This weekend 10,000 professional photographers convened in San Antonio, Texas for the annual Imaging USA conference. Sponsored by the Professional Photographers of America, the event is an opportunity for photographers to learn from each other and meet with the labs that serve them.
Five trends were apparent in the professional competition prints:
1. Faux Mattes - Why go to the trouble of making a beveled matte to trim out an image if you can build it right into the image itself. Classic colors like black and white are most common, but the most interesting mattes use colors and textures pulled from the image itself.
2. Extreme Contrast, Saturation and Sharpening - It seems impossible for a print to be too crisp. The same image quality that you would expect from an LED HD TV is now popular for photographic printing.
3. Artistic Filtering - A professional photograph must look like a painting. Buy the best Photoshop filters you can find and combine them in interesting ways.
4. Print on Metal - Several years ago, Kodak introduced a metallic photographic paper which looks great with highly saturated images. Now labs are bypassing the photographic paper and applying the images directly to sheets of aluminum.
5. Panoramic book pages - The shift from albums on silver halide paper to books printed on digital presses continues to accelerate. Increasingly, these books are bound in ways that allow them to open flat and present a seamless two page image.
Photographic purists might be disturbed by these trends, but I feel they bring a freshness to professional photography and help differentiate it from advanced consumer photography.