I had looked through our archives of fireworks photos from the last few years in an attempt to find something different for the front page. I framed my shot with the lit blue bridge on the left and was happy that the gusty winds were keeping Old Glory in motion. I waited for some bigger explosions to fill the dark space above my glow-stick-wearing subjects and took off running back toward the car after seeing this frame on the back of my camera.

I worked to brighten the bridge without making it look unnatural and boosted the contrast to try and make the people apparent — two gloriously failed attempts. They didn't come up nearly enough and when I talked to people the next day, many expressed surprise that it was the blue bridge on the left side of the frame. Looking back, I know a few things I would try differently if presented with a similar situation in the future, and more importantly, I know the limits of our printing press that much better.

If I'm stuck working the Fourth again next year, I can apply this valuable lesson. I'll be plenty happy to delay my redemption, however, much to the chagrin of any ribs, hot wings and beer that happen to be near me.

~~~~~

kyau@tricityherald.com
(509) 585-7205
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