I have been watching this thread for awhile and since my sole income for the last 20 years and currently is making fibre prints for others, and before that working in labs I will add my thoughts to Matts post.
Printing for others can make you better or it can make you worse
Absolute first rule to be a competent printer for others- You must love photography.
1. You also should understand the history of photography, and the different styles
2. You must have a basic grasp on sensitommetry, chemistry , and also have mentors like Ian G , Ralph L who will guide you through the complexities of your weaknesses.
3. Very important is to have a excellent understanding of lighting ratios and understand how the film exposure development mix is done.
4. In my personal lab , we do not *** some exceptions*** print negatives that other labs have processed.
Absolute second rule to be a competent printer for others- put your tastes to the side and find out how your client wants the print to look like.(this is easy if you apply 1. which is looking at historical prints.
Be a CHAMELION and bend to the wishes of the client, its their work and trying to impose your wishes on them is pointless.
Fire your client if you do not get along or cannot come to a print that you both can live with. Life is too short.
5. In my case work every day at imaging, it is the practice you need to be sharp. If you want to print for others this is important if your family wants to eat.
6. Read as many work books on phototography, printing... people make fun of Fred Picker but he had a lot of gems in his notes.
7. When you print a show for another, make sure you attend the opening.. If you have done a crap job you deserve to be there and take the heat. reverse is true, when you do a good job you deserve credit as well as the photographer.
8. Always start a job with a easy image, make sure both you and the photographer like the style, contrast, density, dodge & burn plan, and tone. Then follow with like images and do not jump around. Photographers usually are more concerned with the image and will jump from lighting ratio, to lighting ratio, I try to force them to do like minded negatives in groups, makes the day go better.
Remember it is your darkroom and they are coming to you , so make sure you stand up for your beliefs .
9. You must be consistent with your work and methods and make sure you deliver the goods.
If you follow most of the above , then yes you will obviously get better as each style has its different idiosyncrasies but there is a basic common process that you can use as a base to work from.
Communication only works if you are actually communicating with the other person. see comment about abandoning client.
I do not like to print for clients who do not pick up their work in person, just did a job for a photographer in Ottawa, made the prints sent them off , no reply, It cannot get any worse, I do not know if he liked them or not.
Seeing the face as you show the prints is very important, best to get the photographer seeing a test print very early , rather than printing a show as you may be way off base.
Absolute third rule to be a competent printer for others- work on a body of your own negatives, so that you can make prints the absolute way you want.
I have known many professional printers who cannot make a consistantley decent print and there are many , many on this site much better than some of the pros.
Also on a financial note, I have a standard day rate and I make the photographer pay for paper and chemicals on top of this rate. Therefore there is no issue of getting to the right print , we make good use of the round filing system here and it can mean a lot of paper.
Last note , I generally consider current day photographers as Kevin Costiner(Bull Durham} thought of his pitcher when he addressed him.
Originally Posted by MattKing
Bob... will you please expand on this point. Why not? Doesn't that artificially limit your business? What is the business or technical rationale -- isn't a printable neg a printable neg no matter who developed it? I'm interested in hearing more because I've never personally run into any lab with this limitation.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Oh, BTW, this applies to many other areas of life not just photography. It is so true that I think it should be added to the Bill of Rights and maybe even the Ten Commandments! It seems like no matter how hard we try to please customers it is sometimes impossible and the effort far outweighs the benefits (for either party).
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
We have always artificially limit our business with some of our workflow methods.
We run one shot chemicals in a Jobo for over 15 years, our film is very clean and predictable . In our city there are/where many labs who ran shoddy processes, major culprits roller transport and dip and dunk with lousy replenish lines. This meant scratched film which under glass mount and condenser enlarger major retouch issues, as well a poorly replenished line will give very weak shadow detail which translates IMO to poor prints.
I just got tired of explaining that the film was the culprit.
We pride ourselves in working with long term clients who only have had us as their partner in processing and printing. This equates to a very lovely working relationship.
I have never actively went after any photographer to do their work, and have refused to work with many on different principles.
We never went the Star f...kj route with our business, trying to use a big name as a reason for others to come to us, most of my clients have gravitated to us by word of mouth and over the years and some have started to make names for themselves.
I am not saying individual photographers who process their own fill do a poor job, actually the best film is done by hand, but in my line of work we do get a lot of film from D&D and Roller Transport film from labs , and I just don't like working with it.
In my post an important issue was our dislike of working on prints and not seeing the artists face .. this is very important.
Labs historically in the 90's that were running roller transport were proofing out on Fuji or Noritsu machines. Digital Ice was applied which hid most of the flaws at up to 8x10 size, when I got the film and made enlarged prints I can remember some pretty good arguments that did not go well for the photographer or us and usually ended any sort of relationship.
Originally Posted by BrianShaw
I didn't miss these points... the relationship is key! Unfortunately for many of us the face-to-face is limited by many factors, and I agree that that limits both the relationship and the quality. My best working relationship was in that face-to-face environment. Many emotions, feelings, and critiques are hard to verbalize, but they get expressed sufficiently in facial expressions, uttered groans/grunts, and body language.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
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Exactly as long as they are not farts.
Originally Posted by BrianShaw
I have to admit, Bob, I admire the fact you can find some personal satisfaction in printing for others, rather than it being a total drag strictly to put food on the table. I would never want to print other peoples' pictures, even periodically. It would just be drudgery to me.
thank you Michael
My favourite project of my entire career to date is ** House Calls with my Camera ** by Dr Mark Nowaczynski . I have processed , contacted , proofed printed , and printed every image for this show. My uncle Joe was in this project and award winning NFB documentary and even today Mark is continuing on with this project. Now he is showing the solution to taking care of elders who want to stay at home with dignity, I actually feel this project is part of me and am very proud to be associated with Mark.
For those not aware of this project , this is a stunning body of work(if I may say so myself) by a incredible photographer who deserves the Order Of Canada.(I will be there shining his shoes just before he walks into the Hall)
HPF in Pyro or Microphen , printed only on Ilford Warmtone is his weapons of choice and with this he is making social change with his photographic story and lectures and social media attention.
When you spend a lot of time nurturing, debating , pontificying with photographers and you believe in each other , you can get great pleasure from working on others photo projects.
Watch for the future , a few of my long term clients are about to go big time, and I can proudly stand by them when their work is exhibited, nothing like working on well thought out and executed photo projects.
For me I can only hope to leave behind a few bodies of work that future photographers can look at and know not only who the photographer was but as well who printed the work.
I took this long term approach at the beginning of my personal small business and am happy that I did.
The printing of fibre prints is a very small part of my business and is the most enjoyable aspect of running our small business here in Canada. We prefer to work on large projects over longer periods of time , rather than individual print orders.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
Interesting perspective. I remember reading about the House Calls project. I can't remember where I saw some of those images, magazines maybe? (unfortunately I never saw the real prints though).
Thanks for the insight.
Bob your costumer relationship sounds like a good approach. As I've never heard of Dr Mark Nowaczynski or his project before I googled him and quiet liked what I saw both aesthetically and the projects goals. I am wondering do you often discuss projects with photographers prior to the projects beginning or only during the project or after it has been completed? Forgive my stupidity but was is HPF?