Printing, printing, printing...

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Ian Leake, Jul 12, 2010.

  1. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    For various reasons I've built up a huge printing backlog - in the order of 1,000 negatives that need filing, proofing, editing down and then printing in platinum. (And then there are the undeveloped negatives...) My guess is that clearing this backlog will take until the end of the year.

    In the meantime I'm trying to adopt a rigorous approach for new work. My plan is to put aside one weekend each month for new work: Saturday morning for camera work, Saturday afternoon for developing the film (drying overnight), and Sunday for proofs on Lodima and then making platinum prints of the best compositions.

    Hopefully this will stop me adding to my printing backlog faster than I can work through it.

    But I'm wondering how others manage all this? How do you manage to balance the need to make finished prints with the need to expose film? Do you have any tips to share?
     
  2. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Ian,

    No tips I'm afraid, I tend to switch between camera work and printing. Hopefully once I've got on top of my printing backlog I should be able to take a more balanced approach.

    Tom

    PS) What do you think of the Lodima paper?
     
  3. R gould

    R gould Member

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    Sorry Ian I can't give you any tips,I have a large number of negatives to print myself, and there are that I wonder how I ever get on top of things, and then I look out of the window and the light at times is great, and I just have to grab a camera and head out, so more backlog, I guess that the only way is to set aside days for printing and keep to them,Richard
     
  4. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I spent some time recently reading the huge MOMA retrospective book on Lee Friedlander. A lot of info in there on his methods of working. He is, of course full time spending his life photographing and printing. There were references to being about a 4 year gap between exposing a negative and printing it. I think one needs the dicipline to just keep pushing forward slowly with the printing/editing and not get concerned about 'catching up.'
     
  5. Ian Leake

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    What? No magic bullet? That's a shame :-(

    I guess discipline is the answer though.

    I love it Tom. One reason my backlog got so huge was that I proofed with a pt/pd print. This was slow of course, and coupled with the expense this meant that I only proofed a relatively small number of negatives. I tried proofing with silver gelatin paper (RC grade 0) but this was rarely good enough to see all the detail so I stopped.

    With Lodima grade 2 and a vacuum frame, I can expose 4 prints at a time under a light bulb. This really boosts throughput. Although none of them are fine prints they're good enough to show me what's on the negative and decide whether or not to take it to a platinum print.

    Since I've been doing this I've already discovered (or re-discovered) several drop dead gorgeous photos.
     
  6. 5stringdeath

    5stringdeath Member

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    I generally shoot a lot between spring and fall, make contacts, work prints ... once the coldest of the cold winter hits, I do final edits and prints. Of course this only helps if you live in a variable climate :smile:

    For me, having time between shooting and printing is very helpful ... to avoid knee jerk reactions to negatives and making unnecessary prints.

    What bogs me down is if I shoot shoot shoot and put off developing the film ... so I try to keep up on that as much as possible.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

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    Hi Ian

    You are ambitious working with the camera, process and print within the same time period.
    Its tough to do, I prefer to separate them into different sessions. It really is hard for me to take the photograph, so I over compensate and have too many exposures to work with your plan over a three day period.
    I can cope better with larger printing sessions but trying to do all three at a time I think is to complicated.

    Bob


     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Ian- one way to cut down on the backlog is to switch to ULF - I can only shoot 6 sheets of 14x17 in a day :smile: .
     
  9. Peter Schrager

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    I'm trying to work in series....once I finish one series I go and start another one...still have a backlog but not like I used to....
    Best, Peter
     
  10. Ian Leake

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    You're right, trying to do it all in one weekend only works with a few negatives. This weekend I spent 3 hours in the Cathedral and made 5 pictures (2 negatives for each). All have been proofed but although 4 are worth printing I only got to make 2 finished Pt/Pd prints - and that meant working very late.

    I suspect that I'll end up stopping once I've proofed everything. That way I get to see a print before I make my next photos so I can build on them rather than repeat them.

    That's too big for me! I go up to 11x14 in the studio but then I'm limited by the number of holders I have.
     
  11. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Or even 8x10. Last winter I was up for a printing session and realized I had printed every 8x10 negative I had (less than 50 at the time) and had nothing to do.:sad:
     
  12. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I tend to get bored with one aspect or another so I'll switch between shooting and printing. Either way pretty much all of my spare time is dedicated to photography. I also try to spend time going back over negatives that I ignored on the first edit. Sometimes I find a gem.
     
  13. Ian Leake

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    At least two thirds of my backlog are 8x10 negatives. There are perhaps about 30-40 11x14 and 10x12; the rest are 4x5. I'm not counting the small format stuff for which I'll probably use an 'electro-optical' process.
     
