Everything everybody has said but crucially it's down to whether you view time in a darkroom as a pain in the ar... or part of the fun. If you get a buzz from showing others your prints, and being able to say "I made that" then go for it.
Originally Posted by digiconvert
Incidentally on cost grounds just try asking ASDA to push process, crop and/or enlarge prints beyond the standard 6x4 or 5x7 and see what happens to costs. Alternatively ask them to process the film and only produce a contact sheet at full size negs so you can decide which negs are worth printing. I wonder how they'd react?
Here's a link to a cost breakdown by Jobo for comparative analysis to lab processing:
Jobo CPA/CPP processing costs
Just to add my $0.02 worth...
First, I didn't see anybody mention the fact that you don't need much in the way of special equipment for color work. You can do color negative or slide (C-41 or E-6) processing in the same film developing tank you probably use for B&W processing. It's just the chemistry, timing specifics, and temperature that are different. The first two aren't big deals, in terms of difficulty. The temperature can be effectively controlled with a water bath, and is the most annoying difference between the B&W process vs. the color process, in my experience. A processing machine will help streamline the process, but isn't required.
The RA-4 paper process, in my experience, is another matter. I just started on this about a month ago (maybe less), so my experience is limited, but so far making color enlargements seems much more tedious and time-consuming than making B&W enlargements. Part of the trouble is that getting the color right is trickier than getting the contrast and exposure right for B&W -- and you've got to worry about exposure in color, too. (AFAIK, there are no multicontrast color papers, so you can't control that except by changing papers.) Further complicating matters is the need to clean and thoroughly dry the print processing drum between prints. If you don't dry the drum, you'll get green spots or streaks in the prints -- or at least I do. On the plus side, the print processing drums used for color can be used in full light and require small quantities of chemistry per print, so you don't need to deal with trays filled with multiple liters of chemistry. (Next time I do 11x14 B&W prints, I might just pull out my big 11x14 drum rather than my 11x14 trays.) FWIW, the drums are the only must-have equipment for color printing, assuming you've got a color head or appropriate filter set forr your enlarger. A simple motorized roller base is also helpful but isn't absolutely necessary. Most color print chemistry can be used at room temperature with increased development time, or you can use water baths to boost the temperature. As with negative processing, an automated machine will help streamline the process but isn't strictly required. (Actually, you can do color print processing in trays, but as ordinary B&W safelights aren't safe for color papers, this is awkward in its own way.)
Some of these color printmaking issues are likely to be things that'll get easier with practice and/or with better tools (such as a color analyzer); some of my comments may reflect my inexperience more than anything else. Certainly I'm not going to give up on color printing just yet. At the moment, though, I won't be doing my own color postcard-sized prints; it's just too much bother for that size. For 8x10 or bigger prints I want to hang on my wall, I'll do my own.
To sum up, I certainly encourage you to at least try your own color processing. If you decide it's too tedious, if you do little enough that you're in constant fear of your chemistry going bad, or if you otherwise don't like it, you'll have at least learned a bit about it and you'll be able to do it if you have a special need. If you like it, then you'll have something else to occupy your time on rainy days.
If you have a reliable processor for your 35mm film, with good quality control, it's tempting to use him just for the convenience. Processing your own film is a quite a bit cheaper than using a lab, if you have more than just a couple of rolls a month. But processing your own can be tedious and time consuming - not hard, just tedious. Medium and large format tilt more toward processing your own. Commercial labs that handle these sizes are getting scarce, and the costs are going up rapidly. Often the larger sizes have to be sent far away for processing, and you don't get them back for weeks. The quality from some of the MF labs is also questionable.
My comment earlier about not saving money was not about chemical costs of processing film vs. taking it into a lab. It was more taking into consideration all the equipment most of us have purchased for our darkrooms in order to process and print ourselves. I would bet very few would stop at just processing color film in a tank in a water bath. There would be enlargers to buy, analyzers, lenses, and oh that Jobo CPP-2 listed on eBay looks very handy, etc. In other words, when you factor in all the costs of an equipped darkroom for processing and printing, I doubt any of us are "saving" any money vs. commercial processing.
But that's not why we're doing it. If you like working in the darkroom and can afford it, do it. Don't try to financially justify it.
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I'll start my answer with a question: What is your photography - the final product -, worth to you?
Most of those who work in black-and-white probably are not motivated by saving money, nor the idea of ease; MOST do their own processing for one reason - the flexibility of doing our own, and with it the potential of obtaining images that exhibit - more closely - our particular aesthetic visions.
With me, the some holds true for color. Does my processing, either color or black and white, take more skill/ cost more ... etc. than dumping film into an envelope and shipping it to a commercial Lab? Of course ... but I know that my finished product will represent MY VISION more accurately (and with better quality) than ANY commercial lab I've yet found - or expect to find.
Is "doing my own" worth it to me? Yes, without question, but that is said using my own particular parameters, not in terms of monetary economics or ease.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I'd say this is true of both B&W and color, but it's more true of B&W than of color. The reason is that there are a lot of variants of B&W processing, including developer choice (D76, Rodinal, Pyrocat, etc.), developing times, agitation style, choice of paper, paper grade or multigrade filter settings, etc. Although many of these variables have counterparts in the color world, there's less room to vary things because the different colors will respond differently to variation, resulting in color shifts. (Of course, this assumes you want accurate color reproduction; if you want special effects, color opens up interesting possibilities. Try printing a color slide taken outdoors on a clear day on RA-4 paper. You'll be able to pass it off as something shot on Mars. )
Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
Of course, this isn't to say that there's no room for creative control with color; there's just less room than with B&W, at least if you want accurate color reproduction. This is particularly true of the film developing stage; there's more room for control of exposure, cropping, dodging and burning, etc., in the print-making stage. This also doesn't address the quality issue, which of course could go either way depending on how meticulous and skillful you are vs. how meticulous and skillful the commercial lab you would otherwise use is.
That is pretty much my experiences as well. Back when I was doing Cibachrome (mainly 11x14) I found that it would sometimes take me a week to get a half-way decent print; mostly because the time I had to print was limited (as would be now if I went back to this process). I never got to Christopher Burkett's level of expertise with his extensive use of masking, which can add a lot of time to the process - then again he only spends 2 months a year actually taking pictures.
I just started on this about a month ago (maybe less), so my experience is limited, but so far making color enlargements seems much more tedious and time-consuming than making B&W enlargements.
It is not cheaper and extremely time consuming. C 41 and E6 chemicals have a fairly short shelf life and are good for only a few weeks after mixing. This makes it expensive. You will need to go to a large supply house to obtain fresh chemicals. Some have been sucessful freezing color developer as this is the component with the very short life. Bleach and fix last longer.
Color neg printing is not difficult once you learn to color balance, ie correct color casts. You will have the same challenges printing inkjet when you consider you need to calibrate your monitor and printer so they all work together.
My current plan is all 35mm and 120 goes to a pro lab for processing and proof prints.
I set up once or twice a year and make the enlargements. 4x5 color neg gets done at home as my lab will not do it. It either gets printed at home or scanned and sent to the same pro lab via internet for them to do light jet printing. This is a simple file transfer program.
If you can`t find a good pro lab that gives clean negs, you must do it yourself.
Thanks for the advice.
As susual this is the most informative photo site on the web. The advice has been constructive and helpful and I think that I will probably try and develop a few 35mm with the C-41 'press kits' using a simple water bath and see how it goes, an expensive way to do it but probably a good start.
As I see it if I can get some competence with this I will be able to control the quality of my negs better and get the enjoyment of producing it myself.
As to printing I will probably scan for a while and if I get competent enough try to borrow a colour head from college and see how it goes.
Cost is not the issue it's the production of your own work that matters.
Thanks again for focussing my mind on what's important, HAPPY NEW YEAR.