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Thread: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

  1. #1

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    Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Okay, last week I did my first film development, and it went very well. I had done tons of research, and asked lots of questions here. I'm very glad I did, first because it was very helpful once I actually went and did it, but also because I like learning form folks here: you are welcoming, smart, and very knowledgeable. On the other hand, I see now what people meant by, 'just get in their and do something already!' I fretted over something that turned out to be not that terribly difficult. There are lots of perfectly valid ways to go about it, and film is forgiving in many ways. And even if I hadn't been successful, that would be an important lesson, too.

    So, thanks!

    Now, though I'm some time out from getting around to it, I'd like to try contact printing. I have some decent 5x7 negatives*, and the happy knowledge that I can get many more fairly simply. I plan to make any enlargements by electronic means through scanning, but the idea of making a photograph through manual means is very appealing. The thing is, like developing film was a few months ago, printing for me is a completely foreign idea. I got a bunch of books on film development based on recommendations here, and several have sections on printing, but they are pretty ambiguous. I wrote a book for beginning astronomers because the ones I found out in the world already were, it seemed to me, written by people who were so knowledgeable about the topic that they became unable to approach the field form a true beginner's perspective. That's how the books I've seen on printing photos have seemed to me. The authors assume knowledge in their readers that they should not, or they gloss over steps in the process, or use terms without clearly explaining them. Or, with a couple, if I recall correctly, they were so old that I worry the papers and/or chemicals they discuss are no longer available, or maybe desirable.

    Man, I sure do go on; sorry! So, my question is, can someone point me to a source for learning how to print photos, a source that assumes no (or very little) knowledge? I prefer actual books, made of paper that I can hold in my hands, but videos and other internet sources might be helpful.



    *I also stayed up very late last night, reading as much as I could in one sitting of the extremely long thread on x-ray film. It's so cheap that it sort of begs me to buy a larger format camera. At least two of the lenses I already own will cover 8x10, but I jumped from medium format to 5x7; 8x10 seems kind of small now that I know how little I need to spend on 11x17 film.... I've built telescopes; maybe it's time for a camera.

  2. #2

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Sounds like you need to go to your local library. Processing film and paper hasn't really changed in 150 years -- not that you will run into a book that old. The basics will be basically the same in any basic book. Use the K.I.S.S. principle.

  3. #3

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    http://michaelandpaula.com/mp/onprinting.html
    The information above from Michael A. Smith might be worth your time.
    Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee produce excellent work and contact printing is their way of doing so. They are high end with very basic work procedures that produce images the way they want them to work. They have refined the workflow so all their energy goes into creativity rather than into constantly changing materials and trying to get them to work.

    Basic books such as Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual
    Book by Henry Horenstein will be worth getting.

    Little has changed in making contact prints over the years.

    On paper, might as well get a good paper and use top quality film from the start. Pick one film and use it for at least a year. Ilford FP4+ is a good one. Not the only film, but a good film for many uses.

    Any photo paper will work but contact printing papers work just a bit better. Slower and a tonal range that will get more from your negatives than general enlarging papers.

    After you make the first few prints you will see it is not difficult.
    I tend to procrastinate on stuff. One of these days I'll do something about it.

  4. #4

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    I can second the recommendation for the Horenstein book, available for a few dollars online.

    Also consider the book Way Beyond Monochrome by Ralph Lambrecht

    Contact printing isn't rocket science. It helps if you already have an enlarger that can be used as a light source and a way to mount variable contrast filters. Then you need a glass plate and a clock. Dodging and burning is more tricky with contact printing than with enlarging because the image is invisible so you can't see where your hands are casting a shadow on the image.

  5. #5

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Thanks for the tips! I just ordered a used copy of the Horenstein book, and will try to get the second edition of Way Beyond Monochrome from the library (the price for even a used copy of this huge book is more than I can afford without actually seeing the book). I live in a tiny town (hours from any fair-sized cities) where my wife is actually a librarian at our little public library. I'd love to browse photography books there, but it has very few.

    I miss browsing in a large library or book store. You can find so much that you cannot find by knowing what you're looking for. That's why I'm here asking for help. I don't know what I'm looking for, and would like some help.

    Contact printing paper vs enlarging paper, dodging and burning invisible images, variable contrast filters; these are all things I know practically nothing about. But that's just fine, and a big part of the fun of all this is learning.

  6. #6

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Way Beyond Monochrome is quite a book and I recommend it highly. However, it offers very little on contact printing.

  7. #7
    Youngin Daniel Stone's Avatar
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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    What Willie recommended. Read all the info you can on Michael and Paula's website

  8. #8

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kinzer View Post
    I live in a tiny town (hours from any fair-sized cities) where my wife is actually a librarian at our little public library. I'd love to browse photography books there, but it has very few.
    Your wife can tell you all about Inter-Library Loan. I've gotten books and movies from thousand of miles away (I'm talking Europe) for free, when the Denver Public Library system (one of the largest in the world) doesn't have what I want! She can probably access search engines such as PROSPECTOR and WORLD CAT -- assuming that your library has signed up for them -- and find ANYTHING!. Then, if you REALLY like a book, you can buy a copy.

  9. #9

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
    Your wife can tell you all about Inter-Library Loan. I've gotten books and movies from thousand of miles away (I'm talking Europe) for free, when the Denver Public Library system (one of the largest in the world) doesn't have what I want! She can probably access search engines such as PROSPECTOR and WORLD CAT -- assuming that your library has signed up for them -- and find ANYTHING!. Then, if you REALLY like a book, you can buy a copy.
    Oh, I know about inter-library loans! I've read books from as far as four states away from me (and from here, that can be nearly a thousand miles), and the books might come from tiny libraries that don't 'weed' as often as some others. And the service is free; to me, at least, unless you count wisely-spent tax dollars.

    I like reading old books; sometimes old, fairly obscure books, and my wife has access to them all. There have been few (if any?) that I've wanted that she has not been able to find. She says that's the reason we should never buy books, since we have access to so many. I disagree, for certain books, especially. I don't want to just read them once. I might want to refer to a reference book, after all. Or, with some, I want to re-read them when I want to re-read them, not when they get here after several days of waiting.

    Of course, this doesn't solve the browsing dilemma. When I lived in Minneapolis, I could go to the downtown branch of the public library and just wander along the shelves to find lots of books I would not know to look for, and page through them right there to choose what worked best for me. Or I could use those finds to help me search for a better choice, which might not be out on the shelves, but down in storage, or in a difernt library somewhere.

    (I once was doing research in college for a paper on Cotton Mather. I wanted to refer to a book he wrote, sometime around the year 1700. The University library sent out for a copy for me, and the one that arrived was not a first edition, but it was close! The pages were so old that they cracked if you tried to turn the pages. The librarian assured me that, as a student, I could use it. But as someone who likes old things, I decided I couldn't, and sent it back.)

    Anyway, I did more online research on contact printing, and learned a lot. I also watched some online videos, and for something like this, they are ideal. I am on a very tight budget, with limited, awkward space, but there are creative folks out there in the same situation, and they share their own creative, often simple, solutions. And being shown how to do something is for me often far better than reading about it.

    This is fun!

  10. #10

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    Re: Contract printing for a complete novice: a good information source?

    Sounds to me like you are in the cat-bird seat. I agree with you that some books are keepers because they have info, formulas, mixes, etc. that I can't possibly remember, and might need way down the road. That's why I have so many cook books. Same thing!

    About 20 years ago, the Denver main library was so stuffed with books, that they had more materiial in their basement -- where you could not browse -- than on the open shelves. The City finally was able to create a new, HUGE library -- right on top of the old one! -- which is much better. But they still have so many books that they have a HUGE book sale every year. I always go and this year, as always, I walked away with all the books I could carry for basically nothing. None were related to photography, however.

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