Prints look bad!

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by mporter012, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    I'm new to film and I haven't learned how to print yet, so I sent 5 rolls to the local shop to get developed and printed just to see how things looked with my lenses ect. I shot digital for some time, so I understand exposure and have many qualified digital prints, so I'm not sure what went wrong.

    Every print, for the most part, looks like hell. Seems like some have no clarity or the ink smeared or something and almost every photo is very middle grey looking. No real blacks or whites.

    Why is this? My paps thinks it's probably because they use a machine to print everything.

    Thanks -
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2013
  2. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    It's because whoever made the prints is incompetent and/or didn't care. If you want good prints, you either need to do it yourself or go to a top-tier professional lab - the Local Shop* no longer cuts it. The minilabs can produce excellent prints, but they require a skilled operator to do that whereas your average corner store uses a (probably just toilet-)trained monkey.

    It's also possible you made some error like underexposure that would make it very difficult to get good prints from your negatives.


    * for Local People
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Where are you? Some local shops/labs are very poor and APUGers can give you sources of processing and printing but there's no point unless we know where you are.

    I take it that these are B&W prints from B&W negs but are the prints silver gelatin, RA4 balanced for B&W prints or inkjets?

    If you are in the U.K. try Ilford's service. Proper processing and silver gelatin paper. If the prints from Ilford are poor then you can conclude that it was your exposure. I have seen Ilford's care and professionalism and it is second to none

    pentaxuser
     
  4. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    Thanks for the info polygot. The other thing I didn't mention is that the skies are all washed out, in every print. Not an ounce of detail in the sky! Again, I'm not pro, but all of these shots were exposed at hand held shutter speeds, with tri-x, so there should be detail there.

    pentaxuser: I'm not 100% sure what kind of prints they are. They are 4" glossy prints. It cost about $15 a roll. Yes, black and white, tri-x or t-max 400. I'm in Chicago, IL. I sent them to central camera, which is the only camera shop in Chi, and I assumed they were reputable, but I may be wrong.

    Thanks guys!
     
  5. Pfiltz

    Pfiltz Member

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    Open offer. I'm in NW Tn., and wanting more experience in printing in the Darkroom. PM me for my address, and send me a couple negs, I'll attempt to print them, and will send them back to you, at no obligation to you. More fun and experience for me :wink:

    If not. No worries either way.

    :smile:
     
  6. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    If the sky was cloudy, I would expect it to come out completely white on a print where the foreground is properly exposed because the difference in brightness is huge. If you want cloud detail and foreground detail, you need to burn-in the sky under the enlarger - just one tiny example of why people do their own printing instead of handing it off to a lab.

    If you have a day of blue sky maybe with the occasional cloud, try a circular polariser or red-25 filter to darken the sky. Or at least an orange filter if you want to be a little more subtle.
     
  7. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I may get into trouble but here's what I think....

    Many labs scan film your negative and print. If I just scanned my negative and printed, they all look muddy. No clear white and no clear black. Low in contrast. Long story short, it does take some manipulation to make a scan look like what optically printed B&W image would.

    My guess is, the operator just scanned and printed. Printing B&W this way takes a whole different skills and mindset from doing the same with color. I agree with polygot. The operator didn't care or know how to do it correctly.
     
  8. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    This certainly is interesting. It makes me want to get my $65 back. I'm dying to learn how to print, but it just hasn't happened yet. Thanks for the great responses!
     
  9. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Hey, wait a minute.

    Central Camera is as good as anybody. They'e been there for 100 years. This wasn't processed by your average high school dropout who just came over from the candy department. These people have the skill and experience to do it right. I think you should go back and ask them what happened. They have people there who can look at a bad print and make a pretty good guess at what point an error was introduced since the film left the factory. They can have an attitude with people who have an attitude and act like they know more than they do, but if you go in there genuinely looking for knowledge, they will treat you right.
     
  10. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    pbromaghin - I am well aware of central camera's reputation. They are extremely kind and helpful when I am in the store. Nonetheless, the prints remain as they are. I am only occasionally in the loop now, but I think I will heed your advice and make a call and see what they say. If the other comments are correct, I imagine they took shortcuts with my processing, rending the crappy results.
     
  11. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    If they screwed up your prints, they need to step up and make it right. I'll be interested to see how this turns out. I live in the Denver area but travel frequently to Chicago and bring some business to them. I'm always looking for certain cameras, lenses, filters, etc. If they mess with you it will make me look elsewhere. But if you screwed up, I hope they show you what you did wrong.
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    So, how do the negatives look?

    If you have a strong loupe or magnifier of some type take a good look. If the problem was caused by the negative the defects you see in the print should also be visible in the negative. If you can't see the defects in the negative then the printing is definately in question.
     
  13. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    With most good labs, if you take the bad prints in, they'll make new ones for free. It will also let them know you care about your pictures and they'll be more likely to get them looking as they should. One lab I used in MA would give most people standard prints (which were acceptable), but if you told them what you wanted, they did a better job because they knew you wanted their best effort. They cared about the output, just not quite enough to do it for everyone. Their best printer left for college and didn't come back, unfortunately.
     
  14. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Why don't you post the prints, maybe that will reveal the problem. Any comments made without some kind of evidence seems rather foolish no matter who make them. Getting good prints with a digital process has little to do with what could be the problem with analog. JMHO
     
  15. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    fotch -I don't have a great scanner, but these do justice. View attachment photo 12.pdf View attachment photo 12.pdf View attachment photo 120001.pdf View attachment photo 120002.pdf View attachment photo 120003.pdf

    I'm not sure how to get the pictures to show up on the post, but here are pdf's. Hopefully you can see what I'm seeing. I picked a handful of examples. Again, these were all snap shots I took for fun, but nonetheless, for the most part, the prints all have a muddy bland middle gray feeling that I don't like.

    The first 2 photos: The first photo with the man and little girl sitting on sidewalk has acceptable tonal separations in my opinion. The one below this photo has the muddy feeling. No whites or blacks, ect.

    The photos of the creek: If you look at the trees in the back, these are smeared or or blended together or something. Not sure how to articulate it.

    And some others -

    Let me know your feeling
     
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  16. ROL

    ROL Member

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    First off, downloading files to other's computers is bad business. Post them on Flickr or somewhere else, if you don't care to upload them here.

    I took a look. They all appear quite flat, as does the light you apparently took them in (GIGO). Was the film old, expired, exposed to heat? That said, they don't look that bad to me for machine prints. Why don't you post the negatives so we can get a good look at the raw material?


    P.S. IMO, the only reason for most amateurs to use film these days is to print your own.
     
  17. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    Thanks ROL - The film was not old, expired or opposed to heat. It was probably only a few weeks old. Sorry, because they are scans from a printer/scanner, that's the best I can do.
     
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  18. fotch

    fotch Member

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    mporter012, thanks for the pics. If you can scan the negatives, that would be nice also. I cannot tell if these are B&W digital prints, other may be able to.

    From my own experience, before printing my own, what you get back from just regular processing is very little adjustment in the print. Another words, garbage in, garbage out. However, a custom print, which either cost more, or you do it yourself, will almost always be better, because you can adjust so many things, exposure, contrast, in many different ways.

    I would not be surprised to find out that digital printing of B&W negatives are mediocre unless custom printed. I guess the same could be said for color. Others with more experience in this may be able to advise you. Don't give up, you can get better pictures with film.
     
  19. mporter012

    mporter012 Subscriber

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    I do recall overcast skies on some of these days, but it's impossible that i had bad light for 120 exposures.
     
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