Wow that's a very interesting approach, I can definitely see its value. It seems like it'd work, if not for any other reason, than because, as many people have mentioned so far, it really helps to just look at a print with fresh eyes. It also seems so useful to see prints in regular viewing conditions, and to reference a great print when judging yours, we should always have high standards, and other prints also might refresh our palette, so to speak.
Originally Posted by Nacio Jan Brown
The only thing I would do differently is think of the changes I want to make in terms of stops. I've been trying to develop my eye to see all values in terms of stops -- such and such an area needs +1/4 stop, another area needs -2/3 stops, etc. But it does seem rational to at first interpret it in such subjective terms as you use -- a lot darker, a bit lighter -- and then translate them into stops.
I have a bunch of similar negative that I'm going to print later this week, and I think I'll try this on for size, it seems like it'd help.
Originally Posted by jp80874
Last year I tried to expose myself to as much good photography as possible and I can tell you right now that your advice on it is spot on, it did immeasurable good for me. My school has around 150,000 slides of photographers' work, and I systematically went through them all over the course of the year, from A to Z. Not only did I discover many amazing photographers, it really had the net result of making me hold myself to a higher standard, technically and creatively.
Originally Posted by jovo
As an aside, going through them especially made me understand the value of a good concept, or creativity in general. Seeing so much great photography kind of devalues technical concerns and raises in importance creative ones. Perfectly exposed images with beautiful, lush printing seem to almost become the norm, you have to do something beyond that to actually stand out.
That sounds like a good idea to make students go to exhibits and write papers, I'm going to mention this to my production teacher and see what she thinks.
Last edited by urals; 01-01-2008 at 06:51 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I read that book last year and that first quote rung true with me then and rings true with me now (second one is great as well, don't get me wrong). I think you ultimately have to use your gut feelings or unconscious reaction as a guide. I definitely notice how, with the best prints, I have that clear feeling of satisfaction, there is no tinge of ambivalence.
Originally Posted by Chuck1
This is excellent advice, I think... or it at least accords perfectly with my own suspicions. I remember one print I worked on, that I am now very satisfied with, that I came to through such a method. I, without letting myself think about it, printed many, widely varying iterations of the image -- very high/low contrast, light/dark, etc. In doing so I learned a lot about the negative and became familiar with its potential. I settled on one of the higher contrast printings, and I know for a fact that I wouldn't have even considered doing it such if I just went about like I normally do.
Originally Posted by Alden
I'd only say that this is a kind of wasteful and time-consuming approach. I see it kind of as "training wheels," that later, once I develop my sense, I can take off. But for, as I originally said, serious prints that you want to squeeze every drop out of, this method is definitely applicable.
I also think the ideal print would be one that both hits fast and has the potential for lasting interest. Some prints are stunning after 1 second and still stunning after 10 minutes. But, of course, this is just an ideal, and one I probably wont attain for another 20 years if at all.
Along this line I would suggest making original test strip prints from a whole sheet of paper and following a geometric increase in exposure between each step. These strips have a similar contrast between each step unlike an arithmetic sequence. I like to make tests that cover a 2-stop range, 8-32 seconds in 1/3-stop increments for example (8+2.1+2.6+3.3+4.2+5.2+6.6 seconds). I've seen so many students try to base a print on a mere sliver of test paper and ultimately I think it causes them to waste more paper and reach a high level of frustration quickly. The entire sheet approach will let you see what the light is doing in the picture and give you an idea of what burning or dodging one- third stop will look like on the initial test.
Originally Posted by urals
Another thing I tell students is that they can always make a better print. It may take years to see what could improve an image, but I don't think there is any such thing as a "perfect" print. Yet, a lot of people get hung up on perfectionism and drain the pleasure and soul out the printing experience. You want to stop before that happens in order to keep making prints of other images. Most viewers aren't going to care diddly-squat about all the fine-tuning you could do ad nauseam. The print should be engaging and of high quality, but it need not be perfect. Print it until you're happy with it.
