I'm looking to improve my darkroom skills. Any good book recommendations?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Dikaiosune01, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. Dikaiosune01

    Dikaiosune01 Member

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    I've taken photography seriously for about 18 months. Film for about the past 6. I've done about 50 various prints now, with a range of 5-10 negatives.
    I've done contact prints, enlargements with some dodging and burning.

    I see myself in the beginning of a very long, very expensive hobby of photography and darkroom printing. Alas, there are no photography classes available that suits my needs (it needs to include a darkroom; and I don't want to see those online classes about using aperture priority). Everything I've learned so far has been done independently through books, youtube and useful people on this website (and some others). I deeply appreciate everyone's help and comments.

    I'm now looking to continue to expand my repertoire. I'm still struggling to get my prints exactly the way I want them. I've done some dodging and burning the best I can however there is still something missing. My question is, what are some interesting techniques or tools I can utilize to make the best print possible? I would also appreciate some suggestions for literature to read about improving darkroom techniques as well. (Currently I'm re-reading The Ansel Adams series. Good, but not the easiest thing to read)

    PS: I'm still working on the perfectly exposed negative. Note: I know the term "perfect print" and "perfect negative" are very arbitrary. I'm defining it as the picture I envisioned in my previsualization.
     
  2. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Expose for the highlights and use contrast to control the shadows.

    Check out split-grade printing, print flashing, bleaching, toning, etc.

    Book recommendations:

    "Way Beyond Monochrome Ed 2." - Lambrecht and Woodhouse
    "The Toning Book" - Rudman
    "The Elements of Black and White Printing" - Graves
    "Creative Black and White Photography" - McLean
    "The Darkroom Cookbook" - Anchell
    "Black and White Photography Workshop" - Blakemore

    These are my favorites. I learned a ton from them. Good luck!
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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  4. R gould

    R gould Member

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    Check out ''Creative Elements'' by Eddie Ephraums, one of the best art cum darkroom books ever,explains complicated darkroom techniques very easily, and just enjoy the experiance, and remember, the more you print the better you will get, good luck and have fun,Richard
     
  5. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    Larry Bartlett's book . "Black and White PhotoWorkshop"
     
  6. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Larry Bartlett's book is my favorite also. The nice thing about that one is that it goes beyond the mechanics showing "before and after" images.
     
  7. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    Funny thing about some of the books.. you might not understand a lot of it until you do the work in the darkroom and re-read it a year later.
    Like anything doing is half the issue.
    For me though I find it is kinda like a bicycle once you get some experience it doesn't go away even if you take a year off from silver based stuff.
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Here's my HONEST opinion....

    If you are at about 50 prints so far and less than dozen rolls of film, forget "interesting tools and techniques". If you are like when I was at that stage (and there is no grantee you are), you are still struggling with getting decent straight prints. My suggestion to you would be to aim for firmly mastering exposure on taking part, properly developing on processing part, and firmly mastering exposure and contrast on printing part. You can dodge and burn a little as needed. You can go very far with simple and basic techniques when applied precisely. On the same token, using advanced techniques and tools when basics are shaky will only produce inferior end results - often worse than straight prints.

    I personally spent about a year and half doing nothing but straight prints. Boy there is a lot to learn and master! With help of masters on this forum, each problem was solved. It helped immensely when I started to use more advanced techniques because I can get the base print (before manipulation) exactly the way I wanted it, each time. Then my task is to apply select adjustments in the degree and amount I want.

    Anyway, that's just my personal methodology and opinion. Yours and others may (and likely will) vary A LOT!
     
  9. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Some community colleges or your local university may have non-credit darkroom courses which are usually inexpensive and are taught by some very good photographers. That might give you some input and critique on your printing.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  10. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    I recommend Henry Horenstein books "Black & white Photography a basic manual" and Beyond Basic Photography. Very clear writing. Also, Tim Rudman book The Photographer's Master Printing Course is great. These are available used for pretty cheap.

    Jon
     
  11. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    Agree! All the books mentioned are great, but one needs to get the basics down first. Just straight prints and get everything under control.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'll agree with the previous two posters, with one caveat.

