Harold Davis Explores New Frontiers of Photographic Art

According to renowned artist-author-printmaker Harold Davis, Photoshop, DSLRs, and pigment-ink printers have empowered artists to produce photographic works that go far beyond what they could print in traditional darkrooms. Now that digital capture equipment, processing software, and printing technology have matured, he believes digital photography has emerged as an entirely new art medium.

With his background as a classically trained painter, accomplished professional film photographer, and meticulous printmaker, Harold Davis is proud to be at of the forefront of this new art medium. Through his experiments, craftsmanship, and unique insights, Harold Davis is expanding the definition of photography to include realms that go beyond documenting the decisive moment.

“Gates after Rodin” is part of the Multiple Exposures collection by Harold Davis. The series shows an unusual photographic technique in which Harold Davis captures in-camera multiple exposures that are precision timed in the studio using strobes and motions choreographed with a model or models. The artisanal pigment prints are output on Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl on an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printer with Epson Ultrachrome HDR inks. Photo: ©Harold Davis
“Gates after Rodin” is part of the Multiple Exposures collection by Harold Davis. The series shows an unusual photographic technique in which Harold Davis captures in-camera multiple exposures that are precision timed in the studio using strobes and motions choreographed with a model or models. The artisanal pigment prints are output on Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl on an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printer with Epson Ultrachrome HDR inks. Photo: ©Harold Davis

Harold Davis describes his current work as “Digital paintings that use photographs as the medium.” With the power of Photoshop and advanced digital printers and inkjet media, he believes that photographers who have the vision to tie it all together can craft images and styles that are uniquely their own.

Castelo Marvao by Harold Davis
This artisanal pigment print of Castelo Marvao in Portugal was printed on Moab Exhibition Luster 300. Photo: ©Harold Davis

To put his concepts in perspective, let’s review how digital photography workflows have evolved and why traditionalists in the art world must overcome some misperceptions about how Photoshop is being used.

Photoshop Preceded Professional Digital Cameras

First, it’s important to remember that Photoshop and digital photography didn’t always go together.

According to the timeline Adobe created for Photoshop’s 25th anniversary, the first version of Photoshop debuted in February, 1990 – about 15 months before Kodak launched the first DSLR camera.

In an interview on Adobe’s website, one of Photoshop’s creators Thomas Knoll explained that the first few versions of Photoshop were primarily for graphic arts and publishing. Photography workflows weren’t practical with Photoshop until inkjet printers enabled photographers to scan their film, manipulate the file in Photoshop, and then print each image without the cost of making film separations for each photo.

In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, DSLR cameras became more powerful and less expensive. The popularity of Photoshop surged, because digital photography made it faster and easier to bring digital files into Photoshop.

To inspire the huge new wave of photography enthusiasts to “shoot like the pros,” the digital camera and printer manufacturers encouraged professional photographers to adopt digital photography and the “digital darkroom” in which Photoshop was used in conjunction with pigment inkjet printers. This required the technology developers to make products that could generate digital prints that were as good as (or better) than the prints that buyers expected from professional film photographers.

This took a while, because many established pro photographers were reluctant to change. Many photography pros might still be shooting film if their editorial and advertising clients hadn’t demanded the workflow and cost benefits that digital capture provided.

Unfortunately, eager newcomers to professional photography never learned how to shoot film. Many regarded Photoshop as a fast way to “fix” photographs that weren’t properly composed or lit on location. Plus, graphic designers routinely “doctored” images of models and celebrities that would be featured on magazine covers. Because some of these photographs looked “unnatural” and “off,” photographs that were “manipulated” in Photoshop were initially shunned by photography contest organizers and art collectors.

Those attitudes are changing because most professional photographers today have become much more skilled in the nuanced use of Photoshop. Digitally manipulated images have become the norm – in print and online. Most people really can’t tell if an image has been “Photoshopped.”

So now, photographic artists feel free to experiment and explore everything that’s possible with Photoshop. In addition to replicating film photography, Photoshop can be used to execute the artist’s inner visions.

Photographic artists such as Harold Davis don’t necessarily care if their work looks like a traditional “photograph” or not. They make images and visual stories that until now could only exist in their mind’s eye. Today, if an artist can dream it, they can depict it in photographic art.

