How many prints does it get you to make an OK print?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Andrey, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. Andrey

    Andrey Member

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    Assuming you're using test strips.

    I'm not talking perfection, just "this looks pretty close" feeling.
     
  2. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    90% of the time I get a good working print first try, the other 10% 2 to as many as 50, differnt papers, developers and grades.
     
  3. Andrey

    Andrey Member

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    Are the other 10% because the negative is bad? :smile:
     
  4. matti

    matti Member

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    2. But that is if I'm doing something where I feel pretty at home. But that is ok with Minuscules.
    /matti
     
  5. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    If I'm using test strips properly, it'll be 1 print, but I tend to know what contrast I want/need. If I try to get fancier and say oh yeah it'll be about that based on previous prints, i tend to use more paper, missing the right time lots.
     
  6. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    If it takes me more than around 6 or 7 sheets of paper (including test strips), I make a note of the problems and move onto another negative to print. I do not enjoy wasting paper, and I find if I get to wrapped up with one specific print it can become consuming and the rest of my darkroom session gets tainted. Once I have around 4 or 5 prints I am happy with, I go back to the problem child negative/print. Sometimes that might be after taking a small break so I can go back refreshed so I do not repeat my errors. This actually happened to me the other night. It was a rather contrasty ACROS neg developed in pyrocat and I just coul dnot get the highlights to print for the life of me. I tried my usaul guess at the contrast filtration, and split grade printing (which usually decides how the outcome will look) Neither way was able to allow me to print in the highlights the way I wanted. In the end, I ende dup making a mask (something I thought I'd never have to do with pyro dev's negatives) It still would not print!!! The neg did not look overly dense, and it cost me 7 sheets of paper.... Time to move onto something that works until I can figure out what to try next. It was the end of my darkroom session for me that night.
     
  7. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Wow, I never get that close first time.
    With some negs the picture just seem to be right within 2 or 3 prints.
    However, most seem to take 5 or 6 to get decent prints
    With some, I have never managed it - after 15 to 20 goes.
    I know a decent print is in there somewhere but it needs a better printer than me to get it.
    I spent 3 solid days doing a print for an exhibition once - and still wasn't sure I had got the best out of it.
    Martin
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    This question's loaded.

    Usually I can get to a good working "OK" print first time, I can read negatives and have printed for lot of other pphotographers But an OK print easily by the second print.

    An Exhibition print is something else . . . . . .
     
  9. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    OK - not many. With split grade printing, probably 4 with 2 being full sheet tests (I don't use strips). To really nail it... maybe 8 or even 10 if it's something tough. With graded paper, probably 3 with 1 being a full sheet test. To really nail it... maybe 6 sheets or more. It always depends on how close the scene was to my interpretation. I hate running though paper but I hate bad prints more. I'm improving my printing skills every year though sometimes that means I end up using more paper because I can eventually get it just right...
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    No just different, I have developed my methods over the past 40 years, I test my paper with a step wedge (not BZS) so I know what tones to expect, I test my film for speed and film development times. But lighting can still fool me and my meters. Even using the Zone System sometimes I pick the wrong zone, with 35mm the matrix meter in my 35mm misreas the lighting. And a working print is not a final print. A final print may take many different approaches to burning and dodging to get what I want.
     
  11. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    2 or 3 get me my contrast. 1 or 2 get the dodging and burning. That's average.
     
  12. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    after reading Bruce Barnbaums book on darkroom procedure i gave up test strips forever. big waste of time and paper. do not tell you anything that a full sheet of paper won't tell you and you get to see it ALL. if one has a system locked in -film;chemistry and paper then it is so easy to make great prints. it also takes Vision-that being where you want to go with the print. unfortunately that may or may not ever happen- but hey keep trying!! like an above poster I'm in the 10 or less paper category-if it aint happening I just move on....
    Best, Peter
     
  13. rcoda

    rcoda Member

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    I got very lucky this morning... two on the first try! Several others took a few prints each. I starting to get very good at evaluating negatives. :^)
     
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  15. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    My limited experience
    1 test strip to narrow time down
    1 strip to perfect it for that area
    strips in important areas to narrow time down
    couple strips to perfect base contrast
    Test/straight print

    map out areas with sharpie for times and contrast if split filtering
    cut out sequence of dodging shapes
    figure out times for filters needing time adjustments to get same exposure etc

    Final print
    maybe 1 more final print

    2 1/3 to 3 1/3 sheets -so long as I don't screw one up- and that's all I can do at this point


    I think the full size test prints are smart but also think you can save paper by using test strips in important, distinct areas
     
  16. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    I have adopted the Bruce Barnbaum method: I don't use test strips but rather start with an 8x10 sheet of paper and can ususally get it in 1 or 2 tries. Bruces' theory is that enough practice i.e. printing experience will give you a pretty good feel for exposure time and filter selection. Of course you have to maintain the same developer paper combo. I have settled on Photographers formulary B&W 65 and Arista EDU ultra paper. My prints with this combo come out with great contrast and print quite easily without alot of manipulation.
     
