We agreed that design and composition are the hallmarks of photography .. and without them you end up with record photos or worthless photos.
I think that we tend to confuse three things .. ideas, design and composition .. where idea is the story, design is how to tell it, while composition is how to tell it well ..
So I have an idea .. I may be reading about the artistic effects of using perspective, driving across the country and see a scene that stops me, or I want to do a study about poverty .. the list is endless, from the mundane to the abstract .. I would then have to design how to tell the story .. still life, street photography, studio work, and so on .. and based on this choice I would choose my equipment .. and the last bit would be the composition .. i.e. shooting the scene using the equipment and technique most suitable ..
So for example .. the other day I wanted to photograph a historic site, that is always full of people, especially at the time of the day when the light was most appropriate for photographing it. I wanted an angled frontal shot with perspective that would show the glory and tell the story of the place, with no or very few or blurred people .. I decided to shoot just before sunset (site front is west facing), using long shutter speeds to ghost out the moving people (I needed a -8 or more ND filter), a tripod, and a shutter release. I set my tripod and camera at a place where I could get these angled frontal shots with perspective, using a wide angle lens. I took some shots on a clear day, with hard low sunlight, producing some harsh shadows. I also shot others on an overcast day, with diffuse light and little or no shadows. I used different shutter speeds and apertures to get as many shots as I can, so I can later choose the best ones .. Some shots (20-30 seconds) showed no people (completely ghosted out) and others had people in slow motion.
Studying what I did carefully you realise that the first step was the idea: photographing the site front, angled and with a perspective (ideally without people, few people, or blurred people) .. then the design: long stutter speed with ND filters and tripod and a wide angle .. then the composition: frontal with perspective using a wide angle lens and different shooting angles and positions, and different shutter speeds and apertures .. At the end of the day I chose only one photograph that I felt was good and fulfilled my idea and vision .. it was what I saw in my mind to start with, and was then physically produced, for me and others to see ..
So have a story, decide how to tell it, and tell it well .. Idea, design and composition
That’s how you make a good photo
I did a lot of research to decide which photo printer to go for.
A4 or A3+. I decided that an A3+ printer would be ideal, especially as prices of A3 printers have gone down.
Dye or Pigment ? I understand that for Glossy paper dye is better, while for Matte, pigment is better. However in the real world I personally prefer the dye gradations to the contrasty pigment inks. I went for a dye + second pigment black. If you use CISS (continuous ink system) or re-fillable cartridges, you can obviously vary the type of ink, although I understand you have to then use some cleaning cartridges between type changes. I have never personally used an ink type (dye and pigment) that is not recommended by the manufacturer, and I do not know whether that voids the warranty.
How many inks. Most have CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Some have two extra lighter cyan and magenta. Some have Red and blue, and others have different blacks or greys.
Droplet size makes a difference to both gradations of colour tones and resolution, and they vary between 1-5 picolitre, with most new printers between 1-3. Type of paper makes a big difference to result though, and one has to use recommended or original papers or paper from long-standing manufacturers using standardised products.
What resolution. Most photo inkjet printers nowadays have enough resolution to print very high resolution prints on up to A3+, and the resolution is also very much dependant on the droplet size and the print algorithm. I still lean towards the higher resolution machines for a more natural print.
Epson, HP or Canon. The three big players in photo printers. Epson use Peizo-electric heads, with a longer print cycles than the bubble or thermal heads used by HP and Canon. On the other hand, HP has head in cartridge, so every cartridge change includes a new head, and therefore more expensive. Canon has a very accessible and removable print head that can be easily changed, and costs about one third the price of the printer. Here the choice is difficult, although I personally tried all three.
Wi-Fi and network connection or not. This is now getting to the practicalities. I have 10 USB ports on my computer, and therefore went for the cheaper option of USB only, but for some, go for the network connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) if you need it.
Glossy or Matte paper. I prefer Matte for artistic effects. I also like textured paper and canvas. But for many users (portraits, weddings and the like) glossy is a better option.
Original or compatible cartridges, or CISS. For serious work I prefer original ink and paper to get the best results, although compatibles and CISS (continuous ink systems) are good for proofing and draft work.
Printing is a very serious business, if it is to be done properly, and requires a lot of calibration of equipment and standardisation of inks and paper, at least to get a consistent result.
Soft proofing is the last process before finally printing your photos.
I never did that until I came across those out of gamut warnings in Photoshop, which resulted in odd effects on printing.
My research led me to soft proofing, which is available now in Lightroom 4 Develop module. Soft proofing allows us to see what is out of gamut in the particular printer profile. Treating the out of gamut areas or colours by changing the exposure, saturation or hue, we are left with what we are sure we will get printed, rather than leaving it to the printer software in what would be a hit and miss process.
http://tv.adobe.com/watch/whats-new-in-lightroom-4/soft-proofing-images/ is a link to Adobe site about this topic.