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View Full Version : How many work prints for your toughest print job?



Iluvmyviewcam
12-Jan-2013, 16:54
Wet or digital...what is the most work prints you had to suffer through to get the final print?

paulr
12-Jan-2013, 17:24
I don't remember the number of sheets of paper, just the time. I had maybe three or four negatives in the 1990s that forced me into protracted wars in the darkroom. Usually it involved difficult shadows or difficult highlights. I printed on Fortezo, which was beautiful stuff, but had a very long toe and shoulder. If you had a negative with compressed values in the shadows or highlights it could be frustrating to try to get the values right. This image (http://www.paulraphaelson.com/portfolios/wilderness/#11) I returned to three times. At least one of those times I spent three days in the darkroom. The shadow values are compressed, with important detail quite close to zero density. When I went back and scanned the negative to make a carbon pigment inkjet print with Piezography process, getting the values right was almost trivially easy.

In color, I've only had one real fight. It was with the only show that I've had printed by someone else. I was working with a hasselblad and film, scanned, all the esthetic work done by me on on a computer with a color managed system, and sent to my friend who's a professional printer. On one of the images (http://www.paulraphaelson.com/portfolios/lostspaces/#5) with a lot of green folliage, the greens came out outrageously different from what etiher of us saw on the screen. The problem may have been that neither of us had large color gamut monitors, but I don't know for sure. We had to print the old fashioned way, by trial and error. But at new-fashioned prices. It probably took us six tries to get it right. That's a small number by darkroom standards but a big one otherwise. I was not as picky about print quality with this color work as I was with the black and white stuff ... when the colors were off, they were way off. The other nineteen prints we made were easy, and we nailed with just one or two attempts.

Mark Woods
12-Jan-2013, 17:37
I have a negative that it took me three years to get a print that I was happy with. There were breaks in between, of course, where I would think about what it was that I wanted to accomplish. The first print I showed sold in 20 minutes.

vinny
12-Jan-2013, 17:49
I stop when my trash can is full. It seems that even when I think I've got it, the dry result doesn't meet my expectations a week later.

BradS
12-Jan-2013, 18:26
I'm not a very skilled darkroom worker and I really have no energy nor interest in achieving "perfection" so, if I cannot make a satisfactory print in three or four tries, I usually figure I didn't do a very good job on the front end of the process and move on.

jnantz
12-Jan-2013, 18:52
it was a long time ago ,
maybe 15-20 sheets of paper ...
if i knew then what i know now
it might have been reduced to 7-10 sheets ..
weird burning and dodging is a pain.

Kirk Gittings
12-Jan-2013, 18:56
As many as it takes to get it right.

polyglot
12-Jan-2013, 21:56
I'm not a very skilled darkroom worker and I really have no energy nor interest in achieving "perfection" so, if I cannot make a satisfactory print in three or four tries, I usually figure I didn't do a very good job on the front end of the process and move on.

Yeah, this is me. Longest I've spent on a print is about 3 hours and maybe 10-15 sheets. Past that point, I accept that my shooting and/or developing sucked and move on to to the next in my backlog of negs that really deserve to be printed.

Mark Woods
12-Jan-2013, 22:02
Kirk, I agree. I've been there. The "front" end is only half of the process (if that). The print side is a whole other world. Sometimes one makes an exposure and realizes there are many more possibilities of visual expression.

bob carnie
13-Jan-2013, 07:12
Probably around 10 sheets, after that subtle nuances is all that get worked on .
Very Heavy or very Thin negatives give the most headaches as they are usually not the norm in my darkroom.


Wet or digital...what is the most work prints you had to suffer through to get the final print?

bob carnie
13-Jan-2013, 07:13
Digital prints , all the work is done in PS so in my world one test print and screen match is attained. If I don't like the print its back to PS.

