How do you view your prints?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Mr Man, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Mr Man

    Mr Man Member

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    We all know that the lighting conditions under which a print is viewed has a great effect on the appearance of that print. I only print B & W and usually judge my prints by holding them next to a window but out of direct sunlight but our house is small with small windows and when I move even a couple of feet away from the window the effect of the print changes. So how do you judge your prints when printing? What light source do you use and do you use more than one? When do you decide the print is right?
     
  2. Mr Man

    Mr Man Member

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    Sorry about posting this twice hit the back button to edit typo. It's a bit early for me.
     
  3. ooze

    ooze Member

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    Good question and a tricky topic. Short answer, I try to view the print under as many different lighting conditions as possible (except direct sunlight). The lightbulb in my darkroom is rather bright and I've ruined many prints by using it as the sole guide. Now, if I print during daytime, I always view the test strips (microwave dried) and prints by a large window. I might even carry them out onto a shady balcony. When printing at night, I try not to view the print directly under a glaring bright bulb, but keep the print a couple of meters away, which - I hope - should give me an OK look by window light.
     
  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I do my best to view the print as it will be displayed in because more light allows darker printing and vice versa. It also changes the color.

    Seeing it under different light though allows me to trouble shoot, for me if a print looks good under various lighting conditions I am typically closer to finished.
     
  5. Mr Man

    Mr Man Member

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    Hi Mark
    I agree about viewing under as many sources as possible but surely in most cases we do not know how our works will be displayed. I have seen some terribly displayed works (in some very prestigious public galleries) so what source do you use to define that point when you think “Right that's got it. That print is finished”
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Actually I think we do know in many if not most cases that matter.

    Most for profit galleries have nice lighting.

    Most people who are going to spend a significant chunk of change on a photo will be open to suggestions from the gallery or you.

    If the work is a commission you will know the target.

    As to public showing spaces or others with poor lighting, you do have the choice not to display your work there. Seriously, do these spaces even fit your market? If they matter and it's going to be long term maybe a print needs to be made specifically for that space.

    The flip-side thought there is that I think most people understand bad light, if the content is strong much may be forgiven in public that can be fixed in private.
     
  7. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    This is a similar answer to the “viewing light” thread. I have a print with full tonal range that looks good where I plan to show it, that I hang to compare with the new print. I can’t equal the light where I will show the print, but the sample print comparison helps me adjust my eyes and expectations.

    Edit: I should add that I also adjust 10% mentally for drydown.

    John Powers
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2012
  8. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I agree with John Powers that comparison prints are very helpful.
    Over my darkroom sink I have two bright lights and I can stand over a water tray half way between them and view working wet prints.
    Accidentally once I put in a cool light on one side and a warm light on the other. Drove me crazy. The shadow of one hand was bluish and the shadow of the other hand was warm.
    It was interesting in that I could walk closer to one light or the other and see the print either warmed or cooled.
    Looking at prints under florescent is a whole nother beast. Prints suddenly become too contrasty and bright.
    I keep one at the end of my darkroom though and turn it on to check some prints because stains show up better under florescent.
    Dennis
     
  9. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I wonder if there is a poor quality of light in which, if a print looks good, it will look good in other types of light.

    Recording engineers and musicians will often listen to a final mix on a cheap stereo or through cheap speakers on the basis that if it sounds o.k. on that, it will sound fine (hopefully better) on a good system.


    Steve.
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I do find that with color prints that if I have good color balance the print will look decent in most lighting. If color balance is off it may look good in one lighting but probably not in another.

    My theory is that I know what normal looks like in most types of lighting.

    Using just one type of lighting can fool me. Once I add a second type of lighting the problems generally pop and I can then even see it in the original setting.
     
  11. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    This is something that I frequently struggle with and am interested in this thread as well. I judge my test prints and prints in the darkroom under an incandescence light bulb in a reflector. Sometimes I'll move around the house checking the test prints in different lighting, but since I mostly print when it's dark outside I cannot use soft window light which I feel is ideal.

    When I view my final prints I've made through the years I always view them under soft window light mixed with some interior house lighting. This makes the images pop. I find MGIV FB slammed in selenium can look slightly greenish still under house lighting, but under soft window light it just glows a cold charcoally blue black that is just spectacular. The opposite effect can happen with sepia toned prints. Under yellow house lighting they look very warm and when viewed under soft window light will appear much colder and lose much of the sepia tone. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. I'd like to put track lighting up in a room in my home to have a little gallery. Anyone know of any lighting or what color temperature most mimics soft window light?
     
  12. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I've heard florescent brighteners in bw papers can make the whites brighter. I would guess that florescent light that's rich in uv could change how prints look. I saw some of Kertez's prints and they don't look as bright. Is that because older papers lacked brighteners? I love that look.
     
  13. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    View finished print in the same illumination as it will be displayed e.g. gallery spots (low voltage daylight-temp halogen lamps), or a bright (not reddish) indoor lamp.
     
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  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Great tip. Is there a "standard" for galleries?
     
  16. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    For consistency sake I always examine my prints in the same light, by a window at daytime. Sometimes I look at them in other lighting as well, and subconsciously I check that it works in those conditions as well, but daylight really is the acid test.
    I believe as long as one is consistent and does it the same every time, at least you can tell someone what type of lighting you think the print works best in.
     
  17. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Not that I can say for sure. Ilfochrome specified low voltage, 20-25w daylight-balanced halogen spots offset at a specific distance (I have the specifications around here somewhere I'll look for) which would I think closely approximate conditions you would find in a gallery displaying photographic works. I modelled my own north and south walls (Ilfochrome prints on both) along the specs published for ideal viewing of Ilfo' classic prints.

    A single low voltage spot lamp for examination of finished prints would suffice. Incandescent lamps are not ideal as they are often reddish/orange. Fluoro is often green biased.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2012
  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    i use rrelatively dim darkroom lighting for print evaluation,roughly EV6, which in my case comes from a single 60wbulbfrom 2m away.whatever looks good in dim lighting will look great in brighter illumination. using bright fluorecent lighting in the darkroom to evaluate print progress is a big mistake IMO,because what looks good then will look bland and without sparkle in normal room lighting.from dim to bright, bo problem. the other way around is tricky
     
  19. Mr Man

    Mr Man Member

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    Hi Ralph, I am tempted to give the 60w bulb method a try. As I said I currently view near a window out of direct sunlight and while the tones look good there when moved away from the window they loose their sparkle and look to dark. I don't think many people who are likely to buy my work are in the position of installing a lighting system to view the print under ideal conditions, they will most likely just be hung on a wall where there is space and they look OK.

    As for galleries, if a gallery is trying to sell works then the lighting is usually good (it is in their interest to make the work look as good as possible) but I find the lighting in many public galleries to be terrible. These places are run by curators and, as with the dry mounting verses archival mounting argument, they appear to think that any photon falling on the work will instantaneously fade the image into non-existence. I can understand being cautious for major historical works that may have been created when the properties of the materials were not fully understood but surely a well produced photograph created on quality modern materials should be able to stand a reasonable amount of UV filtered illumination without degradation. A new gallery near me that was recently completed at a cost of millions of pounds of public money installed a lighting system that was obviously sold to them as being state of the art archival lighting that consisted of LED spot lights. The spots produce a small circle, approx 60cm, of dim, what can only be described as, grey light and then fall off into almost darkness. When illuminating large works there were a few pools of dim light and the rest could hardly be seen.
     
  20. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    "using bright fluorecent lighting in the darkroom" is also a big mistake because they continue to emit light after they are turned off, some up to 5-10 minutes. That is not helpful in a darkroom.

    John Powers
     
  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Hey Ralph, thanks for the useful information. You come up with some specifics on viewing. My darkroom has incandescent lights so that's not an issue. Another issue is dry down.
     
  22. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Initially, under an 8 watt cool white fluorescent in the darkroom while the print is still wet. (This is a bit too bright, and I will switch to some white LEDs soon.) That tells me if my exposure is pretty much on. Later, when dry, under the multiple fluorescent shop lights that light the darkroom. That tells me if the print is worth keeping and if I need to reprint with some more subtle changes than I recognized before. Critically, under high CRI daylight fluorescents in my lightroom area. That tells me whether I can mount and exhibit the print. (Not many pass.) Fortunately, the exact color of the light is not too critical for black and white, and regular fluorescents and incandescents are quite OK for routine evaluations. But for critical evaluation, you should look at the print in in the same light as it will be in when exhibited. For black and white especially, the matting and framing can have a greater effect on the look of the print than then light. It is often helpful to keep some mattes around of the kinds of material you like to use and to look at the print under them for a critical evaluation.
     
  23. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I prefer a standard 60w incandescent bulb about 5 feet away. It's based on the level of lighting I usually see at museums (not that my stuff will be in any museums any time soon...). Never judge wet prints. Dry them and live with them for a while.

    Like Brian, I have struggled with this. It's not the level of illumination I have a problem with, but the print color. I try to stay away from looking at my prints under daylight for that reason (and I print at night anyway) but sometimes I can't help myself and days later I'll keep walking around the house to see what the print looks like under different kinds of light, mixed daylight/incandescent etc.

    I'll throw another wrench in - the mat board color in relation to the print color. Walk around with a mounted print and try incandecent vs daylight vs halogen spots vs mixed lighting. Yikes.

    To Mainecoonmaniac: Dry down is not an issue unless you make final printing decisions based on wet prints. Dry your test prints either in a microwave or with a hairdryer or whatever. Eliminate the variable.
     
  24. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Ralph:

    See page 241 of edition 1 of your book - two bulbs!:wink:
     
  25. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    As Ralph already decribed: I uses relatively dim light to asess the print. This gives some comensation for the dry down effect. Bright light is counterproductive and will lead to prints which are to dark.
    The test strips for real critical prints thought for longer exhibition should be evaluated dried and in a lightning similar to that of exhibition. As St. Ansel proposed you can dry prints very fast in a mircowave oven.
     
  26. Vilk

    Vilk Member

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    whatever light happens to be there. see some life in the shadows, see some life in the highlights? nothing solid white or black? good enough. this is the last thing that bears on the "quality" of a photograph anyway. consider this: i have attended exhibitions for years--many fabulous photographs, many lousy prints, frequently it's the same picture that's a fabulous photograph and and a lousy print

    :cool: