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  1. #1

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    Analog color printing vs you-know-what

    Having shot many a roll of color film over the years, I have often been frustrated with trying to get "nice" enlargements (larger than 4x6). I remember sometime in the early 80's being very PO'd with the process of trying to get a print made the way I thought it should be made and going back several times before either giving up or running out of money. Events like this finally drove me away from "mildly serious" photography for a number of years.

    I eventually got back into the darkroom, and again discovered the joys of printing B&W. I still shoot quite a bit of my work in B&W, and don't think I will ever quit. HOWEVER, there is the lurking desire to be able to hang nice color prints on occasion.

    So here's my dilemma... Why is it so danged easy to get NICE color photos from a digigizmo? I swear the first time I had an 8x12 color print made from a digital file I almost fell over. I had it printed at Sam's Club. 4 weeks ago I had a 20"x30" print made of my nephew I took during a little league game. I am still astonished! There is absolutely no way that " I " could have ever gotten a print of similar quality back when film was king, certainly not for $12! I am not convinced I could do it now if I had used film.

    Many folks sing praises to slide film, but slides & I haven't "clicked" just yet. I like prints, prints to hang on the wall. Maybe slides are a great way to get there, and maybe someone can tell me the way to make it work.

    Anyway, reading about Robert's purchase of an F6 (Which by the way I admire, and wish I could also have - cracking camera) brought these thoughts to the surface again. I use an F4 and FE2, and have been thinking about an F100, but I hesitate to think about trying to get good color enlargements from film. How do others do it??

    I apologize if I have touched any raw nerves, but I am sure others have struggled with this issue. Maybe someone can steer me straight.
    Those who don't think Photographers have the skills of REAL artists such as painters obviously have not had to spot my prints.

  2. #2
    naturephoto1's Avatar
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    This is the comment that I made in a different thread earlier this evening:

    For the last 12 1/2 years, Bill Nordstrom (LaserLight Phtographics and EverColor Fine Art) and I have been making digital scans of my 35mm, Medium Format (Rollei 3.5 F 12/24 Planar and Mamiya 7II) and my 4 X 5 (Linhof and Toho) transparencies. We standardly have made raw files (for storage purpose if we need such large prints) of about 225 to 300 mb. We usually work from much smaller digital files to print my work up to 20" X 30" or 24" X 30" but we have the raw files to print still larger. Originally we printed digitally through a 4 color separation method (4 separate CMYK perfectly registered negatives) which were later changed to 3 color RGB files for printing on the LightJet or Chromira Digital printers.

    Rich
    Richard A. Nelridge
    http://www.nelridge.com

  3. #3
    Mick Fagan's Avatar
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    I get very good enlargements from film, by using my darkroom!

    Electronic enlargements are different, they do not have the same look, that is just the way it is.

    Recently I was in Germany and met up with two German members of APUG. I brought a box of 8x10" prints, of which about 20 or so were colour. They were reasonably amazed at the subtle difference between the colour prints they had been used to seeing in the last few years, and my prints.

    Possibly the major difference is the seamless merging of one colour to another. I think an electronic colour print is very good, I just prefer my own way of doing it, so do the people who receive colour prints from me.

    Mick.

  4. #4

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    Color analogue printing is simply more time-consuming. The great thing about digital is that after the initial setup, there is little color correction needed. once you have profiles you dont need to go through a long color correction process. With analogue printing, every negative is different and thus takes more time. However, the colors that you can get from a c-print are just as good, if not better (or simply the same with lightjet) than digital. It was unclear in your post whether you printed yourself or got a lab to do it. There really is no substitute for printing yourself. (this is slightly off topic but) the reason i dislike most digital printing is that i need to go through a lab and thus lose a measure of control. But trust me, you can get incredible prints from the analogue process.

  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I haven't printed my own color in years (I used to do Cibachrome and RA-4 prints), but after having LightJet, Chromira, and Frontier prints for a few years, a friend gave me a really nice color print on Fuji Crystal Archive that she had made from a neg that I watched her expose with a 35mm camera, and it looked so nice and accurate, I asked if it was a LightJet, and she informed me that it was a regular projection print made in the darkroom. I just hadn't seen so many for a while.

    I think one of the reasons I liked it was that the texture was different. There was no artificial sharpening and the grain pattern looked like film. There was none of the grain aliasing that sometimes shows up in Chromira prints, and the color was perfect without any Photoshop tricks.

    With today's great color films, maybe it's time to start doing my own color again.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by rexp View Post
    I remember sometime in the early 80's being very PO'd with the process of trying to get a print made the way I thought it should be made and going back several times before either giving up or running out of money.
    ...
    So here's my dilemma... Why is it so danged easy to get NICE color photos from a digigizmo?
    I'll take this specific question to be mostly rhetorical, but I'll give a "sideways" answer to it that might well ruffle some feathers here: You can always scan your negatives and get digital prints made that way. This will almost certainly be easier than doing color printing in a darkroom, although the results will be slightly different (see others' comments). Note that a film scanner capable of producing a high enough resolution to handle the print sizes you mention (8x12-inch to 20x30-inch) is likely to be fairly expensive, though.

