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  1. #1
    BradS's Avatar
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    B&W Landscape and Working with a Lab

    I have to say, I have a great deal of respect for all of you doing B&W landscape photography. I have for years mainly concentrated of photgraphing people but fairly recently have been trying to do landscapes in both color and B&W. It seems, color is relatively easy to get right....not so with B&W. I do not have a darkroom at home and so have to work with a lab...again, doing color with a lab is relatively easy -- Most always get the results I expect/want. Not so B&W...and I don't think it is the lab - they are really excellent to work with and do fantastic work.

    Anyway, my hat's off to all of you who make it look easy.

  2. #2
    eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaussianNoise
    I Not so B&W...and I don't think it is the lab - they are really excellent to work with and do fantastic work.

    Anyway, my hat's off to all of you who make it look easy.
    When I worked in a B&W lab, everything is so subjective. What you like is not what I like or what the other person likes. The more you go to that lab and establish a relationship, they know how you like to print, how you like your negs, etc, etc. Some people like it flat, some people like more contrast, some people don't care. People who work in labs are kinda like musicians. They should be good 'nuf to make it the way *YOU* like it. Then turn around, and make another print to the way the other guy likes it.

  3. #3
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    Eric makes a good point,
    I never give one print to a client, I always do a spread, first I print till I think the client will be happy, I then make a better print, I then make a print the way I would like it , (within the mandate I am familiar with by working with this person over time) I then give the client all the prints to choose from. Today I am printing as we chat a lith job for a US magazine. I am using Oriental G4 that he supplied, and I am throwing in some Sterling Lith prints.
    Each image looks totally different , but I know the G5 will satisfy him for his client but the sterlings are grittier and more impactful. I will be curious to see which images the magazine chooses.

    This method of printing pisses off my competition as some would say the printer should know what he is doing with one print. I believe making mistakes sometimes produce the best prints.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by GaussianNoise
    ...Most always get the results I expect/want. Not so B&W...and I don't think it is the lab - they are really excellent to work with and do fantastic work.
    If you're dealing with a mainstream commercial lab whose bread and butter is color prints and digital transfers, you're probably not going to get good black and white service. Not only has black and white become a specialty, it probably doesn't even scarcely pay for itself as far as the lab is concerned. Not surprising then that your results would be disappointing. Learn to do the work yourself. Nothing worth doing well is ever easy (or something like that), but it's certainly not insurmountable and the rewards will justify your efforts.
    My Verito page

    Anyone can appreciate a fine print. But it takes a real photographer to appreciate a fine negative.

  5. #5
    rbarker's Avatar
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    If one is forced by circumstance to work with a lab, as opposed to doing your own printing, the ideal situation (I think) is to establish a method of communication that works for both sides of the counter. You might, for example, start with a contact sheet, then have a straight "test print" done that would be the basis for discussing the objectives for the "final" print. The trick is probably providing enough guidance at each stage that the lab person knows what you're looking for. The obvious consequence, of course, is that the total investment in the final print reflects the work done by the lab.

    I have to say that the approach that Bob Carnie describes is so far beyond the normal expectations that I can see why his competition may grumble about him. Certainly, that's part of his marketing, his way of differentiating his lab from the others, but I have to assume that his customers become very loyal as a result. Bravo, Bob.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
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  6. #6
    BradS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfwhitaker
    If you're dealing with a mainstream commercial lab whose bread and butter is color prints and digital transfers, you're probably not going to get good black and white service.
    Will, you may be familiar with the lab since you are here in the area...I work exclusively with E&J in Dublin. They really are excellent for both B&W and color (IMHO)...and I'm not faulting them at all. In fact, when I give them a B&W "people" negative to print, they typically nail it first time.

    Quote Originally Posted by wfwhitaker
    Learn to do the work yourself. Nothing worth doing well is ever easy (or something like that), but it's certainly not insurmountable and the rewards will justify your efforts.
    Yes, I strongly agree. Although I've not set foot in a dark room in over twenty years (Yikes!), I know very, very well how much work it takes and how much skill is involved in the production of a good, presentation quality print...and, I know that I'm not good enough at it to support my family by doing it (if that makes sense).


