Art and Mini-Labs - Why Do It Yourself?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Dave Pritchard, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. Dave Pritchard

    Dave Pritchard Member

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    I think this young man is a conscientious employee. This is an eye-opener. The video is only about four minutes long. I am not critical of Brandon. I think we should know what happens to our color negative processing at mini-labs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPj98RysHS0

    The problem is that the 4"x6" prints produced are scanned, then are edited by a minimum-wage employee, not the photographer. Where's the art? How does the photographer know what the negatives look like?
     
  2. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    I somehow doubt 99% of the people having their images processed at a mini-lab will be overly critical of the processing. Since most hobbiests and working pro's are now all digital, that gives them 100% control over their images. The rest of us that really care will process our own film and scan or make prints ourselves. You have to admit; we are in the 1% or so.

    Also this is nothing really new. Mini lab equipment has been capable of removing color casts and adjusting exposure for many years, often automaticly.
     
  3. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    Henri Cartier-Bresson was frank about not caring one bit about the photographic process after the pictures were shot. He never developed or printed himself, yet still managed to become the father of street photography.

    Then there's William Eggleston, whose break came out of his "suitcase full of drugstore prints."

    Art is not defined by the artist doing every single step personally.
     
  4. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    Many artists who do large studio installations or large murals will make a scale product themselves, and have assistants make "paint by color" enlargements that are painted onto the wall and then filled in by assistants.

    Is that any less art than dropping off Ektar 100 at Walgreens? To me, the art happens the moment the shutter clicks, although I suppose a great deal of the art of photography is pre-visualizing the final print and engineering a print that matches that visualization.

    You could argue it either way.
     
  5. popeetheus

    popeetheus Member

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    If I drop my film off at a mini-lab to get developed, I think of the prints as just a rough idea of whats on the negative, mostly to see the composition. If you happen to get a print from one of these places that really knocks your socks off, who is to say it can't be appreciated as art?

    But, this is just my opinion, and most of my shooting is more of a banal documentary style rather than fine art.
     
  6. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Dave,

    Think of it as getting proof prints from a professional lab. When you get them back you choose the ones you want to spend time on.

    Neal Wydra
     
  7. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    I always get friends and fellow photographers that work at minilabs to develop my stuff. Almost always comes out awesome!
     
  8. Denis K

    Denis K Member

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    The best thing to do at a mini-lab is take a few photographs of the mini-lab operation because frankly boys and girls, these operations will be history within a very short time. Every mini-lab I have visited lately (with the exception of Costco) are already giving out the date when they will be closing down their wet operation. I'm sure most of you can tell the same story.

    In the telegraphy world when a telegrapher dies he is said to be "Silent Key" and that term often headlines of the Obituary section of a professional journal. I guess in the darkroom world we should list these folks (and mini-labs) as "Dry Sink".
     
  9. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    It is really sad how every little store is putting in a dry lab operation.
     
  10. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    and frankly, the prints IMO look like crap, utter crap. even a poorly processed wet print looks better 75% of the time than these dry-process prints.

    and, IIRC, the longevity(archival quality) of the prints isn't that long, is it?

    -dan
     
  11. Prest_400

    Prest_400 Member

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    Indeed, real crap.
    Before I went seriously into photography I Just used the crappy p&S. We wanted to print a photo of a family event. We went to a pair of places. The first one ran out of paper, so we went to a Fuji place 20 meters from this one. The fuji "Lab" had a nice service, they shown us how to sort the stuff in those computers they have. We printed some, and when we got back the prints. Awful!
    The colors were flat (one of the persons in the photo wore an orange sweater, and there were just two tones, one orange on shadow and the other orange lit, no more tones!) and the fine detail is smudged. More stuff it can be added.
    While my lab does nice smudged, wanna be velvia prints. These are better than the digi print stuff!
    Another reason to shoot slide. No prints to look at.
     
  12. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Agreed on the slides.

