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The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 30 Aug 2014, 09:17
by Photomark
This has been a concern to me for some time now but I am thinking of getting out of darkroom printing, chemicals and paper are getting more expensive every day and it would seem that every day there is something I can no longer get.
I have recently got my self an Epson V700 large format scanner and the results are every thing I expected and with a try out of a new printing lab across the road I was supper impressed with the print quality.

I was having a discussion with a fellow photographer who shoots MF digital and he seems to think that once I scan my neg it is no better than any image taken from any digital. I do not see how this could be true as I can scan a 4x5 to be a file so much larger than what any DSLR can give and there is still that film quality even from film scans.

Anyone else going this rout ?

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 30 Aug 2014, 12:23
by Maris
Darkroom work is too inexpensive for me to cash up in favour of something else. I can make an archival fibre-base gelatin-silver 8x10 photograph by contact with an 8x10 negative for about $5. That includes the negative, the paper, and the chemistry.

A personal (personal!) bete noir of mine is the practice of equating "printing" with making photographs in the darkroom. Using the same word "print" both for a photograph and what comes out of a printer misleads people into thinking they are the same thing. They are not. To avoid confusing myself I work within the authentic tradition of photography as making pictures out of light sensitive materials. And to follow this path I need a light controlled workspace: the darkroom. But yes and yes, these days there are a lot of more leisurely ways to get pictures than working a day in the dark.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 31 Aug 2014, 12:32
by smbooth
Not going to go down the film Vs Digital Vs scan film Vs etc other to say the to mediums have different looks and it your choice in picking one over the other. But I enjoy my time in the darkroom much more than time spent in front of a computer screen. I like being able to hold a image which is totally hand made by me, the cost really doesn't enter into it, i can go for months without putting my hand in my pocket even time I make an image, unlike paying somebody in the area of $30 each time they make a print.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 09 Sep 2014, 14:30
by Photomark
This is not intended as a "this Vs that "

I should have mentioned I am shooting in colour and in days now long gone I would have been printing with Cibachrome from slide film as well as RA4 printing from negs.

I still shoot in colour from large format and I don't think I could ever use anything less than medium format.

Cibachrome is now long dead ( RIP) and I used the last of the RA4 sheet paper I had around 6 months ago and can not find any more in AU. At least for now C41 and E6 film and chemicals are easy to get but for how much longer I have no idea.

Was more wondering if any one was still shooting colour with LF and printing in a darkroom or elsewhere.

Personally I like the idea of combining the 2 technologies and a high quality digital print from a large format slide film scan is as good as it gets for colour work. I miss Cibachrome for the print quality but I certainly do not miss the process but unfortunately I never got to print from large format with that process.

Is the future of film photography now just a B&W thing ? C41 neg film is sure expensive but the process is in fact easier than most B&W film processes.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 18 Sep 2014, 10:36
by Warmtone
I think we are very fortunate to live in a time where we have options to take and process photographs.
While I have profound respect for straight analogue photography processes I also see benefits in embracing the numerous benefits of the digital world.

This excellent forum exists because of digital technology and in an odd sort of way the internet helps in keeping analogue photography alive and well through information sharing and maintaining interest in traditional darkroom processes.

I personally enjoy the pleasure of using a large format film camera (tactility, control, discipline) but generally prefer a digital workflow to optimise output - particularly for colour. Once scanned, a negative can be further optimised to remove imperfections and processing defects tasks that are time consuming or impossible in the darkroom.
Anyone who has developed uneven pyro negs will know what I mean!

The quality from digital printers such as the Epson 3880 meets my requirements for print quality in colour.
An area I am yet to explore is contact printing large format optimised B&W digital negatives in the darkroom which I think has enormous potential.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 18 Sep 2014, 11:56
by smbooth
I have a friend that was a big Cibachrome fan and when the last place in South Aust shut its doors he almost stop making images, now he use a Pentax 67 and scan / prints to a high gloss almost metalised medium and its quite happy with the results, I even remember him saying its better than Cibachrome for control of output. Its the way I would do colour image for sure.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 18 Sep 2014, 12:47
by RoganJosh
After jumping into the deep end of darkroom printing and attempting to make prints that resemble my digital output, I really have to tip my hat to those of you who make fine prints the original way. Digital alteration is clearly superior in so many ways and sitting in that red room for hours on end drives me insane sometimes. Yet I can't stop thinking about going back in and improving my prints.

At the end of the day I'd prefer to see my latest analogue attempt on the wall rather than a perfect Inkjet. I guess it feels like MY work more than the digital does.

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 18 Sep 2014, 15:33
by Lachlan717
Given I just picked up a Beseler 45 today, I guess you know where my vote/heart is!

Re: The future of darkroom printing

Posted: 07 Nov 2014, 12:21
by Photomark
Well I finally got some fresh sheet RA4 colour paper from the US and did some 30x40cm prints from 4x5, once I got all my colour cast corrected ( not easy with a condenser enlarger ) the print quality far surpasses what I can get done at a digital lab, it just takes me 100 times longer to do, price wise there is not much difference but once I have the colour calibrated the prints are no more expensive than B&W, the only thing is that I can not find colour sheet paper here in AU and not much range in rolls.

I certainly have no intention of dismantling my darkroom yet, I never did have. I am refurbishing it in fact to give me more room.

I am now also getting a lot of my supplies from BH Photo and in some cases even with postage from the US I save up to 40% over Australian prices, paper is still a bit costly to ship because of the weight but I can get it in rolls and it does work out cheaper in the long run. The only thing I do not get from the US is chemistry due to shipping restrictions but for some reason that is the one thing that is cheap in Australia but chances are it will not be available next week. I think that within 12 months there will be nothing available in Australia at all.
The market here is just to small and we are to far away from the rest of the world.
Got 4 10 sheet boxes of Kodak Ektar 100 colour print film for around $220 total, cant even find that film in AU and I like it better than Portra and that is just a few dollars more, add few extra boxes and the shipping cost does not go up that much if at all.
Keep your order under $1000 and it is all duty free. Of course it is not worth it if you are only buying a box or two of film.