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Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Evgeny, Oct 25, 2007.
What is advantage of printing in home vs good labs?
I think you need to say whether you mean colour or B&W ?
At home you can print for results that please you, as opposed to relying on someone else's interpretation.
I agree with Dave printing from home means if you have the skill and the tools you can print the image to your desired interpretation. However I feel with a good Pro lab you should be able to work with the printer one on one and discuss/work on an image together to achieve the result you wish.
You miss out on fun.
Doing it by myself means, it's me who spoils or looses that important stuff.
In other words:
If I am able to reflect on myself I should know my ability as well as my limitations. Do I know whether that lab does?
It's a combination of time factor and personal satisfaction. While you can work with a lab and end up getting a great print, it will still be done THEIR way. Not a problem if you don't like fussing around in the darkroom and don't have a preference for paper and/or chemistry which may be non-standard. Even if I could be happy with the results I'd get from the lab, the time factor of having to drive to the lab, drop off the negative, come back at least a day later and review the first print, then repeat the process until we arrive at a finished print just isn't worth it. I can spend a single afternoon working in my darkroom, and figure out base exposure time, contrast, burning and dodging cycles, and if I'm truly efficient, I can even take care of toning. I can therefore arrive at a finished print in one or at most two days worth of work at home, whereas it would take me a week or more at the lab, and multiple side trips to drop off and pick up. With color, I consider this worthwhile because while I CAN do color at home, I choose not to. For black-and-white, absolutely not.
What about the price? Getting good results from the labs will end up tearing your wallet apart
Another factor is cost. When I started in photography commercially in the early 70's there was still a substantial trade discount for professional photographers (in the UK). This gave laboratories and professionals a competitive advantage.
Now amateurs & professionals/laboratories are paying pretty much the same prices for B&W paper so it is much cheaper to print your own images at home.
The economics with Colour printing are more evenly balanced.
When I sometimes manage to visualize the print while pressing the shutter, it is great fun to feel that I controlled the whole process. The creation of the final print is the payback for me. I am sure using the services of a professional printer would create even better results. As would hiring a professional photographer! But that is not the point. I gave up trying to find rational reasons for having fun a long time ago.
For me there is no advantage.
I have been out of practice for so long and even before, I wasn't a great printer by any stretch. A professional printer that I can have a long term relationship with, who's a master at printing can better print my vision than I ever could at this point in my life.
Plus I just don't have the time. Additionally, I have found the advice I get actually saves me money in the long run. The editing, the critique, the detail in which the master printer takes into account limits my prints to only the 'best' and that is invaluable, particularly when I want to show.
Time and cost, as already mentioned, enter into it. So does the ability to experiment to get to a final print. Sometimes I'll go into the darkroom expecting to end up in one place, and end up with a very different final print because of the things I discover about the negative while I'm working with it. It is an iterative process, and one loses that when one hands the negative to a printer with instructions.
But there is something more ineffable lost as well: The right to call the print your own work. Printing necessarily is an interpretation of the negative. By sending the work out, you are allowing the printer to substitute his judgment for yours. It's like taking a manuscript to a ghostwriter. Sure, you can take credit for the final product. Many have. But it's a lie.
I'd disagree in saying that it is a lie, at least categorically. Richard Avedon didn't do his own printing, not later in his career anyway, but if you've ever seen one of his contact prints with printing instructions on it, he was very exacting in how he wanted his printer to make it. Same with Mapplethorpe - he didn't do his own printing, but he was very controlling over how he wanted the finished image to look, and he got what he wanted out of it. For someone with no darkroom knowledge and experience to say a lab's work is theirs, I'd agree, but when someone who is a master printer in their own right hands it off to a lab for the sake of economy of time, I'd not call that a lie.
I know, Scott. I've seen Avedon's instructions to printers. I know of Mapplethorpe's relation to his printer. I know it happens. That doesn't make it right. It's wrong to pass off a printer's work as one's own. At the very least, the printer deserves joint credit for the work.
I don't know if those two individuals ever claimed it was THEIR work, but I don't know that their printers would have claim to the work either. They were both deeply involved, and gave excruciating instruction as to how the work was to be printed. They did everything but actually push the button and wave the dodging wand themselves. I'm not saying that any old clod could print their work; it takes a highly skilled printer to accurately follow the instructions of an Avedon or a Mapplethorpe. But I don't know that you could call it a lie to say it was their work either, because it was absolutely a 100% execution of their particular vision. If someone else were to take negatives in to a lab and just say, "give me the best you think, burn and dodge as you see fit", and call it their own, I'd call THAT a lie.
"What is advantage of printing in home vs good labs?"
For me it's a couple of things. Firstly, I believe in art as an object and if I'm going to produce something and tag it with the term art I'd better have made it myself. Secondly, I don't believe that anyone can print my negatives the way that I do, the printing process is just as creative as making the exposure. Thirdly, it's cheaper for me to do it in the long run. Finally, I love doing it.
It's personal, there have certainly been great photographers that didn't print their own work. You're the only one that can decide what's right for you. Best. Shawn
I make my living as a professional printer and have done so for over 25years in different labs and for the last 15years my own concoction.