    I don't understand this wet/dry distinction, maybe because I don't shoot much color and most of that is slides. Could someone explain? I aways thought it was great knowing that I could buy even a disposable 35mm camera, drop it off at any minilab and have good pictures within an hour. Is 1-hour processing poor quality? Or are minilabs changing away from even the traditional 1-hour print process? My local Walmart has no film development abilities, but can make prints. Is this a "dry lab"? My Target develops films and makes prints; I compared Target prints with the Walmart instant print kiosk and the quality was noticeably worse, even at 4x6.
     
  13. Prest_400

    Prest_400 Member

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    Basically a dry lab should have only computers where you put in the mem. cards and a printing machine. Which I suppose is inkjet if it is "dry" (RA4 process uses chemistry..).
    1 hour processing shouldn't mean bad quality. It depends on the lab. I've heard of a pro lab in the big city close to me and they do 1hr for negatives and 1.30h for slides. Others do the same with different results.
    The problem is that the 1hr service was brought for consumers, so most of the labs do consumer quality stuff. They got operatos who know few more than the basic and the machines are set to low res for faster scanning. Some people got great results from a pro lab that used a similar mini lab model to that one in the Walgreens or whatever. It depends of the lab and operator.
    1hr processing fades away because the film consumer is moving to Darth Vader's side, you know. Less clients, less bucks, goodbye frontier/noritsu.
    The film photographer goes to labs who they trust in, usually "pro" labs; not often to consumer based places.
    Consumers are happy with their crappy P&S, so these places are putting stuff for printing Darth vader's images.

    Film images are printed also digitally. The minilab scans them and exposes the RA4 paper with a darth vader RGB beam

    (darth vader= laser= darkside= digital)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2009
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  15. mabman

    mabman Member

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    I don't know about never developed or printed - it's widely said he liked the look of film developed in Harvey's 777, and early Magnum used it extensively, so he seemed at least familiar with the "look" of different film/developer combos. So, it seems likely he saw a number of combos he didn't like, and thus did in fact care about the process (maybe less than the content of the photos, to be fair).

    Also I'm not sure it's fair to compare whoever HCB had print his work to a minilab - I don't think the equivalent existed in HCB's working time (and of course he was using B&W film, not c-41), so he must have had someone printing it manually for him - a skilled process, not a button-pusher. We will never know if HCB would have been just as happy shooting C-41 and having a minilab process it, but he didn't really have the problem of unskilled labour processing his work in his time.
     
  16. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    The machines that the one-hour labs use are very good. They are capable of outstanding results. Many pro labs use the same machines. It's not the equipment; it's the people. You might notice in the video that the technician did not seem particularly knowledgeable, and that he handled the film roughly, in a way that would leave fingerprints and possibly scratches. The automatic corrections the machines do are usually quite good, but they don't always give a great result. Some labs are more careful than others about doing fixes. Some labs are more careful than others about chemicals, processor adjustment, cleanliness, machine maintenance, and all the other little things that go into good and consistent commercial processing. Some run and check control strips; many don't. There are labs that do better and those that do worse. Some pro labs are worse than the local one-hour type. Most do an adequate job, especially if you are just after developing and a proof set. if you do your own you can guarantee that the chemistry is fresh, you will probably spend more money, you will definitely spend more time, and you will have only yourself to blame for bad results.
     
  17. eddyd

    eddyd Member

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    Artsist, Jeff Koons, has assistants make his art, he does not touch it, but i guess, since it is his idea, it is still his art.
     
  18. photomem

    photomem Member

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    Eggleston and the "suitcase"

    One of my close friends for many years has been John McIntyre, a sculptor here in Memphis and a friend of Bill Eggleston throughout the 1960s and beyond. The true story is that the whole "suitcase full of drugstore prints" is spin and marketing. There is a very wealthy cotton family here in Memphis with the last name of Hoenwald I believe which funded Eggleston for years. They paid for two or three vanity shows in NY before MOMA would even talk to him. The story was not "rags to riches" enough, being that he was funded by a very wealthy benefactor so the mythical suitcase was cooked up.

    I might be inclined to think the above explanation was sour apples because of Eggleston's not talking to John for years.. then I heard it from many other people. In Memphis, Eggleston only associates with those who are monied and think he is a great artist and will tell him so with a rapid fire consistency.
    Everyone who was around him when he was getting started is constantly ignored and snubbed in public, I have witnessed this part personally.
     
