View Full Version : Fine BW printing
Been away from film photography for some time now. Was wondering if anyone could opine for my on the various options for BW printing in the digital age--it seems that fine printers can offer both traditional gelatin-silver prints and newer-tech methods based on digital photos (scans or native digital photos).
What's/who's everyone using for fine printing these days?? What are the advantages and disadvantages to getting a gel-silver print made as opposed to a scan and computer-based printout? As I no longer have a darkroom or access to one, I'm going to need to outsource.
David William White
Your preference. The service bureaus I know can go analog->analog, analog->digital, and digital->analog.
Probably the biggest factor to consider is if your negative requires extensive rework, beyond tone control & dodging/burning, then you would shy away from direct enlargement prints on real photo paper.
Even some platinum/palladium printers find it easier to have their negatives enlarged digitally and then make traditional contact prints from them.
There are still plenty of silver gelatin printers about, and there is the archival issue in their favour.
I am using the HP printers, gray cartridges and HP Premium Plus Satin paper, prefer it slightly to the Epson pigment inks on mat paper, both are excellent though. The HP gray dyes on their paper have the highest archival rating for inkjets (see Wilhelm Inst. results).
The main advantage to traditional prints is that they look exactly like traditional prints... and if you are really good at printing them you don't have to learn anything new. The benefits of inkjet prints is that if you are really good at Photoshop already that you can use digital techniques to take further control over your images.
mpix.com will make silver gelatin prints from digital source for very reasonable prices... they look good too.
(Edit: the post above wasn't visible when I initially replied; thanks for the info! I thought I was responding to post #2)
Thanks! I am still unfamiliar, however, with what the actual output from a computer-based system looks like (or can look like, as it's obviously variable) and what it offers in contrast to the traditional printing methods as far as aesthetics.
I know the short answer is to go to a lab, ask them, and see some prints, but I live in a small central African country with, I think, a total of one small photo mini-lab. My employer provides pretty good mail and parcel services, so I can get stuff done over the long-term, but just wanted an idea of what I was going to be dealing with before sending stuff back and forth across the Atlantic.
So...any thoughts as to the looks and advantages/disadvantages of the two methods?
David William White
Well, I know the tide is against the traditionalists like myself, and paper choices are getting thin...but there is no way anyone can convince me that an inkjet print has anywhere near the beauty or textural feel of a fiber silver gelatin print.
But given your circumstances, you do what you have to, and based on your needs for fine prints.
I prefer to do my own printing. My enlarger is over 25 years old and will serve me well for the rest of my life, so there is no chasing the "next greatest thing" in printing technology (which can get quite expensive, I imagine).
I actually do both. I use an Epson 1400 w/ MIS U14 inkset, and I also do traditional silver gelatin printing. I hate to disagree with David, but I think the inkjet is cheaper. The paper is widely available, and I order enough ink to last me for ages from MIS for $100. The printer was quite cheap too. For silver you have to have the enlarger, space, chemicals, and lots & lots of paper.
That being said, at this point, I'm on a major traditional printing kick... I can get very nice prints from both, but there is nothing that looks like a silver print.
David William White
Well, electronic printers break down and need to be replaced. The computer that runs the printer breaks down and needs to be replaced. Paper costs are equivalent, ink costs as much as chemistry.
This is moot, however, since the OP will be outsourcing. I guess I would suggest that he send out and get both inkjet and silver gelatin prints, compare the quality and the price, and select whichever is most suitable for his needs. The great thing about outsourcing is you avoid the capital costs while always having access to state-of-the-art equipment, whether it be analog, digital, or hybrid.
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