To be a good printer one should be like a chamelion, you should be able to change your printing style to that of the photographer. The range of styles are endless and if a printer will not bend his/her style to your wishes, then lose them quickly. *you will only end up bitter with each other*
A good printer should be a good listener and start a long term relationship with every photographer you work with by making prints and making sure each session your client is happy, if not make adjustments.
It is very painful in the starting process, getting inside the head of different photographers and going in the direction that they lead me.
Sometimes it takes three or more sessions to even decide if it is possible to work together. There are many times that I will decide after an initial meeting it won't work so immediately we part paths and photographers have made that decision about me just as quickly. No harm done, and no bitterness.
There are things a good printer can do for a photographer, such as mentoring with edit, not printing images that just suck, and helping define a style . These are invaluable as a printer is doing this every day and is practicing in lots of different styles that may be of value to a photographer.
I think once a good balance is made, the photographer has every right to call this work their vision, I would never, and have never claimed any work done for photographers mine.I have made more shows than I care to mention, for many photographers and when we work together the best always comes out.
The only work that I claim for my own , is my own, the rest belongs to the photographer and their certain aquired style which I have helped present.
There are those who print their own work, good and bad, and there are those who get to know people like me and together we produce their work, good and bad.
Both approaches have their merit for some of the reasons listed earlier in this thread.
For Me... B&W printing is an integral part of B&W photography. I exercise a huge amount of control in the darkroom. If I had somebody else print it, I might as well have someone else take the picture. Take one negative, and give it to two printers, and you will have different prints. If I didn't think that way, (and I don't have to,) I would develop a relationship with someone like Bob, and that would in no way remove my authorship of the negative, but Bob would deserve and get credit for the print, for printing is authorship as well. YMMV
Most notable photographers that work with a printer fully credit them, that's why we know. Its we who elevate the photographer over the printer in these relationships, but then again the photographer is usually responible for the original creative, and is usually the publisher.
WOW! Thanks all for the answers.
I shoot color slides (95%), sometimes color negatives, and tried five rolls of XP2 this year.
Then I scan with Nikon 5000 at 4000 dpi, which gves me a 20 megapixels image.
Then do Color Balance, remove grain, Unsharp and Crop in GIMP (Linux). I don't know much about image editing, but these simple operations seems enough.
Then I print in a good lab which gives me exactly what I saw on my computer display.
As far as I can say, an expensive printer in the lab uses a chemical process to print on a Fuji/Kodak paper and produces a lot better images than any inject and laser home-based printer. I cannot compare quilaity of print to what you do in dark room, since no one of my friends print in dark room.
Summary: I scan slide, process it in computer (Gimp), crop to desired size and go to lab to print. I pay $3 for a 8"x10" and spend $8 to drive in both directions.
I agree the lab doesn't do anything special, but I already did it in PC.
I still not decided to print in home.
a lot of color work is done this way, in a pro lab &C
it is becoming harder and harder to find fully traditional color printers,
who still do all wet process / no d-- involved.
most if not all of the labs where i live, can't reproduce prints to look like
they did only a few years ago, even with a film negative.
there is too much detail and information in the film and
it can't be expressed in print form.
that being said ... i send work to a pro lab similar to you,
mainly color and slide images that i really want enlargements of.
i won't go through the process of what i do, cause this is an analog haven
... black and white is a little different.
it is more like a start-to-finish kind of thing. i have brought work to
a master printer, and she did amazing work, but it cost me a small fortune (billed to a client of course!)
it isn't like enlargers, chemistry, paper, time and water and energy involved
probably isn't as if i am saving much money,
but just the same, i enjoy futzing around in the red light,
and i enjoy watching the white paper turn different shades of gray and black.
it's cheap therapy.
3 C's: Complete Creative Control... And beside that, it's just darn fun!
It's not only funner than letting a lab do the work, but I also feel like I have a relationship with each print that goes far beyond merely having taken the photo. It must be sort of like the difference between having sex and giving birth
While I'm technically not an alternative process person, I mainly work with silver gelatin paper negatives, exposed in pinhole cameras or adapted optics on LF cameras; then I contact print these. This is too specialized of a process to trust to anyone else, and there's an iterative sense about the process that requires me to alternate between pinhole camera exposures, paper negative processing and contact printing.
Also, the only good lab in my town that still prints on silver only uses one type of paper, and they refuse suggestions to try others. And they won't selenium tone their work; and if they did, they wouldn't know how far I want the toning to go (I like a split tone effect).
I'm sure a similar reason would be given by anyone doing alternative processes; in their case, there are no labs that do that kind of work.
Too, my darkroom is up and running (has been for almost 15 years), and it's just too fun to give up. Part of the reason I still like silver gelatin over silicon is the cost involved in getting a fine print. Traditional media is still way cheaper. Now, for E6 processing I always use a local lab: they specialize in E6, do a fine job, and I can't do it to the same quality or cost as them.
I also shoot B/W film and do enlargement printing; I can't see trusting this to anyone else.
It's way more fun to do it yourself. It also gets me away from the computer.