Convince a purist to switch to B&W digital printing!

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by chris_ragalie, Jan 22, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I love making black and white prints in a darkroom. Can I hear some arguments for printing fine art black and white digitally? Open to switching.
    Thanks everyone!
    Chris
     
  2. Chris, My big reason for doing this is that I am not a good enough at consistent dodging and burning (at least like I used to be). It is also more difficult to D&B small prints. I can do dozens of D&B's on an image that I simply wouldn't have time or accuracy enough to do in the darkroom. That's really it for me.
     
  3. I've done B&W prints in the Darkroom many years ago and I enjoyed this work a lot, but mixing and manipulating the chemicals was not really my cup of tea.
    With the digital darkroom, you can convert color pictures to B&W (yes, you have both worlds here) using sophisticated digital tools and get fantastic results because you have total control over tonality, you can also add some tinting or do nice duotones, ... But of course, there is a learning curve and good tutorials are needed.
    The first print I made in my Darkroom was quite bad and the first print I did using Photoshop tools was quite bad too...but once you know how to use these tools, you know you will never go back to the old way...
     
  4. Hi Chris,
    Do you know anyone with a pro style printer? Do you know anyone proficient in photoshop? You can listen to a bunch of blah blah blah on both sides of the fence, but you really need to see the finished product. It would be great if you could scan the negative of one of your favorite prints, have your photoshop friend take you through the digital darkroom(no you can't learn everything in one session but at least it is a start), print it off on some of the high quality baryta papers that are out there and then compare to your traditional print. At the end of the day, if you don't like the finished product it really doesn't matter what the other advantages are. I think you can get tremendous quality prints using the right printer and paper but you need to judge for yourself by looking and feeling the print. Best of luck with your choice.
     
  5. Chris,
    Why would anyone try to convince you to stop doing something you love and do something else? If you have a question about how to improve digital (or darkroom) printing in B&W, you need to phrase it as a question. Suffice to say those of us in the business longer than 10 years or so know a thing or two about conventional printing. You can get excellent results (IMO, better results) printing digitally.
    Now, do you have a question?
     
  6. I use and enjoy both. For fairly simple prints, I prefer the darkroom as it's much easier for me to get the tonal range and contrast I want. For difficult and problematic prints, I use digital editing before the printing stage.
     
  7. Stick to B&W wet. It is better, especially from large format. I shoot and love digital too, but LF contacts are better.
     
  8. I find digital printing gives me better results now than any wet lab printing ever did. Printers, inks and papers caught up with and surpassed what was possible in the darkroom about four years ago, editabiilty and such passed the wet lab ages before that.
    But if you love printing in the darkroom and are satisfied with your results, why change?
     
  9. If you like doing the darkroom thing, do it and enjoy :)
    If you don't.. digital has caught up and arguably surpassed what is possible in traditional formats. The inks, papers, and black and white software packages out there have started doing spectacular things. Add to that the ability to edit to your heart's content and to have both a color and black and white from the same image, and you can't go wrong.
     
  10. If you like doing the darkroom thing, do it and enjoy :)
    If you don't.. digital has caught up and arguably surpassed what is possible in traditional formats. The inks, papers, and black and white software packages out there have started doing spectacular things. Add to that the ability to edit to your heart's content and to have both a color and black and white from the same image, and you can't go wrong.
     
  11. You won't hear an argument from me. I only changed to digital because there was a 30 year gap between when I drifted away from photography and when I came back to it.
     
  12. Chris,
    If you seriously want advice, you’re gonna have to give us a bit more to work on.
    What is it that makes you think you need convincing? Do you already know the answer and are just looking for confirmation? Do you think you know the answer, but there are a couple remaining facets you’re not sure about and would like some clarification? Have you been in the dark until now and are just starting to wonder what all the fuss is about? Or are you just looking to stir up the old “Film v Digital” death match?
    It would also help to know what it is (if anything) you find lacking in the darkroom, and what you think might attract you to digital.
    Cheers,
    b&
     
  13. Doesn't have to be a switch, it is another whole set of tools. Printing digitally runs from straight out of the box solutions from epson and hp that can equal wet prints in resolution, tone, and probably longevity. Varying levels of sophistication can be added from commercial 3rd party inks such as Piezography to do it yourself inksets that can open up whatever your personal vision is. Matte papers are extremely advanced, F type papers can still be a bit problematic but advancing rapidly, if you want RC types I'd probably stay with wet prints for now.
    Digital processing can get you an image that can print identically every single time whether on a digital printer or with a digital negative and a wet contact print.
    Digital capture is good but in my book expensive. I'm actually going back to some film capture with 135 film and scanning and looking to dig up a MF film camera to see how that fits in, mostly for dynamic range reasons.
    Good resources here:
    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/DigitalBlackandWhiteThePrint/messages?o=1&yguid=253793878
    http://www.piezography.com/
    http://paulroark.com/
    Piezography is equal parts professional printer and inkset manufacturer, they can print an image for you from a digital file or a negative on one of their inksets, though not particularly cheap, for evaluation.
    For evaluating a negative to a print with varying inksets/printers there are a large number of professional printers, in addition to Piezography, who are involved in the DB&WthePrint forum who could do everything from scanning to printing. There is a non commercial policy to the group but a website is allowed in the signature so it is easy enough to track down a commercial shop there.
     
  14. 1_faster
    2_easier
    3_constent result, day after day, week after week
    4_good for the environement ; )
    Be prepare to invest some $; a epson 2880 minimum, a epson 3880 if you can aford it, a good NEC 2690wuxi monitor, a eye1 d2 to calibrated it... not talking yet about computer, ink, paper... cost around 3000$.
     
  15. I agree, as I often do, with Edward Ingold. Unless you earn your living doing photography and must do what clients ask, eg if you're a hobbyist like most of us, do what you enjoy. I printed in the darkroom for over 40 years, loved it, and now print digitally, and love it.
    If you're looking to see what's available, find a colleague whose prints you admire, who can demonstrate the process, do some reading, take a course. I'd avoid using words like "purist." It sounds elitist and implies that there's something "holy" about darkroom printing and "unholy" about digital printing. Both have a long learning curve, neither, done well, is easy. Both require a significant investment in time and money. There are no shortcuts to good prints. Initially I liked the idea that digitally I could work on an image for an hour and then do something else if necessary without committing to gallons of chemistry and the time to set up the darkroom (and clean up the darkroom). Now, I honestly believe my digital prints are better than MY darkroom prints were. YMMV This may say more about my darkroom skills than I'd like to admit.
    Good luck.
    Eric
     
  16. jtk

    jtk

    If I had space etc I'd keep a wet darkroom for the pleasure of the workflow... (still have Durst and Leica enlargers, trays etc)...
    Several inkjet papers equal the Portriga Rapid I used to treasure:...eg Ilford Gold Fiber Silk. My wet darkroom prints were satisfying, but my Nikon scan/inkjet and dslr/inkjet prints are better.
    The most exciting prints I've seen in galleries have been inkjet from scanned negs. Some vintage 35mm, some large format shot on film intentionally for inkjet. My own best (fwiw) DSLR work now rivals my film, but B&W film still appeals (love those SS reels with Rodinal, so treasure my scanner) :)
     
  17. If you have an opportunity to see some digital b&w prints by someone who really knows what they're doing you won't have to ask this question. For me it was seeing a couple prints by George deWolfe about 8 years ago that made me realize better prints can be made digitally than in the darkroom. And I was a very dedicated, and very good, darkroom printer.
    That's really the only significant advantage for me. I enjoyed darkroom work very much, I had invested a lot of time (about 15 years) and money (e.g. I attended four weeks of darkroom workshops offered by John Sexton at a total cost of at least $10,000 with travel, motel, meals, etc.), in it, and would still be doing it if I could make better prints that way but I can't. The only downside is the learning curve. It's much steeper than traditional darkroom, at least it has been for me, plus there's always new things to learn.
     
  18. Ask someone to allow you to hand hold gallery/museum quality digital b/w prints on either Epson Exhibtion Fiber or Harman Gloss FB warmtone. Or read what Lensork has to say about Harman paper. Or, order one of the Lenswork folios ($95.00 for 6-12 digital prints)
    I still shoot film and make silver prints but that's only because I love my Leica M7 and working in the darkroom. They technical and aesthetic qualities of the best digital papers are not as good as Ilford silver paper; they are superior.
     
  19. Another option might be "digital fiber" prints (forgive me if somebody's already mentioned this) - that is, digitally exposed silver gelatin B&W paper. I haven't tried it, and the prices are not cheap, but it seems like it could offer a very close approximation of the "look" of traditional prints with the extra control and repeatability of digital manipulation.
    One lab I've found who does them: http://www.dalmatianlab.com/digital/true-bw-digital-fiber-prints-pricing/
     
  20. Starting in the early 60's as a photojournalist, and through the 70's doing industrial and advertising work, I spent thousands of hours in the darkroom, making both B&W and color prints.
    I still shoot some film, but when I do I scan it and work from there in the digital domain. I just did my first black and white prints on a new HP z3200 printer. Brilliant!
    I tear up when I think of how much better all of the work I did thirty years ago could have been if I'd had the digital tools available now for both editing and printing.
    And I don't have that hypo stink on my clothing.
     
  21. As someone else said, take a look at some good b&w digital prints to see what can be done. As with most things,there is a substantial learning curve and the proper equipment is required. If you like what you see, then move ahead;if you enjoy the darkroom process, keep doing that also.
    I dismantled my darkroom when I realized that I had not used it for several years and probably would not use it again because of the direct time commitment involved and the discomfort associated with it. I enjoyed the process but was no longer willing to take the time to set up/clean up and was unwilling to stand for long periods (bad back) and deal with the fumes. The first printer that I got (Epson 2200) was fine for color as I worked my way up the learning curve, but ng for b&w until I started using a RIP. The next/current printer (Epson 3800) is great for b&w; I've now gone back and reprinted some of the pictures that I couldn't get quite right using the first printer and am quite pleased with the results. I also think they are better than my wet prints, which may be due to one skill level versus the other.
    That said, it is far more pleasant to work for as long as I want, when I want, sitting in a comfortable chair, in a comfortable room. It's also nice to be able to replicate your results without any additional effort. My problem now, is developing (no pun intended) a hybrid work flow (I don't enjoy scanning), as I have started to shoot some film again.
     
  22. This whole "purist" thing really bugs me. Sorry to go a little tangent, but how can a real "purist" reconcile the fact that his camera is capturing a life size, 3-dimensional, full-color, living scene as a tiny, flat, B+W static image anyway? Or maybe it's nat about photography at all - maybe a "purist" is a purist because he doesn't use a computer. But even without that particular technology, doesn't the purist rely on optics, mechanics, maybe even some electronics - like a camera with a battery in it... And what purist still uses an enlarger that burns whale oil for it's light source? I'm guessing most purists don't harvest their own pulp and coat their handmade paper with an emulsion of their own making from raw materials using handmade flasks and spoons.... And again, maybe it's not about technology. Maybe the purist is rationalizing a superiority for having suffered an inferior means to the end instead of having done it "the easy way".
    Anyway, sorry to rant......
     
  23. Remeber you are asking this in the digital darkroom forum. Tell some of the masters that digital prints are better. For hacks like me digital is far easier to learn. Superb darkroom prints are hard which is why folks folks say digital is better in the first place. No matter what they look like in the end I would far more treasure a handcrafted silver print over a computer generated facsimile any day.
     
  24. Chris, my suggestion is - take some of your best wet prints, find their negatives, get them professionally scanned and ask a well skilled person to help with the digital printing. Then hang all the photos on a wall for a month or so and look at them every day for a while. Then you should be able to realize which way to go. For objectivity show them to all the people you know whos opinion could matter to you.
     
  25. 1. Search archives for "film vs digital"
    2. Knock yourself out
     
  26. This does not have to be an matter of one or the other, you can do a bit of both and decide which method to use based on the negative and what you are after. Some negatives are just a pain to print optically, for these scanning can get you are far better print with much less work. If on the other hand you have a good negative and enjoy the process of making an optical print then why not?
     
  27. 1_faster
    2_easier​
    not sure what that has to do with a quality print hanging on the wall. sounds like the same reasons that digicam fanboys cite for going digital capture. if you want it over and done with as quick as possible because the actual process of making a print is not pleasurable, then perhaps find another hobby.
    i suppose the only reason a hobbyist would go digital is to have the control. you can get consistant results, but there is something to be said for having a hand made traditional print on fibre paper, which is a unique copy. there is something very detached about making and owing a digital print. But if you are working professionally, then that's a different situation.
     
  28. I converted to digital printing when I received some sample b/w prints from a member of photo.net quite a few years ago. Until I saw those photos, I had no idea that digital b/w prints could be so good. Not long after that I bought my first inkjet photo printer and aside from maybe ONE darkroom session very early on, I haven't gone back. It's been digital all the way.
    I like the consistency and the ease of experimenting to get the most out of my images. Plus it's so easy to make copies for people. Before, I used to dread people asking me to make extra prints for them.
    Oh, and I'm very happy that I no longer have to clean chemical containers and whip up fresh batches...and monitor temperatures.
    The only downside is that ink prices are quite high. And I was forced to buy a newer photo printer when I switched to 64-bit operating systems, since HP wouldn't provide a suitable update to their printer driver.
    larsbc
     
  29. Aaron, if you keep going, you'll end up blowing ground pigments on the sides of caves :).
     
  30. Chris, my experience converting color digital to black and white have been a bit dissappointing. I have never been able to reproduce the results I have had in the past using black and white Ilford negative film and paper.
     
  31. It comes down to what your goals are. If you want the maximum fine art quality in a black and white photography, then you should stick with the silver halide process and make REAL black and white prints. A digital print falls way short of a properly exposed and processed black and white negative, printed on a premium paper like Oriental Seagull. Not to mention with black and white film you have the ability to use the Zone System, which gives you more flexibility in image creation than digital could ever provide. I shoot T-MAX 100, develop it in D-76 1:1 with differing development times for N, N+/-1 and N+/-2 and print on Seagull. Converted color to grayscale prints, printed on high end printers still look pretty weak compared to the old fashioned way. Even if the images are in 12 or 16 bit.
    Digital has come a long way with color, but it has an equally long way to go when it comes to parity with conventional silver halide based black and white.
     
  32. Well, you will need the following:
    1- At least an average skill level with post processing - preferably with PS CS4
    2- You would do well to have your own printer. For outstanding B&W work I would suggest the Epson 3800/3880. Use the advanced b&w mode.
    3- Use a decent paper with good dmax (deep blacks). I use Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl
    For a period of 50 years - yes 50 years - I had my own darkroom. I taught b&w photography for 32 years. I am now retired and LOVE what I can now do.
    No more multiple enlargers (ala Uelsmann), no more fine tuning of secret chemical formulas, no more following elaborate notes on dodging and burning every print, no more wasting 20 sheets of 16 x 20 paper to get THE print (or the hours and hours it took).
    MOST importantly, my Epson 3800 prints are better than anything I ever did in my darkroom. And I had a half dozen shows with my fine art prints. I am getting old and slow (73) but I can still crank them out.
    There, convinced?
     
  33. I tried to edit the above but ran out of my alloted 10 minutes. So here is the edit version.
    Well, you will need the following:
    1- At least an average skill level with post processing - preferably with PS CS4
    2- You would do well to have your own printer. For outstanding B&W work I would suggest the Epson 3800/3880. Use the advanced b&w mode.

    3- Use a decent paper with good dmax (deep blacks). I use Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl
    For a period of 50 years - yes 50 years - I had my own darkroom. I taught b&w photography for 32 years (college and some high school).
    I am now retired and LOVE what I can now do.
    No more multiple enlargers (ala Uelsmann), no more fine tuning of secret chemical formulas, no more following elaborate notes on dodging and burning every print, no more wasting 20 sheets of 16 x 20 paper to get THE print (or the hours and hours it took).

    MOST importantly, my Epson 3800 prints are better than anything I ever did in my darkroom (and I considered myself a master printer using many advanced techniques). And I had a half dozen shows with my fine art prints. I am getting old and slow (73) but I can still crank them out.
    To go first cabin you should:
    1- Take a class from your local CC in Photoshop CS4 - or at least Photoshop Elements
    2- Invest in a good monitor for precise color and tonal management. I use the NEC 2690WUXI - which is a wide gamut monitor. Then calibrate it with Eye-One Three (or similiar)
    3- Invest in a good printer. The Epson 3800/300 prints on 17" x 25" paper - ideal for 16 x 24 stunning b&w prints.
    Total investment - $2,500 to $3,000. However, you do NOT need hot and cold water mixer, huge sink, numerous trays, film developing cans, shelves of chemicals, controlled dust environment, drying cabinet, enlarger, lenses, lens boards, electronic timers, thermometers, fans, paper holders, drying racks, ferrotype plates, etc, etc, etc.
    There, convinced?
     
  34. "This whole 'purist' thing really bugs me. I'm guessing most 'purists' don't harvest their own pulp and coat their handmade paper with an emulsion of their own making from raw materials using handmade flasks and spoons."​
    I think the OP's perspective was clear: he is a "purist" of b&w darkroom photography as it has been practiced for the better part of a century now; he's not saying it's the only way to make images.
    To say that one cannot be a purist in the practice of that kind of photography is akin to telling a "vintage sports-car purist" who chooses to drive a 1950s stick-shift convertible for 200 miles that if he was a true purist he'd walk the same distance, or telling an "acoustic guitar purist" who chooses a classic handmade non-electric that he should instead bang sticks onto rocks to make music.
    In other words, "purist" can mean "being true to a well-established tradition"; it need not mean "doing things in the most primitive way possible."
    Boy, some people really get defensive when others say "I like film" or "I like digital." (I like both!)
     
  35. I'd just like to add that if Ansel Adams was still around.. he'd probably be shooting digital. Why? Because it gives great results and infinite control over what you're doing..
    Images are great because the photographer had the vision and ability to capture it.. what you use to do it is a ways down the list.
    Kyle
     
  36. As this is the "Digital Darkroom" forum, you are probably going to get answers slanted in a certain direction. You should look around and see what can be done with digital B/W. Benefits have been described, easier to make local adjustments and control tonality. New papers, and printing technology as well as several years of developing post skills are really compelling.
    Still, personally I love the look of a really well done wet darkroom fiber print though I haven't done any for a while. Anyone who says there's not a difference is fooling themselves. Not that one is better, it's just that there is differences.
    Given that, when printing these days it's digital.
     
  37. Kyle Weems [​IMG], Jan 23, 2010; 10:09 p.m.
    I'd just like to add that if Ansel Adams was still around.. he'd probably be shooting digital. Why? Because it gives great results and infinite control over what you're doing..​
    He might dabble in it, but there is no way on God's green acre that you can have the flexibility of his Zone System when working in digital. How exactly can you do N +/- 2 "development" in digital and expect parity with B&W film? The answer is you can't
     
  38. @Ty
    1_faster mean you can produce a print in less time you use to produce it in tradional darkroom..for the same quality. Why do poeple always think that fast mean cheap? fast could be 2hres less vs your normal 4hres.. still have the same quality..but faster. Nothing say that you need to slave to get good quality.
    2_easier mean that you dont have to calculate ml, make sure that the water is at the good temperature, that it is a good quality, you dont have to work in the dark etc..again, easy doestn have to mean anyone can do it, it mean it simplify your life.
    The OP ask for reason to switch.. those are also 2 good resaon, even if they dont have to do directly with quality of the print.
    If you want the maximum fine art quality in a black and white photography, then you should stick with the silver halide process and make REAL black and white prints.
    This comment certainly come from someone with a lot of experience in the tradional darkroom, and not a lot in the digital one..because in 2010 you can acquire the exact same result or even better with digital suffice you also have the correct experience and knowledge. Time change, film still have is plce, but digital is here to stay..dont be affraid of the change, just get the best out of it... people who still think that film is better just have a hard time with the new medium, and i can totaly understand that, but it is up to you to make it work.
     
  39. Kyle Weems [​IMG], Jan 23, 2010; 10:09 p.m.
    I'd just like to add that if Ansel Adams was still around.. he'd probably be shooting digital. Why? Because it gives great results and infinite control over what you're doing..​
    Infinite control and great results to create an image? Is this what photography is all about nowadays, editing power?
    "What matters is to look. Most of them don't look. They press the button...they identify. But to seek the meaning...beyond this or this...very few do it. You have to be receptive and it happens, that's all. If you want it you get nothing."
    "Can one learn to look? "
    "Can one learn how to have sex?? One day they'll create teachers, for everything!
    In the end, I prefer to draw"
    Henry Cartier Bresson
     
