Better Process for Portraits

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by 2Bugles, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. 2Bugles

    2Bugles Member

    Messages:
    26
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2007
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've been investigating different alt. processes for portraiture. I'm looking for smooth, long-tones, somewhat soft. Platinum/palladium is attractive but what about carbon?
     
  2. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

    Messages:
    1,798
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2005
    Location:
    Ventura, Ca
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Carbon can be difficult to get smooth highlight tones to look good. From my experience an image with texture and detail works the best. You can get portraits to look good but it requires a lot of work and patients. You routine has to be perfect. I'm working on it and success is a ways off.

    Jim
     
  3. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

    Messages:
    2,230
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I did a portrait job of all the family members of a family that could afford it on 8x10 printed in platinum. The Parents are pretty old, the kids being grown and on their own. I shot them individually on 8x10 with a very sharp lens and when I looked at the silver RC proofs I thought, no way. Too harsh and wrinkly, the old mom will never like it. When I printed them on platinum though, the loss of resolution you get from the solution soaking into the paper fibers was the perfect softener. Both the mom and the dad got smoothed just enough to make them look really good and they absolutely loved the prints.

    Even if you were happy to print in silver though, shooting portraits LF is difficult and expensive.
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,450
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Shooting LF may be challenging, it may be not for the budget minded, but as far as I'm concerned, it is the best medium for doing portraits, especially if you happen to have a good portrait lens. Platinum/palladium and their variants are an excellent choice because of the long tonal scale. You could also look into salt prints, which have lower resolution than platinum, and an even longer tonal scale. The downside is that you'll have to learn to make negatives for salt prints, which means even more overdevelopment than you would use for platinum, relative to development for silver gelatin printing.
     
  5. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,144
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    A properly made salt print on appropriate paper can have as good resolution as Pt/Pd. I regularly use both processes. I have some made from paper negatives from the 1840's which have amazing resolution.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,450
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jim- lower resolution is probably a misnomer. Salt prints I think can look a little "softer" than platinum. That may be an opinion formed from not having seen enough salt prints.

    I should have said that I disagree with the assertion that platinum has a lower resolution than silver gelatin. Frankly, unless you're printing on a highly textured paper or not on paper at all, I don't think there is a print resolution issue regardless of the medium. Your negative is going to have a much greater influence on image sharpness and resolution than is your printing emulsion.
     
  7. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

    Messages:
    2,230
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Surely you jest.
    Dennis
     
  8. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "I'm looking for smooth, long-tones, somewhat soft"

    Develop a suitable film properly, and you can get that easily on silver paper.
    TMY is a good place to start. Print with Selectol-Soft or LPD instead of a super contrasty developer like Dektol.

    One of the reasons folks get such good results with Palladium/Platinum & Carbon is that it is so expensive that we are careful with our negatives ! Silver or Alt, make the proper negative, get the results you want. Some careful workers print silver and palladium from the same negs.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,450
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Whatever.
     
  10. 2Bugles

    2Bugles Member

    Messages:
    26
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2007
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for all the replies. I'm going to continue to make silver prints for awhile, I've not reach the end of my learning yet. My idea for using alternative process is to be able to differentiate my prints from most of the others (digital or traditional silver) and hopefully interest clients in my work. While everyone here in small-city Georgia is doing digital and some silver, almost no one is doing the old printing techniques even though I live in a college town with a huge art school.
     
  11. boyooso

    boyooso Member

    Messages:
    323
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    resolution or sharpness are sometimes confused. And apparent sharpness is directly related to contrast!! Therefore a higher contrast silver print will look sharper or to have more resolution than a flatter PTPD print.

    If you want to test this, just put a holga negative in your enlarger and test away.

    Have Fun,

    Corey
     
  12. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    ******
    If you wish to keep it simple, an old trick was to rate Tri-x at EI 64, then underdevelop in straight Microdol-X. Smooth and creamy flesh tones were the result, I was told.
    Not being able to retouch negs, I did something similar with a gal who had bad acne. Loaded up some Edwal FG7 with about five times the sodium sulfite. It worked very nicely
     
  13. 2Bugles

    2Bugles Member

    Messages:
    26
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2007
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    John,
    What a great idea. As I mentioned earlier, I probably haven't exhausted all possibilities in silver. I'm not the greatest tester as my darkroom is my hall bathroom and my kitchen counter, which entails compromises. But, what the hey, I can certainly try Tri-X @ 64.