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  15. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I've been diligent about printing, starting last fall. I have been able to keep within a week or two of my negatives and it is a very exciting way to work, for me.

    I too had a backlog, still do. I just decided "from this day forward I will keep up". That way, the backlog becomes a fixed, not growing quantity. Now it seems manageable, it's even slowly dwindling!

    Of course another problem for me is that I'm a better printer now than I was even a few years ago so there's the temptation to go back and improve things.... of course that's another matter. =)

    Good luck! Missed your lovely work in the gallery, glad to see you posting here again.

    All the best. Shawn
     
  16. Ian Leake

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  17. Shawn Dougherty

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    Of course I make my final prints primarily on Lodima/Azo so it's a hell of a lot easier for me!
     
  18. CBG

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    I like having a modest backlog of film awaiting the darkroom. It's existence reminds me that there are images I haven't even seen yet, and that I will have some happy surprises awaiting.

    But there is such a thing as too much, at least for me. Exactly what that means is a personal decision. Whatever "too much" is, when "too much" film has accumulated undeveloped, I go into lab rat mode and whittle it down some. The "enough work" or "too much work" categorizations function as an inventory control system so that I always have some photo work available, but not an overwhelming mass of undeveloped or unprinted work piling up.

    Not having any darkroom work awaiting me means that any dearth of shooting opportunities would bring me to a complete halt.
     
  19. Merg Ross

    Merg Ross Member

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    My system is a little different in that I don't proof anything, just read the negatives and print the best. Some are easy to eliminate on initial reading, and others on the first print. With years of experience, I know pretty much if I have a keeper or a looser without spending a lot of time. There is of course a downside, occasionally I will return to an elimated negative years later to find that I missed something; fortunately, this seldom happens.

    Another part of my system immediately following a shooting spree, is to lock myself in the darkroom until all processing and printing has been completed. This is the part of the process that Brett Weston referred to as "drudgery". I recently completed a five week camera trip through England and Scotland, with two solid weeks spent in the darkroom upon return. Most of the printing is complete, with twenty-five prints mounted up. This is really the only way I can evaluate my work; some of the prints fall short, and will be redone.

    However, I have earned my reward. The reward is getting back into the field to start the process over again!

    Backlog or not, your work is excellent!

    Merg
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i can't really suggest how to better use your time and resources.
    i have a backlog that goes back maybe 9 years LOL
    its all processed and proofed but i don't have any time to make more than
    a print once in a blue moon :wink:
    i enjoy your work a lot and look forward to you digging into your
    backlog and printing some more :smile:

    john
     
  21. patrickjames

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    I use the scanner for a proofer. I only use just enough resolution to be able to judge them and it makes the scans go really fast. Then I catalogue the scans in Lightroom. It helps to keep me organized. I go back later and print the ones that are good in the darkroom. I only use the computer for organizing images and not for output. There is nothing worse than having stacks of proof prints to go through to see which ones need to be reprinted an then having to go dig up the negatives. I know this is not totally analogue, but by doing it this way, I can go straight to the good stuff and not waste time on the marginal images. Lightroom is the only thing in the "digital revolution" that has helped me with analogue photography.
     
  22. jp498

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    I think the OP is taking too many photos or isn't editing them down enough if they are 1000 images behind, assuming they aren't a serious pro working on an overwhelming project.

    What I do depends on the weather for me. If it's rainy, I go in the darkroom and process or print. Dark is also a good time to process or print. Sunny or gray daytime is a good time to photograph. Being a business owner and parent, spare time isn't a consistent schedule; I have to take advantage of it when it happens.

    I try to process film as soon as I have a certain minimum based on my equipment and time. I like to do at least like 2 rolls or film (35/120) or 6 4x5 (combiplan) or any multiple of 8x10 (tray). I consider it wasteful of time to do develop and clean up just for a single roll of film or a couple 4x5s or a single 8x10. Yeh, individual photos can be special, but my free time is special to, and there is no way to get back free time.

    As far as filing, I cut them up (the rolls), and file them away the next day so they can't accumulate much dust hanging around.

    I start my printing session doing contact prints for any negative pages or negatives that need it. Then I go from collective batch mode into individual image mode and work through making prints of images I like. I never get through this step in the same session. I start it and have to clean up when I get too tired.

    Then I find another evening to make more prints. I have to sort of prioritize, otherwise I'd never be caught up. Some images I decide don't look as nice on the negative/proof as I envisioned in the field. Some negatives are technically excellent, but won't be necessary (such as a sequence of really nice portraits when I only need to present one or two), and some are great and what I expected and should be printed. This understanding helps me prioritize when I have my printing interests and time constraints are not compatible.
     
