Quote Originally Posted by akar
I found Tim Rudman's book, "The Photographer's Master Printing Course" to be helpful.
Amen. Also...

  • Buy a large bin. Put it in your darkroom. Use it.
  • Read Les McLean's articles on split-grade printing. They'll save you so much heartache. (The single most useful technique I ever learnt!)
  • If your budget will stretch, get an RH Designs Stopclock Pro. Last time I looked these were on a 10 day money-back guarantee, however I'll tell you now that you won't want to part with it!
  • If you live in a hard water area, buy a jug filter and use it for all your film processing water. Watch those "dust" specs disappear from your prints.
  • Be meticulous about your chem dilutions, temperatures, etc. Eliminate chance variations wherever possible.
  • Keep records of your print sessions (print size, column position, aperture, exposures, filtrations, burns, etc.) It'll give you a start point for any reprints, and flag up if anything's seriously wrong.
  • Get out and shoot. Practice, practice, practice!
  • Get in the darkroom and print. Likewise!

and finally...

  • Look at other people's work. Learn what a fine B&W print can be. Learn to see what you want to achieve. Then learn to achieve that result.

I've heard it said that photography (in an incredibly simplistic way (and in men at any rate!)) is generally a three stage process:

Stage 1: Shiny kit syndrome - the search for the latest camera with the most bells and whistles, buttons and functions, the sharpest lenses and the largest format.
Stage 2: The search for the perfect technique - The perfect metering methodology, the ultimate development process, the surgically-precise dodge-and-burn, the last work in toning.
Stage 3: The artistic stage - where the photographer attempts to convey an emotional response or message to the viewer.

Personally I'm still cack-handedly embroiled in stage 2. However, I've seen photographers (on this forum) who've mastered stage 3, and I aspire (one day) to join them.