I am a slow printer


work in progress
Jul 7, 2003
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Portland OR USA
I seem to be very slow in the darkroom. Tonight I was there for over 3 hours, and I came home with 6 prints (2 each of 2, and 1 each of 2 others) none of which I am happy with and able to call a final product. I see other people around me pounding out prints like crazy and I wonder what my problem is. I have been working on some tough stuff, so it slows me down, plus I am trying to be slower, to take all of the right steps. I still need to start taking notes. I just feel like I am working so hard and have nothing to show for it...
well, if you are going in with new negatives, it generally does take a bit of time to get it right. i often go in with a bottle of wine and a box of paper to emerge hours later with....one work print. you strike me as one that knows what she is doing, so i say that coming out with some prints that are a little 'off' to you is a good thing. it doesn't mean that you don't have the process down pat, it means that you are picky as all hell when it comes to something you would label as 'final'. that is a good trait.

and, yes, notes are very helpful. they are good starting points for new negs or pretty darned solid for negs on the same roll shot in similar conditions with all else being equal (print paper, size, etc.).

if these help at all, great:

1) this is a very basic darkroom printing record. i find myself scribbling a lot of stuff in the margins

http://www.motionless-continuum.com/tpf/printing record.xls

2) after i'm done a print, i put all the information in this file, print a copy, and keep it with a work print

http://www.motionless-continuum.com/tpf/print tech.xls

3) now that you have that, when you want to make a different size print of the same negative on the same paper, this will figure out your new times for you


* fill in the yellow areas only. disregard the jibberish to the right of the sheet. it is good for 35mm only as the ratios in the formula are for 35mm.

again; when i read your post i thought to myself, 'ok, spent a lot of time in the darkroom working to perfect a print, but came away with some work prints. so what's the problem?'. it's nothing new. i can go to the darkroom and reprint a negative from notes in no time at all. a new neg requires the entire process over again and often another glass of.....juice.

i will say, however; that if your negs are extremely difficult, then maybe tweaking your exposure/processing rituals would help, but if you are just being particular, i say pride yourself in that.
motcon, thank you so much for your reply. It really made me feel better. I do know that it's not such a bad thing, I was just feeling really frustrated last night. And thank you for those forms, I will definitely print some and try them out. Anything to get me more organized! One of my prints last night is actually pretty good, if it wasn't for the dust spots, that just kept moving around whenever I tried to clean it and reprint. (You saw my other thread....) Luckily I remember my times right now (9 seconds, plus 4 seconds while dodging the face, at f/11 (probably :?) full frame, will need to measure for size, in case I forget before I get back to it, good to document while I am thinking about it...)

Most of my negs are exposed ok, so printing isn't much of a problem, but lately I have been working on those color negs, which can be a real *****, because they often just don't translate well (I will have to look into that panalure paper tho), and this one photo (b/w neg) I needed for a film my boyfriend is working on where I needed a rock star pic to place on a fake Life magazine cover, and when we took the shots of our actor on stage we had the spotlight on full blast, so it was super contrasty and totally washed his face out. It was late, we'd been filming all day and didn't even think about using the spot on a lower power. I spent hours burning and dodging that thing so we could see a face, and eventually just turned it over to our friend who is making the magazine to photoshop it the rest of the way...
my pleasure, oriecat.

i couldn't even begin to tell you how many times i 'quit'. with the slam of the door and a 'f**k it', i'd leave the darkroom with 7 trash prints on the floor, 2 in the wash, one in the fix, negative still in tray, safe lights still on, music still playing, and selenium toner in a tray letting of its fumes.

...but i'll be damned if a negative that i cared for since its birth will get the best of me.

wow; i feel better now, too.
o, almost forgot....

the neg that was a wee bit difficult (highlights blown out). have you ever tried split grade printing? many moons ago when i first tried the technique, i violently danced in my darkroom. it's very freeing and would help w/that neg.
I keep meaning to look this up (split grade printing) but I keep forgetting and now I need to run off to my gallery sitting. Could you give me a quick run down so I know a little something before I forget about it entirely?

:? 8)
"I see other people around me pounding out prints like crazy and I wonder what my problem is."

If the point is making a lot of prints conveniently, then you'd be doing it digitally.

I think that working deliberately and slowly and demanding the most out of your own work is a good thing. It seemed like I was able to really crank out prints when I first started, but the more I learned, the pickier I got with my own work, and that really slowed me down.

Of course, it's also important to occasionally allow yourself to be satisfied. I was printing family vacation prints last night, and I had to keep reminding myself that what was probably most important was that everyone actually get a set of prints rather than eventually get each print perfected.

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