by Ctein

Writing 400-word columns is good discipline for me (to say I've a predilection for loquaciousness is criminal understatement) but the disadvantage is that nuances and complex discussions don't fit into 400 words. If this column seems in conflict with my last, consider Walt Whitman:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

That said...

Digital printing my color negatives eats up way too much of my time and money. I'm a very efficient wet darkroom printer. I can turn out a finished, color-balanced, dodged-and-burnt-in Ektacolor 8x10 in 20 minutes without breaking a sweat. I average 2.5 sheets per finished print, including proof sheets and test strips. Last week I ran through 100 sheets of Ektacolor paper at a total cost, including chemistry, of under $50.

It takes me about two sheets of paper to get a finished inkjet print, but the materials cost me $1.20-$1.50 per sheet. I can do a finished photo on the computer in about 30 minutes but only if I avoid really getting into refining the print. Then it's 45–60 minutes. Doing those same 100 prints on the computer would have cost me $120–$150 and taken two to three times as long.

You can see the biggest time problem is I spend way too much of it twiddling those bits. Digital printing gives me far more precise and complete control over the look of the print than darkroom printing does. At least, anything this side of dye transfer. I can refine the aesthetics of print on the computer vastly better than I ever can in an Ektacolor print.

An Ektacolor print. Dodged and burnt-in, natch, but there's only so much you can do with Ektacolor.

An inkjet print. Much, much better... but at 3X the cost and time. Was it worth it in this case? I think so. Could I afford to do that for all my prints? No way!

This extra level of the aesthetic control I get on the computer is terribly hard to resist. When I look at the ability to control curve shapes, do precise local dodging and burning-in and color corrections, etc., I succumb. As a fine printer who really cares about how his prints look I can't stand making second-best prints. I get sucked into making all those refinements that I couldn't possibly make in an Ektacolor print. Because I can. But that isn't unalloyed joy! I mean, time and money are why I never printed everything as dye transfer prints. Similarly, if I only printed digitally I could afford neither the time nor the money to print most of my photographs.

Computer-assisted printing is a true gift...but a gift is not always a blessing.

Posted by: CTEIN


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