Tips from the Darkroom
I am teaching a course this weekend and since I prepared them for the students, I thought I would share them with 48,000 other darkroom workers on this site.
Now remember these are from practical printing sessions and my opinion only !
Lots of info here so sorry if it is too much.
Aids to Printing
Printing should be fun
I always move forward and do not keep tests
I use an outflanking method
I use big test prints to full sheets
I am very concerned about the negative position above the lens.
I use my hands and simple tools
I center my body and have room to move around the easel
I do not use a foot switch as it is hard to find
I study the negative before printing
I study the easel before printing
I practice dodge and burn before
I use ducks ass and ducks bill a lot.
I burn with my hands thinking about water being in them
My burn tools all have white paper so I can see the image while I burn
I like to start 2 stops from wide open
I always use glass carriers
I always use APO lenses
I do not believe there is dof as some believe by stopping down
I focus on the grain and trust that
I always count down in my head and even on test study how the image looks
I talk with a client to find out what is important in the image..
I do not like printing foreign film but only one shot film I do.
As Fred Picker noted I do agitate the paper in the developer and make sure that I use lots.
I study the emergence of a print in the developer and will not pull the print early or extend in the testing stage
I study the print in the fix as with some papers I notice a contrast explosion.
I look at a print no more than 1 minute and move to next exposure.
I like processing prints two at a time as it makes it almost impossible to touch the image.*most beginners will push the paper into the dev from the back this will cause dimples*
I do not believe there is a perfect print and I will accept defects.
I make three versions of every negative , though the client only orders one, I wait till the next day and make my decision.
Dry down is pretty predictable and if you like a print wet then always make one print 10% lighter
I like to use a split filter technique for most of my work which is based on a middle filter , blast of 5 filter and burn with 00filter.
I do not like the 0 and 5 method only
I do like fixed grade prints
I like to give a final edge burn to all my prints
I use dectol 1-1.5 for all straight prints
I use maco lith 1 8 for lith prints
when lith printing more exposure decreases contrast, less exposure increases contrast
lith printing is all about pulling the print when the blacks look good,,, a use of a flash is your best friend to control highlights and put in a nice creamy tones.
Most papers will lith and its up to you to decide which one is best for you.
I like to tone the same day as I print , but sometimes this is not practical space wise if you are into a show printing workflow
MY favorite papers for straight printing are
Ilford Digital fibre
Kentmere fine grain matt.
My favorite papers for lith printing are
Kentmere fine grain matt
regular breaks with beverage, lunch, fresh air
visitors are permitted but not entertained
I wear a jumpsuit with can opener , knife, cell phone for specific people, and I put my wedding ring in my front pant pockets*fingers shrink in 68degree
I will work with two negs at a time and will not change negs until the first set are completely done
I try to work with series of negatives so that all the % 's are the same, as well dodge burn, applications--
make sure you allocate time to not only print but as well finish off your work properly, with hypo clear, toning and washing
A loving spouse that will put up with your madness
I prefer to stand at all times when printing , for balance as well I rarely change my chemicals ,, dectol , stop, fix , fix, wash, hypo clear, tone, wash dry face down on screens.
PRINTING FOR OTHERS
It is very valuable for them to spend a couple of hours with you setting up, cleaning up and printing
try to be like a chamelion and able to work towards the clients wishes rather than imposing your vision on the print
gently nudge them to a better vision when things are working well.
If the two of you cannot come to aggrement or the client cannot make up their mind and are slowing down the session.. stop, you need to evaluate whether the two of you can work things out.
I print by direction on an hourly basis, paper, food and beverage supplied by client.
by print only fee.
We perfer printing by direction as you get to know the photographer better and they get to see the process and are very keen afterwards to continue in this mode.
If they decide to can a print without getting a finished print I am not upset as we are on a clock rather than a per print basis
I will not discount large orders of single images, in fact if I am given a large number of negatives I will charge more as I will use this money to buy extra chems and paper so that I feel comfortable with my waste factor.
Group Shows never get discounted and in fact I try to increase my fee's as well put in a retoucher fee (outside expert bleach retoucher) as I cannot predict the state of film I have not processed myself.
2009 - beyond I am getting more specific who I print for as well why I am printing their work. We are not interested in one and two rolls for processing, we are very concerned that our clients are using fresh film and we process, We will refuse any
film that has been processed in a quick and fast mini lab operation that caters to the fashion and student crowd, ( we have found our condensor , lens combination too sharp and shows defects that are hidden with scans*Ice Program,dust and scratches* that all these wannabe printers are doing.