Hans Berkhout
13-Jan-2013, 08:08
From a negative that I've never printed before or from one printed on previous occasions?
Different box or different brand are factors. And I don't always use the same developer. Keeping dodging/burning notes helps.
I judge more by the time involved rather than the number of prints made. An afternoon? a day? 2 days?

cyrus
13-Jan-2013, 08:59
I've spent days on a negative. This is pretty normal.

Incidentally I often get this question from people who have just learned the process and it has a built-in assumption that there is such a thing as a "final print", and your goal as a printer is to achieve it.

I guess they assume this because they were inadvertently taught that there is a stopping place: their teacher showed them how to adjust density and contrast, and once you get the "right" density and "right" contrast in a print, then you are "done" so you stop and move onto another negative. But in reality that's not the case. You're just starting at that point except now the creativity part getsmore involved than the technicalities. You now have to see how many different ways you can interpret the negative by going beyong the "right" density and contrast. There is no such thing as a "right" print -- and so you continue burning through paper for as long as you have the means/interest.

Michael Alpert
13-Jan-2013, 09:28
I work in a traditional darkroom. I feel that if I cannot arrive at a reasonably good print within three-to-five attempts, I either do not understand (cannot see clearly) what I want, or my negative is not good and I am trying to make something good out of a failed image. So I go on to another negative. Once in a while (sometimes weeks or months later) when I review my first contact sheet, I can see the key to a good print. Most often, however, on review I see that the negative was impossible because it was not good when I snapped the shutter. In photography, there really is only a small amount of time involved in any one negative (Cartier-Bresson was correct when he wrote that a photograph is more like a drawing than a painting). So I feel it is best to just move forward to more fruitful terrain.

tgtaylor
13-Jan-2013, 10:21
If it's a perfect negative, which I strive for when taking the exposure, I get a good print on the third (or fourth - if I think I can tweek the contrast) print. Dodging, burning, etc will require more test prints and I would saw that a really difficult negative will require maybe 10 to as much as 15 sheets of paper before I arrive at what I'm looking for in the print. But I do an excellent job on the front end and generally know what I am looking for before I start so usually 5 or 6 sheets of paper per print is my norm.

Thomas

chassis
13-Jan-2013, 12:46
Typically it takes me 4 exposures to get a solid work print. This is 2 contact prints on 4x5 paper, then 2 enlargements, with the second enlargement being the solid work print. I usually stop there, if the print is for my own viewing/display, or to be scanned for the web.

If the print is for a gift, I might tweak the exposure and contrast with a couple more sheets of paper. I don't burn or dodge much, and work in the camera and film processing to get a well composed, printable negative.

Brian Ellis
13-Jan-2013, 18:03
I went through a 25-sheet box of paper with one print 17 years ago trying to get one print right. I should have quit, the photograph wasn't that great, but along about the tenth sheet I started taking it personally and viewing the print as an enemy I had to defeat.

I've read of Eugene Smith spending an entire night in the darkroom trying to get one print right (and presumably using who knows how many sheets of paper in the process). But he was a speed freak so he had an advantage most of us (hopefully) don't when it comes to the stamina needed to spend that many consecutive hours in the darkroom.

Mark Woods
13-Jan-2013, 19:00
I think Gene Smith was addicted to heroin, not speed. Although cocaine may've played a role in his addictions. I think if you look at a print he did (a real print not a facsimile in a book) you'll be moved to see what he was striving to achieve. As AA said, the neg is the score and the print is the performance. I find it interesting that so many of you can get the print you desire so quickly.

hmf
13-Jan-2013, 20:34
I went through a 25-sheet box of paper with one print 17 years ago trying to get one print right. I should have quit, the photograph wasn't that great, but along about the tenth sheet I started taking it personally and viewing the print as an enemy I had to defeat.


As expressed by others before me, if the negative is starting to feel like an enemy to be defeated instead of a friend with whom I'm having a conversation, it's time to move on. If I'm working with familiar materials, I'm usually pretty close in four or five sheets. Beyond that, I often can barely tell the difference between prints once they're dry.

