I'm doing a few odd jobs in my darkroom and wondering what would be the recommended illumination for inspecting dry prints?
I use a DW Viewtower with colour-controlled tubes for reflected and transmitted light. In the USA I'd go for GTI. These things are expensive but unparalleled for consistent daylight-quality illumination.
I use an A4 daylight balanced light box to directed on to the print to provide a high level of illumination. The normal advice is to view the print under similar lighting to that it will finally be subject to. Unfortunately we rarely know this in advance.
If I’m printing for club competitions then I will produce a darker print since I know it will be exhibited under quite intense lighting.
I do colour work, and so I use a photflood, which gives 3400K. It is a mix between the temperature of daylight (500K +) and household incandescant which I recall is lower than 2500K. It only lasts about 6 hours, but that translates into about a year in terms of the amount of time that I actually have it on in my facility. It emulates the bright light conditions that a room illuminated by daylight gives when I place my prints in rooms with with windows.
The photo flood also cooks out a lot of heat, which when doing gray card colour test strips can be a benefit. Colour RA-4 prints are overly blue in cast until dry, so after squeegeing them dry I hold them at an angle a few inches from the light. They dry there within a short number of seconds, and I am then able to stick them into my colorstaranalyser to re-calibrate it for the new grey for that session's combination of bulb, paper, chemistry and temperature to bring my process under control.
For general white light darkroom illumination I use a couple of improved colour rendering incandescant lights. Stay away from fluorescent lamps; they continue to glow after you turn them off, and are dicontinuous in thier spectral output. If there a re optical brighteners in your paper that do not respond at the wavelengths that your fluorescents are emitting, then you could have quite a different look to the print when it is exposed to a continuous spectrum light source.
I use a 120w grow light to inspect them. This is also the light that I expose with. It's hanging over my dry side table, so it is convenient and that's why I use it. I think consistency is the most important thing here.
Aim for as neutral a color balance as possible for viewing your prints, especially if printing color. When I was learning to print color, we had a viewing box in the darkroom that was a mix of "daylight" balanced fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs. The incandescents balance out the gaps in the fluorescent tubes' output, since the fluorescents are strongest in greens and blues, but the incandescents are strongest in the yellow and red portions of the spectrum.
When viewing a wet print there is more luminosity to the print than is evident when dry. Therefore, I use an incandescent bulb producing about 1/2 stop less light on the viewing board than the light on my "Hanging" walls.
I find that one of the reasons that student prints are frequently too dark, particualrly the ones they print at home, is that the wet print is viewed under too much illumination and then when the dry print is viewed under normal circumstances it appears too dark. Of course dry-downis also a factor, but I don't believe it is as much the cause of dark prints as too bright viewing in the darkroom.
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