I want to step-up my printing: should I start with fiber paper
I've been shooting/printing for almost 2 years...mostly shooting and scanning (sorry if this is offensive) but printing my favorite images onto RC paper. I look at my prints and honestly, they aren't the best, and I feel that I'm cheating my negatives.
In the new year I hope to begin taking printing more seriously.
Well, I need to order paper and I'm going to order RC for contacts and I think Fiber paper for prints. I'm aware that fiber is more difficult to work with because the dmax is not reached until it is dry and it takes longer to wash. But I'm also willing to put more time into it because I think the results and quality of the paper will be superior. I'm not sure about the advantages of the tonality and archiveability but one thing that I like about fiber paper is that it feels/looks like actual paper. That alone is worthwhile.
I'm sure I can read "the print" by ansel adams or other sources to really step up my printing skills but a few quick questions ( I think these are quick).
-How do I select my paper? Any "recommended" papers/brands? I'm browsing through freestyle and I'm a bit lost. Are there any benefits for going graded?
Last edited by msbarnes; 12-04-2012 at 03:19 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Perhaps start with something you are familiar with-- if you are using Ilford MG RC, then move to a fiber based equivalent, Ilford MG FB for instance. Then you can branch out and start experimenting from there more exotic papers, if you like. For me its the feel of the paper, its weight and texture, that drew me to fiber versus plastic, but its not only the feel because you can actually see a qualitative difference too.
Last edited by blackmelas; 12-04-2012 at 03:52 AM. Click to view previous post history.
The key to developing your printing skills is to pin down a series of variables that include films speed, film development, etc so that you are not trying to get a good print from a bad negative. To achieve this you can look at my previous post here:
I would recommend that you start with Multigrade paper as this gives you the option of varying the contrast of the print to match the way you like your prints to look. Generally, the main mistakes people make when learning to make fine prints are:
- 'Pulling' the print from the developer too soon - this is where you remove the print from the developer before it has fully developed because it is going too dark because you have over-exposed the print.
- As above, not developing for long enough. You should standardise on a fixed development time (I find that, for most fibre papers the ideal time is in the 2.5 - 3.5 minutes range) and keep to it.
- Jumping around using different papers. Any of the papers available today will give good results - the key is to pick one brand and stick with it so that you can really learn how to use the paper most effectively (i.e standardise on one paper and, once you can consistently achieve acceptable results, then ask on this forum about other papers' characteristics by saying what you like and dislike about the paper you have been using)
- Assessing test prints when they are wet - different papers have different 'dry down' factors (the difference between how the dark tones and highlights appear when wet and once dry) and the only way to correctly judge the correct exposure is to dry the tests. For this I bought a cheap second-hand microwave that dries the prints in one minute.
- Significantly exceeding the manufacturers' maximum capacity recommendations for the chemicals that you are using. Fresh chemicals give the most consistent results. Where cost is an issue, you can make up your own developer and fixer from raw chemicals at a fraction of the cost of buying ready mixed solutions. It really is easy to do.
Hope that helps,
RC vs FB is a never-ending discussion, everybody has his own favorite. Talking facts : Dmax is the same if you compare Ilford MG RC and FB (neutral tone). There is an optical difference between glossy and satin - glossy appears darker. As to paper thickness, there is Ilford RC portfolio, same weight as FB. FB is difficult to straighten when it dryes up, the curling can be a real problem. And the whole process is considerably longer with FB than with RC.
For the moment I'm with RC in all formats and sizes, from 5 x 7 to 12 x 16. I prefer the pearl surface. The speed and ease of processing is important to me.
whatever you do I wish you good luck and pleasure with your printing.
Peter is right that FB takes longer and will never, unless mounted, be as flat as RC. But its not too difficult to flatten the prints-- there's a lot online about flattening them in a drymount, but without one, there are other methods that work well enough. Sandwiching newly dried prints in museum board under weight, or placing them in a book (probably not archival practice), or weighted in album sleeves. Part of working with organic material is living with minor imperfections, and seeing the imperfections as a positive aesthetic choice.
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IMHO no. FB is nicer in some ways but its use will not improve your skills at interpreting a negative. Your skills make an order of magnitude more difference than the subtle differences in paper.
The only exception is that papers that tone well are often FB so if you want to get into toning, you have some brand research to do and will probably need to buy some FB paper and deal with its processing (washing/flattening) drawbacks.
Msbarnes, you got great advice from others here. With regards to your comment about DMax, you may find, however, that it depends on the paper. With the papers that I have used, primarily Ilford MGIV FB and MGIV WT FB, highlights dry darker, but the shadows tend to dry a little lighter than when wet, so rather than reaching wet DMax, print seems to depart from it. I have, however, heard of papers that showed darkening of shadows, I just don't share that experience.
Originally Posted by msbarnes
I second David Allen's recommendation to dry a test print in a microwave, especially when you think you are nearly there with the print, just to check against the dry-down. In time, you may find it more intuitive, but it is a great way to prevent a disappointment in the morning after a long printing session. Dry-down is also affected by the method of drying the print: heat or cold, natural, or stretched, and by toning.
If I may add a couple of personal observations, I would say that you should also investigate the use of a selenium toner, if DMax, or deep shadows, are important to you. Selenium can overcome some dry down limitations. Also, it is worthwhile thinking about your presentation style. If you can dry mount it, fibre will look just glorious.
Do consider reading that copy of "The Print" that you have already mentioned.
The biggest thing I've found to improve the quality of my prints has simply been practice.
The choice of paper can modify the look some, as can playing with developers, as can toners, and bleaches... but all require practice to be used effectively.
One thing that really helped me was having a fresh consistent paper to work with. It simply allowed me to rule out the paper as a problem. I used Adorama's house brand RC VC for this but I'm sure many other papers would work just fine.
Once I "got it" with that paper I actually "got it" with the rest too.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
The only thing I would add to David Allen's wise words is what Ansel Adams advises: always finish and dry all your test prints (including stepwise exposures), and study them carefully in daylight.
To OP: Don't be afraid of what seems like difficult work regarding David Allen's advice. If you really want the best out of your paper of choice, RC or Fiber based, you have to get the film exposed and developed such that it suits the paper.
If you really want to step up your printing, then going to fiber might help you a little bit as far as tonality goes, and personal satisfaction. But if you really want your prints to be better, then it IS a lot about the steps preceding the printing stage that will make a big difference.
Of course you can also become a better printer, and that is all about looking critically at your results and figuring out how to apply the light. But the magic of a negative that is tuned to your paper and paper developer will be a LOT easier to print, giving you an additional magnitude of control over the final result.
Have fun, look critically at your prints, and work hard.
Originally Posted by David Allen
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh