Originally Posted by RedSun
I'm not putting down exposure meters. It's just that I personally find them superfluous in the darkroom. I can almost always get my exposure very close and within a contrast grade with the first couple of test strips. My initial "straight print" is usually good enough for journalistic purposes. If I were cranking out prints for a newspaper, etc., as in the old days, I might find a meter useful.
What consumes a lot of paper for me, however, is refining the print to arrive at what I consider a "fine print" or "exhibition print" or whatever you want to call it. For me, that is a print that "sings," that is expressive in its tonalities and tonal relationships; that has an expressive visual impact and that communicates something transcendental with the printing technique itself as well as with the subject matter, organization,allusions, references, etc.
I find that I have to work just as hard, and use just as much paper to get a print to do this with or without an exposure meter/analyzer. I've been printing this way for 30 years, i.e., without a meter, and have never thought about acquiring one. (I did use a color analyzer at one point when I was doing cibachromes, but now I just shoot b&w.)
The point I was trying to make was that time spent visually analyzing the print and working out a scheme of changes/manipulations before making the next print can save a lot of paper. Many rush to make that next print and don't take time to fully evaluate the print they have just made nor make more than one change at a time. I make many changes at once; in overall exposure, dodging, burning, a tweak in contrast, etc. I keep a pad of paper next to me and sketch out the entire print making scheme on it. When I'm satisfied that I can't think of anything else to do at this point, I then make my next print.
Furthermore, I really think that using a bit more paper right at the beginning of learning to print helps one gain experience and save more paper later. A consistent approach using percentages of exposure change is quickly absorbed by the brain; soon, one can look at a print and say things like, "I'd like 15% more overall exposure, to dodge that shadow 10% and burn the left-hand cloud down 100% on my next try..." Using a visual approach and test strips (and prints) to gain this experience is, in my view, more valuable and more intuitive/natural/immediate than using an exposure meter. So, I guess, yes, I'm advising beginners to learn printing without any meters.
In reality, though, a test strip is a good "meter" and fairly inexpensive. It is already calibrated to the paper you are printing on, since it is the paper you will be printing on, and it has exactly the same contrast as the paper you will be printing on (for the same reason). A couple of "readings" with this or that "meter" and you're set to start refining your print.