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Monday, 07 November 2011


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Great idea.

Thankyou Mike.

So if you do this "three times in the coming months" can we enter an image each time? Or more than one image each time?

I think this is really awesome. I'm not anywhere near having a image (let alone a print) worthy of submission; but it has officially become a goal of mine now. I don't need to actually have it on the sale either, simply convincing myself an image I shot was worthy for submission would be enough.

Of course I'll have to figure out the whole printing scene. I've started printing some of my images and feel in a little over my head.

I look forward to seeing the results (and sales) from this!

An aside regarding a previous article, any thoughts on selling an "inexpensive" version (and yes I understand that the prices on these sales are relatively inexpensive, but not relative to me)?

Wish I had bought "Wisconsin #7".


Looking forward to it. Hope I make it to the actual print phase, since an 800 pixel wide JPEG is not what I do - I think of myself as a printmaker at least as much as a photographer.

And I've been practicing for the heat of the kitchen, going down to SF Camerawork for their monthly portfolio reviews.

Steve G,
The JPEG is just for review. I simply don't have the resources to review submissions as prints.


Really excited about this Mike. Not sure if I'll submit anything, but I am interested to see what other TOP readers will present.

Question: are model release forms required for street photos submitted for this?

Looking forward to it. How long will we have to submit images from when you announce?


"Question: are model release forms required for street photos submitted for this?"

No, model releases are not required for art photographs. At least not in the U.S.


Dear Folks,

An aside for people who are terribly worried about someone rigging the vote.

Yeah, there are ways someone can jigger things to get to get themselves a few extra votes. But Mike has a readership of roughly 30,000. If you've participated in one of his online polls, you know that they garner thousands of votes.

Who knows what response this little game will get, but it's not likely that a few votes on way or another will matter.

ESPECIALLY since Mike is going to be vetting, filtering and weeding entries every step of the way. This is not so much a contest as market research. Mike will still decide what is sales-worthy.

This is supposed to be a bit of fun that opens the sales up to new participants and gets a sense of what the readership might be interested in. (And, yes, everyone understands that "interest" not-equals "purchase" and there's no way to filter for that, believe me.)

But the actual sale-- that is still totally under Mike's control, and he's going to do this VERY carefully, because he can't afford (I mean that literally) to blow the brand.

So, my advice is don't try to analyze too deeply, unlax and enjoy and roll with the curves.

pax / Ctein

I'm thinking like a day or so? I don't want to get inundated. After all, there will be several chances to submit, so it won't actually be too critical. Miss one, wait for the next one. Miss all three, well then maybe you're not coming around to TOP often enough.... [g]


The first time I read Mike Johnston was on the Luminous Landscape site I don't recall how long ago. I'm about as regular a reader as anybody and it would be a very difficult task to find a TOP post that I have not read.

It is wonderful to note that even a blog has a life-cycle. Diving into that analogy I think maybe TOP has just graduated from college and is about to hit the mean streets to grapple with a future career full of huge opportunity and potential. Pitfalls and stonewalls will be there as well.

Here´s hoping for a huge success on these Printmaker sales.

I can hardly wait for the chance to contend. I must confess that I spent some time yesterday looking through my work to see what might be competitive. I almost immediately realized that the images I love may only appeal to me. I'll definitely have to pull my wife in; she's always been a much better judge of which of my photographs appeal to other folks.

Thank you for doing this! I think it is absolutely brilliant.

I see countless JPEGs online, and even though I am happily shooting 4x5 film, few of mine ever make it as far as a finished print. I find I rarely even have the opportunity to SEE a finished print, even though I think it's the ultimate point in the photographic process (not an online JPEG). It's refreshing to see an emphasis on printmaking, and I can't wait to see what emerges. I suspect it will be great.

Great proposal Mike, I'll be participating. My iPF8000 printer is already panting heavily!

I have a few I'd love to submit if I had any clue on the printing phase. I do get mine printed, because a print is so much better than an LCD screen, but am not able to do it well myself.

If anyone has any suggestions for some better places or people who I can have print items for me, I am all ears (or eyes in this case). I like my current online printers, but would love to see some done right on top notch papers.

For the lucky person selected, what print size will he/she need to print? Shall the prints be mounted? Framed? I'm asking because this could be way out of my league if larger paper sizes or gallery-mounted prints are required.

To facilitate the voting be on the merits of the various images, I suggest you redact the names of the photographers.