Vaughn
13-Jan-2013, 21:27
My toughest print was tough not because of the actual printing (but it was not easy), but the several hours of spotting it required (due to high-humidity static discharges while the exposed neg was in a film box, on my bicycle, while riding on bumpy roads for several months.) Shown below.

Typically I used a package of paper per image (10 sheets of 16x20), which would give me three near-identical final copies. The time period from set-up in the enlarger to putting the prints on the drying screens would usually be about 12 hours of straight working in the darkroom. Most of that time was deciding where and how to burn... studying the present work print and deciding what to do next. Decisions on basic exposure and contrast were done quickly...that was the easy part. Composition was done in-camera...always full frame, so little or no time was needed for those decisions. Some images required two such printing sessions. If it would take three such sessions, then I seriously reconsidered the value of continuing with that image. I have plenty of negatives, but short on time and money.

Tolaga Bay Wharf, 1986
North Island, NZ

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2013, 21:37
Ralph Gibson used to say that he liked a negative that fought back a bit-challenged his printing skills. I remember listening to a lecture by Caponigro when he lived here. He talked about trying every negative on a half dozen different papers and each one of those in a few different developers before deciding which combo he would then start the process of making a real print on.

My most satisfying negatives are the ones where I was fighting the elements to get a grand landscape on the edge of some blustery storm, fighting wind and dust while waiting for that perfect combination of foreground light and cloudscape. Those are also challenging negatives to print which always seems appropriate and all the more satisfying when I finally get it right.

Brian Ellis
14-Jan-2013, 07:13
I think Gene Smith was addicted to heroin, not speed. Although cocaine may've played a role in his addictions. I think if you look at a print he did (a real print not a facsimile in a book) you'll be moved to see what he was striving to achieve. As AA said, the neg is the score and the print is the performance. I find it interesting that so many of you can get the print you desire so quickly.

Heroin? Maybe but if so that's a new one to me. I read "W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance" by Jim Hughes a few years ago and don't recall anything about heroin. It was mostly alcohol and speed. I wouldn't think heroin would be very conducive to spending long hours on one's feet working on prints in a darkroom but then I have no personal experience.

Drew Wiley
14-Jan-2013, 12:26
Don't kid yourself. A number of surgeons use heroin, specifically so they can concentrate
very long hours standing. It's a dirty little secret, though the version they obtain is pure. But I have heard that about Smith too, related to pain-killing war injuries. A friend of mine who is quite an admirer of his work was recently disillusioned when he found out that some of his most famous images were heavily doctored in the dkrm, and not at all a spontaneous capture.

sanking
14-Jan-2013, 13:01
I have been trying to make a good print from one negative since 2002. I like the image but the negative has a few defects from flare that made it impossible to print without scanning and some correction work in PS. I made the scan of the 12X20" negative at 2000 dpi and the resulting file was so large the editing took an excessive amount of time with my old MAC G4. So I changed it a bit and tried again with a 2004 model iMAC, but things were still slow, then some years later I tried again with a 2008 iMAC with more RAM and memory, but the 2+ G file still did not want to cooperate. Now I have a new computer with more memory and RAM and it looks like I might finally get the file corrected and be able to make my first test print.

Sandy

Mark Woods
14-Jan-2013, 18:16
When I encounter a negative that I feel is unprintable, I don't work on it. When I find a negative that I know will make an amazing image, I work with it until the image emerges that I can respond to. It's tough. But the images I'm happy with, people around me respond to. BTW, I have held a Gene Smith print of the wake with the old man in Spain in my hands! Amazing print. Looked like Bromide paper and stunning.

tgtaylor
14-Jan-2013, 23:46
...[printing]every negative on a half dozen different papers and each one of those in a few different developers before deciding which combo he would then start the process of making a real print on.

That's a very good idea and I confess to having recently started printing each negative on 5 different types of paper. Time consuming and it takes a day or two to come to a decision but for the "right" image its well worth it. I should try printing the best print with different developers as well.

Thomas