As with many aspects of photography, testing is crucial in order to achieve the best results. But with traditional methods this is more the case I am sure.
Hand printing involves making test exposures, processing, then evaluating and making alterations to the enlarger. I tend to store the changes and settings in my head, but thought that this would not help Gillian too much really! So sharing the colour filtrations of the enlargers, exposure times, techniques and reasoning helped us to explore the testing of the prints together.
It is a 5 minute processing time through my Kreonite machine, so often I will run two enlargers to work efficiently. Helps you concentrate and focus when you don`t go off and get distracted. Seeing and reading subtle colour and density shifts is the essence of fine printing.
After some good chat initially and making test prints at various sizes, Gillian and I decided that we could produce her series, with an image size at 16 inch square on 20 x 24 paper. This considered the medium format neg, framing issues, total space required for exhibiting, practical transportation etc. The goal we set ourselves was to produce 10 finals with two more to select when the first printing was complete. 12 in total for the bursary award.
Being a bit of a perfectionist is an essential requirement I reckon, to be a good printer. A fair dash of patience is needed to go with it. The subtleties of c-type photographic emulsion still astonishes me and even though the amount of papers available is nothing compared to what it used to be, amazing prints can still be produced optically.
It has made it a greater challenge as a printer to affect contrast with technique, instead of reaching a choice of papers like Kodak’s Supra or Portra or Ultra, depending on the saturation you wish for.