This resonates with me.
Originally Posted by markbarendt
I've always been at odds with that notion. Just my opinion though. I can see accepting some flaws if the image is great and there's simply no way around the flaws, but accepting imperfections is different than embracing them (or worse, intentionally adding them).
Knowledge,practice and patience.
[FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]
Fred Picker wrote an article where the lead-in paragraph emphasized the importance of being able to recognize and name defects in your prints.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
There seems to be a quality line I am reluctant to cross, printing a negative with skies that have too many defects to retouch. I have one negative I wish I could print because the buttermilk clouds formed a parallelogram. And maybe I still will. I do embrace the minor flaws.
I collected a few prints from a thrift shop by an amateur photographer. They only asked $5 for 11x14 and 16x20's so I picked them up happily. The 16x20 is a desert/dune shot with so many specks that I feel embarrassed for the photographer (is that even a valid emotion?). It downgraded my opinion of the rest of his work that didn't have such flaws. The shot was great but the flaws were awful.
So it is important to uphold a standard of quality in every print you circulate. I guess to protect your reputation in the afterlife you better tear up and throw out inferior prints.
The thing is, the more skill you have, and the more work you're willing to do, the more flaws you can deal with. I guess that's always my point when I talk about being willing to work your ass off on a print if the image is worth it.
I saw a great example of this at a John Sexton workshop. He often demonstrates using one of his more well known photographs - the Corn Lilly picture from the cover of his first book. Never mind the amount of burning and dodging, which I expected, but it was the amount of spotting that amazed me, and I was already a very hard worker. The final prints show no hint of the amount of work that went into them, but needless to say seeing the before and after versions made me feel a lot better about my own negatives. Some people might have done a lot less work and lived with the flaws, others like me (at one time) might not have even tried to print it because there were seemingly too many imperfections.
What I'm getting at is, the quality line you mention when it comes to negatives is not absolute. It moves, depending on how much skill you have, and how much work you're willing to do.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
It seems like there's really two different threads going on here. One is more technical--the care one takes in details like dust, focus, exposure, dodging & burning, archival presentation, etc. etc-- and one is much more subjective, getting the print to make the impression you want it to make, which could involve some, all, or none of these techniques in varying degrees. Arguably the more experience you have with the technical stuff, the more flexibility you have in making choices in what you do. But ultimately, when you're alone in the darkroom, it's your choice.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
"People get bumped off." -- Weegee
1. What are we trying to say with this negative? What's important about the picture?
2. Now bring what's important about the picture forward by accentuating that importance with the printing.
3. Think of the print as if it is the last time you'll ever get to print it.
For what it's worth, I agree wholeheartedly with Michael R, who says, if the picture warrants it - don't settle for something half-assed. Bring out all the tricks you know, and even learn some new ones if you must, to bring the picture forward as you want to show it. That struggle will make you a better printer, less dependent on negatives that are easy to print, and even better with the ones that are. We all screw up sometimes and mess up in processing, metering, or something else, and mis-treat the negative of a great picture. A good printer takes the so-so negative and makes something with it and works his/her way past the problem. I've even found that some of my favorite pictures are from less than ideal negatives, and I think it's because I tried so damned hard with them.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
1. Make the last print a little lighter than you think it should be (after drying it'll probably be the best one)
2. don't be afraid of cropping, it can change your relationship to the neg and help give you fresh eyes on it
3. just because you love the idea of the image, doesn't mean it'll make a good print.
There are a lot of philosophical ideas in this thread which I guess is good. I think you should print your bad negs to become a good printer. When I first started out my negs were horrible since I was winging it. I didn't have anyone to tell me what to do so I just read the manufacturers packages and got to work. These days it should be a piece of cake to become a good printer since there is so much information out there with a couple of keystrokes. You still need to get to work though. There is no substitute for experience.
But I guess you want some tips. Most people tend to print too heavy going for that deep black. If this describes you (it does me) when you have a doubt, hold the wet print up to your viewing light. If you can see more detail in the shadows then you are probably printing too dark. It is easy to print highlights too dark as well. They should look white in the fix with a slight tone leading into them. You will have to get some experience to see it and each paper is a little different. This only helps you thought if it is what you want.
The other tip I would like to give you echos Thomas' statement above. You need to know what you want before you start. You can make a technically perfect print that is dead. If you doubt this take a look at some of the Zonies work. My point is the print needs to match the feel and mood of the image that you want to communicate to the person viewing the print. That could mean a print with no whites or no blacks. There are no laws of aesthetics in printing. It is only about what you want it to be about. Everything else is just noise.
Trust your instincts about what is good (to you), take notes and keep at it. In the event that you don't know what's good, then just keep going and the roads will lead you to where you need to be.
(To me, that started out as wanting to be Ansel Adams with an 8x10 and ended up with dodge-the-bullets lith printing - but the Zone system is still in my head and I crop in-camera)
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu