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 Their outdated web site (www.myowncolorlab.com) will give you their contact information but you should call for specific prices, etc.
Which film prints the best using the hybrid method?
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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.
I'm a little confused by what you mean when you state "hybrid". There are a number of ways to get from a to b with color printing. Some labs use the scan-to-inkjet to produce a print, and some are using a "digital enlarger" that scans the negative and makes an optical enlargement onto RA4 paper. Scan-to-print will have greater loss of detail than the digital-optical enlargement, but the benefit is the papers are arguably more stable and you have a wider range of paper choices with scan-to-print. Places that do digital-optical enlargement will talk about "lightjet" or "Chromira" prints (I may be wrong on the Chromira name, so if someone knows better, please correct me). If you want traditional wet-darkroom print quality, these are the preferred way to go. As mentioned before, the old-fashioned way of purely optical/wet-darkroom printing is pretty much dead from a commercial standpoint. If you want a commercial lab to print it for you, check and see what system of printing they use for making color prints.