How long would it take you to make a portfolio quality 8x10?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by thedancefloor, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. thedancefloor

    thedancefloor Member

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    On RC paper, from 120 film, no toning, easel already setup, corners burned in, exclude washing time.

    I've been shooting portraits of families and kids, and people love the prints I've given them. I'm trying to make a business out of it, but I'm relatively new to darkroom work and it takes me about an hour to get a starting point print. I use a zone VI cold light head, I print splitgrade, I lack a meter and have no paper processor.

    I'm asking this question because I'm trying to determine my print prices. But to charge based on my time, at my speed, I'd have to charge more than I think people would pay.

    With the proper tools and equipment, how long should it take to make a family portrait quality 8x10?
     
  2. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    It depends a lot on whether all the negs I'm printing are close to all the same (or close) approximate density. Last weekend I did about 15-20 8x10s in right about an hour, and a half. Including my set up time. However, all the negatives were shot on the same 2 day period, and all were done with the same lighting in my studio/kitchen. I use Ilford VC paper, but I've always eyeballed the enlarging exposure so I don't have any kind of meter either. There have been days when it took me an hour to get what I wanted from one neg. When I shoot portraits, or something else for a client, I charge hourly for the shoot, plus milege (if it's more than ten), and have a set price for any enlargements. All of this is discussed, and agreed to before I load my rig. I also make sure that the negatives stay in my possesion, and offer reprints if needed. Oh, and don't under sell your self. If you don't think your work is worth a good price, niether will the client.
     
  3. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Well if you look at the pro labs, they want $10 to 15 for a single 8x10 black and white optical print, optical colour is more.
     
  4. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Portfolio quality and RC paper? It's a trick question, right? Like "How do you make a pig fly?"

    Commercial portrait quality ... well I'd still suggest ditching the RC paper. It does not last, it is only a matter of time till it starts to bronze, get orange peel and generally fall apart. If you are selling portraits they should last a few hundred years. Plan on selenium toning - inform the client of the benefits and charge extra for the 'archival' work, heck consider offering gold toning - the money is in the options.

    If you think 100+ years is excessive -- well, it wasn't any big deal for photos made in the 1800's, don't know why it should be a big deal nowadays. http://www.google.com/images?q=paul+nadar

    If you are shooting portraits in a controlled setting then you have complete control over lighting and lighting contrast. Your negatives should be very consistent from one sitter to the next. Once you have the correct paper, contrast and exposure settled on then all prints should have the same exposure. With manual tray processing you should be able to turn out one to three-of-a-kind prints every 5 minutes or so. There is set up and tear down time involved and the tail end of the processing will stretch out for a few hours no matter how many prints you make at a time.

    Ditch split grade - it is a waste of time if you already know the contrast grade you need. And you shouldn't need a meter either.

    If, however, you are taking environmental portraits then the matter becomes a bit more complicated. Carry some supplementary lighting, lots of stands and clips and reflectors so you can get the lighting contrast under control. A good incident meter is a must.

    The more effort you spend on the lighting the less mucking about in the darkroom.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You might consider adding a grey card and some form of step wedge to your shooting regime.

    For each portrait setup, just include the grey card and step wedge in a test shot.

    Then you can use the test to more quickly zero in on a "straight" print.

    If you have and use a meter like an Ilford EM-10 to read the grey card, it might be even faster.

    EDIT: I think Nicholas and I disagree about the relative quality of modern RC paper, especially when properly toned.
     
  6. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    The more I've printed, the faster I can get to a good print. And I mostly agree with Nicholas, but also a bit with Matt. If I were doing this, I'd use fiber and tone it. Yes, it takes longer and costs more. But it isn't (shouldn't be) competing with Walmart and Target photos.
     
  7. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    I printed for a high end studio. We printed 8x10 and smaller on RC toned in selenium, all larger prints were fiber and also toned. 8x10 and smaller were $89 6 years ago, so may be more now. Larger (11x14-20x24) fiber prints were $500 and up. I made 40-60 prints per day.
     
  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Lets revisit the question in 50 years. I've been hearing the same lament since the 60's: Oh, yes, that old stuff, that had problems. But the new stuff -- it's great. I'm sure they'll get it right someday, may have already done so, but nobody is going to know for a good century or so.

    I have just looked at some prints made on Se toned MGIV RC postcards - and there is the first hint of bronzing. Prints are around 7 years old. Stored loose in an office environment. Possibly I processed them badly, possibly not.

    But why bother taking the chance. There is absolutely no need to shovel off inferior goods to a paying client when FB paper is known to last. To save 10 minutes futzing with drying and flattening ...
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it usually takes me about 1hour / print .. sometimes more,
    sometimes less ...

    rc prints have the ability to last longer than fiber prints
    if processed correctly. i never wanted to believe this
    but if you call kodak, they have done studies with
    various organizations like the image permanency institute
    which have concluded this ...
     
  10. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    On RC? About 3 minutes + 20 seconds + 2 minutes + 10 seconds + 2 minutes + 20 minutes + cut, trim + frame + pack = 30 minutes; charging $140.00 an hour that would be approximately $70.00 + shoot time $100.00 per hour; each shoot one hour minimum so the one RC print and a minimal shoot time would be $170.00 plus tax but your accountant will figure out the tax situation.

    So basically your family and friends can't afford you right now, but if they save up maybe they can get one of your group rates. You do have a group rate don't you?

    Hint, ditch the RC paper and go with a fiber paper; have a selection for the client to select from. Don't forget the mats and frames, they will need a selection to pick from too.

    Good luck,
    Curt
     
  11. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Depends on the negative. If I was shooting portraits in a controlled repeatable way I could probably get it down to about 20-30 minutes for the first and 10 minutes thereafter. Typically a good thick neg I can print to my satisfaction the first time in 20-30 minutes, a tough one might take an hour or more. I found struggling with a bad neg to be counterproductive to great prints so I don't do that much anymore. I would echo the call to print on fiber. RC might be as good these days, but in this business perception is everything, and the perception is that fiber paper is better. In other words no one will fault you for using fiber, while some might for RC, deserved or not.
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    100% behind Nicholas on this.
    I have not made a RC print in 35 years and plan never to make one.
    I see absolutely no reason..

    Oh wait a minute I lie,, contact sheets.
     
  13. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Same here.

    RC makes perfect sense to me, and I use it, for contact sheets, mucking-about-proofs, is-it-worth-printing exercises, and uses where it really doesn't matter if the print is any good in 5 years or 50 years - which, to confess, is more of my output than I like to admit.

    But if someone is paying for a photograph then I feel it is necessary to do as good a job as I can. The real labor in a photograph isn't in making the print but in taking the photograph - be it a portrait session or just the time spent making bad photographs just so one has the opportunity to make the occasional good one. If someone is willing to part with a few hundreds, or even tens, of dollars I feel I have an obligation to provide only what I know to the best of my knowledge will work.

    * * *

    On the subject of 'accelerating aging' -- oh dear, it's one of my many soapboxes.

    I am very familiar with accelerated aging as it is stock in trade in electrical engineering. I spent much time on my first engineering job peering through the windows of Blue-M environmental testing chambers.

    Accelerating aging testing has real limits. They have nothing to do with methodology but with the nature of proof. Aging tests are only proof when you have got it wrong. If a product fails the test then it means something. If, however, the product passes the test it is not proof that the product will last. You can't prove something won't fail. You can only try to prove it will fail and failing at the proof you assume the best.

    The only test of time is time itself. We know now that Nadar's process was archival. We have some consolation that FB products are reasonably like those of 90 years ago that have shown themselves to last for 90 years and seem to be still going strong. There is no comparable history that RC paper will last 100 years. There is a 50 year history of repeated failed assurances that all is well with RC - something that no other photographic process can boast of.

    And besides, RC looks like crap. De gustibus non est disputandum.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
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  15. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It takes me about an hour to get what I think is a GOOD print from any negative. After that, it's about ten minutes per print. Making the first print is all about finding the right paper grade, and working out any burning to be done (I don't dodge, only burn- but I might burn in all but a tiny spot). That part of it I normally do in RC paper.