I hope to bring home to all of you today, my feelings that there is absolutely no perfect print, and to chase magic bullets looking for such a thing is a waste of time.
To date I have printed to many to count , series of prints for different artists and have come to the conclusion that there is probably over 50 different distinct printing styles in Silver and in Colour , if not more.
Now I am very concerned about what the Artist is trying to convey in their series and will make what I think is an obvious print , and then think about any subtle nuaunces I can add.* Lady with chair on years of wear on chair.*
I am more concerned that the print is processed properly * to archival standards* some assistants have been fired over this issue.
If the print communicates your concept then if others trash it I would not be so worried.
We are laying down tones on a sheet of white paper and where you place those tones and the contrast and density of those tones should lead the viewers eye around the image and tell your story.
Using local contrast will be an advantage to you to direct the eye to various areas.
I have found the better I get at Photo Shop , the better analoque printer I have become. this combination of photoshop skills and split filter will become obvious to you as you practice both.
1. look at negative on light box and quess contrast filter* bias towards soft filter*
2. click down two stops and then estimate time
3. test strip on full sheet and watch what happens
4. narrow down range and do full test strips with filter of choice only.
5. settle on a lower than normal tone for your tastes and as well lighter than normal
6. dependent upon negative make a full print with dodge and burn, as well a % of grade 5.
*if neg is flat you may need more time of 5 , if neg is contrasty you may need less time of 5.... old man in chair was equal ,, old lady in chair 5 was at around 30%
*I am not changing the timer for the 5 but using a counting method to hold back the 5*
*I will dodge and burn in the main exposure , as well in the 5 blast for visual dynamics to lead your eye*
* I always try to print to the 3/4 tone with my main exposure and let the 5 and 00 do the rest
7. If there is a spot that is too bright then I will burn with 00 to bring in detail ( I always use the 5 filter as well to burn in highlights.. ask me why... soft light.(Les Mclean)
8. I have found that I rarely expose the whole scene with 00 as I and a few clients have found that if we do it his way the low, low tones muddy up. .. Warrior image
9. I always do an AA burn on the edges and let you get into the scene with a path if I can, specifically landscapes.. contrast blasts really help here.
10. When processing the paper , really look at the image for problem areas, they are obvious at this stage.. some papers react different in fix watch this change as well
11. When you have a print you are happy with , make two more with variations that change the image , and possibly style.
12. When printing for fun *yourself* always make a few extra prints to have fun with various toners.
Have Fun , Start all over and forget about the perfect print
It is really helpful to follow your thought processes on this.
I predict that this thread will end up being a "Sticky".
“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
Whats a sticky?
Originally Posted by MattKing
Thank you, Bob for writing up this list. If anyone here gets an opportunity to watch Bob at work in the darkroom, take it. He's great to watch, and the prints are amazing. I learned a lot in that one day watching him, and have taken up a lot of his techniques for my own printing.
Done! It will stay at or near the top of the list in the enlarging forum, Bob.
Originally Posted by MattKing
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I'm new to printing... what's "ducks ass" and "ducks bill?"
Its when you use your hands to burn the top and bottom, put your hand in front of you and put your fingers together and form a point at your middle finger. that is the *Ducks bill* and is used for the top of the head burn. Now round out your fingers a bet and you will see a more gentle curve * Ducks Ass* this is to give a more rounded base to a portrait .
Originally Posted by yeknom02
Undoubtedly you are a better printer than I am, but if you are giving notes of this standard to students (whether paying or not) then I suggest you remove the typos, spelling mistakes and correct the grammar. The content can be great but people (potential students or clients) who know nothing of the process will first see the writing as words rather than actions - and that will put them off.
I don't care about typos. The note is perfectly sucinct and to the point. It is obvious that what's in this list is more than enough materials to go thorugh in a week long seminar or in a very thick book, and I don't think Bob ever intended this post to be a complete set of instructions.
I do like to see the forms he shapes with his hands (like ass and bill as said above), like in a form of uploaded digital shots. Would you be entertaining questions? Possibly write an instructional book? I'd really would like to see him work in person!
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
Maybe you should litennnn up pal
Originally Posted by MartinP