Experience in Multiple Disciplines Pays Off

Harold Davis thoroughly understands the vast differences between film and digital photography because he has such an eclectic background. In the 1980s he supported himself as a commercial film photographer after studying painting in college. In the 1990s, he took a break from art and photography and wrote books about software and computer programming. He missed all the technology iterations that professional photographers struggled with as the digital imaging tools matured.

By the time Harold Davis’s publisher asked him to write a book on digital photography, most of the quality and permanence hurdles had been resolved. Digital capture, processing, and printing technology had become incredibly powerful, versatile, and accessible.

When Harold Davis picked up a DSLR for the first time in 2004, he quickly discovered that with Photoshop and new advances in printing media, he could combine his love of painting with his love of photography. He quickly recognized that his Photography 2.0 digital photography career would be vastly different from his Photography 1.0 film photography career.

One collector of Harold Davis’ work appreciates his unusual and effective use of technology in support of the classical tenets of photographic art and is excited about its possibilities: “I would compare his work to Ansel Adams’ and Edward Weston’s work during the crucial 1930s and 1940s time frame.”

Inspiring Others to Make New Forms of Photographs

To inspire other creative souls to push the boundaries of what’s possible with digital photography, Harold Davis leads workshops, posts webinars, and write books on topics such as Monochromatic HDR Photography, Creative Black & White, Creative Landscapes, Photographing Flowers, and Creative Lighting.

The Way of the Digital Photographer cover

His newest books encourage photographers to develop their own visions of what a photograph might be. In his award-winning photography book, The Way of the Digital Photographer, Davis emphasizes that previsualizing an image today not only includes how a shot will be composed and lit but also how it will be processed in Photoshop and printed. Creative choices can be made during every phase of the process.

His next book (which Focal Press has scheduled for publication in August, 2015) is entitled Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer. The book presents an organized and cohesive plan for kickstarting your creativity and taking the resulting work into the real world. The concepts are accompanied by a workbook of exercises that can help you refine your thinking and skills.

Making Artisanal Prints and Limited Edition Portfolios

In a recent post on his blog, Harold Davis answered questions about “Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print.” Unlike the inkjet prints you buy from places such as Costco or giclee printmaking studios, artisanal inkjet prints are crafted one by one in the studios of solo artists. They take their time and fret over every detail. Taking into account file preparation, printing, and post-print issues, Harold Davis says he might spend five to ten hours making one print. Sometimes, he prints the same image 20 times until he gets the desired result.

“Just as much craft, skill, and artistry go into making a good artisanal pigment print as ever went into a print made in the chemical darkroom,” says Davis. His printer of choice is the Epson Style Pro 9900 with its Ultrachrome HDR pigment inks.

This artisanal pigment print “Star Magnolia” is featured in the Botanique limited edition portfolio of floral images. Botanique shows the type of art that can be created with the new digital workflow and backlighting technique Harold Davis invented to create luminous translucent imagery. The image looks fantastic on Moab Moenkopi Unryu Washi paper. Photo: ©Harold Davis
This artisanal pigment print “Star Magnolia” is featured in the Botanique limited edition portfolio of floral images. Botanique shows the type of art that can be created with the new digital workflow and backlighting technique Harold Davis invented to create luminous translucent imagery. The image looks fantastic on Moab Moenkopi Unryu Washi paper. Photo: ©Harold Davis

He considers paper selection an important element of the printmaking process and has experimented with a number of different papers. Because he is a huge fan of the range of Moab photo and fine art papers and an expert printmaker, Harold Davis was named a Moab Master in 2012.

Harold Davis numbers and signs each print he makes, but doesn’t sell limited editions of single prints. The concept of “limited editions” arose from printing processes in which it made sense to destroy the plates after relatively small number of copies were printed. But most photographers are unwilling to destroy any of their best files that could be used to make additional prints. So if a “limited edition” of one size print sells out, they might simply change the size of a print and call it a new edition.

“What I affirmatively do is keep track of my prints,” explains Davis. “That way, I can look up how many copies have been printed of any one image. Knowledgeable gallerists and collectors I have discussed this with tell me that this provides them with all they really need – a good sense of how many copies of a given print have been made.”

Harold Davis does make limited editions of the portfolios he prints. The first portfolio he made (in collaboration with his wife, graphic designer Phyllis Davis) was called Botanique. Each collection contains 21 original floral prints that emerge delicately from the hand-assembled presentation box. The images are printed on a variety of substrates, including Moab’s Moenkopi Unryu Washi, Moenkopi Kozo Washi, Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl, Moab Lasal Exhibition Luster, and translucent archival vellum.

Because so much work is involved in hand-crafting each portfolio, Botanique is limited to an edition of 25 copies. Each book is hand-signed and numbered, and accompanied by a 9 x 12 –inch print of Harold Davis’ popular “Red Poppies” image.

Harold Davis has also released a portfolio entitled “Monochromatic Visions” and is currently working on “Kumano Kodo.”

Images from the Monochromatic Visions series by Harold Davis. Photo: ©Harold Davis
Images from the Monochromatic Visions series by Harold Davis. Photo: ©Harold Davis

Monochromatic Visions consists of twelve high-dynamic range black and white prints, created in an edition of 12 portfolios (plus three artist proofs). The idea of the portfolio is to show the capabilities of new high-tonal range black and white printmaking in the context of an apparently classical portfolio presentation.

The center spread of the limited-edition Kumano Kodo portfolio crafted by Harold Davis and Phyllis Davis. Photo: ©Harold Davis
The center spread of the limited-edition Kumano Kodo portfolio crafted by Harold Davis and Phyllis Davis. Photo: ©Harold Davis

A Modern Pilgrimage: The Kumano Kodo portfolio is based on photography of Harold Davis made during his journey through rural Japan in 2013. This portfolio is unique, hand-assembled and strictly limited to 12 copies plus 4 artist proofs. Each copy is hand-signed and numbered, and embellished with the artist’s hand-applied personal Japanese inkan.

The primary portion of the portfolio is printed on one continuous 16 ½ foot long piece of archival Japanese kozo washi produced at Awagami on Shikoku Island, Japan. (This paper is distributed in the United States as Moab Moenkopi Kozo.) This printing technique combines traditional paper with technological innovation and ideas into a handmade artist book creation.

The portfolio is wrapped in a cover showing a view of Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po, meaning “the view of 3,600 peaks,” from a high pass on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. The cover is printed on a single piece of archival, mould-made cotton paper.

Webinars and Workshops

To learn from Harold Davis, you can watch some of the webinars he has posted, order one of his books, or apply for an upcoming workshop in several locations in California, at the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography in Germany, or the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. In October, he will lead a 15-day photographic adventure to the Sea-Girt Villages in Italy.

Achieving Your Potential cover

Harold Davis is excited to be pioneering new forms of photographic art. He believes the type of prints and portfolios he is currently creating could never have been produced before because the technology simply didn’t exist: “I am able to create in a domain where many techniques and crafts have come together for the very first time.”

“Times of disruption bring great opportunity,” says Harold Davis. “Basically, digital photography is emerging as an entirely new art form.”


About Harold Davis Studio

Book: The Way of the Digital Photographer

Book: Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer

Webinar Recordings Harold Davis Workshops and Events

Blog Post: Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print


Can You Believe Photoshop Debuted 25 Years Ago?

A Preview of Three Big Photography Conferences

At photography conferences and trade shows, you will find learning and networking experiences that are difficult to replicate through books, videos, or webinars. Attending a national photography conference can be a fantastic way to get a summary of current thinking, meet the brightest stars in the business, see demonstrations of the latest technology, and get hints about what’s next.

With the soaring popularity of photography (and the fact that so many creative pros must add photography to their repertoire of skills), many photography conferences welcome newcomers. Whether you want to make photography your full-time career or just want to learn how to shoot and process better photos, most photography conferences offer classes that can help.

Here’s a quick overview of three upcoming conferences and how they differ.

Photoshop World Conference and Expo
September 4-6, 2013
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
(Early registration discount ends August 2)

PSWorldCoverThis Adobe-sponsored event is being promoted for “creative people from all walks of life—from beginners to seasoned pros, from teachers to students, and from amateurs to wizards.” In more than 100 different training sessions, Photoshop, photography, creative business, and design experts will share techniques in seven different areas: Photoshop Skills, Photoshop for Photographers, Lightroom, Photography Techniques, Graphic Design, Lighting, and Business.

The in-depth, pre-conference sessions include workshops such as Photoshop for Beginners, Lightroom 5 Crash Course, and Light It: Starting from Scratch. You can also experience learning events such as an On Location Wedding Photography Shoot, a Photo Safari in Las Vegas, and Top Gun Flight Training for aerial photography.

The lighting and photography technique tracks can help you shoot more visually interesting images from the start. You can learn how to:

  • Create texture, dimension, and mood with light
  • How to light anyone, whether in the studio or on location
  • Take your technique to the next level and become a better photographer
  • Style breathtaking images without spending a lot of money

Business workshops cover topics such as social media, pricing, negotiating, selling, contracts, licensing, and releases as well as the business side of wedding photography, and how to make it in editorial photography or sports photography.

The Photoshop Skills track covers topics such as video editing with Creative Cloud, digital illustration workflow, and smart creative technology.  The Graphic Design track includes workshops on creating motion graphics, using InDesign, illustration in Photoshop, and the fundamentals of character design for animation.

The Photoshop World Expo features live photo shoots, product demonstrations, and bonus classes.

Photoshop World Conference and Expo is organized by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). When you register for the Conference as a non-member, you will get a one-year membership to NAPP, which includes ten issues of Photoshop User magazine, and access to online classes and tutorials, discounts, and Photoshop and Lightroom help desks.


Photoshop World

National Association of Photoshop Professionals

PDN PhotoPlus International Conference  +  Expo
Conference: October 23-26, 2013
Expo: October 24-26, 2013
Javits Convention Center
New York, NY
(Discounted online registration ends October 22)

PhotoPlusExpoLogoAttended by more than 23,000 professional photographers and enthusiasts, this is the largest photography and imaging show in North America. Celebrating its 30th year, PhotoPlus will bring the latest technologies, applications, and business strategies to the forefront while taking a nostalgic look at the world of photography. The show’s theme is “Honoring the Past, Envisioning the Future.”  

The 90+ conference seminars are organized into eight tracks: Mastering Light; Shooting Memorable Moments; Creating for Clients; Social Media and Marketing; Better Business; Tips and Trends; In Motion; Post Production; Step by Step; and WPPI U.

WPPI U is a full-day series of seminars on October 23 produced by Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. Topics include posing, venue lighting, and creative composition tips for wedding photography, secrets to success in boudoir photography, and a start-to-finish overview of a portrait shoot.

Panel discussions at PhotoPlus Expo will explore the state of editorial photography, safe social media practices, strategies for entering photography competitions, presenting your work to multiple markets, and how motion is changing the future of still photography.

Other sessions will cover fine-art digital printing and publishing, earning a living in a world in which everyone has a camera, evolving your craft from stills to motion, succeeding in stock photography, and today’s changing market for photographs.

At the Expo, you will be able to meet representatives of nearly 300 manufacturers and service providers and touch, test, and compare an extensive assortment of photographic hardware, software, and services. Admission to the Expo is $70 on-site, but is free if you register online by October 22.

The official portfolio review program enables commercial and fine-art photographers to get feedback and critiques from top professionals along with the possibility of new assignments and relationships.

A variety of registration options are available. Register in advance for single sessions, one-day conference passes, or the full conference, which includes the PhotoPlus 30th anniversary bash and a new product preview and networking event. Student discounts and VIP Expo passes are also available.

PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo is brought to you by Photo District News (PDN), the award-winning monthly magazine for professional photographers. Photo District News and PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo are part of the Nielsen Photo Group.


PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo

Portfolio Review Sessions at PDN PhotoPlus Conference

Imaging USA
Professional Photographers of America
January 12-14, 2014
Phoenix Convention Center
Phoenix, Arizona
(Registration discounts end December 4)

ImagingUSALogoWith more than 25,000 members in 54 countries, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) describes itself as the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers for professional photographers.

PPA recently opened registration for Imaging USA 2014 and expects to attract more than 10,000 industry professionals for three days of photography education and inspiration.

The Imaging Expo trade show will feature more than 600 booths, several all-inclusive parties and more than 100 speeches, presentations and hands-on demonstrations by photographers and well-known industry experts. The educational classes can help you improve your photography business skills, range of photographic services, and expert use of technologies. Imaging USA also features mentoring opportunities, portfolio reviews, and an exhibition of award-winning photography.

Imaging USA is the longest running international photographic convention, expo and image exhibition in the world. Nearly as old as photography itself, the event dates back to 1880 when it began as the annual convention and trade show for Professional Photographers of America (PPA). It continues to grow and evolve along with industry trends and technology.

PPA is offering a free full-registration to Imaging USA as a perk for new members. Professional Active PPA memberships are available for $27.92 a month. Current members and everyone else can register for the full conference and expo, the expo only, the full conference and pre-conference courses, the International Photographic Competition, or off-site classes throughout the surrounding areas.


