Many photographers don’t do their own printing. It’s a time-consuming process and a craft that takes years to master.
However, the look and quality of the final print is crucial to its enjoyment by the viewer, so I feel it’s important for the photographer-as-artist to be involved through the entire process. That’s why I have my own darkroom and do my own printing.
All my photographs are shot on medium-format film, which I then develop into negatives. Some are made into traditional prints and some are digitized and printed on a high-quality inkjet printer. Here is a little about each process.
I expose the negatives onto Ilford double weight fiber-based paper to create black-and-white silver gelatin prints. These are developed using the tray process, which requires careful timing to obtain the desired result. Each print is truly a handcrafted piece of art.
To protect the silver in the image from being affected by the environment, the prints are selenium toned. Otherwise, exposure to the air could change the tonal quality of the images, in much the same way as silverware tarnishes over time. They are also heat pressed to keep the fiber-based paper from curling, allowing for easier mounting and framing.
What you get is a signed, fully-prepared archival print that will last several hundred years.
Digitized Inkjet Prints
Here the traditional world of photography is melded with the digital world.
After developing the medium-format film image, I digitize the negative in a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 scanner at a high resolution. This captures an incredible amount of information and detail from the negative.
I then open the image in Photoshop, where I can make adjustments much as one would in the darkroom, but with far greater precision and control. However, I do not manipulate the photograph in any way to create something that wasn’t there.
I only use the software to adjust the contrast, get rid of dust spots, and bring out the kind of detail that’s not possible with traditional prints -- in other words, to fully exploit the potential of the negative.
The image is printed, usually on matte or luster finish paper, with an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer using UltraChrome pigment-based inks, rated to last over 100 years before any noticeable fading or change in tonal balance.
The result is a magnificent photograph, rich in detail with a range of subtle tones you rarely see in photographic prints.