  17. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    My most important step is the contact sheet. Once I see that I know what I want to do and what contrast I want. The time is easy I just put the neg in the holder, turn on the light and adjust the f-stop until it looks right. These days I'm getting cheap and not doing the contact sheets as much but I can tell by looking at the neg what I want to do and what contrast to dial in.

    If I'm printing with those that want to learn something I might do test strips so they can see why I pick a certain time by dialing it in. Once you've been printing for over 30 years test strips are pretty much a waste of time and energy. At least for me anyway. YMMV.
     
  18. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I am pretty much with Eric and Peter, though I'm not familiar with Bruce Barnbaum's method.
    I use a contact sheet to determine the basic time and figure out what I want to do about contrast, and rarely do test strips. Usually one or two sheets to get an ok work print. Getting to a final print from there varies.
     
  19. tac

    tac Member

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    I have long felt that, like test strips, contact sheets are a waste; I only make them if someone is paying for it. Reading the negatives with a good loupe on a color-corrected light table works fine.

    So, in answer to the original question, when I use the same film, cameras, lights, development, et cetera in my own darkroom which I've used since who-knows-when, the first print is usually adequate for most people, but unless I'm in a real hurry, I don't stop there- there's always room for improvement. Four or five further prints would be normal. I have only had one negative that I matted and framed for myself on the first 'straight' print- the most beautiful (in a technical sense) negative I ever made. Wish I knew how I did it.

    When I'm trying a new film or developer (I only change one variable at a time), it can take 20 prints to get 'close' to what I want. More than that and I start to figure it isn't worth it. Or my back starts to hurt. Same difference in my book.

    I should mention that I've been working in the darkroom for 35 years, and I have always preferred darkroom work to camera work- though I am obsessed with both.
     
  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Unfortunately I have farted around so much with different films and developers that I often times am fooled moving from a negative developed in a staining developer to one in a non-staining developer. That stain really screws me up sometimes, trying to read the negative.
    With normal graded paper I estimate my printing time at grade 2. Then I make the print and see how I like it. If it's too bright, I insert a second sheet and make one that's a tad to dark. (If it was too dark to begin with I make one slightly too light). Then I compare the two, side by side. At that point I can really nail down a good exposure time, adjust for contrast and figure out a rough dodging/burning procedure, and the third sheet is usually good enough to start getting down to the really nitty gritty details.
    With variable contrast paper I have started split grade printing everything. One sheet for grade 0 exposure, and another for the grade 5 exposure. And they are full test sheets, no strips. The third sheet is of course a combination of the two and by judging the grade 0 and grade 5 I can usually get a fair idea of what kind of dodging and burning I have to do at both stages.
    So, whether I'm printing with graded paper or variable contrast paper, I always have a decent work print with three sheets.
    Then to get to the final print is a different story. That usually requires about 1-3 sheets more. Sometimes more, and in very few cases, the third prints is something I'm happy with.
    I can tell that since I standardized on Tri-X and Pyrocat-MC as film/dev combination and Ilford MGWT paper as standard paper, I am able to eke out much more of the tonal scale of the paper. I've got a long way to go, but this to me seems like a good technique. The 3-sheet idea with graded paper comes from Michael Smith. I find his approach is usually very sound. No test strips there either.
    - Thomas
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 18, 2008
  21. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    When I was doing silver gelatins, 16x20's from 4x5 negs, I would use one pack of ten sheets of Portriga Rapid. One for a work print (a straight print), 5 or 6 to getting burning right, then the last 3 were all final prints. This would be over perhaps an 10 to 12 hour period (from set-up to prints on the drying screens).

    Platinum/palladium and carbon prints prints are usually nailed down by the second to third print.

    Vaughn
     
  22. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    How long's a piece of string?:smile:

    Usually I get a fairly decent straight print first time, that's after careful study of contact sheets and test strips.

