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  1. #1

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    How long would it take you to make a portfolio quality 8x10?

    On RC paper, from 120 film, no toning, easel already setup, corners burned in, exclude washing time.

    I've been shooting portraits of families and kids, and people love the prints I've given them. I'm trying to make a business out of it, but I'm relatively new to darkroom work and it takes me about an hour to get a starting point print. I use a zone VI cold light head, I print splitgrade, I lack a meter and have no paper processor.

    I'm asking this question because I'm trying to determine my print prices. But to charge based on my time, at my speed, I'd have to charge more than I think people would pay.

    With the proper tools and equipment, how long should it take to make a family portrait quality 8x10?

  2. #2
    photoncatcher's Avatar
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    It depends a lot on whether all the negs I'm printing are close to all the same (or close) approximate density. Last weekend I did about 15-20 8x10s in right about an hour, and a half. Including my set up time. However, all the negatives were shot on the same 2 day period, and all were done with the same lighting in my studio/kitchen. I use Ilford VC paper, but I've always eyeballed the enlarging exposure so I don't have any kind of meter either. There have been days when it took me an hour to get what I wanted from one neg. When I shoot portraits, or something else for a client, I charge hourly for the shoot, plus milege (if it's more than ten), and have a set price for any enlargements. All of this is discussed, and agreed to before I load my rig. I also make sure that the negatives stay in my possesion, and offer reprints if needed. Oh, and don't under sell your self. If you don't think your work is worth a good price, niether will the client.

  3. #3

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    Well if you look at the pro labs, they want $10 to 15 for a single 8x10 black and white optical print, optical colour is more.

  4. #4
    Nicholas Lindan's Avatar
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    Portfolio quality and RC paper? It's a trick question, right? Like "How do you make a pig fly?"

    Commercial portrait quality ... well I'd still suggest ditching the RC paper. It does not last, it is only a matter of time till it starts to bronze, get orange peel and generally fall apart. If you are selling portraits they should last a few hundred years. Plan on selenium toning - inform the client of the benefits and charge extra for the 'archival' work, heck consider offering gold toning - the money is in the options.

    If you think 100+ years is excessive -- well, it wasn't any big deal for photos made in the 1800's, don't know why it should be a big deal nowadays. http://www.google.com/images?q=paul+nadar

    If you are shooting portraits in a controlled setting then you have complete control over lighting and lighting contrast. Your negatives should be very consistent from one sitter to the next. Once you have the correct paper, contrast and exposure settled on then all prints should have the same exposure. With manual tray processing you should be able to turn out one to three-of-a-kind prints every 5 minutes or so. There is set up and tear down time involved and the tail end of the processing will stretch out for a few hours no matter how many prints you make at a time.

    Ditch split grade - it is a waste of time if you already know the contrast grade you need. And you shouldn't need a meter either.

    If, however, you are taking environmental portraits then the matter becomes a bit more complicated. Carry some supplementary lighting, lots of stands and clips and reflectors so you can get the lighting contrast under control. A good incident meter is a must.

    The more effort you spend on the lighting the less mucking about in the darkroom.
    Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 12-17-2010 at 11:03 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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  5. #5
    MattKing's Avatar
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    You might consider adding a grey card and some form of step wedge to your shooting regime.

    For each portrait setup, just include the grey card and step wedge in a test shot.

    Then you can use the test to more quickly zero in on a "straight" print.

    If you have and use a meter like an Ilford EM-10 to read the grey card, it might be even faster.

    EDIT: I think Nicholas and I disagree about the relative quality of modern RC paper, especially when properly toned.
    Matt

    “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!”

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  6. #6
    winger's Avatar
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    The more I've printed, the faster I can get to a good print. And I mostly agree with Nicholas, but also a bit with Matt. If I were doing this, I'd use fiber and tone it. Yes, it takes longer and costs more. But it isn't (shouldn't be) competing with Walmart and Target photos.

  7. #7
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    I printed for a high end studio. We printed 8x10 and smaller on RC toned in selenium, all larger prints were fiber and also toned. 8x10 and smaller were $89 6 years ago, so may be more now. Larger (11x14-20x24) fiber prints were $500 and up. I made 40-60 prints per day.
    www.gregorytdavis.com

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  8. #8
    Nicholas Lindan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattKing View Post
    I think Nicholas and I disagree about the relative quality of modern RC paper, especially when properly toned.
    Lets revisit the question in 50 years. I've been hearing the same lament since the 60's: Oh, yes, that old stuff, that had problems. But the new stuff -- it's great. I'm sure they'll get it right someday, may have already done so, but nobody is going to know for a good century or so.

    I have just looked at some prints made on Se toned MGIV RC postcards - and there is the first hint of bronzing. Prints are around 7 years old. Stored loose in an office environment. Possibly I processed them badly, possibly not.

    But why bother taking the chance. There is absolutely no need to shovel off inferior goods to a paying client when FB paper is known to last. To save 10 minutes futzing with drying and flattening ...
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  9. #9

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    it usually takes me about 1hour / print .. sometimes more,
    sometimes less ...

    rc prints have the ability to last longer than fiber prints
    if processed correctly. i never wanted to believe this
    but if you call kodak, they have done studies with
    various organizations like the image permanency institute
    which have concluded this ...

  10. #10
    Curt's Avatar
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    On RC? About 3 minutes + 20 seconds + 2 minutes + 10 seconds + 2 minutes + 20 minutes + cut, trim + frame + pack = 30 minutes; charging $140.00 an hour that would be approximately $70.00 + shoot time $100.00 per hour; each shoot one hour minimum so the one RC print and a minimal shoot time would be $170.00 plus tax but your accountant will figure out the tax situation.

    So basically your family and friends can't afford you right now, but if they save up maybe they can get one of your group rates. You do have a group rate don't you?

    Hint, ditch the RC paper and go with a fiber paper; have a selection for the client to select from. Don't forget the mats and frames, they will need a selection to pick from too.

    Good luck,
    Curt
    Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand

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