  23. PVia

    PVia Member

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    I have to agree with Merg here. Read the neg, it'll tell you a lot. Composition, subject (ie, eyes closed or not, etc), does it look like it'll print well, cropping needed, etc...

    Also, you're probably shooting too much. Do you proof every single frame? Make a contact sheet and use a loupe to decide. Or as another poster suggested, scan the neg file page, lo-res to decide.

    On a 36 exposure roll, I'll probably pick 2-10 to proof based on a reading. Of those, maybe 2-4 make it to a complete 8x10 finished print, with an occasional 11x14 print or two as well.

    On a 10-12 exposure med format roll, maybe 1-4 frames will see a full workup, but that varies.

    I tend to proof on 5x7 paper, sometimes 8x10 and live with the results for a few days. Then I make another edit and go back in to make a finished print of the chosen frames at the final size.

    I think most of the positive action/effort in making art comes from taking the time to make good decisions. I used to be anxious about getting it all done, but I settled in to a slower approach and my work is much better now and more considered.
     
  24. 5stringdeath

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    I find this a very constraining statement. Sure, we all have different methods of working ... it could just as easily be said you don't take enough photos.

    (Nothing personal, just playing devils advocate)

    Its said that Garry Winogrand died with over 10,000 undeveloped exposures ... sure you could argue he shot too much, but he was obsessed and edited down some fine books.

    Anyhow how much someone shoots shouldn't be the issue here, it should be helping them find a workflow that suits that style / lifestyle. I binge shoot all the time ... course then I have to immerse myself in the film/printing process to deal with that. I have never once felt bad about how much film I've shot, and I still enjoy looking back and re-editing old work. My sensibilities are different now than when I shot some of my older film so I often find images that interest me now that didn't then. Deep psychological discussions may follow :D

    I am in no way saying people who shoot very carefully and sparsely are wrong either. I have many friends who work this way and make great photographs. I would never suggest they change their methodology.

    All I know is, in the end, I've never regretted taking a photograph, but there are a few I regret not taking.

    edit: i re-read what I quoted from you and notice you didnt' just mention shooting, but editing as well ... so yes, I can and will agree that editing is an artform in itself and despite how much film one shoots its an important skill.

    But again, if one has the passion to feel 1,000 photos need to be printed, then there is only one thing to do ... find the time!
     
  25. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Well, I'd like to amend my post to say he's shooting too much if he feels it's a problem and a burden to keep up with.

    I also find it find unusual that Ian is proofing on Lodima. Why would you proof on such an expensive paper? You can see everything on the negative, at least enough to know whether you should proceed further...

    (BTW, Ian is a wonderful photographer and you should visit his site to enjoy his images.)
     
  26. Ian Leake

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    Some interesting posts overnight - thanks for your comments.

    Two thoughts: (1) on whether I'm, shooting too much; and (2) on reading negatives. The first is easy. No I'm not. The opposite in fact - I'm not making enough negatives. The second point is more complex.

    I used to select negatives for printing by looking at them on a lightbox, just as a couple of you have suggested. But I've realised there are several problems with that approach. Firstly, it's not possible to read the subtleties of body language on a negative (I can't anyway). Yes you can see if the eyes are open or shut, but does a slight tilt of the head work or not? I believe a proper print is required for this.

    The second problem is that choosing from the negatives pushes you towards selecting the obvious pictures - the ones you know will work. More subtle compositions, especially those which don't work back to front and with inverted tones, can easily be missed.

    The third problem is more of a question: how can I learn unless I see the print? Suppose a model blinked as the shutter fired. Should I discard the negative because her eyes are closed or print it to look at the rest of the composition? How about if the lighting is a bit off? Again, looking at the print will tell me where I went wrong. Or what if the composition just sucks? Obviously I saw something that appealed to me because I made the picture, but to understand what appeals and what I need to avoid in the future requires a print.

    Lastly, I'm still trying to find a way to engage with models in the post-polaroid world. In the past I used a lot of Polaroids in the studio. Seeing the printed picture enabled the model to understand where I was trying to go - and this enabled her to work with me to achieve that goal. I'm hoping that by developing and proofing immediately after the sitting then this collaborative engagement will be possible again. OK, the discussion will have to be spread over several sittings, but I prefer to work that way anyway.

    Regarding why I proof on Lodima, that's easy to answer. Compared to platinum it's cheap and easy. I can make lots of proofs quickly without much effort. And it's got a long enough range to match my platinum negatives (as I noted on an earlier post, I tried this once with RC paper but it didn't show enough detail).

    Thanks again for all your comments and suggestions. There's plenty of food for thought here.