I find the idea of blind-voting to be interesting. After the "winners" are announced, it would be interesting to see who was who.

Great idea mike, equal opportunity for all, even me!

I started a personal printing project earlier this year. The plan was to fill a 48 page portfolio with 35mm full frame photos printed on 11" x 14" paper but I only found 15 or less photos that I liked. Can't wait for the contest.

Sounds like fun! I am not sure about my taste, but I do have the courage and a thick skin.:-)

Sounds fantastic to me!

I'm guessing since you used them for "Color Picture" that Digital Silver Imaging would be acceptable in the unlikely event of my getting that far in the selection process? I don't yet have a darkroom or decent inkjet printer, nor do I expect I'll have either one any time soon.

I admit though it would be interesting to see what someone like Ctein could do with my humble work.

sorry for correcting you, but... nota bene, Mike, not "note" bene

Great plan!
I love to see what you select even if I probably don't have the money to buy a print should I happen to like one....

Just on the off chance I might be brave enough to enter a photo of my own: Any problems with non-US people participating?

I'm a little late to the party, having withheld my initial uncertainty in light of the alternative voting landslide that was taking place. Now that I see it presented as it has been, I find that I'm really looking forward to it. At the same time I'm wondering if you will be inundated beyond the capacity of a single human being. Should be interesting. I purchased a copy of Migrant Mother and look forward to supporting this effort as well.

I think this is a great idea.....looking forward to taking part!

I think this is a great idea. I'm looking forward to seeing the selected pictures.

I feel excited by this and I'm not even considering submitting photos.

I would like to but I'm still organizing and re-processing my photos to finally have my website working before the end of the year. I'm planning on printing my whole portfolio too, maybe then I can evaluate the best prints and gain some printing experience (yes I'm a new-generation digital-publishing photographer :)

I'm really looking foward to this, based on the quality of what I read in TOP I expect to see trully excellent work and, if I'm not mistaken, this will be a big landmark in TOP history.

Great idea Mike - I look forward to seeing how this pans out. Thanks for sorting it out.

Is there a particular print size that you'll want?

I have to say I haven't thought through all the details yet. Sort of working it through as I go. I assume we'll have to discuss the particulars and make the decisions when the time comes.


I wonder what your John's Root Beer image would look like printed on something like Polar Pearl Metallic....

Hi Mike, when you wrote that this search is open for everyone, did you mean worldwide everyone? By the way, what size of print are you looking for? Or what sizes are allowed?

I would like to know more about Ctein's offer to be the printer for those of us without our own printing capabilites.

I agree with Tim - what a great challenge to improve my print-making skills! Thanks, Mike.

Its a great Idea and I think it will really work well for you. I am looking forward to entering some of my work.


This sounds wonderful in many ways, and I am very excited to see the results of this as well as possibly entering some of my own work.

Reading through this post reminded me of a few prints that I wish I would have taken the jump on. So I thought of another idea for a contest here in somewhat the same vane as this one.

How about a contest from the TOP print sale archive. Compile a list of the photographers that might be interested in re-listing their prints here and publish it as a voting poll. Then take the top 3 or so prints and offer them as a re-release to all the people that missed them the first time around.

I don't know how realistic this type of contest would be, but I thought I would voice it in the off chance that it would happen, and "Precipitation" would be chosen as a winner, so that I could finally add it to my collection.


I am starting to look at my picture folder in my blackberry.

Hi Mike, long-time lurker here. I live in Italy and I hope to be able to participate. I print myself the shots. You say a thick skin is needed, well I think that an HONEST word, even if rude, is always a gain. Lookin' forward for the rules. ;-) Ciao!

This question may not be really on topic, but I'm curious: how good of an indicator is a good commercial print for what's going to make a good artisan print?

Mike: thanks for this invitation, which I think is a good one.

I'd like to ask a question or two about the whole 'print' thing. Once upon time, in a galaxy far away.... well, about 15 years or more ago, I used to make black & white prints with an enlarger under the stairs. A small number of these prints got framed and hung around the house, but most just ended up in a stack of prints. I used to get them out and look at them about once a year.

Since the advent of digital I've printed very few images; anything for display goes on-line. I think my reason for this is that it's difficult for me to see the arguments in favour of buying the requisite high-end printer and learning how to drive it properly (ctein's articles have tended to confirm my view on the difficulty of this), but only using it half-a-dozen times a year; and then not doing anything with the prints.

So I'd like to turn the question round, if I may, and ask you: how much do you print? And what do you do with all the printed images once they're made?

