Thursday, October 14, 2010

Printing Series: Michel Tcherevkoff – Artist, Advertising Photographer & Canon Explorer of Light & Print Master

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
This is a composite of photographs, not drawings!
This series is modified to look like drawings!
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

When I set out to do my interview of Michel Tcherevkoff (pronounced che rev cough), I expected to talk printing and have a fairly short technical conversation. What I ended up with was the most delightful and entertaining interview I’ve ever done from one of the most brilliant minds I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with. This is saying a lot as in my day job I’ve worked with researchers recruited from the best universities around the world and people who have literally changed the world with their inventions. However, all of that pales in comparison to the man I met with creativity that knows no bounds. His work comes from a fantasy world that few could even dream of, let alone see that vision to its completion – in print. 

I found it amusing that one of the first things Michel said to me when our interview began is that he stumbled upon photography because he “never knew he had the seed”, but the first photographer he worked with, Pete Turner, “watered the seed”. Well, I’m here to say that that Pete must have divine powers because the flower that blossomed from that seed is unlike anything I’ve seen in this world.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Shoe created with a composite of flower photos
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

As you read this article and stare at his work (a simple glance is impossible), I’ll remind you that these are indeed photographs – multiple photographs, combined together to create these amazing images. The people are real, not pencil sketches, the flowers are real, and the bugs are not! :) The true reality here is that Michel has a creative mind that takes the reality that we see in the world and manipulates it into new objects of beauty. His creations transcend everything we know about reality, yet we accept his creations as real and become hypnotized by them. Our senses are delighted and a suspension of disbelief consumes us while we admire something our mind never expects to see.

What I bring to you in this article is Michel on the subject of printing, which pales in comparison to all that he has to offer, but I’ll save the interview I really want to do for another day. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy learning how this master of object manipulation turns his creations into amazing prints.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Michel’s French side is coming out now where he is having
a little fun with lingerie and flowers.
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Favorite Papers

Michel has a very practical approach to papers as the choice of paper is not only about the image, but how that final print will be used in the end. Once again, even in something as simple as paper Michel’s creativity comes out in ways you might never imagine. For example, his studio windows are covered with huge prints from his iPF8300 that were printed on Canon Scrim Banner Vinyl. His postcards and holiday cards are printed on Canon Fine Art Watercolor for their durability and wonderful texture. His everyday paper for the images he gives to clients or for his promo mailers, his favorite choice is Canon Premium Bright Photo Satin (replaced by the Canon Premium RC Photo Luster) because it has a great texture and firmness, yet it isn’t overly glossy either.

For his finest work which is signed, numbered and stamped he uses the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Paper 460gsm which has a beige tone and a nice substantial feel. He’s also fond of the Canon Fine Art Bright White 330, but he’s always trying the latest papers from Canon so his preferences change as better products become available. 

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved  
Bugs never looked so beautiful – created with a composite of flower photos
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Printing Q&A

What volume of printing do you typically do in a year?

I'll use around 4 or 5 rolls and hundreds of sheets of each of the papers. MIchel uses roughly 1 box of the satin paper every month for promos alone.

Do you do test prints?

Yes, for the large prints I'll take different pieces from the image and put them on a 7” to 12” wide strip and print in what I call a strip test. I'll use those to tweak the image and actually label my layers in Photoshop with details about what I did. In the end it usually takes 2 tp 4 test strips before I'm happy and do the final print.

What do you look for in a print before it's ready for your customer?

Color, contrast, saturation and details in the little things. It's a visceral experience where I adjust until it just feels right. Quality is a given so the image must sing to me before I feel it is done.

There should be no excuses – you should be proud of your prints, and if you are not then don’t blame the machine because you made a bad print. The print is a mirror of your work and you must ask yourself – are you happy with it?

Sometimes it is even more complex because you must know your client. Is it what your client expects or likes? What you like might not be what they want, so knowing how your client likes their prints is critical! Speak to the production department and ask “how do you like your prints and [data] files”.

Do you have any color management or paper profiling recommendations?

No, I just use whatever comes with the printer.I just usually print with the Perceptual [rendering intent] and if it doesn’t look good I’ll try Relative. I don’t do skin tones which is much harder, so calibrating is less important for the type of work that I print.

Any final tips?

The more you standardize your process, the more you will save in the long run. However, don't skimp because your work must reflect you.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Michel Tcherevkoff’s Strip Test

As explained above Michel does test prints with a strip of paper using fragments of the actual image to see how the most critical parts will look printed before doing his final print. Michel doesn’t do this necessarily for cost-saving reasons, but rather to reduce the amount of wasted paper and ink for environmental reasons.

In this first example, he has an image of a shoe as shown below:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Shoe Full Image
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Here’s what strip test one looked like for this print:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Strip Test #1 (Click for a larger view)
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

After examining the print Michel felt like it needed some adjustments, so he did a second strip test but with two levels of color so he could see which direction he wanted to go with for the final print as shown below:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Strip Test #2 (Click for a larger view)

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Using the final strip test above, Michel had the information he needed to make his final decision and print the final large print.

Example #2 – The Boot

Here’s another example of a more complicated photo to demonstrate how the strips are built:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Boot Full Image
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Despite the complexity of the image above, Michel broke it down to its most important parts as shown below:

Boot Strip Test #1 (Click for a larger view)

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

With those parts printed to his intent, the entire image would look great when printed at full size.


It was an absolute honor to work with Michel as he was an original member of my Top Photographers list and will be there for many years to come. He is the one photographer who I wish could bottle a little of his mojo and sell it as I’d pay a fortunate to have a little of that rub off on me! Since that isn’t possible, I can only dream of spending the day with Michel at his studio at some point and seeing this master at work.

A special thanks goes out to Michel’s assistant, Samantha Kramer, who helped with providing the strip test images and reviewing this article!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did! To see more of Michel’s work, visit all of the following:

 Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
The creativity of this shot just makes me grin every time I see it!
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved


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