I learned to print in a commercial studio where I had unlimited access to someone else's paper. I learned to print on someone else's dime. I could always try this or that variation and get feedback from the boss and other coworkers. Not worrying about the cost and making a lot of prints (quickly, I might add) and experimenting made me a fairly decent printer. My point here is not to count the dimes you're spending on paper if you can. (And I know student budgets can be tight.) If you are worried about how much this is costing or if you only have a sheet or two left to get a print you're satisfied with, you'll never get there.
And give yourself a package of paper and at least a half day to get a single print. Don't rush. Chances are you won't need that much of either.
Last edited by smieglitz; 01-01-2008 at 10:44 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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[QUOTE=urals;566950]Last year I tried to expose myself to as much good photography as possible and I can tell you right now that your advice on it is spot on, it did immeasurable good for me. My school has around 150,000 slides of photographers' work, and I systematically went through them all over the course of the year, from A to Z. Not only did I discover many amazing photographers, it really had the net result of making me hold myself to a higher standard, technically and creatively. [QUOTE]
This was a wonderful step in learning how other people SEE, finding artists whose direction you wish to follow, and what their vision can produce. Remember though a slide or copy of an image can never capture the detail and tonal range of the original. It is close and certainly broadens your horizons, but the original is needed to see the craftsmanship in the darkroom. The same applies to the books of photos. They are great, give you direction, but will never compete with the originals. Now getting your favorite artists to be on exhibit in your town. That is a difficult trick.
I don't think you ever become perfect, but I do believe that what constitutes a good print is different from person to person, with some common denominators.
I think it's down to experience and lots of practice. What I think worked two years ago I may not be so sure about anymore. That clarity of vision is hard to come by, but I really believe in Ansel Adams' method of visualization, and I think that knowing when you open the shutter on your camera you already know what you want the final print to look like is essential to achieving what you want to see in the print.
I think it comes down to practice and hard work. That's my theory. I'm not sure that learning it from someone else is always successful. You may be able to print what somebody else likes, but they can't know for sure what you like, only you do. What's a good print?
With hard work I mean that when you're in the darkroom, always, and I mean always try to make the best print you know how to. That way you can grow your printing skills, and your ability to judge your print will come from that skill.
With that said, I'm hardly an expert.
Originally Posted by urals
"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
Regarding two-session printing
One thing I forgot to mention in my description of the two-session printing approach is that I frequently make two or three decent proofs, each a different contrast grade. Judging these dry surrounded by good prints quickly lets you know which is best. As for trying to estimate gradations of dark/light on a print in terms of stop differences this won't work because adding a stop with grade 0 will result in a smaller tone difference than adding a stop with grade 4. Happy printing! njb
Within any reasonable negative there are an infinite number of prints. The alteration tools you have are: cropping, exposure, contrast, tone, and paper texture. I suggest that you make a work print on R/C VC gloss paper, that is a whole negative print that shows all the detail available, or as much as possible, it will probably have to be low contrast to achieve that. Pin it up somewhere in good light where you will see it frequently, and think about it for at least a week. Then consider which of the above tools you are going to employ to lift it from a snap to a work of art.
I love the 'two-day' approach! Also, look at the original work of others whose work you admire - I mean REALLY look. You will often find that what you think you see in it is an impression. As I write this, I'm looking at a wonderful Ansel Adams photograph that I bought some years back. Even today it brings tears to my eyes. (Though not as many as it brought to the wife's eyes when I bought it!!!!) It's of the Merced River with HalfDome in the background. I just noticed that the sunlit snow on the mountain is pure white - no details whatsoever. That's what I mean by REALLY look. I just know that if I'd printed this neg. my important highlight would have been the sunlit snow - and MY print would have been muddy by comparison. You're not looking to copy someone else's work - but you are looking to learn from those you admire. After all, none of us would be doing this if the work of others who preceded us had not inspired us.