Making small prints in bulk
I have a darkroom at home and I'm reasonably experienced with making black & white prints. However, I need to do something that I haven't done before: make a large quantity of small prints, possibly 2x3" or 3x5". I can think of several ways of doing it, and I'm not sure which is best.
- I could do it the usual way, expose each print once from a single negative in the enlarger, and then process them.
- I could use a single negative and expose it multiple times on a larger piece of paper, such as 8x10", using a black paper mask to prevent fogging, and then use a guillotine to cut the paper up later on.
- The negative (which has not been taken yet) will probably be on 35mm film. I have a 6x7 enlarger so I could carry more than one 35mm negative at once - or I could duplicate a 35mm negative multiple times onto a 6x7 negative. Then I could expose several frames at once onto one piece of paper.
Are there any other ways of doing this? I'd love to hear advice from people who have done this before.
I would make a few test prints, let them dry to make sure they are just what you want, and then expose all of the prints and develop them 10 or 20 at a time for the greatest consistency.
I have a Saunders Color Proofing Easel which puts four 4x5 prints on an 8x10 sheet. It permits you to expose each individually through a window mask, and then move the paper so the next section of the paper is exposed.
A standard, small easel and some masking paper makes it easy to expose two prints on a 5 x 8 sheet of paper - one on each end.
I think it was Saunders who also made a more complex proofing printer that permitted exposing multiple wallet size images sequentially on the same sheet of paper.
One caution - if you intend to expose multiple prints and then batch process them somewhat later. It would be wise to leave a little more time (2 or 3 minutes?) between exposing and developing your tests. That will help minimize the latency effect that results from having differing delay times between exposing and developing your multiple prints.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I have done this with batches of 300. The trick is that we used a roll of RC going through a machine-printer (usually used for RA4 enprints) and processed the roll through an Ilfospeed dry-to-dry processor.
What do you call a "large" number? And is there any hand-work needed? And is the required paper RC or fibre? Generally, roll paper and an Ilfospeed would be the way to go, but I realise that labs these days probably don't have optical machine-print systems for the paper exposure . . . Would printing on RA4 paper work for the result you need? That would require some testing, to say the least.
EDIT: This was 25 years ago....
i worked for a portrait photographer for a while in the 1980s and making huge runs
of prints was something i did often ( think 500 copies of a 5x7 print for newspapers &c ) ...
you get your times, burning/dodging worked out on your print.
run it through the chemistry and get a blow dryer and dry it out
to make sure with dry-down you will have the right time.
then expose your paper, just like the test print. you might want to do maybe 16 or less at a time because
if you do all your exposures at once and you have a problem you don't know about, you will have to do them
all over again ... i used to do 16 at once but it takes practice, so maybe a few, then a few more and then 16
you need a set of large chemistry trays ...
and you will have to put your hands in the soup, so get latex or nitril or whatever gloves you want ..
put the prints back to back, and put them inbetween your fingers ... a pair between index and thumb
index and middle, middle and ring, ring and pinky, both hands ...
then all in the soup ... alternate releasing pinkies on both hands first, then thmb/index then ring,
middle and last middle index both hands at the same time ..
and shuffle the pairs flipping them over in pairs, as many times as you did the test print ( i usually did 6 )
and make sure you agitate your developer .. when done
be careful shuffling around if you are making rc prints, a corner can scratch/rip the emulsion of another print
pretty easily ... fb is soggier so you won't really have much trouble ...
take them out of the developer all at once in a stack, and into your stop or water, then fix ..
they should all be the same. put the test print in a water bath and look at your prints and compare to
the test print and make adjustments ...
keep your test print separate from the rest and if you can't do all your exposing + developing and finish in one run,
make a test print the next time you print, and compare it wet to the test print you made the last time ...
if you have to use more than one box of paper, remember it might be different from the original paper
so you have to do a test print to make sure of your time &c all over again and tweak it if necessary ..
good luck --- have fun
Last edited by jnanian; 08-02-2012 at 07:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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I've done essentially your option 2 to make 40 or so 3.5 x 5 prints using 5 x 7 paper. I was using FB paper. I'd expose 5 sheets and keep them in paper safe, then process them one at a time. By the time the first paper gets to the HCA stage, next one goes into the developer.
If I had to make 100 or more, I'll probably make one good print on larger paper with all the adjustments, then take a picture of that print to make duplicate negatives. This way, all the dodging and burning will only have to be done once.
How many do you have to make? How difficult is it to print? Lots of adjustments or just a straight print? RC or FB? Do they have to be perfect?
Whatever you do, make them in small batches. Chemicals do change when you make lots of prints. Also, you wouldn't want some dust landing on your neg in middle of the session and not know it until you are all done. (happened to me more than once!)
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I'll need to make about 100 prints, but the negative hasn't been made yet. Hopefully dodging & burning won't be required, but you never know.
Based on the advice here, I will probably have a single negative in the carrier, and expose 4 prints onto each 8x10" using a black card mask. Should be reasonably easy to expose 25 sheets sequentially and put the paper into a paper-safe. Obviously I will make some tests first!
Thanks for the advice, everyone
How about making the first four prints, if you have a copy stand available hold them flat with a piece of glass and photograph them with your 6x7. You would then have four images on one negative. You could increase the number if you were going to use larger paper to print on. That said, photographing a photograph may not give quite the quality as the original. Using a mask as you mentioned would require moving the easel for each exposure. I did that once to print four different images on a single 16x20 sheet. It was very time consuming and cutting a mask on mat board to give sharp borders is a nuisance. I ended up taping metal strips to the paper and covering up the part that was not being exposed.
The easiest way would be to photograph with Ilford BW 400CN and have them printed at a local one hour. It might also be cheaper.
Jeffrey, I did consider this kind of thing. I haven't tried it before so I wonder what the reproduction quality would be like to photograph prints, in terms of the resolution, contrast, dynamic range and so on. Might have to give it a go.
Alternatively I could probably make 4 near-identical 35mm negatives at the time the picture is taken, although I'd rather they were actually identical. There's a possibility of shooting the picture on transparency which can then be easily copied onto B&W negatives multiple times.
I'm certain it would be cheaper and easier to get the prints made at a lab or even (shock, horror) digitally - but I'm adamant I want to handle the creation of these pictures myself by hand.
hi again jonathan
i never use the masks you suggest you might be using,
make sure when it is closed and 1 square is open, that it doesn't fog
the rest of the paper, sometimes that happens ... ( light is sneaky )
another thing you might consider doing
is make a handful of identical prints, and expose them onto a large sheet of paper ( 11x14, 16x20? )
and make a large paper inter-negative. then you can find your exposure time with the paper negative
( it might be room light on, count to 2 or 3 shut off )
soup the big print, cut the little ones out .. and you are all -set.
i tend to shy away from the easels with a mask because the ones i have used didn't keep
the other views safe. but when i made my own out of 8ply matboard it seemed to work ok-sorta.
good luck !