    Then I let the "good" print "age" for a week or two until I see what it needs to be a better print.

    And then I dig out the graded paper and the contrast-control developers and toners, and work on it for another hour. At the end of that I can churn out prints in ten minutes each - batch exposing, batch processing in trays, batch toning and batch washing. And heat drying - all the processing is what takes time. Doing it in batches adds little to the total time for making ONE print, and you get many more prints.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i agree with you
    but wanted to at least suggest
    the other side of the story,
    that modern RC paper isn't nearly
    as bad as the earlier versions of the paper.

    ilford rc portfolio isn't that-bad (for an rc paper) .
    it has the same weight and feel as a fiber paper ...
    and if my client insisted that i use an RC paper
    because the rest of his / her house was
    filled with color prints, machine prints or ...
    ( if they made it ) the ilford porfolio is what i would use ... ( if i had-to )
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I am a big fan of modern RC paper.

    But I wouldn't discourage anyone from using fibre based paper.

    I would suggest, however, that if the OP is trying to determine a pricing structure, that fibre based requires more time and work, so a higher selling price is necessary.

    Whether or not the clients are willing to pay the higher price is another question.

    One question for Bob Carnie: Isn't Elevator printing on the Ilford digital B & W paper, and isn't that paper RC?
     
  18. thedancefloor

    thedancefloor Member

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. Nicholas, I agree with what you say about RC. I should switch over to fiber and tone the prints also. I love the look of matte FB.

    I've been charging $60 per 8x10 RC and $30 per subsequent one. What I need to do is print FB, toned, charge more, and get more experience printing so that one print doesn't take all day.

    My enlarger is a cold light head, and I use blue and green filters to print splitgrade. I can't use the Ilford filters with a cold light head, can I? My only other enlarger is a color one, and the magenta isn't deep enough, and I would need to calibrate it.

    What about drydown? My Zone VI timer has a dial thats labeled 'drydown'. How can I use that to help me?
     
  19. eddym

    eddym Member

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    You're asking the question from the wrong direction. Never mind how long it takes you to make the print; the question you should be asking is, How much cost will the market bear for this service? Do some market research to find out what others are charging for prints of similar quality to what you will offer, to a similar market area. If you find that the market will bear $50 for an 8x10 print, then determine whether you can recoup your costs and make a profit by selling at that price point. If the market will only bear $10 for an 8x10 print, you will find it hard to compete by selling handmade prints.
     
  20. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Elevator is printing on the Ilford digital paper, but it is fibre and not RC. We tried the rc version as a proofing material and I have five unopened boxes of the Rc from then, if anyone wants make me an offer. 30 inch x 100ft .. 5 years old As is condition
     
  21. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Sure you can use filters with a cold light head. Depending on the tube in the head the contrast produced by the filters may be a bit different -- but then so will the split-grade ratios. As the name of the game is to use what makes the best print it really doesn't make much matter what number is stamped on the filter. The best tube for VC paper is called an 'Aristo V54' - I think this is the standard tube installed in a ZVI enlarger.

    Dry down compensation is an attempt to adjust printing exposure so the working print you evaluated as correct when it was floating in the fixer tray matches the final print (made with drydown compensation) that ends up hanging on the wall.

    The amount of compensation you need depends on the difference in lighting over the fixer tray and the lighting in the final display place. It is possible to match the wet-print evaluation lighting to the display lighting so you don't need drydown compensation.

    Prints do loose a bit of contrast when they dry - the drydown knob won't help any here and sometimes you need to ooch the contrast up a bit so the final print looks OK.

    If your prints look too dark when they are hung then you may want to apply a bit of compensation by either twiddling the knob on the timer or just by reducing exposure about 10%-20% and seeing if that helps. The amount of compensation needed will change as you change printing contrast.

    If the final prints look great then there is no need to play with drydown compensation.
     
  22. phaedrus

    phaedrus Member

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    Making prints is not a race. Once you mentioned portfolio quality you set the clock to "off".
     
