1. ChrisR

    ChrisR

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    I think I mentioned somewhere that during Warwickshire Open Studios I took advantage of a one-to-one workshop with John Whitmore (@thedarkshed ). I took along a black and white 35mm negative, and we (I really mean John) made a proper 8*10 enlargement. This took about 3 1/2 hours, and we weren't really quite done then!

    I've since had this print on my wall, and keep looking at it. I can't work it out, but I do so much prefer it to the digital print I made from my scan. The only word for the extra quality it has that I can think of is "luminous", which is definitely wrong but has a lot of rightness in it, too!

    I'm not anywhere near ready to make use of a local darkroom (I believe there is one starting up recently or soon in Coventry), so I thought I'd look to see if any of the photo labs offer wet printing enlargements. As far as I can see, AG Photolab, CC Imaging and The Dark Room do offer this service. I can't work out if Harman Labs do or not; their strap lines says "Real Black and White Prints/Traditional Silver Gelatin Prints", but I can't find anywhere on the site where I could order it. Any other labs?

    Has anyone used these services

    I know there are a few folk on here who make enlargements, notably @joxby and (I think) @StephenM . Anyone else?
     
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  2. srichards

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    Ilford/Harman use a special printer. It does do silver gelatin prints but they're from scans. I've seen them coming off the printer and they do look quite good. I'd think if you get a top notch scan from filmdev and use that it would probably turn out pretty decent.
     
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  3. StephenM

    StephenM

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    No longer, I'm afraid. I was starting to look into the scan and digital print workflow when I fractured my right elbow 12 years ago; being effectively one handed made operating an enlarger while taking reasonable care of the negative(s) too difficult for me. I expect had I had to, I would have learned (I managed to do a lot of daily jobs single handed which I thought wouldn't be possible). However, by the time I was fit enough again, I was producing digital prints superior to those I had made in the darkroom. I lack(ed) the patience to do it properly in the darkroom - Edward Weston could take 3 days to get a print he was satisifed with.

    Others have commented on "luminosity"; my own suspicion is that it boils down to the DMax achievable by the ink and paper combination when done digitally.
     
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  4. Kevin Allan

    Kevin Allan

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    If you go to harmanlab.com you will see two choices:

    • Black and white prints from film
    • Black and white prints from digital
    Of couse the second option could be used with a scan from a negative (or even a slide converted to B&W)

    I can print negs up to 6*7 in the darkroom but I plan to try out the second choice with larger negs, particularly 5*4, until such time as I have a 5*4 enlarger.

    I can see a disadvantage in getting someone else to wet print from your negative because there are an infinite number of different interpretations that could be produced from the same negative, by changing the base exposure and by dodging and burning, and it may be difficult to describe exactly what you want. Ironically, if you scan the negative and then process it in LR/photoshop etc, then get a Lightjet print done by Harman, you should get something close to the scanned and processed file that you send them.
     
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  5. Peter B

    Peter B

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    A bit out of my depth on this one Chris, but the first thing that strikes me is the comparison between an expert printer taking over 3 hours and a computer exposing for a fraction of a second and then printing once to a fairly tight set of parameters. I agree that wet prints can have a certain luminosity about them, but it takes a lot of know-how to get that kind of result. I've also seen prints done on a cold cathode head enlarger and they certainly demonstrated a luminosity that I've never seen from either a condenser or diffusion head enlarger. There used to be the odd advert for such services at the back of photo mags, so maybe a visit to WH Smith or similar for a browse? :whistle:
     
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  6. ChrisR

    ChrisR

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    I tweeted to @AgPhotographic asking them to confirm whether they offered wet prints. They replied:

    "All our prints are wet prints (unless customer specifically wants inkjet). They can be exposed digitally (with red green blue lasers) from neg or file, or in the darkroom direct from neg - the digitally exposed really offer best of both worlds"

    Following up, I asked about cropping and dodge/burn in darkroom prints, to which they replied:

    "Tricky, because it's a creative decision and difficult to specify without straight print in front of customer first."

    "Two options - have a scan and crop/dodge/burn yourself and then order print from file. Or specify crop when ordering print from neg with a sketch. Dodging/burning tricky, but we will routinely balance colour, contrast, density - but globally, rather than locally."
     
  7. ChrisR

    ChrisR

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    Could people point to useful sources and books about wet/darkroom printing? If so I'll try to add them to the first post and maybe we can make this a resource...
     
  8. Peter B

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  9. AgPhotographic

    AgPhotographic

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    Hi all,

    There has always been a lot of confusion about how prints are made on a commercial basis - thanks for the tweets Chris, I hope i was able to shed some light, in space allowed!

    Just to confirm: We offer C-Type prints, and these are from digital file or from negative/slide. We can expose the image digitally - that is to say, the image is beamed onto the traditional silver halide paper via red green and blue lasers. If the print is from film then the film will be scanned first. The exposed paper is then processed in traditional RA4 chemistry.

    OR

    we can use exactly the same paper and chemistry and expose in a darkroom to create a traditionally exposed C-Type print.

    The paper used for both these prints includes the likes of Fujicolor Crystal Archive (we use the DPII varient, Fujicolor Professional, which is their "top of the range") or Kodak Endura. The generic term for this media is "Silver Halide" and it is colour paper - but it makes great B&W prints too.