  19. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    I'm with Marko. I have worked at establishing a strong professional relationship with the people who run the best mini-lab in town. I often sit at the console with them to discus printing options. They will not hesitate to run several prints until they get the best print possible from my negatives. (If there is a problem, it is usually my own fault :rolleyes: ) Every Christmas I will give the manager a framed and matted print from my darkroom. If and when this lab is closed, I will miss them a great deal.

    Cheers,
     
  20. archer

    archer Member

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    Please forgive this rant but I just can't tolerate the overblown use of the word "Artist" to describe photographers, whose only talent is "seeing" and pushing a button or cable release and nothing more. Those photographers should be likened to composers. Bresson was a photographer capable of capturing the decisive moment and if it is true that he had no further involvement with the image after that, he can only be considered a great photographic composer, not an artist. Eugene Smith was an artist, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and countless others were artists. Their involvement with their work embodied both the vision, composition and the craft needed to arrive at the desired end. That is not to say that every artist must perform every step to that realization but must at the very least work in close collaberation with those who are doing the work to make the photographers vision HIS image not theirs by default. Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, Titian and many other artists did run large studio factories where others did the work but always under the close scrutiny and supervision of the artist and always toward the realization of the artist's vision. To mention William Eggleston and artist in the same breath is an affront to the meaning of the word Art. Eggleston at MOMA was the greatest put on ever foisted on the photographic community. I can still hear him and John S laughing up their sleeves at the gathering sycophants hurrying to proclaim his inane mediocroty "Art". Please remember that photographic art is a performing art much like painting, sculpture and pottery etc. and no one component of it can be left to the vagaries and decisions and interperetations of uninvloved annonymity. It is not my intention to denegrate those who "push the button and leave the rest to us." They may well be brilliant photographers but please don't confuse them with artists. I am now doning my asbestos suit and have only one request. Please be thoughtful in your response and unless your name is Eggleston, refrain from personal attacks. My mother may read this.
    Denise Libby
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Denise,

    To be able to get a very well composed, properly cropped, and correctly exposed slide everytime regardless of the lighting conditions is an art. What is produced it a finished product. For years I did just that. It is excellent training for making black & white and color prints by hand. This ability minimizes both the use of film and the amount of dodging, burning, bleaching, and cropping in the darkroom. It requires getting everything right the first time.

    Steve
     
  22. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Denise,
    I have been a musician and composer all my adult life. I can tell you that almost without exception, composition is the greater "art". It is certainly more challenging. It is often more rewarding. (I do not wish to take anything from the art of the performer, I have been that as well.)

    In terms of photography, I usually "perform" every aspect entirely on my own. So, by your definition I might be an artist. Sometimes, with colour work, a lab will do the work which follows the button... sometimes under my supervision, if it is a challenging project, or sometimes autonomously, when they can easily achieve the results they know I expect. I have a fine working relationship with my lab and trust them to print something right. They are well rewarded for this. Does this make me less of an artist?

    This is the first time I have been so personally offended on APUG (as much because you misunderstand the musical arts as well as the photographic) that I had to actually step away from the computer before I responded. I can only say, Denise, with all due respect, that you are mistaken.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2009
  23. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Oh... I am a conductor as well, which I don't make any actual music at all. (well, I'm not supposed to... sometimes I hum along.) What kind of artist do you suppose that would make me? I've got an eight-hour rehearsal for a production of Evita this afternoon. Why don't you chum along and you can tell me who the artists are in the room. Andrew Lloyd Webber won't be there. (oh, that's right... he's only a composer.) All I'll be doing is waving my arms. Nothing of any artistic value in that. Someone else in the room will be making the music. They must be the artists.
     
  24. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    No tears on my part for demise of the minilab. I hope it will promote custom labs like this: http://labwork-bw.com/main.htm
    Yes, you will pay more, but you won't get crap prints either.
     
  25. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I wish optical minilabs were still popular. I know that RA-4 minilabs are still optical in a sense because they scan and print optically but I like the totally traditional ways.
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    if your (mini) lab gives you bad prints, change labs!

    personally, i don't think really matters who processes or prints the film ...
    more often than not pushing the button is harder than anything else further down the line ...
     
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