    I always keep careful darkroom notes of paper type, size, grade(s) setting, developer - dilution, time and temperature, lens and f-stop, enlarger head height. These kind of notes allow me to get fairly good repeatability given similar negatives exposed and processed under the same conditions etc.
     
  23. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    My student has just finished printing her first wedding, 35mm, and 10 rolls of film. She has been carefully working towards a darkroom management system whereby she wastes as little as possible, it’s a money thing where she gets paid so much and has to produce the prints for a set price. If she uses a lot of paper, chemicals and time, she makes little or almost no profit. She actually underquoted for the job and realised once she was processing the films that it was going to be tight. I sort of guessed she had underquoted, but letting her do it her way is the best lesson. She managed to actually come out with a small profit and that was with real world accounting, not fudging.

    Contact sheets of each and every roll, she did set subjects in batches, bride out of car “outside with fill flash” switch to indoors mode for “Bride inside and flower girls” Switch to indoors mode “Bride and Groom White dress and Black suit”. Switch to printing reception and formal pictures on lawn, reception proper, etcetera.

    By doing it this way, one can regulate, within reason, the wastage, because once you’re in the groove, you can print like crazy and it works.

    For every four 5x8” prints, she had one full test print and nailed three out of four on the second attempt. This included burning the white dress, dodging the dark suit and keeping the bride the centre of attention in every frame. This is as close as it gets to perfection for one newish to doing darkroom work, without any kind of supervision. I also consider it close to perfection for a lot of seasoned darkroom workers, as well!

    For myself, I just went and checked my 50 sheet box of 12x16” paper, which is for my really good stuff. I have used 43 sheets in eight sessions, which means I have printed 8 different negatives. With these eight different negatives I have two perfect prints, or at least what I call perfect. The average is 5.4 sheets used for each negative.

    I always work from a contact sheet no matter what the format. With my contact sheet I can pretty much determine density, grade and possible burning/dodging. I make a full sheet test print first up at least ½ the time. I’ll do a ¼ stop density wedge when I’m not too sure for the rest of the time, then it’s usually a full sheet print straight after a density test.

    With my current set-up, I’m using three types of film FP4+, Neopan 400 and Tmax100 and two formats, 35mm and 4x5. By being methodical I can switch from one film and/or format almost seamlessly.

    I have standardised on scratch mixed D76 1+1 for many years now for all film developing, this also helps.

    Mick.
     
  24. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    always do the contact sheets...it will give you a heads up on the entire process and immediately alert you if something has gone wrong...I try to do mine with a vc paper and a grade 1 filter...try it and see how it will make a difference..opens up the shadows so you can judge them better..it's the little tricks that make you a better printer.
    Best, Peter
     
  25. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Standardization is the real key here. First my film for 5x7, 8x10 & 7x17 is TMY developed in Pyrocat-HD 2-2-100 using a Zone VI compensating developing timer. I contact print everything on Canadian Grade 2 Azo. I slightly "underexpose" the contact sheets so I can really see what is in the shaldows. The enlarger height is always 19 inches. There is no lens. I use an Azo "Cold One" light source. The developer is MAS Amidol and my standard is 2 minutes for Canadian Azo again using the Zone VI developing timer.

    With the information gathered, I can usually get to a print I want to hang on the wall in less than 5 sheets of paper. However, I did spend 17 sheets working on a rather difficult negative a couple weeks ago.

    I've learned what 3 and 4 minutes in Amidol will do to increase the contrast in the print. I've also leaned that once I have a print I'm happy with using the Canadian Grade 2 Azo, if I want just a touch more contrast, I know exactly how much less exposure to give the Old Grade 2 Azo so I get a "final" print from every precious sheet.

    It also helps to have a few thousand sheets of Canadian Grade 2 Azo, all with the same emulsion number. I am learning exactly how my materials behave and it has greatly increased my darkroom efficiency!

    Great Thread!
     
  26. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It takes me 2 or 3 sheets to get there, then 1 or maybe 2 more to make a print that expresses what I want. I generally don't need to do too much burning and dodging to "fix" things, but I use them to emphasize what I think the picture is really about. And to make it as beautiful as I can. Then I will make 1 to 3 copies depending on how much time I have, and tweak it slightly. See what else I might decide about the picture.

    for client work... I nail it in 1 or 2, and don't play around with experimenting as much. But I'm still after beautiful expressive prints.