While I'm sure it's not as reliable as contact prints, I've been [whisper] scanning [/whisper] my negatives (shooting almost 100% 6x6 MF) to blow them up and see what I think of the composition and spot the elbows and clutter I missed when shooting. Then I pick the shots that look promising and print them in one session, usually making prints about 5 inches or so square -- that allows cutting an 11x14 sheet in half and getting a few test strips plus two prints. I make a lot of notes during that process. The test print stack gets winnowed down to the very few I think are possibly exhibition worthy. I then have a second printing session to make bigger prints of those. So far it's a big year if I have six darkroom sessions, but such stuff is expensive, so I'm going for quality, not quantity (plus I have other obsessive hobbies :D ).
As an example, a 36 exposure morning at an old iron furnace got winnowed down to four framed prints. But three were juried into shows and one of those won an award -- I've no complaints about that!
As I get some other projects out of the way and get time to bring the darkroom up to better efficiency, I will probably do a little more work in it.
Thanks everyone for your help, I'll digest your answers and hopefully I will be able to improve my printing
I spread the negs out on a light table and make my choices for enlarging. I'm just getting back into the darkroom after a long time (23 years) so I don't have a clue as to how many prints I might make. In the old days (early 70's) when I did commercial work I would print 200 or more 5x7 glossies a day to keep the publisher happy. Hard work, long hours but it paid well. Now that I'm older I could never keep up that pace.
I use 11x14 inch paper for contact prints. That is large enough to be sufficient for any format negatives which I use. If I have much wasted space on the paper, I cover it with mat board cutouts so that I can write notes with a marker in the margins.
The number of negatives actually printed varies depending on subject matter, quality, and time. I shoot mostly 4x5 and print at a ratio of 1:4 - 1:10 most of the time.
Although this is slight heresy, I don't like to make contact prints. Too much to keep track of, too much time, etc. If I do make contact prints, I buy the cheapest 11x14 Arista RC paper and crank them out. Otherwise, I like to study large format necatives on a light box with a loupe and try to figure them out without a positive. Another form of pre-visualization I guess, like reading an x-ray. Of course, 35mm negative are another story and I would make contact prints because they are so small.
If I shoot with small format I use 24 exposures fits 8x10. Unexposed film sits in the camera for weeks or a month or two if I use a film canister with 36 exposures. Only 1 out of 10 images are worth printing. I avoid negatives not exposed correctly, not interesting, or have composition issues. Only the best get printed. If they are family shots intended to be given away more images on the roll may be printed. The more we shoot and print the luckier we are. But luck is always an element.
I know. I used to be diligent about this. But I found that the same negs I would choose to print from the contact sheets were easily identified by inspecting the negatives. So I don't bother most of the time. If I am unsure about sharpness I will look with a 10x loupe. If I am unsure about the potential final print then I will make an 8x10 pilot print which I can do easily and that provides good information.
Originally Posted by Sirius Glass
So I figure that if I were to print 4 negs out of a batch of 12 (which is pretty good for me) then I could spend the time to make 3 contact sheets including 8 non-print candidates or make 4 pilot prints of good print candidates.
Also, I disagree with the popular notion that I need a low contrast positive to see the potential of a good negative. I believe that is helpful but not essential and learning to interpret negatives is a good skill to develop.