Wet vs. Dry
I really like the look of my prints when they are fresh out of the wash, they seem to have such a great depth to them. But, by the time I dry them they seem much more lack-lustre and flat. Does anyone know anything I can do to solve this?
I am assuming you are using fiber based paper and, if that's the case, what you are observing is a phenomenon known as "dry down." Fiber prints often appear darker dry when they are wet. In order to compensate for this you will need to make your prints a little bit lighter so that when they dry they will have the tones you want. One way to do this is to always dry your test strips and fiber prints throughly before deciding on an exposure time.
some people steam their prints
As has been pointed out that's dry-down and you have to allow for it. However the paper surface can also look duller if air dried and it's remarkable how much of a lft can be given by steaming the print surface. This needs to be done carefully, I hold a print about 6" (15cm) over a boiling kettle (with the lid open) for a few seconds, half at a time so my fingers are well away from the steam. This has the effect of increasing the gloss of the paper surface.
I'd try ferrotyping to get that super glossy wet look. Last I checked, the plates were still available new from B&H, and they were not that expensive.
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This is very true. I used to ferrotype on a large mirror back in the 70s. However its a fussy process that needs a lot of patience. The mirror, or ferrotype plate, has to be scrupulously clean and the print must be absolutely free of air pockets when its laid down.
Originally Posted by 2F/2F
Start toning your prints, a bit of sepia or selenium toning really enhances the appearance of "depth". I know, it is a different phenonom from the surface gloss mentioned by all others, but in my experience, it plays an important role in the final appearance of "depth" too. There is just something about - even mildly - toned prints that sets them apart from untoned prints. The effect is almost like the one experienced in oil paintings, where subsequently applied semi transparent oil paint layers (called "glazes") enhance color depth, an effect more or less made famous by Italian renaissance and Dutch 17th century painters.
Originally Posted by Joe O'Brien
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Sometimes a few test prints are necessary to see what the dry down effect will be. The details in the whites will not be evident in the wet print but when dried they will show up. Printing dark enough to see the details of the whites in the wet print will result in a flat image because the whites will dry down too dark. I did a lot of 5x7 glossies for a publisher in the early 70's. I used an Arkay drum dryer and the prints were soaked briefly in Pakosol to get the gloss finish. I now prefer the look of glossy paper air dried without ferrotyping.
Edit: I also agree with what Marco said above.
Originally Posted by Jon Shiu
A similar effect seems to occur if one briefly micowaves a lightly damp fiber print. I've always thought this simply produced the required hot water via a slightly different mechanism, producing a partial "glazing" effect. But that's just speculation on my part.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
The effect, at least as I've observed it personally on Ilford MGIV FB, can be startling. The prints I've tested went from a modestly nice sheen to a very wet-looking, deep lustrous look. Especially when viewed under near point-source lighting.
If the print is too wet when it goes into the microwave, I have noticed what appeared to be dried water/mineral spots, even though the prints were squeegeed off. I have found that a gentle squeegee followed by air drying until only very lightly damp (just barely into the non-tacky stage) works best in this regard. About 60-80 seconds on high seems to do the trick for 8x10s.
I should also note that I have no idea what the long-term effect on the paper emulsion might be. I do know that dry-mounting these guys can be challenging. The surface seems more prone to damage from bumps or bruises, including a "flattening out" of the surface texture is the platen pressure is too high.
But this could be due to my use of a non-hardening fixer (Kodak F-24). Or it could also be because the more "perfect" surface now shows off any defects more easily.
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Glossy RC looks glossier than glossy FB unless you ferrotype it.