The Online Darkroom Store

Tuesday, October 3

The real borders debate - open or closed?

A fierce debate has been raging in the comments to my previous post between myself, David M., Herman Sheephouse (Phil Rogers) and Alan C over the issue of borders - thankfully, the photographic kind and not the tedious political stuff.

Is a black border a good thing or does it catch the eye too much if done in a heavy-handed fashion? David M. says my Robbins Signature Black Border - a sliver of the film rebate - is "clodhopping" (cheeky bugger) and is such a distraction that he finds it difficult to concentrate on the content of the photographs.

I can see his point. Getting nice, thin black borders by showing just a mm or two of the film rebate is a pain in the neck. These "keylines" tend to end up too thick and uneven. I'd like to make them narrower but haven't yet figured out how to do it consistently.

So, to make it possible for David to accurately assess the merits and demerits of the competing pairs of pictures, I've added a neutral grey border in Photoshop, or rather "mounted" them (archivally, obviously) on a plain grey mat. I did this because I value David's opinion and didn't want him to have an excuse for not being able to give it. :)

Phil and Alan have made excellent points as well and I think we're about two-all in the great borders debate overall.

Without further ado, here's a re-run of the previous post's pictures which, I have to agree, does make it much each to consider the content. The grey mat idea was from Phil who mentioned that his old mentor Joe McKenzie advocated that approach. If you haven't already done so, it's probably best if you read the previous post to find out what this is all about.

For ease of identification - 1A







John Carter said...

I like the 'Fantasy or Reality' borders. I've tried the gray (grey) borders in PS and people don't like them or for that matter do I. I've also tried Black borders (big) and they are better than White borders (only) in some cases. Actually, your moody photos might do well with Black borders. You can start screaming now.

Herman Sheephouse said...

I like the grey - do you think it works?
It's a little darker (not much) than I would have chosen -I'd have gone more of a 'olive grey' if you know what I mean (like the main page grey [the background without the text] on FB) but you should try doing it with the same one print on different shades and see where it goes. Like I might have mentioned, this was Joe's 'thing' - not really seen it done anywhere else.

olker said...

Personally I don´t like these broad borders!
They are too much, too bulky.
And they do not suit the images.
Keep to small black (negative) lines ;-)

Bruce Robbins said...

OK, John. Aaarrrgh. :)

Bruce Robbins said...

I don't think I've done a very good job of explaining the reason for the grey borders. They're not an alternative to a thin, black line: they're a way of showing both sets of pictures without a distracting border of any sort. David M. felt the thin line was a distraction that got in the way of appraising the photos. The grey background is just a way of creating a level playing field for both sets of prints so they could be judged on their merits, or lack thereof. In other words, the grey is a neutral, plain background and not a border, if that makes sense.

Folker said...

Sorry Bruce,

something went wrong here:
My name is Folker,
not olker

Herman Sheephouse said...

Yeah, it makes sense, but we want to see every shade of grey that you've got ';0)

Oooo, you could do a Zone System series of backgrounds couldn't you - I'll mark my territory now and say I reckon Zone VIII or IX will do the trick . . .

Bruce Robbins said...


That has to be a candidate for comment of the day and it's only 9.05 am here. Certainly made me laugh anyway. :)

Bruce Robbins said...


I'm going for zone VI with N+1 development (spot metered, naturally).

Martyn Lacey said...

Now you've started something...personally I like the grey border. I feel there is less distraction form the image although perhaps a little narrower.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Joe McK will be sitting somewhere with a cup of tea, rubbing his hands - grey mounts work!

DavidM said...

Quick work! Thank you, sir.
I've been doing doing a search. The device that I remembered is the Kostiner Easel and Pen-Liner. It promises to make controlled borders of all kinds. Here's a link to an auction for the instruction book, which seems to be the best I can manage at the moment.

Now to enjoy the new prints.

MartyNL said...

I'm old school on this and feel that photographs (almost) always look better with a noticeable tone in each corner. Therefore making the need of key lines or borders of any description superfluous. There could be any number of reasons why a photo won't print like this such as time of day/year, standpoint, composition to name but a few. Naturally it could also be photographic choice...

DavidM said...

Excellent. Much easier to judge.

I find that I like the new 1A and the new 2A, but truthfully I still prefer the old 3B with a little more detail in the hut. I'd like to see more, if I'm being finicky.

An excellent solution to the dilemma although, with Phil, I might have liked a slightly lighter grey. This may be my screen settings, or his screen settings, rather than a genuine difference. I don't think we need to debate the grey.

Having said that, Mr Sheephouse's suggestion of exploring alternative backgrounds might be the subject of an entirely new blog. When you have time, of course.

I'm very happy to withdraw the word "clodhopping", but it's such a lovely word, perhaps suggested by your first image.

Anonymous said...

And then to think of the prices people pay for a Leitz black-border neg carrier for the V35. I personally prefer black borders on images. Maybe something subconcious: it 'contains' the image. --Koen

Bruce Robbins said...

Clodhopping is a good word for my black borders but I'll get better with practise. Hopefully. The problem is that my "over-sized" neg carrier is only about 1mm bigger, so 25x37 or thereabouts. If I filed it out then it would be much easier to set the border width using the easel's arms. Away now ro check out the Kostiner gadget.

Bruce Robbins said...

Here's a cheap way of getting thin, regular borders - assuming your easel is square. Pre-cut black acrylic sheet at a couple of quid a pop. Two would do me - 6x9 ins and 7x7 ins. Just set the image area to be whatever width you fancy and either position the plastic in the middle or go corner to corner.