1. There is a continuum of quality from OK Print to Fine Print.
2. When just starting out OK is Fine.
3. As you continue on this journey, what you consider OK will continue to get better.
That is Fine.
As Michael pointed out, there is an interesting thread that gives practical advice towards this goal.
Dark print vs bright print.... what's going on?
I found myself significantly moved by one post by Doremus Scudder
Like Bob Carnie, I make 3 final prints each time I print a negative. I agree with Bob, you can mentally accommodate for dry-down. I look at the toned and dry prints side-by-side in various lighting conditions (inside terrible light for first impression, outside daylight for toning color, viewing station for standard view). I look for differences between prints that are supposedly the same. I am most confident of my own work when I can see differences and still call all the prints acceptable. When I prefer one print over the other, then I know what direction to go next time I find myself in a similar situation. Since I am a hobbyist, instead of printing three more times, I take mental note to do better next time and move on.
Bob, I can't for the life of me find your list of printing tips I hoped you would repost here. (Searching for duck's tail doesn't seem to pull it up).
I am not sure where they are Bill, I do not know if they are on a specific thread or not, but I do know it was made a sticky thread , whatever the hell that means.
There's a sticky thread in the Enlarging forum titled "Tips from the Darkroom" started by Bob so that must be it. I hadn't read that thread but there's probably a lot of good stuff in there that would overlap with this thread.
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I most definitely struggle with this one! It's funny how once you get to a point where the work print is not longer so and you're very close to a final print you can keep finding things that need changed from one print to the next. Sometimes I think I could go on forever changing stuff each time a print is printed. Next thing I know the print washer is full with prints from front to back that translate to work print in the front, and hopefully final print in the back, with variations in between.
Originally Posted by Roger Cole
I have however created just a handful of prints of my work that I am absolutely thrilled with, and Bob they are matted and framed and hanging on my wall! And when a print is perfect you just know it. Sometimes it's easier than others, and sometimes it just never seems right, even after 3 or 4 sessions trying to re-work a negative. I am hoping over time that my skills will get better and that feeling of getting to a point of being happy with a print will come more often.
I've had to deal with writers who are like that. At some point you've got say, dude, it's time to go to typesetting. Let it go. In one case, I know there's a copy of a book on the author's shelf with marginal notations.
Originally Posted by brian steinberger
1) Shoot much, but print only the best negatives.
2) Decide what to print from a contact sheet made on you destination paper using standard print time.
3) Make the best print you can and then hang it up in your living room. If you look at your print avery day you'll eventually see all the little flaws.
Thanks for the high praise. I'm happy my ramblings found resonance and even enough to be linked to! I'm glad to have helped further the discussions here.
Been pondering on this more and just saw a quote from Anthony Burrill, "Make work you believe in."
Very appropriate I think.
The other decision that I'm coming to is not to be overly critical of a negative or a print with great composition and exposure. What I mean by that is that an errant dust speck or wash mark or finger print shouldn't always be a death knell for a negative.
I was surfing around on Flickr yesterday an found a bunch of stuff from the Library of Congress . There are a fair number of examples there where the content is strong but with obvious imperfections. The imperfections in many of these IMO actually adds value. They show the frailties of the medium, say glass plates, or the fallibility and choices of the photographer, or the effects of age. It gives them personality.
This concept of including imperfections isn't new, but I do tend to forget it. For example Navajo weavers, from what I have been told, always include a mistake in their weavings; even if they have to add it.
-From Native American Times -
“The traditional teaching of the Navajo weaving is that you have to put a mistake in there,” Garnanez said. “It must be done because only the creator is perfect. We’re not perfect, so we don’t make a perfect rug.”
I have a few negatives from my early work in 4x5 that are really strong other than beginner processing/handling problems. Although I'm frustrated that the errors exist I have now decided to give them another try because those compositions probably aren't replaceable.
This is also an acknowledgement that the definition of fine is a variable.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin