View Full Version : Printing a negative for the first time.

10-Mar-2013, 12:09
When you print a new negative for the first time how many prints do you usually make before you get something you are happy with?
Or...how much paper do you use?

10-Mar-2013, 12:24

Maris Rusis
10-Mar-2013, 15:14
I usually do two test strips to get exposure and contrast close to optimum. A test strip is a quarter of an 8x10 sheet; so half a sheet in total to this point. Then I make a full size pilot gelatin-silver photograph using the information gained from the test strips. After that the next full size sheet includes refinements to dodging and burning sequences. The job often finishes here and I move onto the next negative.

Sometimes the "final" gelatin-silver has potential for sale and/or display so I also make a "richer" version that has very slightly more density and less contrast plus a "leaner" version with very slightly less density and a nuance of increased contrast. Viewing conditions at the point of sale/display will influence which version prevails.

I take every negative through to a final gelatin-silver photograph. Nothing is edited. Nothing hits the cutting room floor. This is the resolute pact I remind myself about before exposing film. Fewer negatives means much less photographic paper consumed, less work, less expense. And I keep detailed production notes for each negative. If I get extra sales orders I don't have to start with test strips etc etc all over again.

Andrew O'Neill
10-Mar-2013, 15:25
Anywhere from 5 to 100. Depends. Why do you ask?

Peter Lewin
10-Mar-2013, 19:13
I've discovered that I'm rarely done the first go-round, regardless of the number of prints. Almost always, even though I think I have gotten a good print out of the first session, when I look at it the next day I have new ideas or questions. Often I will look at what I thought was a good print the night before, and wonder if I should try another copy a bit lighter, or change the contrast, or some other modification. Usually after the second session, I'm happy, since I can compare the results and decide which one I really like more.

11-Mar-2013, 06:24
[/ATTACH]9100691007Over the last couple of years my printing has been a bit here and a bit there. My darkroom conditions has not been the best. I am building a new darkroom now so I know with more printing experience I will get better. I am just curious about what is "typical" for you folks that know how to print and achieve consistent good results. I have this one negative I have been working with for the last couple of weeks. I have probably made 30 prints of it so far. Some of them have been close, I think??? It could be that the composition and the exposure just don't really work and when I print it I am really seeing the weakness of the shot.
Here are a couple of examples. If the shot sucks please tell me.

Learning when to give up on a negative and when it is worth really working at it is also part of being a good printer IMHO.

E. von Hoegh
11-Mar-2013, 06:58
When you print a new negative for the first time how many prints do you usually make before you get something you are happy with?
Or...how much paper do you use?

It depends on the negative, how much manipulation is needed. I make one "work" print, then decide where I need to dodge/burn and go from there. Over the years I've printed the same negative differently, too. I file the work print(s) with the negative; the work prints are marked with times and where to burn and dodge.

11-Mar-2013, 08:53
I find making contact sheets a great help, and violate that rule when doing LF work. But for MF a contact sheet helps nailing down a test print quickly. I usually make RC test prints from a selection based on the MF contact sheet, and I make a 8*10 RC print from almost every 4*5 negative I produce. By experience I might apply some dodging and burning, and make notes on the back of the print.

These test prints are used for further interpretation usually a bigger size and on FB (I mostly work on Ilford paper, so the difference between RC and FB and sticking to the same brand, is manageable).



Doremus Scudder
11-Mar-2013, 09:42
I proof everything at proper proofing time (minimum exposure to get max black on the rebate). This helps a lot with knowing what contrast grade and general exposure to try.

I make a test strip on the chosen contrast grade and determine an exposure based on the highlights (desired detail in the lightest areas of the print).

I then make a straight print at that exposure. If the contrast looks like it will work, I continue with successive prints adding manipulations. If I need to change contrast, I start with a test strip again.

The number of prints it takes me to get to what I consider an exhibition print depends on how often I decide to change contrast grades and how extensive and complicated the manipulations are. On average I think I make around five prints before I get a keeper. Often, however, it takes many more, especially if I have some tricky bleaching to do or the dodging is dodgy or the burning is tricky. I haven't ever made 100 prints before getting a keeper like Andrew, but I have made 30 or so.

I find I save a lot of paper by taking a lot of time to evaluate my prints as I go and decide on the next refinement. My motto: Waste time, not paper.

After achieving a fine print, I usually make a few. If getting to the keeper point was really difficult, I'll make five or six prints. That makes maybe ten to twenty prints for five or six keepers. That's a 25% success ratio and that's fine with me.



N Dhananjay
11-Mar-2013, 10:29
Read outflanking the print at www.michaelandpaula.com. I find it works very well. I've been printing long enough now that I have a pretty reasonable idea about a printing time and contrast by looking at the negative. I make one print a bit dark and one a bit light - that gives me all the information I need about contrast in the various areas, dodging and burning etc., so by the third print I'm pretty close. It also helps that I print on only one paper (Azo, now Lodima) so that I have a pretty good idea about what is required of my negatives, on what is possible with various manipulations. I've settled on simple manipulations for the most part - water bath/preflashing to distort the shoulder/toe respectively for the most part, occasional use of old, partially exhausted developer for lower contrast.

So, when I have a new set of negatives, I usually do one run where I print everything - two test prints + a final print. I then let all the prints dry and evaluate them the next day. Many of the final prints look fine - a few are close but I might see some additional work in some areas. The next printing session tends to be final prints from all the negatives.

I find it is very important to have clarity of mind and intention - that is, you must be clear about your artistic intention and how you want your prints to look. It is possible to keep finding new ways to print a negative. If you constantly find yourself finding it difficult to choose between different interpretations of a negative, I think it is worth spending some time thinking about your artistic intentions and how you want your prints to look. It helps a lot to look at a lot of prints by others and deciding which ones appeal to you and why. Eventually, there has to be a balance between making new work and printing old work consistently (unless you want to make your living by printing others' work, in which case you are not your only client).

I want to keep making new pictures and make progress in my seeing. So, what works for me is to make the best prints I can from a particular negative and move on. I am comfortable with the thought that I may come back to a negative months or years later and print it differently - it reflects my own growth and change. But I find that rarely happens - I seem to have reached some kind of internal consensus about how I like my prints to look, given my interests and intentions. Another person might, probably will, print a negative very differently and that would reflect his/her intentions and life journey. If I find I am unable to make a satisfactory print from a particular negative, it is usually the fault of my seeing rather than my printing.

Cheers, DJ

Doremus Scudder
12-Mar-2013, 10:06
If I find I am unable to make a satisfactory print from a particular negative, it is usually the fault of my seeing rather than my printing. Cheers, DJ