  40. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I don't know whether the OP continues to be interested in the thread but here goes.
    For the years in which I've been producing monochrome prints, they've been made for me by the same printer on the same paper using the same chemicals, so a similar style ( after a period of experimentation at the outset). It costs me a bit especially if I want toned prints, but its been very much worth it and I have no doubt that the prints I've had have been better than I could have made myself given the learning curves involved. Now here's the "buts" - ignoring for a second the cost issue which won't be quite the same for someone printing in their own darkroom.
    • There are some negs that just refuse to print well- or as well as I can make them look by scanning and working them up on screen anyway.
    • A lot of my professional work is stock. This means that today I have to photograph with a digital camera . I won't get into the reasons but its a given. That means that shooting b&w is not any longer as simple as putting another back on the Bronica. The Bronica might still be with me on most trips, but it may not be with me every minute. In short many of the monochrome print opportunities I have start out as colour digital photographs.
    • My preferred paper has gone and I haven't found a great alternative. As soon as i do it'll be a fair bet that it will go too? So what do I tell those who might be interested in my work- "well it won't be quite the same as you've seen because I've had to change the paper/chemistry/lab?"
    • Increasingly I like a slightly toned effect on my work. This increases the cost of prints significantly as a result of toner and labour costs.
    • Getting prints to look the same on subsequent orders isn't easy. What do I do - make all the prints I'm ever likely to need at one go ? Can't afford it. Its not efficient.
    Now if I find a way of printing digitally I can overcome all these issues. Problem is that till recently I didn't like the prints I could get, or more particularly I didn't like the appearance or feel of the papers. I've recently tried again using a digital fibre paper with a baryta coating from Harman and another from Ilford. In combination with latest K3 inksets (or the Canon equivalent) they give me prints I'm pleased to show people, and pleased to hang on a wall. I ran a test with five labs, three UK and two USA using a panel of photographs mostly starting life as digital but including some scanned MF film too. I got profiles and soft proofed each image for each lab/printer/paper combination I was using, bearing in mind that one lab uses a Canon printer, one used Ilford FB paper not Harman. I liaised with them over whether I needed to convert the files to their prifile; some said yes, others no. And then i got the prints back.
    Not only are they all ( and yes I mean all) good prints, they are also pretty much indistinguishable across the five labs, They vary from slightly more expensive than my analogue prints to 20% of the price I pay for my silver prints the same size; the cheapest were as good as the rest and I had the prints in my hand via mail 72 hours after I uploaded them. I gave a presentation to a photographic society on Wednesday, and I mixed silver and digital prints mounted the same. People couldn't tell which was which, though to be fair they weren't really close.
    So what's not to like? I get Baryta; I get Fibre, I get flat ( now there's a thing), and I get a fraction of the cost and far less elapsed time. I get a print area that doesn't any more seem shinier than the paper itself. I'll get free "toning". I'll get perfect repeatability which means less finished stock. I can tell a gallery in another country that I can replace anything they sell in a week. I can change labs when I feel like it. And its not even much extra work because I scanned and edited my best negs anyway to act as a print brief. Now I can just take that file, softproof, and upload it or take it physically to a lab.
    So thats why I'll be doing a lot more digital monochrome prints in future.
    And whats the investment cost? Zero. Everything I need to make the files, I need anyway and I don't have to buy printers, inks, papers; and I don't have to go throught the learning curve associated with learning to use an inkjet printer. There's no capital or experience-based barrier to entry.
     
  41. If you are a pro working in today's insane, fast paced, over demanding, instant gratification market digital work flow is pretty much a must. Sure the outdoor types can still shoot Velvia and produce some great, commercially viable landscapes but traditional B&W printing is a craft and tradition that can't and shouldn't be replaced with a computer.
    There will always be an upscale market appreciative of the time effort and skill needed to make a traditional silver print. (not that I'm good at it BTW.) Digital printing is like painting by numbers. Easier and probably better looking in the end for those who don't have the time, desire or space to become masters of the darkroom.
    It's not a bad thing to make digital prints. Show me a superb 8x10 and I'll give you up to $35 for it. Show me your fine looking silver print and I'll give you $150 and treasure it that much more.
     
  42. Had some prints made at the local camera store. The highlights were blown to the max. Got better prints from the Argyrotype process. So, if, you love the wet darkroom. Then, why change?
     
  43. Chris,
    I would recommend that you choose one of your favorite B&W negatives and have Inkjet Mall make a custom print (or two) for you. It won't be cheap but it will give you a very clear idea of what is possible with digital B&W printing these days.
    As a long time traditional B&W printer I would say we are almost there in our ability to produce digital inkjet B&W prints that are equal to what we can get out of the darkroom.
    Silver gelatin prints and digital inkjet prints aren't equivalents but the B&W digtial inkjet print has matured.
    As for being environmentally friendlier - I think that is a bit of a red herring.
    Don Bryant
     
  44. My apologies to the OP if all this is not helpful, I'm loving the discusion!
    To Charles E. - I still blow pigments for all my cave paintings! Not because I'm a purist - I just love the taste of lapis lazuli!
    To Ralph J. - No defensiveness intended, I said the purist thing bugs ME. Knock yourself out if you love silver prints. There is no denying how gorgeous they are - in the hands of a master. They can be every bit as mediocre as inkjets. I'm just saying to lose track of the image, the vision, the message in technique is a sad thing. The best photography isn't about what the prints are made of.
    I got good results with silver back in the day (my Mom and I both think so), but I can do much better with inkjets. But only after working at it for some years....
     
  45. Sorry but I had to laugh at Michael Ferron's post and his characterization of darkroom prints as "hand-crafted." Except perhaps for some alternative processes a darkroom print is no more "hand-crafted" than a digital print. You've used a machine (your camera) and chemical reactions to make a negative. You've put the negative in another machine (your enlarger) or in a contact printing frame. You've turned on a light for a certain length of time and moved a piece of cardboard or something else under the light to dodge, burn, or flash. Then you put the paper in some trays where another series of chemical reactions take place and eventually you have a print. Hand-made? Hardly. The only thing you've done with your hands is dodge and burn, which I do (and much more) with my hands in Photoshop.
    Making excellent prints is hard whether you use a darkroom or print digitally because either method takes talent, which not everyone possesses in equal amounts. The mechanics of a darkroom are simplicity themselves because there isn't all that much you can do. What separates a darkroom printer like John Sexton or Bruce Barnbaum from the rest of us is knowing what to do to make an excellent print, not actually doing it. Doing it is the easy part, especially in a darkroom where there just isn't that much you can do (get the exposure and color balance right in a color print or select the right contrast for the paper and then dodge, burn, and flash a b&w print). Photoshop offers almost infinite possibilities, which is why for me it's harder than printing in a darkroom.
     
  46. "The only thing you've done with your hands is dodge and burn, which I do (and much more) with my hands in Photoshop."​
    That I'd like to see! (I use a mouse to dodge and burn in PS, which is great but -- unlike in the darkroom -- merely waving my hands in front of the paper during inkjet printing doesn't make specific areas of the print lighter or darker. Maybe in CS6 or 7....)
    The fact that one can never wave one's hands exactly the same way twice (to dodge and burn in the darkroom) -- while two inkjet prints from the same file can be and usually are identical -- is probably what led the earlier poster to use the word "handcrafted" when describing a hand-burned and hand-dodged wet print. That seems fair to me. But this is the digital-darkroom forum and it would be surprising if there weren't more advocates here of digital than of traditional darkroom.
     
  47. So Ralph, your mouse moves all by itself? Not mine - I use my hands to move my mouse (and my Wacom pen). And by moving my mouse with my hands I control where and how much I dodge, burn, make local saturation adjustments, change tones, change contrast, etc. etc. In terms of "handcrafted," not one bit different than what I did in the darkroom, just using a my hands to hold and move the mouse instead ofusing my hands to hold and move a piece of cardboard or whatever.
    I fail to see what the fact that I supposedly couldn't move my hands the same way twice (actually I could but no point in arguing over that) has to do with "handcrafted." It might have something to do with an argument that each darkroom print is "one of a kind" whereas a digital print isn't. But it doesn't make the print any more "handcrafted."
     
  48. An Epson K3 ink printer (2400, 2880, 3800, ...) and Museo Silver Rag paper for printing B&W for total archival quality and wow! look will convince you. Also, that is an everyman's setup -- nothing that special about it.
    ...oh yeah, the OP flew the coop.
     
  49. Have you seen the blacks some of the digital printers can get? Have you experienced the amount of control and the amount of craft you can impart to your image? Have you seen the diversity of papers available? You owe it to yourself to check it out.
     
  50. He might dabble in it, but there is no way on God's green acre that you can have the flexibility of his Zone System when working in digital. How exactly can you do N +/- 2 "development" in digital and expect parity with B&W film? The answer is you can't
    When Ansel was doing one of his last books, computers were being used to make the duotone separations from the negatives. Ansel was apparently thrilled with the process and said that the final printed book looked better than his prints as he had more control over the entire process.
    As to your second allegation "you can't" is totally false. There is nothing stopping you from shooting B&W film, and using the zone system (or whatever other system you choose) for exposure and development of the film. It then becomes a matter of scanning the film and doing the final post processing in the computer prior to printing. Black and white digital printing does not require you to use a digital camera and convert the image to black and white. People who make these kind of absolute statements should review the workflow possibilities prior to posting.
    To the OP - if you really want to get into black and white digital printing, you need to dedicate a printer to the process. The Epsons work fine but the use of the K3 inks with the black and white mode will not get you even close to what can be done with John Cone's Piezography system. You replace all of the inks in the printer with very light gray to black inks and, depending upon the printer, add sepia and selenium tones so that you can get the final look you want. The real secret to it is to print using Quadtone RIP instead of the Epson printer driver.
    For a test of the process, I would suggest contacting John Cone as he will do prints through his Cone Editions Press business. You will have to send him the negative as he will scan it using his drum scanner prior to printing - but, this will give you an indication of the absolute highest quality you can achieve by printing digitally.
     
  51. The Epsons work fine but the
    use of the K3 inks with the black and white mode will not get you even close to
    what can be done with John Cone's Piezography system

    A friend of mine bought a system like this years ago, needed a PC to run the software, dedicated a epson 9200 (or something similar) with it.. the BW look fabulous! Then he got a 9880 later, and keep telling me how this new printer CANT beat the 9200 because of the piezo system etc.... thing is he never tried it either, and when he did, didtn do it correctly...
    So i told him to make is best BW print wiht his well run system, and i do the same using is 9880 using Advanced BW mode... whe the 2 print together on the table and look at them, at first they where pretty similar, under close examination he found that the epson one look smoother...
    he sell is piezo system 2 weeks after, as he didtn need 2 mega printer, 2 set of ink and 2 thing to care about.
    I think that when all the parameter are well done from scan / capture to print.. the xx80 epson printer will meet anyone expectation.
     
