I respectfully disagree. I suspect you are used to shooting under somewhat more controlled conditions than some, both circumstantially and with respect to time. Making a 'fine negative' is very often not remotely as achievable as you suggest for documentary/reportage photographers. Certainly when you return home with 90 rolls of film, some shot with considerable speed, in wildly varying lighting, what you suggest becomes a little tricky. Remembering precisely what is on each roll is tricky enough and the time to take a variety of reading and record that info is rare. Besides, sacrificing most of the negs for one suggests you know the relative value of every frame on a roll and that's pure fantasy unless you are used to shooting under very controlled circumstances and, even then, I would not consider such presumption wise. It suggests you know everything in advance of seeing the results and, while that might be largely true for LF photographers, or those shooting controlled work off a tripod, it is not the case for street/documentary/reportage when 'by the seat of your pants' sometimes best describes the experience.
I came from LF to smaller formats and wanted to think as you do, but had to decide whether I was interested primarily in 'great photographs' or 'technically great prints'. Whilst occasionally you know you nailed a great frame or two amidst a roll of much weaker images and will nudge development in their favour, it can be extremely foolhardy to mentally edit your images ahead of seeing them in the flesh. I should add that the negatives of many great street/docu/reportage photographers suggest they made the same compromise: pictorial considerations before technical perfection. That means editing after you have developed them and making decisions from there.
If a person follows your advice, they are putting technical considerations and blind assumptions ahead of pictorial factors and I would not recommend that. It also leaves no room for experimentation and pushing the envelope. After all, if you know exactly what all your frames look like, you are surely playing it safe. Your last line is interesting. It suggests you have not had to overcome any deficiencies in your negatives i.e. they are all perfect. Even AA admitted to having to work hard with imperfect negs (and presumably learnt to be a better printer from the experience).
Originally Posted by markbarendt
Last edited by Tom Stanworth; 03-29-2012 at 09:20 AM. Click to view previous post history.