Originally Posted by photomoof
Cal really sums it up, although each person will need to experiment on paper grade, but shooting for your paper really works.
Fred has the concept that they teach in art schools. First benefit is it teaches you how to be consistent really fast because you are concentrating on only one thing. Using multicontrast papers can be looked upon as a crutch, a crutch that IMHO can hold you back because contrast is so easy to correct. When I say consistent it means having that control in both developing film and printing. It is the combination of these two processes that become like a dance that involves two people and not two solo operations. Don't forget consistency in image capture and now you are choreographing three dancers. Optimizing for one grade of paper is an intergrative process where everything counts. Think of three dancers dancing together to put on a show together and not three solo performances.
Second thing it teaches and strengthens fundamental skills like exposure and composition to visualize the shot before printing. Can you control negative density to the point where you get a full tonal range regardless of light? Are your negatives easy to print? Do you require lots of dodging and burning to make up for bad or less than optimal exposure?
Third thing it teaches you is to use filters to control contrast at image capture which is something I feel most B&W shooters don't do. Do you try to optimize contrast at image capture? Steve once said, "You can't print what's not there." Pretty easy on a bright day to have skies print white blowing out the clouds as blown highlights. Again shoot like how a large format shooter would... get everything right at image capture for contact printing even though I'm shooting small format.
Fourthly is as you skill developes so will your artistic vision, then you will discover a voice, a vision, a signature, and a style that is your own.
"Less is more." If you are doing everything correctly your skills advance rapidly. Consider yourself lucky that you are a printer, not only because it is becoming a lost art, but also because becoming a good or great printer will make you into a better photographer. To me this is pure old school.
Graded papers are readily available, but not necessarily in resin coated. Graded papers are looked upon as more pro and less consumerish and are higher ended (cost more).
I don't like how resin coated papers look either (look like a sheet of plastic). In a fine art sense, and fine art printing, fiber prints cost more and maintain the traditional look of a silver wet print which commands a premium. Art dealers and galleries want the fiber prints over resin coated.