Printmaking - the final stage of the process, and also kind of where it begins.

Take into consideration that every step of the way up until the printing stage, serves the actual print. Exposure, filtration, film, film developer, agitation, dilution, process, camera, composition, lens, lighting, etc, etc, etc... All that is distilled into the negative, transferring to the print.
I find that if I am consistent in how I shoot and how I process the film, the printing becomes much more straight forward. I know that my approach isn't for everyone, but take the following scenario into account:
Currently I'm reprinting a series of pictures that are between four and six years old. I used many different types of negative film and developer combinations, and have tremendous trouble making the whole portfolio look somewhat cohesive. Every print takes several sheets of paper to get right, and the stack of paper in the trash can is much taller than usual.
If I pick up one of my more current negatives, I put it in the enlarger, print with white light and without filtration on variable contrast Ilford MGIV or MGWT paper, and within two sheets I have something that I'm reasonably pleased to use as a base for a final print. The difference is, in one word, consistency.

Taken into account is the increase in experience that I gain over the years, where I question the content and how it's printed, and knowing more is knowing less in a way, because a lot more subtle nuances are noticed, nuances that I will want to correct for when I print. Still I find that I arrive at a good work print faster now than ever.

I don't know what your work flow is, so I'm not even sure this will be of help to you, but it might be something to consider for anyone that is finding difficulty in coming to grips with getting prints they accept and like.


I also agree with Michael's observation above about the work print - it's probably best to let the work print basically be as simple representation of the negative, and not too overly complicated with toning and such.

Finally I'd like to second Bob Carnie's advice above too. He has done a massive amount of printing in his days, and most advice he's given me in the past has been of tremendous value. I guess at the heart of the message is - if the picture itself is strong enough in its content and composition, it may not be necessary to chase the 'perfect print'. Although when you view his prints, you'd think he's full of shit, because they look damned near perfect to me...

Good luck! I hope you find a good way to move forward again.