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  1. #1

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    Flat Bed Scanner or Enlarger First?

    Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I am a long time digital (I know, bad word around these parts ) photographer, but I have been wanting to move to film for a while now.

    I recently picked up an RB67 medium format camera and am in the process of setting up a small darkroom.

    My question pertains to this, to share my photos online and to make them available for prints, I'm going to need to either scan my negative with a dedicated scanner, or enlarge the negatives photographically and scan them with a regular scanner.

    I am at a crossroads as I have yet to even personally develop my first roll of film (just got the supplies in today) and learning to use the enlarger to photographically "print" photos seems like it might be a steep learning curve.

    I am wondering if it would be better to buy a negative scanner first, so I can use my photos right away, or buy an enlarger first and learn the process.

    One other question I have is, which would give a better "digital" quality, a scanned negative, or a scanned enlargement? The only reason I ask this is for selling my prints online via my website.

    I'm sorry for the long winded, and probably hard to understand post. I am just excited to finally get into film photography.

  2. #2

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    I think we are missing a vital part to help you further.
    When you plan on selling your photos, will you be selling a digital (inkjet) print, or a silver gelatin (darkroom/enlargement) print. If you are doing the latter picking up a flat bed scanner at your local thrift store might just be enough for these enlargements. Scanning negatives on the other hand is somewhat different.

    Keep in mind that adjustments made to the negative after scanning are harder to accomplish in the darkroom, then just scanning the darkroom enlargement which IS the final print.

    so i think you must first answer the 1st question in order to further help you.

  3. #3

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    Yeah, I should have stated that. My online prints are printed at Bay photo, which, depending on the customers order would either be printed on inkjet or metal printed.

    The prints I'd sell locally (the black and white ones anyway) I'd like to have photographically enlarged instead of printed.

    Kind of seems like I may need both.

    I found a great deal on an Omega D-5 XL with a Super Chromega D Dichoric II head locally, but if I bought it, I wouldn't be able to afford a negative scanner for a while.

  4. #4

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    Okay, got it. Well, what i would do, i see what clientele i sell to more and focus on that group. So if online is your thing, i would indeed splurge on a negative specific scanner, given that flatbeds don't have the greatest reputation for scanning negatives (although some would disagree). The reason i say this is because bay photos metal prints are awesome, and look better the larger they are.

    Now, I'm not a business person, but the metal prints aren't cheap, and unless your selling several a month, i think you would offer the customer more bang for their buck by making fiber prints (at least from a collectors standpoint). this would also put more change in your pocket. Now, some don't enjoy the darkroom as much as others and if you don't, i wouldn't bother investing heavily in darkroom equipment. If your doing good selling digital color prints, and you'd like to add your b/w work (coming from negatives), i would stick with scanning.

    to answer the second question, you could potentially get more information from scanning enlargements, but what you want to get is grain detail when you scan b/w, which is what makes b/w so great, so your best bet, is to scan negatives, not prints.

    Now if you want to wet your feet with b/w darkroom printing, i say go for it and i definitely don't discourage it, but only you know what is financially sound for you to do at the moment. One thing you can do is get a cheaper enlarge or look on craigslist. which is where they are sometimes (more often now than before) being given away for FREE. The enlarger itself, might ease things, but what you really want is a good enlarging lens. 90mm or 105mm enlarging lens is what you need for 6x7. i personally use a 23c that got for 100 bucks, and it came with everything else needed in the darkroom.

    how large do you plan on printing in the darkroom?

  5. #5
    Rick A's Avatar
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    As far as I'm concerned, you only neeed the enlarger. Once you start printing in the dark room, you will see the difference and never want an inkjet print again.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum

  6. #6

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    to get them up in the gallery on this site to share them you need ... ..
    to first, be a subscriber, unless you post them in threads, and not in the "gallery"

    you can go either way, traditional darkroom printing is a lot of fun. the only thing that comes
    close to a print magically appearing in the developer is when a wet plate is fixed,
    and magically goes from a negative to positive ...

    the hybrid route is great, for somethings, ... i have found it easier to electrify negatives than to
    electrify prints ...

    as for prints to sell ... a lot of the general public is ignorant about the subtle differences between ink ( or light jet ) and silver.
    there are ways to enlarge and print b/w on metal as well as glass and paper or anything else, it just takes effort and experience.

    in the end it is personal preference.

    good luck !
    john
    silver magnets, trickle tanks sold
    artwork often times sold for charity
    PM me for details

  7. #7

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    I use an inexpensive scanner only for the tiny amount of online posting that I do, and for proofing 35mm negs, which are also tiny. With 120 film you can see clearly what's going on in the negative. For B&W, which is all I know, you will want to print w/ the enlarger for sure, as darkroom prints are far more archival if properly printed, and look much better, to me anyway. You could either scan the neg or the print for emailing, etc. Not much difference, since we're talking low rez. I wonder how many people develop and print color in their darkrooms these days? Not something I have any experience with, nor any desire to do.

  8. #8

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    Another Colorado film shooter, howdy!

  9. #9
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    To me it seems you already have an outlet for selling prints, via a web service.

    My suggestion is to use your digital camera and photograph your negatives via something like a slide duplicator. Lots of people do this, and it produces very good results.
    Now, it is very difficult to make a neg scan and a darkroom print to look highly similar, because photo paper has a curved tone curve, and a scanner is a linear device. They see the negative tonality differently.

    So, if you scan negatives you are not likely to get something that represents what your print is going to look like, and vice versa.

    I'd go the route of using your digital camera to photograph your negs, and then get a copy stand (very inexpensive) to photograph your prints with the same digital camera. That way you will enjoy the darkroom printing as well as being able to work with your material in the digital domain.

    Hope that helps.
    "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

  10. #10
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    You might not need a scanner. If you have a DSLR, you can shoot your neg on a light box then reverse the image in photoshop. Save your money for your enlarger. Also, you can also start printing without and enlarger. All you need is a desk lamp a red light source for your safe light, a sheet of glass, print trays and tongs and a dark place with plumbing. Get a head start with printing!
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

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