I think people would be surprised at the amount of spotting work that goes/went into many of the images we all know. Ansel, Tice etc. Plenty of spotting. And it is a real skill and art in and of itself, so don't be surprised if it takes practice, time and work.
I remember in a workshop with John Sexton he walked us through the printing of one of his most well known images (Corn Lily). The amount of spotting work that goes into that print is astonishing (done now by his wife and assistant Anne Larsen). Imagine printing 100 of those for sale.
When I spot prints, I sit down, do a little bit of work then I get up and walk away. I might cap my bottles or put a few things away but, otherwise, leave everything right there on the table.
Get up. Go do something else for fifteen minutes or a half hour. Come back later and look at your work from standing distance. Not sitting down.
You'll see things that you didn't see before or, maybe, some things that you thought were problems turn out to be not as bad.
The problem is that, when you are sitting there, inches from your work, you get so focused on minute details that you can't see the whole picture... literally. As they say, "You can't see the forest for the trees." Walking away from your work for a short time allows your eyes to readjust to normal vision and your mind to relax so that you can see the photo more like others would see it.
Aside from that, you still need to give the areas where you applied spotting dye some time to dry before you can truly evaluate whether they need more work. It is very easy to get into the mindset where you feel like you have to retouch every single, tiny, little speck on the print that only you will notice. You'll spend an hour spotting a print that only needed five minutes worth of work. Forcing yourself to take breaks stops that "fix every little thing" mindset and makes you work at a more relaxed pace.
I agree with everything said, I do spot under a microscope, but "proof" the spotting from a distance.
There are many pleasurable moments when a spot completely disappears as if by magic.
But there are times when a spot I worked on will look incomplete under close inspection, but it disappears nicely at normal viewing distance.
For those spots, that's where I stop. Spending more time on a spot that is already gone makes it come back.
You'll need spotting dyes. A little goes a long way. An old white dinner plate and a 000 brush. The trick to good spotting is to avoid it. I always use fresh Photoflo and dry my negs in a clean area. I blow my negs off with a air bulb. I avoid it like the plague. But sometimes I gotta do it :(
I use spotone inks and cocktail sticks versus brushes. I find even the smallest finest brush can put too much dye on. I get better control using a cocktail stick
A dry brush technique generally works best. The key is to build up density slowly.
Agreed, or put another way - Thin the spotting ink to a point where it is at least two shades lighter than the area you are spotting. Carefully place the tiniest of spots in the center and allow it to dry. Have another look at the area in question and add another spot of ink and allow to dry. Repeat until the blemish is unnoticeable to the naked eye.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
+1 on the Optivisor, best thing I ever did for spotting prints. Here's a link to the real deal which I would recommend over a cheap knock off. http://www.doneganoptical.com/products/optivisor
Originally Posted by jeffreyg
Once you have an Optivisor, you'll find all kinds of uses for it. There great for looking at negs on a light table, inspecting lens, etc. Nice thing is that the Optivisor preserves your depth perception, with a magnifying glass I was never quite sure when the brush was going to hit the paper.
Pretty much every print I do requires some spotting. Sometimes I'm not sure if others would notice but I do. I use the same kind of palette that Bill uses, and dry brush as Michael described. I also keep the palette in a zip-lock bag between uses. A little distilled water recharges it, and the stuff will last forever. I don't think I've added to the palette in over a year.. (I also save reject prints to dab off the excess liquid, and test it on a similar tone on the reject print).
I'm going to have to do that. When it gets dusty I have to rinse it off and re-dottify it.
Originally Posted by eddie
I keep cotton swabs, pads and coffee filters (make great blotters but often discharges the whole brush) in a zip-lock bag. No idea why I didn't think of putting the palette in one.