    For obvious reasons, the digital wet print (the hybrid route, if you like) is faster and more economical than printing in the darkroom - although the materials are the same.

    On balance, a traditionally exposed C-Type print from the darkroom often has a certain "purity" to it. BUT the quality achievable from the hybrid route is really superb - provided, of course, that the original neg or file is up to the job! (remember the old adage, cr*p in cr*p out). The resolution is very high, and the print is - critically - continuous tone. That is to say, 18 million colours per sq.in. (compared with Inkjet, which does a good job of fooling the observer into thinking it's continuous tone, but it isn't, it's half tone, and 256 colours/sq.in.)


    For pure black and white, a traditionally darkroom exposed silver gelatin print is the ultimate in quality, especially correctly processed and washed fibre based. Silver gelatin paper is only B&W. What Ilford/Harman offer is a silver gelatin hybrid - traditional black and white paper that is optimised for digital exposure and they converted a Fuji Frontier mini lab to run as black and white.

    We are able to run the same B&W paper in our Oce Lightjet - but we have not yet done so (although it has always been on the cards....). So we could offer traditional silver gelatin from a digital file.
     
  10. ChrisR

    ChrisR

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    Wow that's very interesting @AgPhotographic, thanks. Let me see if I've understood this right: you can currently offer a black and white (or colour) print on colour paper, done either via scan and lasers or via an enlarger in the darkroom. You have the potential to offer something similar to Ilford/Harman, ie a true black and white silver gelatin paper exposed via scan and lasers via your Oce Lightjet (as opposed to Ilford/Harman's modded Fuji Frontier).

    You didn't say you could offer a true black and white silver gelatin print via the enlarger/darkroom route.

    How does price differ for the laser vs enlarger routes? Is the latter bespoke pricing (by which I mean, assessing the work to be done for each particular print)?

    I think I saw one of the other companies mentioning a Fuji minilab supplied by Ilford, so maybe they were going that way too.
     
  11. StephenM

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    I have a recollection that there's already a thread on this, as I can recall supplying a list of books a long time ago. I'm about to go out, but if no-one has turned it up when I get back I'll see if I can find it. One book that I did mention was by Carson Graves, so that may be a good search term.
     
  12. Peter B

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    I popped into Tesco this afternoon Chris, and sneaked a look in the back pages of the B&W Photography mag. The only ad I saw was for courses run by Adrian Ensor, but a look at his website shows that he does processing and enlargements as well, but only in b&w I think.
    http://adrianensor.com/printing-processing/
     
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  13. StephenM

    StephenM

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    And here it is.
     
  14. dmb

    dmb

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    I'm not sure that colours/sq. in. is actually a measure of anything. A traditional C-type enlargement direct from negative will have a huge range of possible colours in any particular small area as it is an analogue process. A C-type enlargement from a digital file will typically be limited to a smaller number of 256*256*256 (16.7 Million) possible colours per pixel (that is 8 bits each for RGB on a typical 24bit scan) . You are right that inkjets have to dither (or half tone) colours to produce a more limited pallette but it would be hard to say just how many that actually is. None of those measurements though would be expressed as per square inch.
     
  15. AgPhotographic

    AgPhotographic

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    Sure we can offer a traditional silver gelatin B&W hand, darkroom enlargement.

    You are right in that, with traditional hand enlarging under the enlarger, the pricing would be done on a bespoke basis. Often it would be for a special one off print, and there would be discussion with the customer as to what they are looking for, maybe proofing etc. There is, bluntly, a massive cost advantage with digital exposure / wet process as opposed to hand enlarging.

    We did consider the modified Fuji frontier route - the problem with this is the only machines that have been successfully modified are the 10" frontier machines - so maximum print size is 10x15", and rather restrictive. So it would only be for smaller prints and print packages from film. The Ilford special silver gelatin paper is also extremely expensive - about 500% more than Fujicolor Professional Type DPII, which we use mainly for printing - and the DPII, whilst being a colour paper, is capable of superb B&W prints anyway......so we couldn't see the commercial sense in taking up floor space with another machine that will only produce small prints.

    However, the Lightjet is for larger prints and one-offs, exhibitions, display, etc. and prints up to 50" x 120" - and can be flipped between any silver media type - colour or Ilford's B&W paper - because it is just an exposure unit (the frontier is all in one, exposure and processor, so can only ever be B&W once converted) We just have to have two stand alone paper processors - one B&W and one colour. We do have a B&W one ready for if we decide to offer Ilford digital silver gelatin at some point in the future - we just need to install it.

    Currently the Lightjet is only run with colour media type for process RA4

    Fujifilm did contact me about a year ago asking what I thought about the idea of a B&W paper that processes in standard RA4 colour chemistry - a bit like a paper version of Ilford XP2 colour process B&W film. I said this would be very interesting.
     
  16. Ste_S

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    Yeah, absolutely. I'd probably only ever wet print from negative if I was doing it myself, or could have a consultation with the printer to describe what I want - perhaps with a Lightroom modified scan that I'd done to inform what I'm after.

    I'm quite happy with home inkjet prints for the most part, it gives me creative control of the process from start to finish
     
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