Did you mention how large the print must be? I have a good print, but it cannot be larger then 30cm wide .

Dear Mike,
That's an excellent idea and I love a lot, but I'm curious if you'll be able to keep TOP being the same as we all (readers) used to like it. I mean to say I'm not quite sure if I'll still be here should you turn it to some fleabay with occasional 'open Mike' and sporadic Ctein/Ken Tanaka posts. That's a bit exaggerated assumption, but I believe you understand the anxiety that I'm about.


Great idea.

I got round to printing some of my images when I read, quite possibly on this site, about the probability of certain digital disasters wiping out years of imagemaking. Now then, to have a chance to send one of those prints off to TOP isn't that cool or what?

As Tim said, it is the idea that is already very stimulating.

BTW, is that Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" print still on offer. Like to have a sample. Or, is it a kind of joke for the unaware?

*hits F5 key*

Having one's own work custom printed by no less than Ctein is one hell of a carrot, possibly more than the possibility of making a sale. I gave up printing when my first photo printer died a while ago, but I will definitely submit a picture.
This may be a problem though, since non-printers like me likely outnumber the master printers, for whom this was originally intended. You may have to split this offer in two.

Fantastic idea!, I love to print my own work! and very frustrated with those biased contests.

As the post indicates, we've been holding print sales since 2006. The blog itself started in November 2005.


No joke, although my print was just a reproduction, like one you would buy in a museum shop. It was a digital print made from the scan of the negative, not an optical print made from the negative itself (which is a national treasure and isn't even used by the L.o.C.'s own printmakers).


Mike, if the image is a "vertical", should the submitted jpeg be 800 pixies tall, rahter than 800 wide? This is gonna be fun!


This is a fantastic idea! I have a couple of photos that might cut it, so I will give it a try, but given that there are so many good photographers around I think it will be hard to get selected. However, just thinking how to improve my current prints would be worth it.

It will also be nice to see what the other people send, I am looking forward to this.

Thanks again.


PS: @Andrew 800 pixels on the longest dimension would be my guess, otherwise it makes little sense.

Dear Aakin & Renaud,

Here's what I normally do in the way of custom printing for people, and it should answer a lot of the logistical questions:


For something like this, I THINK I can come up with a flat print price that beats my duplicate print prices. That is, for prints 11 x 14 and smaller, I can keep it down to $20-$25 apiece. Maybe even less if the volume is really large (over 100 prints), but I don't know (Mike and I do have a test project in the works, so I hope to have better data well before this sale happens). Probably, anything above that up to 17" x 22", I can do for $40, again maybe less in really large volumes, and again, this is a guess.

Now there's a whole bunch of qualifiers on that. For 8" x 10" and smaller prints I can probably hit those price points regardless of what paper you want me to print on. Above that, shipping costs and medium costs start to become relevant. I mean, there are papers out there that cost $5 a sheet for 11 x 14 size. I can't afford to sell prints at $20 if $5 of that comes right off for the paper alone. I'd charge for the cost of the paper if you're not liking my standard paper (which could add several bucks apiece to prints).

Similarly, international shipping is pricey. So, I'd likely charge for shipping prints outside the US (which would still add less than a buck to the price of each print unless the volumes were very low).

When all is said and done, given the usual selling prices in TOP sales, I would expect the printing cost for the artist to be between 20 and 30% of their selling price.

Again, let me say that this is all very tentative. There's lots of details that haven't been worked out and ideas that haven't been tested. (In particular, I'm not sure what to do with Mike's entirely sensible requirement that the final stage of voting will require submitters to provide a final print. I need to come up with a price policy about that, something that I can live with and contributors can live with.) But you've got the idea.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

"PS: @Andrew 800 pixels on the longest dimension would be my guess, otherwise it makes little sense."

Nope, 800 pixels WIDE. Said wide, meant wide....


Stand corrected :)


It's just the blog software template. It only accepts 800-pixel-wide pictures. Doesn't seem to discriminate between the shapes of the pictures. If you upload a larger image, the blog software will automatically reduce it to 800 px wide, but dedicated software usually does a better job, so I usually resize all larger images to 800 px wide before uploading.


"Nope, 800 pixels WIDE. Said wide, meant wide...."

Huge long vertical panoramics it is then! :D

How exciting! I won't submit Mike, I wish I could, but I'm really looking forward to the competition, genius idea sir! Good luck with the details.

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