How do I know if the prints are good?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Andrey, Apr 14, 2008.

  1. Andrey

    Andrey Member

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    I am basically getting what I want from the film/paper combination I'm using in the darkroom. I like the pictures and can usually predict the result with some degree of accuracy.

    However, I didn't see much printed work and don't know what to compare it to.

    Also, both of my parents who have printed a lot in their darkrooms say that my prints are too contrasty and I should print so that there's detail in both the highlights and the shadows.

    When I print it like that I find the details are distracting and I like the harsh high contrast look.

    I also heard that it's typical of the novice to shoot in high contrast.

    So I don't know what to do next. I'm lost in the dark room... (sorry for the cheap pun)

    How do you print? How do you know if you're "good" or not?

    I've also seen adams' work. This is not a good sign, but I seemed to pull off similarly cool pictures in black and white. It's not canyon or forest though, mostly urban landscape.

    How did you darkroom printing evolved in the first few years?
     
  2. rwyoung

    rwyoung Member

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    Who are you trying to please with your prints? Yourself or somebody else?
     
  3. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Ultimately you must please yourself...but I would suggest going to museums and galleries and just look, just absorb, soak it all in.

    Also, acquaint yourself with the history of photography. Read every book you can get your hands on, learn as much as you can, look at as many photo books as you can.

    And finally, I think it's a good idea, especially when one is just starting out, to learn how to make a print several different ways, so that you at least know how to do it. At the very least, you will learn a great deal about your equipment, materials and processes.

    By this point, you will start to see where you want to go with your own work...it's a great journey and a wonderful path to follow.

    Best of luck to you!
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    How I tell if my prints are any good -- I stick them up on the wall...if I stop looking at them, they are not any good. If I tire of my own prints in a few weeks, I certainly can not expect someone else to be interested in looking at them for more than a few seconds.

    High contrast can be very appealing -- and can become a trap. Photography is filled with such traps -- super wide angle lenses, dark prints, polarizing filters, black skies, et al. I try to pay attention to what I say. I have heard myself say "I rarely include the sky in my photos." and "I don't have people in my photos." Hearing myself say such things gives me a clue to the limitations I put on myself.

    If you like high contrast -- go for it, explore it, take it to its limits...but remember it can be like going to work on your car with just a screw driver. It is a useful tool, but it is hard to torque down the bolts on the exhaust manifold with it. You will eventually find images that high contrast just will not be the right tool.

    I will second looking at as many images as you can -- books, galleries, museums. When you find images that you find particularly strong, try to figure out why...subject matter, composition, contrast range, etc.

    But most importantly, continue to have fun with it all!

    Vaughn
     
  5. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    What i found out is that pictures for on the wall should have a zone VI general when measured with a light meter. (1 zone above the gray card). I printed always to dark until someone who did have more knowledge mentioned this to me. Now they are more crispy. Besides that my contrast was always to low....

    Are there photographers in your area that come together now and than? Or apug gatherings in your area. Working and talking with collequas will boost your quality...

    Goto Museums/galleries and read books as mentioned before.
    (i went to a museum where there was work of a photographer shown (hamish fulton, 4 photos of kent), where my mouth fell open, so bad as the print was made....)
    So this does not always stand for quality.

    But what also is important is that you create your own look, but also listen to the knowlegde around you and use it wise....
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    It seems you've listened to your parents who are more experienced and done exactly what I would have done which is to try a less contrasty print for those shots where they felt yours was too contrasty. Having done that so you could see for yourself, you preferred your version. End of story.

    Unless you feel dissatisfied with your prints, you'll be simply pleasing others at your expense. A recipe for at best frustration and eventually at worst a form of self loathing for not being in charge of your own mind.

    Change when you want to change and not until.

    pentaxuser
     
  7. vdonovan

    vdonovan Subscriber

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    -There is no such thing as a perfect print or a "correct" print. There are only prints that you like or dislike.

    -Your likes and dislikes will change over time as you get more experience. You may tire of a particular technique or style and want to try new things.

    -Your likes and dislikes will change with education: looking at other photographs in books, galleries, photo groups, etc. You may see a photo that you find beautiful or compelling and want to incorporate some elements of that photographer's technique or style into your own work.

    Just keep shootin', printin' and thinkin'.
     
  8. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Unless you are trying to please a client, print to your own satisfaction. Experiment. Some subjects work well when printed with much contrast. Some do not. Ansel Adams printed widely different versions of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. His preferences changed over the years. Cole Weston's prints from his father's negatives feel different than the original prints. Most people do like a full range from black to white in a print, with detail near both ends of that range. However, you are you.

    Good prints start with good negatives that have adequate contrast wherever print detail is desired. Some of us prefer more exposure than the film makers suggest so we have good shadow detail. Overdevelopment can blow out the highlights. Trying to make fine prints from inferior negatives is as frustrating as making silk purses from sow's ears.
     
  9. RoBBo

    RoBBo Member

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    When you turn on the viewing light you yell "Fuck yeah!" Jump around the appartment (house, garage, school, whatever), fine someone to show it off to, and have a cigarette while you sit there admiring your work.
    If it doesn't get you to that point, you're not doing it right.
    And no, I don't care if you "don't smoke", that's just leftist propaganda.
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Andrey, you have to do print exchanges with people who will actually comment with a modicum of authority (as opposed to saying that they like or don't like it), and also try to go to workshops where you will get unvarnished assessments. Let me suggest something like one of Per Volquartz's workshops. I went to the one in Lee Vining last fall and that was a great place to share prints and informally discuss techniques until the wee hours.
     
  11. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

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    Andrey, print the negs and judge them the way YOU like. In a few years go back and print the negs over and you probably will print them differently. When I first started printing I printed with too much contrast. When I learned to shoot with the printing stage in mind my negs became easier to print. (I still make bad negs too.) The more you shoot and print, the easier both will become.

    Mike
     
  12. DanielOB

    DanielOB Member

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    How do I know if the prints are good?

    you will not learn it here for sure.
    www.Leica-R.com
     
  13. Mark Burley

    Mark Burley Member

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    Prints - good or bad...

    Personally, I feel that you will change your mind on what is a good print three months after you made it...

    If you don't - then either you are not seeing inspirational images or prints or you are not stretching yourself creatively...

    I feel that most black and white darkroom workers go through huge periods of change - especially in the first two to three years!

    That was a pompous answer - sorry. But I do feel that you need to see a lot of other people's work to feed your soul first.

    The more prints you see - the more you will feel confident about your own.

    I still feel that if you don't doubt your work - then maybe you are not stretching your own boundaries enough!

    More importantly, if your images feed your soul - then keep going the same way. But be prepared for others to crticise if you do...

    Regards - Mark
     
  14. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Join the local camera club. Visit museums which show photographs. Look at lots of photography books. Meanwhile, do it your way.
     
  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Your question is natural, but it isn't quite the right one.

    A better question is: "How do I know whether my prints should be better?"

    There is no such thing as the perfect print, and therefore every print can be made better. What is true though, is that some prints are so good, that any improvement will be marginal, or incremental, or more of an expression of different preferences than an absolute improvement.

    As a beginner, or near beginner, it is quite possible for you to print very well. Your prints can be very good and be something to be proud of. Whether or not they should be better is really a question about whether you have taken the opportunity to observe the work of others with more experience, or more developed insight, or both, and whether or not you have learned from that experience.

    My advice:

    1) take every opportunity you can to observe and experience the work of others; and
    2) take every opportunity you can to print more, and analyze the results; and
    3) if you can, try to find someone else with experience and judgment and talent to help you evaluate critically the work you are doing.

    Two points about the above three pieces of advice:

    a) none of the three are essentially more important than the other two, although in general it is important to keep on printing; and
    b) it is quite possible to learn from those who are more critics than photographers, but the critic who can educate, but cannot print on their own, is far more rare than the one who can do both.

    One technique you might try, because you can really learn some interesting things, is try to see if you can print other people's negatives. You learn an awful lot about printing, when you print other people's work, and get feedback from them.

    I'd bet Bob Carnie and Stephen Frizza will agree with me on this :smile:.

    Matt
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    If you like it, then do it. Ignore everybody. :smile: Especially those who freely offer advice designed to get your vision to match theirs. You need to make a print which suits the content you want to display, not a print that "has detail in the highlights and shadows". Those who "print by numbers", as I like to say, usually have prints with little content, as they are too wrapped up in the aesthetic values established by others. If you have an eye, you have an eye, and no one can change that. If you don't, you don't. Just print what makes you happy. It's for you, not for anyone else, and it's supposed to be "fun", not "good".

    Do take raw technical data from others. All they are doing is giving you the tools you need to take command of your work. But ignore those who tell you how to make your work "right".

    One thing I would avoid is making blanket choices in contrast and density, such as "I always print high contrast", or "I like my work to be dark". Instead, just become technically competent enough so that you simply print for the desired effect of that particular print. Sometimes detail in highlights and shadows is perfect for the effect you want. Sometimes it is not.

    Look at the street work of Lee Friedlander for examples of how one person masterfully blended detail and lack thereof; basic graphic design and photorealistic imagery, simply by using attentive composition and available light that was there in real life...no crazy darkroom tricks.

    2F/2F
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2008
  17. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Too many people telling you to print it the way you want it. Period. That's crap.

    Print the image to get all the information on the negative, texture in shadows, non-blown out highlights. When you can do that understanding the process of drydown, understand the importance of toning, understanding what made that print the way it was, then you will achieved a measure of technical competency. It will lead you down a path that allows mastery not only over your printing skills, but your vision, exposure, and development skills also.

    Is that the correct print? Of course not. You are the artist. That print then needs to reflect what you the artist wishes to project. You need to balance the information on the film with the vision of what you wish to portray. That's interpretation. But if you just print the negative the way you want to, you'll always be just another crap photographer.

    The artist without control isn't an artist at all.

    tim in san jose
     
  18. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    .... and indeed you could quite legitimately print in one style for your own satisfaction and then in another style when you want to please someone else, perhaps to give or sell a print. My bugbear is that I like my prints to be on the dark side of normal (which I think appropriate for industrial subjects) but that they have on two occasions been referred to as "heavily printed". Sometimes I just have to 'sell out' and back off a bit to suit a print's intended use.

    Steve
     
  19. Frank Hoerauf

    Frank Hoerauf Member

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    you need to print for yourself and develop your own unique style. interpret the picture as you like it. how about posting some pics here on apug. main thing is just keep printing..........frank