Imaging USA

Professional Photographers of America


Shutterstock Launches Online Learning Platform for Creatives

Whether you’re a designer, photographer, artist, videographer, multimedia journalist, or independent author, the need to learn new subjects or software seems never ending. The newest provider of online courses for digital professionals is Shutterstock — a company that is best known for providing high-quality licensed photographs, vectors, illustrations and videos to businesses, marketing agencies and media organizations around the world.

SkillfeedLogoTheir new platform called Skillfeed offers subscription-based access to thousands of videos on topics including: 3D and motion graphics, web development, graphic design, photography, video, audio, and business. Courses and tutorials cover more than 50 different programs ranging from Ableton Live, Access, and Acrobat to Word, WordPress, and Xcode and everything in between, such as Digital Publishing Suite, Maya, Premiere Pro, and Ruby.

At launch, Skillfeed features more than 10,000 videos from over 100 instructors. Select from comprehensive courses such as “Learning to Build Apps for iPhone and iPad” or “Skill Snacks” such as “How to Make a Vintage Circus Poster in Photoshop” or “How to Use Motion Templates in Final Cut Pro.”


The comprehensive courses (with videos that last 20 minutes or more) are designed to help you develop professional skills in selected areas. The Skill Snacks are short videos you can watch on your lunch break to pick up new tips and techniques.

“We’ve learned a lot about the benefits of a global, crowdsourced marketplace model from Shutterstock, and applied that knowledge to online learning,” said Shutterstock’s Founder and CEO Jon Oringer .”The idea evolved from our existing customer and contributor communities and quickly expanded to include all digital professionals.”

“Skillfeed is a natural extension for Shutterstock since we already serve an active, paying community of more than 750,000 professionals who view us as a trusted, creative resource,” adds Oringer. “We are excited to offer yet another way to help digital communicators succeed in their work.”

To celebrate the launch, Skillfeed is offering a free one-week trial. Subscriptions for unlimited video access start at $19 per month.

If you have skills you would like to share, you can register to become a Skillfeed instructor. You will get paid every month based on how many minutes your instructional videos are viewed by Skillfeed members.



How to Become a Skillfeed Instructor


Seminar Teaches Photographers Fundamentals of Filmmaking

PHOTOGRAPHERS. If you want to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, check out the “Get In Motion” tour conducted by CineStories. Led by Jeff Medford and Ross Hockrow, the seminar will teach you how to use your artistic talent, training, and equipment to also make moving images.

Get in Motion Tour LogoWhether you want to learn how to make films yourself for your clients, or plan to hire someone else to make them for you, understanding the fundamental principles will allow you to contribute to the final finished film and filmmaking process.

The Get in Motion Seminar Tour kicked off Sept. 19 and is scheduled to make stops in more than 35 cities until the end of November.

During the 4-1/2 hour seminar, the instructors show examples of specific films you can make right now, including:

  • web commercials
  • wedding films
  • birth-announcement films
  • family films
  • senior music videos
  • films for events

They will also discuss fundamental filmmaking techniques, what gear to acquire, and how to use it. Some of the specifics you will learn include:

  • Why purposeful storytelling is the most important aspect of filmmaking
  • Techniques that can enhance the story and move it forward.
  • How to “see the story” before you start shooting.
  • How to create the intrigue necessary to keep viewers engaged.
  • How to choose lenses, camera movements, and cuts that lead back to the point of your story.
  • Techniques for creating the types of emotions you intend your viewers to feel.
  • Why your camera moves tell the viewer how to interpret the scene.
  • Why the proper selection of lenses will enhance your ability to create emotion.
  • How to record clean audio and mix it properly during post-production so viewers can pay attention to your story and not be distracted by an imperfect soundtrack.
  • Why the quality of your audio should make the quality of your footage.
  • Why editing doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think.
  • How to use cut points and transitions, line up audio, add text and graphic elements, make basic motion enhancements, add a music soundtrack, and correct color.

If your clients haven’t asked you to provide video services yet, chances are they will soon. Over the next three years, spending on video advertising is expected to swell from $1.97 billion to $4.71 billion. Plus, tens of thousands of companies (big and small) will be using video content on their websites, to tell the stories behind their products and services.

To see examples of the types of films CineStories has produced, visit their website. And don’t forget to watch the very amusing trailer on the Get in Motion Tour website.


About CineStories

Get in Motion Tour