Originally Posted by RattyMouse
What constitutes "a wonderful print off a 6 x 9 negative"?
Have you never seen a fine art media, colourimetrically-matched and spotted print from the hybrid method? There is a very, very good chance that you have seen one, but didn't recognise it.
Hybrid, or more correctly, analogue-to-digital printing, involves a only a very slight decrease in quality, too little to be of whinge value for many purposes. A scanner picks up a formidable amount of detail, especially in MF. Drum scans are very common for large prints, chosen for my medium format (6x7) prints up to 100cm wide (by corresponding height). These are framed and exhibited here in my little gallery, alongside those evergreen old stalwarts, the long gone-darkroom-created Ilfochrome Classic prints. Every single print is conservation framed, including the Ilfochromes.
FB mono prints have provided me with a lot of fun in years gone by (I last printed in a darkroom in 2000). I have 14 framed from years and years ago, but not on display. My forté is colour, not B&W.
Now, you'd be hard pressed, if you did not have a lot of knowledge, to separate the hybrid prints from Ilfochromes on the wall. The dark, contrasty, lushly coloured, laboriously printed and exorbitantly expensive (4 prints once cost me more than $2,000) 'chromes will last centuries, hybrids one or two (so? you won't be around in those days, but there's no harm in leaving a lasting image...), but the gap between the two processes in terms of quality and cost-effectiveness is closing continuously. The important thing is both processes look exquisite in skillfully-created print form, framed and exhibited. In truth, visitors comment more favourably on the lush beauty of the medium format hybrid prints with all their inherent smooth tonal range and detail that is missing from the 35mm-based Ilfochrome prints.
You know, lots of people here on APUG have their own darkroom, and small niche businesses run thriving workshops on alternative processes and printing skills. More widely, few businesses can afford to pander an almost non-existent market, or afford to stand still with just one service — they go with the flow, many in their own right truly excelling at what they do. That business is booming and for the participants armed with their beautiful images (negatives or transparencies), it is truly beckoning you to step up and at the very least, give it a try.
ICE ("dust removal") is discouraged because it adds weight to files, can obscure fine detail (or mistake it for a speck) and reduce overall clarity.
Ok, I understand now. I have to just try it and see how it looks to my own eyes. I think what has disappointed me so far are my prints from scans that have come back from my film development lap. They look OK on the screen, but nowhere near as good as what I think a medium format print should be. Clearly a proper shop should be doing better it seems from what I am hearing.
Originally Posted by RattyMouse
All good. I think, sire, that you need to seek out a pro lab with a stellar reputation in producing fine art quality prints to exhibition standard (ask to see the sort of work that might closely parallel what you produce in terms of film images). Then take them for a spin with something you really, really want to see printed. At the start, it assumes your negatives/trannnies are well exposed, focused, sharp and especially not too dark (I'm sure they are good! ). Darkroom printing is often a solo discipline guided by judgement and experience to produce a print that is the bespoke vision of the photographer. Hybrid / lab stuff involves you identifying the print you want, calling the shots, and working with (never against) a highly skilled team working toward a common goal of producing a print that everybody is happy with — but especially you!
I can tell you something: I have had occasion to be enthralled at the B&W works of a few photographers here on APUG produced in their own wet darkrooms, but generally less enthralled by their colour work. This is not throwing barbs or knives, nor is it a criticism, but making a point of the way individuals see and master their chosen technique. I probably produced only 10-15 beautiful FB prints from 1990 to 1999, as opposed to 400+ Ilfochromes (still counting in the hybrid process), which no doubt accords me the award of Epic Fail in B&W, LOL! Fine. I stick to what I know best.
Colourworks in Wilmington, DE also prints optically:
"Panic not my child, the Great Yellow Father has your hand"--Larry Dressler
My Own Color Lab in New York does excellent work. Their outdated web site (www.myowncolorlab.com) will give you their contact information but you should call for specific prices, etc.
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Which film prints the best using the hybrid method?
I'm of the philosophy that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. But "hybrid" printing
via scanning onto actual chemical paper, can be done from either transparenies or color negatives,
depending on the specific skills and equipment of the lab involved. Both laser and Chromira type printer
are involved, typcially onto an RA4 type paper (or polyester-base like Fuji Supergloss, similar to Ciba
visually). Ciba itself is virtually gone as an option. I don't know anyone around here with an $80,000
printer - they'd consider something like that a toy!
Originally Posted by DREW WILEY
My prints are created from ACROS 100 negs or Velvia 50 / Provia 100F trannies.
The colour process is more involved, B&W straightforward with myriad variations in finish.
The reason wet darkrooms went out of fashion, so to speak, is that they priced themselves out of the market when hybridisation leapfrogged over them (including Ilfochrome with all its inherent sticky contrast problems). After my own early difficulties and frustrations securing a darkroom, I used to pay a Master Printer (a brilliant Finn, commercial darkroom-based) $58 per hour to produce a triptych of images (typically $400 for three RC or FB prints); the results were always truly exquisite. He and the darkroom have been gone a long time now, something like 15 years.
Making RA4 prints from color negs is easy. Doing it well is another subject, just like anything else.
Chromes can be done in darkroom via interneg, but that is an advanced skill which even pro labs rarely
did well, simply because they couldn't afford the labor to do it right. But the actual output medium of
scan to laser is essentially the same in terms of paper options, so you can still do it all with an enlarger
and basic darkroom drums or feed processors. And you can get a more seamless result in terms of detail
and tone transitions. This is not the appropriate forum for digital versus optical, but they are parallel
paths to equally high-quality results under ideal circumstances. 6x9 film is particularly challenging because it's small and flimsy, and requires more spotting than sheet film, scratches more easily than
35mm etc. It's easier to retouch via scanning and Photoshop. But where sheet film is involved, I'd far
rather have true optical enlargements, if optimum quality is your concern. I realize there are some supply and service issues in Australia, but you should be able to acquire basic RA4 supplies there.
Portra sheet film can be used for excellent interneg work, though it helps to have color masking skills.