Acceptable Quality of Prints?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Gaga, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. Gaga

    Gaga Member

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    I've been looking around for a while now and haven't found what I'm looking for. Basically I want to be able to trade prints with other people and maybe sell a few of my own. The problem is I don't know what an acceptable quality of print would be. I don't have any access to a darkroom so I wouldn't be able to produce a darkroom print. Does anyone have any advice?

    Thanks!

    P.s, I wasn't sure which section to post in, sorry if this is the wrong one.
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    That is an individual point of reference, I'm afraid.

    If you want to sell the prints, they need to be good enough to compel someone to spend their hard earned money to own a copy.
    One thing you can NEVER compromise on is archival washing and preservation.

    If you're looking to make prints that are gorgeous, go to museums and see what they buy. Look at photographic prints and judge for yourself what you think you have to do. Print quality is a fairly wide and abstract concept. Some people love a print to be bright and uplifting, others like them to be dark and brooding with deep deep blacks. Some like grain, others hate it. Some like color prints, others like black and white. Some like matte paper, others like glossy. Some focus on emotional content, some focus entirely on subject matter, while a third person might focus on visual impact and design, while yet a fourth person might go for the 'ultimate postcard' and beauty.
    All views are valid, and there is a wide enough spectrum within all aspects of print making that one man's ceiling is another man's floor. One printer might be appalled by what another person is making, and they could both be brilliant in the eyes of a third person.

    Impossible question to answer, I'm afraid, because you decide how you want your prints to be presented.

    Personally, I strive for extremely high print quality. Depending on subject matter, that quality can be different every time.

    - Thomas
     
  3. Gaga

    Gaga Member

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    Thank you.

    I'll defiantly go to some museums. You've given me a lot to think about.

    Thanks.
     
  4. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    ...I agree with almost everything said by Thomas.

    I personally give away my prints that I'm not 100% satisfied with to my friends, even though they can't tell the difference between my "perfect" print and the one I gave them. Your integrity of a photographer and printer is on the line when you put "half-assed" prints for sale or on display. That is something I wouldn't want to do, but others might disagree. It's all subjective anyhow. I've seen photographs on display for sale with big chunks of dust and hair in them. When I talked to the photographer, he didn't know what "spotting" was, so he just didn't know better. The more knowledge you have and the longer you analyze and discriminate your prints, the better they will be. However, it might also drive you crazy like it does for me because every time I look at my final prints, even if I think they're perfect, I might have a different preference or interpretation that day and want to change it....again.

    If you don't have access to a darkroom, you won't be able to make hand prints and therefore everything you have will be a hybrid process, assuming you are shooting film, scanning the negatives and then editing and sending the file out. This means you are giving up a certain amount of control to the person you are sending the file to, the process they use, the paper, ink, etc. etc. but that doesn't mean you can't have satisfactory prints. Many pro photographers have assistants and printers who do the final product, but usually under very close surveillance and scrutiny so they can have as much control as possible without spending all their time in a darkroom.

    In short, your question is very hard to answer on a forum. Take your work to a pro and pay them to do a "portfolio review" and comment on the "quality of your prints" and give you some pointers. they will help you look at different aspects of the print and you can then determine what "acceptable quality" is for yourself. I couldn't comment on the quality of your prints without seeing them in person. Even posting the digital image on here would do very little in that regard.
     
  5. Gaga

    Gaga Member

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    Ah, I should have pointed out that I've only printed a few photos in my life, probably no more than ten or so.

    I don't have a portfolio at the moment, partly because I have no need for one. I only really shoot for my self. I have an uncontrollable desire to learn everything about the art.

    Any advice on printing would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
  6. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    My humble (unqualified) advice would be to set up a darkroom and start doing more printing - There are plenty of enlargers available for peanuts, and you don't really need much room for even medium format.
    Once you've started printing your own work, join in some of the print exchanges and see how others are working - If nothing else, you get to see different papers.

    With the disappearance of film & wet prints, most local "camera clubs" have become nothing more than Photoshop self-help groups, but if you can find one with an active analogue membership, they might be able to offer additional advice.
     
  7. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    If you sell prints, your name, reputation, value as an artist, and everything else is tied to every print you produce. Sure, general public who pays 10 dollars for a print may not know or even care about nuances in printing but those who look and say "nah...." and walk away will know and he or she will have friends who will ask for his/her opinion. In other words, people who are willing to pay the kind of money you would be very happy to receive do know and care.

    I don't know how and in what environment you intend to sell your prints but I would only consider my very best for anything public facing.

    If you are not talking about darkroom prints, you are talking about inkjet prints. That's off-topic on this site. There are certainly market for every kind of prints but I would really like to encourage you to start printing the "old fashion way." You *should* have art schools, high schools, colleges, etc, etc, etc, with a darkroom you could perhaps rent by the hour. Rightfully or wrongly, collectors place much higher value in silver gelatin prints (the traditional darkroom prints).
     
  8. Gaga

    Gaga Member

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    A darkroom is something I really want. I have a space that is usable the only problem being is it doesn't have running water. I will hopefully have a basic one set up soon. I really want to do everything the old fashioned way, flickr has drove me to realize digital is ruining the art of photography, although that depends on your viewpoint.

    I was talking about inkjet, I guess I'll have to find somewhere else.

    Thanks for all the help.
     
  9. Shadowtracker

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    You don't need running water for a darkroom, though it is easier with that. You should be able to find a book or two on various darkroom set ups. Heck, I have one I will send you for the cost of shipping if you want it. It's more of an idea book, but it might help you. I ran hoses through a wall I built between the laundry room and what is now my darkroom, made a sink and tied its drain to the main drain the washer is hooked up to. I love printing in the darkroom - it has its ups and downs, but I have learned much by doing my own work. Some old photos that I thought were terrible, turned out to be just "commercial" printing - once I printed some of these at home, I found they were better than I originally thought they were when I picked them up from the store years ago.

    Another thing I did, is start to take classes. I have been in and around photography, mostly b&w, most of my life. But I never took any photo classes. I'm in an associate of fine arts - photography program now at a community college, which is heavy in the develop/print your own b&w and color (for printing, not developing color at school). It's been great for me because it has pulled together a lot of little bits that were floating around in my mind. It made me do the work to pull it all together to make sense of things I had read, or tried but wasn't able to do. As a student, I am (partially) paying the teacher to teach me - so if I don't understand something, I ask them about it until I do understand it. Sometimes that means to trust what they say, do what they tell you, and then see the difference for your self - but it works.

    Good luck.
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Indeed. My first darkroom was three and a half feet by seven feet in size. I could just fit three 12x16 trays side by side on a wall shelf.
    Once fixed I would put the prints in a bucket of water and let them soak there for up to an hour. After accumulating two to four prints I would take the bucket to the laundry room and put the prints in a tray with clean water.
    When the printing session was over I used a VersaLab print washer for an hour, unless I intended to tone the pictures, in which case I did that first.

    You do not need running water in your darkroom. It's nice to have, but should not be considered an impediment. It's not that big of a deal. I worked in that small darkroom for five years, and would have still been working out of it if it wasn't for me moving out of that particular house.

    I second the opinion that printing a lot is the only way to fully understand the whole process of film photography.
    If you don't print your own negatives, it becomes exceptionally difficult to understand what changes in film development will actually do to a print.

    It took me a couple of years of printing a lot to come to a place where I can put into print what I visualize when I click the shutter. With each print we become better printers, and more complete photographic artists.

    Classes are great for teaching you the basics and to find a good process. It may also, depending on the teacher, be a great avenue to explore deeper, but some teachers can be closed minded and apply too much of their opinion when they guide emerging talent, so watch out for that. You don't want to become a clone of your teacher... :smile:

    - Thomas
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Same here. I don't have running water either. While convenient to have plumbing in darkroom, as long as you have access to sink nearby, it's not that big of a deal. I print, develop, fix, and put the paper in a tray with water. Then I carry it out to a nearby bathroom for wash and inspection. Works for me.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Look for the threads here in the Darkroom Equipment forum about the infinite number of ways to put a darkroom together. Here is a link to the thread about "makeshift" darkrooms:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/46964-bathroom-other-temporary-makeshift-darkrooms.html

    The best way to learn about quality prints (including prints from digital sources) is to look at a large number of prints. See if you can find a source of prints that are acknowledged to be of high quality, and go look at them.

    Although it is outside the purview of APUG, it might help to realize that prints can be made on analogue photographic paper even if there is a digital step somewhere in the production process.

    I'm a member of a photo club that I've come to learn is relatively unique in that there is a strong emphasis on actually making prints. There are only a few there who shoot film regularly, and only a couple of us there who still use a darkroom, but a fair percentage of the members still shoot photos with the intention that they be printed - 11x14 being a popular size. We also have a few good local resources that print (from digital files) on to RA4 photographic paper. For all those reasons, I can say that I can learn from and appreciate the prints shown there, whether or not they originated on film.
     
  13. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    The philosophy of acclaimed (and sadly, deceased) portrait and wedding photographer Monte Zucker has always answered the question of "acceptable" print quality for me:

    Good enough is not good enough. Go about photography always trying to be the best you can be. No matter the cost, never settle for less.

    I keep that quote attached to my darkroom door so that I see it every time I enter or leave the room.
     
  14. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Several of my darkrooms have not had running water, but had walking water. I walked in with milk jugs full of water and walked out with buckets of waste water. This was no great handicap.

    Camera clubs may offer the opportunity to see good (and sometimes not-so-good) prints up close, and talk to the photographer. I belong to one in Kansas City that is exclusively black and white. We do consider digital photography as just one more way to make decent prints, not a tool of the devil. However, a few of us still use film.

    Some books, such as those of Lodima Press, have quality reproduction that shows us what fine photographs look like. Many photographic books fail dismally in print quality.