  23. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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  24. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Unless the final print is to be hung next to the fixer tray (or in comparable lighting), doing the wet Vs. dry comparison at the fixer/holding tray doesn't give a satisfactory result.

    The fixer tray evaluation will be all wrong if the light where the print is to be hung is brighter than the evaluation lighting - because if this is the case the final print may need to be made darker and at a slightly lower contrast.

    Ideally you would take a set of dry test prints to the hanging location and evaluate them there. In loco muro I take the dry test print, slip it in a frame with glass and place it in various places around the house and see what I think of it. Glass alters the look of a print, as does a large white surround (I don't bother with a mat - just tape the print in place to the glass and slip some foam core in behind it).

    The amount of dry down correction changes with the print contrast as a 10% change is a very different thing at grade 4 and grade 1. It also changes with the tone of the focal point of the print - a print where deep shadows are where the action is and a print of a sunlit waterfall need different correction.

    If you are going to hang a show in a gallery and aren't sure what to expect the I suggest going in after hours and doing a test hang with some evaluation prints.

    I've quite given up on applying a simplistic constant dry-down correction to all prints - I just don't think it works. After years of monkeying around with it I now find that no correction seems to work best for me for a majority of my work - but then I now use a reflector flood for the evaluation light.

    A better solution to drydown compensation might be adjustable illumination at the print evaluation tray.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 20, 2010
  25. Andrew K

    Andrew K Subscriber

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    if you are going to do it for a living then get a paper processor - they are rediculously cheap. I've seen Ilford 2150's with dryers for less than $300 - this means the dry to dry time for a 8x10 print is around 70 seconds...

    I used to run a B&W lab/studio, and did a bit of portraiture. I could print a portrait from start to finish in under 10 minutes - that includes a test print, and then maybe 2 prints if I wanted a "perfect" print.

    I used a Multigrade 500 head on a old Polaroid MP4 copy stand so I could split print if needed (usually didin't have to - if you find you are split printing everything you shoot then you need to fine tune your negs..). I used fairly short print times - 8-15 seconds, and found I could easily dodge - 1-1/2 stops with ease...and I never used the built in meter as I found once my negs were consistant the exposure didin't vary that much..

    Modern RC papers are great, and you can produce great prints on them...I used to keep a couple of different brands on hand to get the results I wanted..

    One helpful hint (that was taught to me by an old photographer who came into the darkroom one day for a chat..) - what you see as a perfect print may not make a difference to your client. I was printing a photo for one of my regular customers, and he picked up my reject print and commented on how good it was.

    I told him it was my reject print - and showed him my final print.

    He held them side by side, and asked me why I'd made another print? I showed him the difference (which to me was major), and he agreed my final print was better - but if I hadn't shown him the differences between the prints he would never have spotted them...

    That taught me an important lesson. Unless you are being paid hundreds of dollars for a single 8x10 you need to make good prints. A person gets what they paid for - and your good prints are probably better than 99% of peoples perfect prints..........

    If you want an idea of what an "acceptable professional" print is send a negative you hav eprinted to a local, well respected lab and ask them to make a custom B&W print. Compare it to your print, and note what the differences are...

    It's not easy to say that a print is "OK", but if you want to make money you need to know where to set the bar.....
     
  26. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    I kind of wonder about some of the responses. "Portfolio Quality Print", figure an hour. I paid $25 for Portfolio prints made by a master printer (I would call him that, he would do a work print and then we would spend a half hour or so discussing what it needed), but that was back in 1980, or there about. One of the big name photograpers said that anyone who sold an 8x10 for less than $100 was a scab. Any bets on the name and date?

    Salon quality prints figure a half hour each.

    Commercial quality prints figure 10 minutes.

    Work prints take about 3 minutes, work prints are about the same quality you get at walmart.

    Notes:
    A work print in included in the times above.
    Times are to the point where the print is ready to be matted and framed.
    Times are for printing the first print, only proofs being done prior.
    Times are for custom hand enlarged chemical prints from negatives.
    I suspect that the OP was really thinking of commercial grade prints, however.
    A portfolio print is usually a one off print, so you do not save time by making multiples prints.