What's your darkroom workflow?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by ITD, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    Or, how do you cope with large numbers of negatives to print? Here's my situation:

    I've been on a number of trips this year, all over Western Europe and out to some of the Greek islands. On my return, I have about 30 rolls of b&w exposed. I've developed them all and produced contact sheets. I've gone through all the contacts and selected 8-10 shots per roll that appear to warrant further investigation.

    Now comes my problem - what with cleaning negs, running test strips, washing and drying the test strips. evaluating each one and then printing, even a straight print for proofing is taking me 30 min to 1 hour.

    Is everyone else spending this sort of time? I read posts where people are making large numbers of work prints in a much shorter time, is there some shortcut that I hadn't thought of?

    So far I've had lots of time on my hands but I'm going back to work after xmas, so I'll be more pressed for time, so any suggestions (except lab printing or scanning) would be appreciated.
     
  2. haris

    haris Guest

    That is my question too, I allways think people can do things in shorter time than me for same job :smile:

    So, I deal that next way: Processing films, making contact sheet and deciding what to print based on contact sheets takes needed time, that is those times I can't make shorter. It is what it is. Making final print also, I use time I need, not trying to hurry. As I can see there are two ways to save time. One is, when make proof prints, test prints, using something like RHdesigns Analyser or Jobo ComTime or like can save time in that area. If those gadgets are properly calibrated they can save time.

    Next, expose several prints let say 5 (or whatever, depend of sizes of prints and your paper trays) and process them at same time. Thing is, if you need 2 minuter developer, 30 seconds stop and 2 minutes fixer, that calculate for 2 prints in line 9 minutes (4,5 for first print ad 4,5 for second) and if you process them at same time it is 4,5 minutes for both prints. Of course then you have other problems like manipulating prints in trays to be properly processed, but there is no thing like free lunch :smile:. Saying that I DON'T use this method :smile:

    And third thing, experience and having established workflow and routine helps in saving time...

    I would like to know other (and proper :smile:) ways for saving time, but at the end, if you want job well done, it require needed time, so just get used to it :smile:
     
  3. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Harris, has hit the nail on the head, it takes time, get used to it!

    This evening I went into the darkroom at 2030 hrs, I stepped out of the darkroom around 2300 hrs with the fruits of my labour, in my hot sweaty hands (summertime here at the moment).

    I produced three prints from 35mm and one print from a 4x5 neg. I'm extremely pleased with my output, this is a normal output for me.

    Quite sometime ago I had a bit of a think regarding the time allotments for my chosen hobby and how to allocate it some more time to allow me not to have a backlog of negs awaiting printing.

    Two things were the outcome. I decided to be reasonable in my film exposing, which meant I don't shoot as much, or as often. The second was to stop watching television, more or less.

    Basically, I now watch about 1 hour of television every three or four weeks. This has been the single most important change that allows me to practice my hobby most evenings.

    Mick.
     
  4. haris

    haris Guest

    Yes, sometime I make 3 to 5 prints in 2 hours, sometime it take me 3 hours for 1 print. Depend how I exposed negative, how many test prints I make (and how much I change my decision how I want my print to look) how much dodging/burning is needed, my errors of different kinds, etc... And I am not as near fine printer as people here are.
     
  5. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    When I shoot a lot of film I am usually on vacation or a weekend trip so I take an extra day off just to process the negatives and proof the M/F and L/F and make 4X5 prints from 35mm. I then spend time selecting the negatives I really want to print (I also scan the negatives that show promise to get a better look before I print them in the wet darkroom). Last weekend I shot 2 rolls of 35mm, 2 rolls of 6X9 and 10 4X5, printed only 4X5, after a few weeks I will take a another look to see if I missed something. Unless there is an urgent need to produce a print right a way I tend to let some time pass before I look at the proofs or work prints with fresh eyes.
     
  6. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    I have the RH Designs Analyser Pro, but I haven't got the hang of seeing the tones represented on the LED's as print tones - I'm more adept at seeing a proper test print, but I'll persevere with that.