    One of the advantages of reading any or all of the books mentioned is that they give you examples of different types of good results.

    Even if you don't learn the techniques themselves, their exploration of the process helps educate your observations.

    IMHO, just seeing side-by-side reproductions of mediocre prints and high quality prints from the same negative helps photographers learn a lot.
     
  13. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Practice. :cool:
     
  14. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Practice, and keep exacting notes.

    When you think you have the basics down, get a copy of Ralph Lambrechts book, "Way Beyond Monochrome" and learn the fine points of printing.
     
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  15. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Goals:
    Edward Weston: Forms of Passion
    Walker Evans: Hungry Eye
    Paul Strand: 60 years
    Ansel Adams: Yosemite and the Range of Light

    A classic:
    Lootens: Lootens on Photographic Enlarging

    Hey, it was the 60's when I learned photography...
    Herrigel: Zen in the Art of Archery
     
  16. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    You might consider going to a good workshop. Many years ago I was in a similar position. I had read book after book, practiced on hundreds of prints, gotten some very good results, and quite a few mediocre ones. I had progressed as far as I could on my own.

    I then went to John Sexton's Mastering the Fine Print Workshop. The workshop was exactly what I needed at the time. He and Anne went through the entire process of making fine prints. Seeing the process from beginning to end was a revelation. All the things I had read fit into a broader context. I went home and started making better prints. The portfolio review at the workshop was also very helpful.
     
  17. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    By the way, my favorite basic photography book is "Photography" by Barbara London Upton and John Upton. This books is out of print but you can often find one at libraries and used book stores. I bought mine at library book sale for 50 cents. My favorite advanced book is "Way more than monochrome".

    I like the former because it covers all the basics from camera, lens, exposure, film, and printing in just enough details and have practical how-to and how-not-to. I highly recommend it. I like the latter for all the technical discussion exploration in nauseating (hehe) details. Since I am a type of person who needs to know and understand why as well as how, it works for me very well. The latter book may be a bit too and overwhelming much until you were at least introduced to each of the subjects elsewhere, I think.

    Anyway, have fun with the process. It gets frustrating (and expensive!) but if you enjoy it it's no more expensive than any other serious hobbies.

    Oh, another thing that helps me greatly.... in addition to looking at books, I visit museums and shows as often as I can and view actual photographs that are done to very high standards. Recently, I saw works of Clyde Butcher. Amazing! The scale of print makes big difference in how you see them and also lighting makes big difference. Regular printed books don't show as much tonal range as prints either. I highly recommend personal visit to museums.
     
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  18. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Study the Ansel Adams series in particular "The Negative and "The Print.
     
  19. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I agree with David. Practice is the key. It's like anything in life. But master the basics first. You gotta get master grammar first before writing your great novel. I think learning from a workshop is better than a book. Best of luck.
     
  20. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Great book!

    Love your comparison of Japanese archery and photography. But both requires practice to let the bow shoot or camera shoot itself. I'm still working on it. It may take a lifetime to achieve the art of artlessness.
     
  21. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree with some of the posts, practice. Also check out libraries near you.

    Jeff
     
  22. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

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    Another vote for 'you have walk before you can run'. Hang in there and learn from every print you make. Good or bad, they will teach you something. As for the books, you can't go wrong with any listed here.

    Mike
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi Dikaiosune01,

    One of the great things about APUG is that you can get all the information you need right here. Get a big empty notebook and start a collection of your own instructions. Start with the pages Ralph offered.

    I would recommend Ralph's book, you can ask him questions on anything you have trouble grasping because he regularly posts here.

    The next steps might be flashing and bleaching. Looten's book goes into great detail on that. It's a very traditional, very old book.

    You can see some of that here, video recently shared on another forum, thread titled "Masters of the Black Art"

    Lopparelli Nathalie
    http://www.atelierfenetresurcour.com/prestation.html

    I was also moved by the idea of contrast masking. Another thread on that other forum titled Books on Traditional Masking gave the link:

    Lynn Radeka
    http://www.maskingkits.com/

    Looking at the examples, I was moved by their obvious beauty, but in a gut reaction I decided not to go down that path.