    Quote Originally Posted by rbarker
    If one is forced by circumstance to work with a lab, as opposed to doing your own printing, the ideal situation (I think) is to establish a method of communication that works for both sides of the counter. You might, for example, start with a contact sheet, then have a straight "test print" done that would be the basis for discussing the objectives for the "final" print. The trick is probably providing enough guidance at each stage that the lab person knows what you're looking for.
    Yes, I think you are right. Somehow it seems that landscape photos are fundamentally different from people photos. I guess the lesson is that lanscapes require much more and careful communication with the lab.

  7. #7
    BWGirl's Avatar
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    Brad, I think you have defined the problem...people photos and landscape photos are VERY different...I think landscape photos have more textural subtleties...harsher light & shadow...a wider range of tonal differences.

    Unless you are taking pictures of lizard-like aliens, or those wonderful Ents, people tend to be texturally smooth with more gradient changes in tones.

    I guess I would have to say that people tones may be much easier to achieve through a lab...especially now, when many people are requesting B&W photos for weddings, etc.

    It's just two different modalities! I rarely photograph people, so when I do & I make enlargements of it, I have to really think about how it's supposed to look.
    Jeanette
    .................................................. ................
    Isaiah 25:1

  8. #8
    rbarker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaussianNoise
    . . . I guess the lesson is that lanscapes require much more and careful communication with the lab.
    I'm not sure that it's a people vs. landscape issue, or even just a color vs. B&W issue. But, I think it is easier for a lab to nail good "normal" color balance than it is to interpret a B&W scenic. But, even with color work that is critical (e.g. artistic or commercial work), good communication goes a long way. The lab person needs to understand what was done when making the photograph, and what is desired in the print. Otherwise, they'll try to "correct" it to "normal" color balance and tonality.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  9. #9

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    B/W landscapes

    I grew up with black and white-my best stuff was a complete accident.

    Now that I am in geezerhood, trying to get the skill level to make good landscapes is a challenge, but I am nothing if not persistent. go to Michael Smith and Paula chamblee's web site and read his writings-they will inspire. I am doing contact prints in the bathroom, so you don't have to enlarge.

    good luck

  10. #10

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    I used to hand print lithographs for artists where the choices of translation of the image to the final print is nearly infinite. In order to narrow down the choices, you work with the artist through discussions about what the image should look like. Then you do variations of the image for the artist to look at and discuss.

    Through an iterative process, you end up with the final artist's proof against which all other prints are matched. While this is standard practice with fine art printing it is not something normally done in a photo lab - although there is no reason it could not be done that way.

    I have done Ilfochrome printing professionally for a select group of photographers and used my lithographic experience to print for these photographers using the same techniques of discussion and review of printed images. The goal is to translate the artist's intent to the final image. This takes a lot of time and a personalized approach which most labs can't do as time = money.

    If you want to use a commercial lab, you'll either have to be willing to spend more money on proofing, or be better at communicating what you want to the printer.

    If you find a good printer, and work with them over a period of time you should be able to create a relationship where the printer will be able to get close on the first proof and with discussion nail the proper look for the final print.

    There are quite a few photographers of note who have not printed their own work. They rely on the artist / printer relationship to generate the final print. Often times, a good printer can find things in images that the artist overlooks and can assist the artist in making the image even better than first imagined.

    As for color being easier than black and white - it is for a lab. Color printing can be more straight forward because there are less "tools" (controls) that can be applied compared to black and white where you have choices like: paper type, contrast grade, developer, length of development, split development, toning, etc.

    So for color, labs can apply a "just make best color" approach. This works for color negatives because you don't really have variable negative contrast with color film. Color transparency printing is a whole different story and can be easily as complicated as black and white if you include contrast masking in the process.

    With black and white many labs use the same type of approach as printing color negatives, and print everything on grade 3 and let the tones fall where they may with minimal adjustments to account for negative contrast range as it takes additional materials and time to "dial in" the print.

    If you get into fine art printing of color work, you'll find that small changes in filtration, exposure, and color dodging / burning can make color printing as challenging as black and white - with far fewer tools to work with.

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