Does printing make anyone else a nervous wreck?
My printing session this morning was spent re-printing a negative for third time, hoping to nail down a final print for good this time. The results were great, but during the process I realized how much of a nervous wreck I am when printing. "Is there any dust on the negative?" I have to make sure I get all the dust off the negative. Sometimes that's a huge pain. Then it's "ok lets get the image as sharply focussed as possible." Then "now did I stop the lens down?" Then it's "did I do all dodges and burns? And for the right amount of time?" Then it's "ok let's be careful handling this 11x14 paper in the trays, not to ding or dent it. Then's its assessment time. "Maybe I should do another print just a bit lighter or darker since the negative is already in the carrier and dustless."
Printing is such a mentally stimulating process. It involves so much thought and patience. There's so many factors involved that it's really rather easy to mess something up along the way, adding to the stress. I know printing should be fun, but sometimes I really feel pressure. Once I see the final print and it is exactly what I wanted, then I'm happy and can sit back and enjoy it. I was just wondering if anyone else feels the nerves or stress when printing, especially a final print.
If you treat every test and every print as a final, and have a consistent method of approaching a print , time will make it less stressful.
When I print, even with multiple steps I do every thing the same, and put every filter tool, and time back to original setup.
I also dodge and burn every test so things become consistent.
Also I put on music I like to make the time spent in the darkroom fun and also I use the beat to help me work consistently.
Originally Posted by brian steinberger
Being in the darkroom is one of the few places i find myself really relaxed. Its not that I don't deal with the same issues you are mentioning, but over the years that "agony" turns into workflow/habit/instinct so I guess I just think about it less now and accept it as part of the process.
Also accidents still happen and not all of them are bad.
I am a nervous wreck anyway. Just take your time and enjoy it!
I thought I was the only one, Brian. I find I am very tense during the entire session if the image requires alot of work, which almost all mine all do. For one thing, I've never quite been able to get it through my head that the worst that can happen is I toss the sheet of paper and start again. For me every time I put a sheet into the easel it feels like this is my one chance or something. Not to mention most of my prints are very difficult (under the enlarger) to make. But even after the enlarging stage I'm nervous all the way through until the white lights and I tend to get very frustrated when things don't go right, especially if I'm re-printing a negative and trying to match previous prints that were "just right". even with detailed instructions it can be very challenging.
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I find printing therapeutic, also gives me naturals highs, so the opposite of stressful
In fact I've been rally missing being in a darkroom, I don't have one here in Turkey & know that it'll be a fun relaxing time when I get back to the UK and into my darkroom during next week.
A bit like Bob I don't do test strips, other than a simple ball park exposure test, and I look at the negative first visually or in the enlarger and dodge and burn from the outset. I learnt to do this printing other peoples negatives where it was necessary to be very close every print, talking D&P not final exhibition prints but the principles the same. The only difference was for a larger exhibition print that was step 1 the good base print to assess and work from.
No, my printing just makes me depressed.
Peter Marshall: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?
Paul Lynde: Make him bark.
This is me EXACTLY. I couldn't agree more. I guess I see all the paper I go through and I just start to see the $$$ rack up. It would be nice to get a final print every time out of just a few sheets of paper, but that rarely happens. I try to think that even if it takes you 12 sheets of paper to get the print you are truly happy with, at $2 a sheet, that's only $24 to get a final print, not bad. I also find it hard to re-print prints to match ones you've previously printed that were perfect. That's why sometimes when I think I have a final print, I'll print 2 or 3 more while the neg is in the carrier and everything is set up. This is a gamble though, cause if the prints are no good you wasted a few extra sheets. It seems that it's the times I don't make the extra prints that I get the final print, then only have one. Go figure.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
I sometimes feel stress when printing. Most of the time the source is internal--i.e.--I have a good idea of how I would like the print to turn out, can I get it there? Occasionally, the cause is external--i.e.--"I have to deliver finished prints to the client on Friday and if I don't get them printed tonight, I'll have to stay up late Thursday night to matt them."
I do not, however, stress over the type of things you mentioned in the first post. After a while, clearing dust off the negative, stopping down the correct amount, processing without damaging the print, following a dodge and burn plan to make sure I hit every step, etc., those thing become part of the routine, they become automatic. I suppose it's a bit like driving a car. I remember hitting LA at 4:45 in the afternoon on I-10. I was 16 years old and a nervous wreck by the time I got to Santa Monica. Now, I can drive in any major city without stressing out--except London. Keep in mind, if you screw up, you can always make another print. It's not like an auto accident where your life is on the line.
Several years ago I taught my daughter to make prints in the darkroom. I started out by telling her not to worry about making mistakes. I had made every mistake possible at one time or another. She then proceeded to make one that I had never done--she put the cardboard piece that protects the photo paper in the box under the enlarger instead of paper. She couldn't figure out why it didn't develop. We had a good laugh about it and I told her some of the things that I had done, which made her feel better. The mistakes are really learning experiences. Learn from them, adjust your working method to eliminate them until your method becomes automatic.
Also, sometimes mistakes turn out great. Trying to replicate a mistake can be challenging, however.
Brian, it sounds like you and Michael are still relatively inexperienced in the darkroom and finding it hard to relax. There's not really any way of learning to print other than putting in the hours - it's a craft skill as well as an intellectual exercise, there aren't really any shortcuts.
Having said that, why not write a checklist of actions and pin it up behind the enlarger, it may help keep your printing process in order. Writing it will also help you consolidate those skills in your head.
The next thing to consider is that complicated printing often reflects poor negatives. Beginners are often so blown over by what they can achieve in the darkroom, they put too much effort into printing inferior negatives when the effort really needs to go into the shooting and processing stage. Have a good hard look at your negs and consider what you could do to improve on them, it may make life in the darkroom less stressful.