I would agree with Mike above, do not get too hung up about technique but concentrate on the image. So that people do look and say wonderful image.
For years I tried to make the perfect printers print and now I am less concerned on all the little tricks. Some of the best prints I have made are on the softer side with just a small hint of a rich black showing through, Other images require a very hard contrast to make the image sing.
I would recommend that at the contact stage when you are proofing your film , do a series of contacts, dark light normal , soft and hard and see for yourself how the different balances affect the individual image.
Over a period of time you will gain confidence at the contact stage and be able to predict your print style for your images.
If you are printing a show or portfolio I would recommend making 6-10 prints of a couple of images using different papers, density, contrast and tones .
You will admire one paticular combination and I would then stick with this *Stlye* for the balance of the show or portfolio.
All my clients and I have used this approach over the last 5 years and it does work well.
hope this helps the original poster.
I just want to thank you so much for the Brett Weston quote that you posted in this discussion, along with your other comments. I was having a "doubt-filled and doubt-ful day in the darkroom" and it really helped me to read this!
Here is a nice quote from Brett Weston. I suggest you take a look at his work. He was a photographer with a very unique printing style unlike anyones I have ever seen, and you could spot his prints out of 100 different photographs. Pick up one of his books as soon as possible, and if you get a chance, view as much work by other photographers as you can.
"Photography is such a magnificently strong medium. I watch students fussing around, bringing all kinds of detail into the shadows. I try to tell them not to be afraid of photographic blacks. I often black out shadows so that you can't look into them. Many say they can't go to Point Lobos because Dad (Edward Weston) and I have been there, or get involved with other subjects because they've been done. Hell, its all been done---Rocks, nudes, dunes, kelp. But nature is such a magnificent arranger, and it is---all of it---always changing. You have to have an almost microscope sense, a discerning, restless eye. It's also a matter of instantaneous recognition, but you don't get this the first year. You fall in love with the image right off, but the judgement is a long time coming.
I used to mess around a long time; now I'm much more decisive in getting to the photograph.
The other thing I find about students is that they can all talk rings around me on technical matters. I've tried to tell them not to get too involved with cameras and lenses. I've got the finest equipment you can possibly obtain, but its all just machines! An obsession with the machinery can be too distracting, particularly in this kind of photography. Its gets in the way of creating." -Brett Weston-
Best of luck,
Yes, that was good of Ryan. I think he's really a Tao Te Ching master in disguise.
Originally Posted by JustK