Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by danalec99, Sep 8, 2004.
What is it?
A gelatin silver print is a traditional BW print. The black in the image is actually silver. 99% of BW machine prints from labs these days use a minimal amount of silver, and mostly dyes to create create the image (like color prints). These are not gelatin silver prints.
Toning is the process of replacing the silver in the image with something else that is more colorful, or archival, or both. The most common toners are sepia (olive/brown) and selenium (no color change or sort of purple), but there is also iron toner (blue), copper toner (red), and a few others.
Selenium toner is commonly used because at low concentrations it doesn't really change the color of the image, although it can make the blacks deeper, and it increases the archival quality of the print (300+ years if stored correctly).
So, what do we do if we want a gelatin silver print?
Make one in your darkroom
Pro labs might have hand printing b&w available.
Shoot a roll of B&W film and send it to Matt with a BIG check! :twisted:
BIIIIG BIIIIIIIIIIIG check buddy, or your credit card
Like Orie said...
1. Is there a considerable quality difference between silver gelatin and normal dyes? I mean, is there a quality difference in the final print?
2. Which one lasts longer?
3. And how big the check should be?
1) I think there is a very big difference between a machine print and a well done, hand printed, gelatin silver print. The proofs I get back from the lab are very nice, but my clients still purchase my hand printed gelatin silver prints for 5 times the lab price (for an 8x10), so they must think they are better also. A lot easier than discussing the merits of the gelatin silver print over a lab print would be for you to compare prints yourself, and come up with your own opinion. I'm sure there are many people who don't see a big enough difference to merit the extra cost.
2) If it's a chemical (dye) print from a lab then Kodak says their chems/paper last 20+ years, Fuji says 70+ years (with proper storage). Properly processed and stored an untoned gelatin silver print should last 70+ years. Add selenium toning to that and there are folks who say 300+ years. Studies/estimates seem to suggest that archival inkjet prints are more archival than a chemical print, and may last a very, very long time. Of course all of this depends on "proper storage" which basically means locked away somewhere never exposed to light, and that's no fun.
3) I charge $30 for a gelatin silver print on 8"x10" FB paper. This would include basic dodging and burning. This does not include toning. I think this is probably on the cheaper end of the scale, although there are labs that do offer gelatin silver printing for as little as half of this. They are better set up for volume. I'm mostly doing it for portrait and wedding customers of my own, who are having me print photos that I took. I only started offering to print other folks' work when the local pro labs stopped offering the services. Mostly I'm doing it for a couple of people who need their BW prints on FB for hand coloring.
If you have access to a darkroom and the time to print, then paper and chems for gelatin silver printing are really pretty cheap: RC paper is usually less than $0.50 a sheet, FB paper less than $1 a sheet, and all the chems necessary to print dozens of prints can be had for less than $20.
There's no big deal about gelatin silver prints. In the past almost all BW was done this way. The only reason they may seem exotic is that newer, faster, cheaper technology has dominated the market, and this is better for many consumers. Gelatin silver technology replaced earlier technologies which some people are still using: platinum printing, carbon printing, albumen printing, van dyke, cyanotype, and so on... And some of these are even more archival, and have their own subtle beauty.
If you are happy with your labs prints, that's fine. If you are really interested in gelatin silver prints I suggest you take a darkroom class. I do think that gelatin silver prints look better than BW machine prints or BW inkjet prints, but to me the greatest advantage is that I am printing and processing my own, and have complete control over the printing.
Thanks Matt for that detailed explanation. I actually picked the term from photoeye, and was naturally wondering what it was. I haven't thought of a darkroom, yet . In future, I might; for the sake of experimenting. At this point, on a regular basis, I would prefer the digital way because of the ease.
Just one more question on this topic; what is FB and RC paper? Is it something like Matt/Glossy?[/i]
RC is resin coated paper. Meaning it's plastic coated.
FB is fiber paper. Meaning it's made of plant fibers, like many high quality papers.
RC paper usually has additives in the emulsion that speed up processing. RC developing times are about 1 min, while FB dev time is usually 2 or 3 min. RC fixes quicker than FB.
The plastic coating keeps RC paper from sucking up fixer, so it washes quicker (5 to 10 min). FB soaks up fixer so it can take up to an hour to wash.
FB is considered more archival, and is sort of the "fine art" standard.
Both kinds of paper are available in different finishes. Because of the plastic coating glossy RC is very, very glossy. While glossy FB looks more like semi-matte/pearl RC because of the texture of the fibers.
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