    Yes, I have processed prints in batches, but this doesn't allow each print to be tested - if I could trust my use of the Analyser this would be a real time saver.

    I suppose that this is the part I really want to examine - I feel a little swamped at the moment, which is why I was asking about what people do in practice. For instance, do people single out a single frame at a time and keep at it until the print is as good as possible, or do you print all the 'possibles' at once then pick out the 'keepers'? I'd like to think I could save time at 'work print' stage and spend more at 'final print' work.
     
  7. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    Mick, would you describe those as work/proof prints or final prints? Either way, this still seems to be more than I would achieve in the same amount of time :rolleyes:
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I think it depends on what you want your final print to be? How good is good enough? I usually spend about 30 minutes to an hour to get a print right. I don't really care that my backlog is growing, I will rather have one great print than five mediocre. So I take my time.
    If I had to print 240 prints (8 x 30 rolls) I would cringe at the thought of making final prints of all of them. I would probably purchase a bunch of 5x7 RC paper and crank out work prints that are decent in contrast and tone. Then I would take some time off from printing, just looking at those prints and decide which ones I r-e-a-l-l-y want to spend time on.
    I know nothing of automated process, it's not an ambition of mine.
    - Thomas
     
  9. climbabout

    climbabout Member

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    darkroom workflow

    I have found that making a really great print takes time - don't despair. When I return from a trip and have a stack of negs to print, I prioritize them and they go in a bin awaiting time to print. Don't be in a rush. In 30+ years of darkrrom printing I always seem to have a backlog and therefore - something to look forward to. I have found when I try to work too fast, I compromise and never end up with a satisfying print. Good Luck.
    Tim
     
  10. haris

    haris Guest


    I print just "keepers", not "possibiles", unless, for example, model tells me "I really would like this..." (I don't pay models with money but with prints, and I don't sell my prints, that is I sell them very rearly). Then, I print for model (or eventual buyer) that print even if I wouldn't print it for myself. Of course, if I think that image is not up to my "standard", I don't print it. So, I mostly print one or two photographs from photo session, which usually can be 1 to 5 rolls of film, and I use 35mm and 6x7. Of course, there is allways exception from rules... :smile:
     
  11. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    Hmm, I'm not sure I can tell the difference from a 35mm contact print
     
  12. TheFlyingCamera

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    I do my editing from looking at the film itself. I've shot and processed enough I can tell by looking at a negative if it will be something I want to try and get a good print out of. I've also got my shooting and processing method down consistently enough that I can get a good working print out of most of my negatives from a single baseline exposure. It is rare that looking at a negative you can tell exactly what spots will need burning/dodging though, so there is that need of the work print. I can get good work prints cranked out pretty quick, and my RH Designs Analyser Pro is a big help. I haven't taken the time to do the proper calibration process with it, so I still wing it a bit when it comes to test prints, but the contrast grade calculation and base exposure time calculation are a huge help, especially when it comes to making consistent, repeatable prints.
     
  13. haris

    haris Guest

    I ment final print. Let say I shoot 5 rolls of 35mm film. From contact sheet I chose let say 10 (sometime more, sometime less) photographs. By using Jobo ComTime I make those 10 prints, and decide "keepers" to make final prints. Usually I get one or two keepers, maximum five...

    But, whole process is few days, one day I make processing of negatives, second day for contact proofs, third for test prints, and one day for final prints, or even two days for final if print more than 5 "easy" or 1 to 3 "difficult", that is depend of time needed for prints. I don't spend more than 3 hours in darkroom.

    All test prints then go to bin :smile: I write then all informations how I made particular print on paper or on back of contact proof sheet(s) so if ever want to make another copy in future I don't have to go through all processes again...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 20, 2007
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  15. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    my workflow is a process of elimination, or at least of refining. No, I think "distillation" is the best term. The kind intended to produce good single malt.

    Of course I develop every roll of film. Then I'll make contact sheets of every roll. As that process continues, I'll look at my contacts for possible fine prints, being relatively selective. I'll make work prints of my selections, using a standard aperture and time with no contrast filtration. Sometimes a work print is too light or soft to evaluate and must be reprinted, but normally I can see if there is enough there to pursue. Then I'll let some time pass to see which ones really stick with me. Those I will take the time with to make the best print possible. However much time it takes. And I usually limit a darkroom session to making one best print. It seems if I try to do 2, I run out of time or patience and end up doing the second one over again anyway.
     
  16. Remi

    Remi Member

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    Hate to say this but...

    I like scanning my negatives first - it's a pain but it's fairly quick and I can quickly tell which ones I am going to print...

    The end result isn't that good but good enough to tell me if there's potential...
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Maybe if I developed my 135s. I shoot 135 in color print only. I shoot 120 in black & white and color. I only process black & white presently.

    When I scanned the 120 with the flatbed scanner, I spent too much time putting each image strip of four frames together on one sheet of paper to print. Then the printer would eat the color cartriage when I printed it out. I got so fed up with the cost of the color cartriages and the blacks that were not black that I set up a darkroom.

    Now I put the negative in the plastic archival pages and contact print the sheet. It takes less time than scanning and I keep the contact print with each page of negatives. Then I can look through the binder, pick the frame that I want and the negative is right behind it. All without turning on the computer and worrying that the computer illumination would fog the paper.

    Just my thoughts. YMMV.

    Steve
     
  18. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    If I have a larger number of prints to do from the same film, I usually have a closer look at the contact sheet, not only to select the images I want to print, but also to get a "feel" of the possible exposure corrections I need to apply. Often, this turns out to be very revealing, but it requires some experience in reviewing the contacts sheets pic's. However, it allows me to make a more educated guess of the right exposure for the next image to print, based on the comparison with the previous one printed... (I don't have an analyzer) Thus saving on the amount of test strips and prints and ultimately time...
     
  19. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    One reason to use a larger format. That was one of the reasons I moved up to 6x7 and then 4x5. I could take several hundred exposures on my 35 mm system which is fine for a slide show but almost a nightmare for printing. The larger formats slow things down and make me more selective before I expose the film. When I expose a sheet of 4x5 film, I know I am committing myself to a significant amount of time developing, proofing, etc. so I get more picky.

    I would get a good loupe and start examining the negatives more than the contact sheets. Get to know what a properly exposed and processed negative looks like which are generally the ones that seem to naturally print well. Then I would force myself to generate a "top 10" of negatives to print, and finally a top 5. If you could generate 5 good prints the first weekend from the negatives you think are best, I think that would be productive.
     
  20. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    Some really useful comments and food for thought here, thanks guys.

    Yes, that does make things much easier, but I was travelling using only public transport this year, and the MF gear coupled with a tripod was near impossible - I tried it on one of the trips, but it weighed me down far too much.


    Good tip, thanks.

    A follow-up question, then - do you work through your stuff strictly in order, or can you be distracted by the shiny new stuff?
     
  21. j4425

    j4425 Member

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    Yep.. It all takes times.. I just recently started printing my own work a couple months ago. I've been developing for years but alway's had my negs scanned or printed somewhere else. Now, I'm producing contact sheets for hundreds of rolls from years back printing all my keepers (and still learning a ton in the process) I just discovered warmtone paper and want to print everything all over again : > It's quite a process but SO much more enjoyable and rewarding when that final print is complete. I can never see myself going back.
     
  22. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    I don't know how limited the gear is you are carrying, but my mobile LF set does not weigh more than 35mm. A good 70-200mm 2.8 lens for 35mm weighs in at a staggering 1.8kg, that is about as much as my whole Tachihara view camera! Taking in other lenses and a reflexbody with vertical grip, my whole gear for 35mm probably weighs about 12kg, including a sturdy tripod. I can do the same for LF... and carry it along just as comfortably...

    Well, OK, comparatively :D, I once read an article about Frans Lanting, which is a famous Dutch wildlife photographer who has worked for National Geographic as well. He carried more than 300(!!!) :surprised: kg of 35mm equipment along in some 15 cases :tongue:

    I would like to see the face of the conductor when he passes by to check his tickets...:D
     
  23. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    Yes, I get distracted all the time. Part of the fun of darkroom work is doing whatever seems interesting at the moment. Sometimes I have a queue of negative to print but then I develop new negatives that seem better so I promote them to the top of the heap.

    I understand what you mean about the portability of 35 mm. However, I think that the quality is not the same. For the most part, I would rather take my Pentax 67 and 1 lens than my EOS 1 and multiple lenses. I just have to challenge myself more with the one lens but the resulting negatives are better. So I might miss some opportunities but the photos I take are more concentrated in a sense. So sometimes taking less gear results in more good negatives. Of course, 35 mm has its place, you just have to deal with scads of tiny negatives.
     
  24. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Eye Tee Dee,

    Firstly, let me say that I have a fairly strict exposing, processing and printing system, that has been honed over quite a few years, in fact many, many years.

    After film is processed and dried, I sleeve it and usually look at every frame under a loupe. Sometimes on the same day, but not usually, I will contact print every frame. I have a very good contact printing system, which allows me to (usually) judge what is workable, what is not too flash and what is outstanding.

    With the contact prints in my hands I retire to the house and check them out over the course of a day or so, the missus also has a good look and gives her two cents worth.

    I then go to work on the first print I wish to enlarge, firstly with a straight print with base exposure, then another one with highlight exposure. Normally from these, I can extrapolate a final, or very near final print.

    From then on with the contact sheet information, I can often glean enough information to make enlargements of varying sizes correctly for that shoot.

    In this particular darkroom session last night, I was working from a single shooting session where I exposed 3 rolls of 35mm and 4 sheets of 4x5 film of the one model, which was held in our backyard. I used Neopan 400 for the 35mm film and TMax 100 for the 4x5 film.

    I made my third darkroom exposure after checking out shadow and highlight prints, this was virtually spot on and required me to then make some very minor adjustments and the fourth print was on the money. The other two 35mm prints were done withing 20 or so minutes from start to finish.

    I then switched formats and film type to the larger negative. Using the contact print as a reference I made a first print with what I thought would be correct burning and dodging, I didn’t require a second print.

    About 1 hour ago the model came around and checked out the prints, the only difference she noted between any of them, was that one print had clearer definition and what she thought was more fine detail. When I explained that the clearer print was from the big camera she understood, however, I know she finally understood when she saw the negs on the light box and really saw the size difference!

    The remark from her was, “this is one of those times, that size does make a difference”.

    It was because of this extremely productive printing session I was chuffed. The fact that it took so little time was down to a few factors, experience and good technique, plus practice, practice and more practice.

    Mick.
     
  25. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    Here is my advice for reducing the backlog of unprinted 35mm negatives.

    1 After taking the picture cool off by waiting at least a month before evaluating it.

    2 Evaluate on a computer monitor after batch scanning . You won't be printing from these scans so they can be low res. & done with a cheap scanner. This is far far far quicker than doing endless proof prints in the darkroom.

    3 Knowing exactly what you want to print you can start straight in with your paper of choice( in my case usually Ilford warmtone fibre)instead of starting on RC then having to re adjst when you change over.

    $ Use a dedicated 35mm enlarger. When I started using a Leitz Valoy 2 I cuoldn't believe how much quicker, easier and more efficient it was than the 35mm /6x6/ 6x9 enlargers I had previously used.

    Alan Clark
     
  26. ITD

    ITD Subscriber

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    Thanks, AlanC. Your suggestion #1 is very welcome. I've just been going through my contacts from a few months ago, and finding more of interest than I did to start with - means more proofs I suppose but...

    I have tried the suggestion of scanning negs for proofing purposes, but since I want to learn as much as possible in the darkroom, I feel that would be time wasted, even if it is much less than making darkroom proofs - I figure that even if it takes me too long, I am picking up experience that would be lost sitting in front of a computer screen.

    That's not to say that I don't still scan stuff if I want to check a one-off though :smile:

    BTW, what advantages did you find by using a dedicated 35mm enlarger?