    One other comment: In the 1980s, the process for producing prints from negatives was called EP-2, IIRC (from Kodak, anyhow; I'm not sure if there were competing color processes at that time). Today, the equivalent process is RA-4. I've only been doing color darkroom printing for a couple of years, so I can't comment from personal experience; however, it's my understanding that there's much less batch-to-batch variation in RA-4 materials than there was in EP-2 materials. This is likely to make it easier to get consistent results when you finish one box of paper and open the next, at least assuming you stick to one brand and type of paper.

    Many folks sing praises to slide film, but slides & I haven't "clicked" just yet. I like prints, prints to hang on the wall. Maybe slides are a great way to get there, and maybe someone can tell me the way to make it work.
    If your objection to slide film has to do with the slide film "look," then you can ignore this; however, if it's solely a matter of getting prints, there are ways to do it. One is the digital solution I've just mentioned. The other is a traditional "wet" darkroom approach. Unfortunately, the only current product for this is Ilfochrome, which has become ridiculously expensive -- something like 5-10 times as expensive as RA-4 materials, IIRC. That said, it's possible to reversal-process RA-4 material, but this tends to produce slightly odd results. You might luck out and get good color for some subjects, but for the most part I'd reserve this process for getting deliberately odd colors. The effect isn't as extreme as cross-processing slide film in C-41 chemistry, but it is a bit off.

    I hesitate to think about trying to get good color enlargements from film. How do others do it??
    It's difficult to answer this question because standards vary so much. What I consider a "good color enlargement" you might consider worthy of nothing but the circular file, or vice-versa. That said, and speaking as somebody who has yet to master color enlargements from negatives (I've been doing them for a bit under two years), I'd give the following advice:

    • Shoot a gray card, or better yet a color chart, on each roll of film (if you shoot roll film). This will give you a reference target to use in setting your color balance; you can compare the print directly to your reference target to judge the color quality.
    • Invest in a color analyzer. Even a poor one is likely to get you to within 10 cc of the correct color setting, making it easier to get to the optimum point.
    • Do color test prints. I use an 8-up print frame (eight 2.5x3.5-inch prints on one 8x10-inch sheet of paper). This gives me two frames for exposure tests (I usually split each of these in two) and six frames to vary the cyan, magenta, and yellow filtration up and down. This is tedious, but in combination with an estimate from the color analyzer or simply a similar earlier roll of film or print, I can usually get good color balance after doing one test print.
    • Use a single brand and type of film, a single brand and type of paper, a single brand and type of C-41 chemistry, and a single brand and type of RA-4 chemistry. If you're extremely consistent, color balance will vary less from one roll to another or from one printing session to another.
    • Practice, practice, practice. There's nothing like it!

  7. #7

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    I do all of my own color printing using color negative film printed on Fujicolor Crystal Archive super type C paper. I develop the film and prints myself. I use both a JOBO processor and Fujimoto roller transport to make prints.

    The only digital prints I find acceptable for fine-art work are prints made from the Lightjet5000 printer. I believe they as good as the prints I make in my darkroom optically. I have seen prints from other process that print on traditional photographic papers, but find them to be marginal at best. I can spot an Inkjet print from twenty paces, and I do not like them either. Unfortunately, Lightjet5000 prints are expensive. I am not sure what it cost to produce a high quality 16x20 lightjet print, but I can make the same size print using the same paper for less than $1.40 in my darkroom.

    It takes about five minutes to make a single archival print independent of its size. I make prints up to 30x40 from my 5x7 film and 20x50 from my 4x10 film.

    Many people believe my prints are Cibrachrome prints because of the brilliant colors, and when I say they are RA-4 prints they are very surprised.

  8. #8
    roteague's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevewillard View Post
    The only digital prints I find acceptable for fine-art work are prints made from the Lightjet5000 printer. I believe they as good as the prints I make in my darkroom optically.
    Check out Bob Carnie's Ilfochromes, printed on a Lambda. You will be greatly surprised.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  9. #9
    Snapshot's Avatar
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    I've started to produce my colour enlargements for the first time this year. After a little practice, I was producing some nice prints. I can imagine it's frustrating to see good results easily produced elsewhere but they're generally using expensive equipment designed to produce colour prints.

    With a little persistence, I now have beautiful colour prints that I'm very pleased with hanging on my walls.
    "The secret to life is to keep your mind full and your bowels empty. Unfortunately, the converse is true for most people."

  10. #10
    Matt5791's Avatar
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    I just started to do my own colour printing (from Neg - RA4) in the darkroom.

    I am very new to this, but first observations are:

    1. A LOT easier than I was expecting

    2. A lot easier to find the correct filtration than I was expecting - it seems that you only have to adjust the filters a very small amount to make a big difference - which is handy because then you dont throw out your exposure too much.

    3. I have a Durst Printo roller transport machine - originally bought for mass processing of monochrome - I think that this makes the colour processing very easy as it maintains temperature etc. and once it goes in it is light tight so you can turn the lights on again.

    4. The mixed dev. and blix seem to last for weeks once mixed up (I am using the Tetenal 35 deg. kit, which can also be replensished).

    5. It's economical

    6. You can be printing fantastic quality prints very quickly.

    7. The paper is exceedingly 'fast' - which I like because I hate hanging around for long exposures. (I've been using Fuji Crystal Archive)

    8. The quality of prints are MUCH better than I get from my local pro-lab from their Noritsu. - I guess this is because, in my darkroom, it is "pure analogue" with no digital bits in-between.

    I keep trying to post my first print, but I seem to have problems with posting photos at present.

    Matt

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