  52. I have a friend who's into the Piezography system and has been running it for about 3 years. He's done a lot of testing with it so he knows the ins and outs of it really thoroughly. I can't come close to what he gets with my 9800 using the stock Epson driver. The Quadtone RIP gives far smaller dots and better detail making a smoother tonal transitions.
     
  53. Steve, so what you say is without a piezo system and without a RIP such as QTR you cant get good (or amazing, or else .. use the word you like) result wiht a epson 2400-2800-etc....?
    So all the photographer i know (like me) who dont use such a system dont really know BW printing or at least are not getting into real BW printing?....
    im curious ; )
     
  54. Throwing in my $0.02 here...
    I've used two procedures, both giving me excellent results. I started off using a very simple Black Only process, with one Eboni inked cartridge (available from www.inksupply.com) in an Epson 220.
    Clayton Jones describes this process on his website: http://www.cjcom.net/digiprnarts.htm
    Slightly more advanced but a still very straightforward approach uses 3 such cartridges in an Epson R1800, which allows for bigger prints. Here I use the QTR driver instead of the Epson driver. Again, am getting great prints. Paul Roark's website describes this approach and also more advanced inksets:
    http://www.paulroark.com/BW-Info/
    (apologies if these resources have already appeared in this thread. In which case, just consider this post an added endorsement!)
     
  55. Arguments for digital:
    1) dMax readily achievable with modern inkjet printers visibly greater than readily achievable with silver gelatin printing
    2) archival carbon based pigments probably have longer life than silver (given proper choice of paper etc)
    3) Once you have overcome the substantial learning curve it becomes substantially easier to achieve an optimal print using digital techniques e.g. curves, histograms, masking etc.
    4) Once you have a print you like it is very easy to reproduce any number of copies.
    Of course there are also arguments against digital (e.g. who really knows how long the prints will last) so YMMMV.
     
  56. Not sure how this is for one and against the other type of discussion.
     
  57. I guess another factor is what facilities do you have? for most people the convenience of the computer means digital is a favourite, but if you have a darkroom and no computer/software then the cost involved can be quite high ( and vice versa)
    For me, I think with care and attention you get excellent results from digital and i find it very enjoyable to work on B&W.
    Also another consideration is with digital you convert colour images so you have the best of both worlds whereas film you only have the one option.
     
  58. Just thought of another digital printing advantage, to add to Jonathan's excellent list.
    When I was doing darkroom prints I had to figure out different exposures for different size prints. So, if I had a good 8x10 exposed at say, 12 sec at f/8, when I went to 11x14 I'd have to do some figuring to know how much longer to expose the paper. Sure, there were many ways to do this, but even then the 11x14 may not have had the same look as the 8x10. Other variables came into play, especially when printing in a different darkroom session, such as developer freshness and temperature, aging enlarging bulb, varying line voltage, etc.
    Now, I can make prints of any size and they are consistent, whether I do a 5x7 or an 11x14 or anything in between.
    By the way, I'm glad this thread has avoided flaming... such discussions often drift into contention. I thoroughly respect those who make quality darkroom prints. They do have a certain craft aspect and a colleague of mine finds an analogy in say, hand-crafted fine furniture to take just one example.
     
  59. Chris,
    My husband and I own an artisan black-and-white printing shop called Duckrabbit Digital (http://www.duckrabbitdigital.com). We use Piezography inks (which were mentioned in this discussion). We started the company because I used to print my photographs in the darkroom, switched to digital, loved it because of the amount of control I had over my image, but still wanted to be able to print my images myself.
    If you want, I can walk you through the process of getting your stuff to look great once it comes out of the printer. E-mail me and I'll tell send you a PDF on how to set up your files (color space, etc.) and walk you through preparing it to print. Then, just to prove how great it is, I'll send you a free 8x10 print.
    Try it! I think you'll convert.
    tempest@duckrabbitdigital.com
     
  60. I still make wet B&W prints because I enjoy the process and I'm happy with the results. Color, on the other hand, I print digitally because color corrections are fast and easy - color correcting when making wet prints can take quite a while, and feeding color paper into a machine isn't as much fun as rocking a tray.
     

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