Darkroom:digital or otherwise ?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Giorgis, Nov 2, 2003.

  1. Giorgis

    Giorgis Guest

    A quick question ... I know there is alot of advocacy on the
    quality of Film Vs Digital. I have a digital camera my self, and I
    am very happy. My friend has a film setup and he is quite happy. We
    often get in to friendly arguments about the pro and cons. I was
    supprised today about an admission.

    He has shot alot of film and is about to create a professional
    portfolio. He has done alot of darkroom work, but for the sake of
    his portfolio, he feels that printing from film is not an option.

    In conversation he said that it's just too much work, let alone
    putting borders in the darkroom and other things that are so simple
    in photoshop.

    My question to the experts in the group ... Has the darkroom lost
    the race compaired to the digital darkroom, or does it have an edge
    in any way ?

    Giorgis, Nov 2, 2003
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  2. Giorgis

    Rafe B. Guest

    Over the last several years I have talked to and heard
    from dozens of professional photographers who have
    put away their "wet" darkrooms in favor of digital (mostly
    using large-format Epsons and Rolands.) I've never heard
    one report of one of these going back or expressing regret
    for the move.

    Speaking for myself from personal experience, though I
    am not a pro. My wet darkroom experience is from many
    years ago. Digital beats it hands down, at least for color.

    For BW, you have to work harder, but it can still be done,
    and done well.

    rafe b.
    Rafe B., Nov 2, 2003
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  3. They are both tools. Today they are both good tools. It is not really
    possible to say one is better than the other since digital has come a long

    So the photographer needs to know and pick the tool that is right for
    them and the job.

    So just as in the past before digital, I would need to choose between
    4x5, 2¼ or 35mm to take the image (digital is added to that list now) I also
    needed to decide if I wanted to do the darkroom work myself or have someone
    else do it, now I add digital to the mix.

    For absolute best control and quality, today I would choose 4x5 and a
    wet darkroom, if the subject allowed it. Most of the time I am not willing
    to do all that work so I compromise. Note, compromise is NOT a dirty word.
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 2, 2003
  4. Giorgis

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    The salesman at a fairly large camera store I go to occasionally states
    that they have not sold a new enlarger in over 4 years, and they have now
    stopped buying used enlargers except as trade-ins on their stock. They've
    had people moving up from cheap enlargers to better ones - but USED better
    ones. Very few people are starting to do any chemical darkroom work unless
    they have access to a pre-existing darkroom.
    I went digital about 6-7 years ago because of growing allergies to the
    chems. I'm very glad now that I got a head start on everyone. I sold my
    enlarger for exactly what I paid for it -- Since I put together darkrooms by
    buying and selling used equipment I probably made a profit overall. This
    would not be possible today.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from my novel "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 2, 2003
  5. Did your fingernails turn brown like mine did?
    cultural neanderthal, Nov 2, 2003
  6. Giorgis

    Giorgis Guest

    I don't deny they are both tools. I am wondering in a wet darkroom (a
    term a learned here, showing my ignorance) what are the advantages ?

    You can argue about resolution in digital Vs Film, about dynamic range,
    but from what I understand both film and digital cannot put all the info
    on print. As a result, the printing process is a subset of the
    capabilities of the image acquisition. At then end of the day it seems
    there is a clear lead in the digital darkroom.

    Giorgis, Nov 2, 2003
  7. Giorgis

    HRosita Guest


    Seemed almost inevitable. I never had a darkroom, first because I did not have
    the money or space and later because I did not have time.
    When photogrphy and computers came together I felt very happy. First because I
    was ahead in computer knowledge and then because I could use the digital

    Actually, even though I am retired now, I am constantly looking forward at
    what technology will bring.
    HRosita, Nov 2, 2003
  8. Giorgis

    k Guest

    At the college where I work, I find many students who've been sitting in front
    of the PC for days trying to output images with true colour fidelity on the
    epson 7600's saying fckt, and heading for the RA4. I'm in the same boat. I had
    a 50x60 image needed quickly - the PC work required was complicated .. 3 test
    strips, 30 minutes and there I was with 2 large glossy RA4 prints. Much easier

    k, Nov 3, 2003
  9. Giorgis

    Rafe B. Guest

    So, are you the teacher? What's the problem?

    I mean, getting good color isn't entirely trivial, but
    someone's got to show these poor blokes how to
    do it. Lots of folks who "never went to school" are
    making fine prints with their Epsons and Canons.

    As you probably know, there is most definitely a gamut
    issue with inkjets -- across the board -- and especially so
    for the 7x00 and 9x00 Epson printers with their various
    generations of pigment inks. I wonder if your students
    might be better served by dye ink printers.

    But CMYK (and CMYKcm) inkjet printers simply can't reach
    certain parts of the color spectrum -- for example, deep
    dazzling pinks, or violet. You can fiddle with the RGB color
    knobs till the cows come home, but it's damned near
    impossible to get a deep, saturated violet from an inkjet print.

    Inkjets can beat SWOP gamut hands-down, but most likely
    can still be beat for gamut by "wet" prints. Fortunately, this
    issue isn't a killer; these tones that are way-out-of-gamut
    don't appear all that often the landscape photos I do.

    rafe b.
    Rafe B., Nov 3, 2003
  10. Giorgis

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    No - I had respiratory problems from the hypo and a rash -- the oozy, bleedy
    kind, from the developers. If I'm careful and don't do it too often (and
    never without rubber gloves) I can process a roll or two of B/W film - but
    that's it - and no open trays at all.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from my novel "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 3, 2003
  11. Giorgis

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    If you don't take the time to learn how to get good colour out of a digital
    set-up you will get lousy colour. I know an awful; lot of people who never
    made a single chemical colour print that looked any good either. It takes
    work and practice and knowledge - especially knowledge of your system - like
    any other skill.
    My average colour print is done with one test print and adjustments to the
    file in the form of "Adjustment Layers". For 8x10s that takes about 12
    minutes to print them both and my printer is practically an antique. If I'm
    doing a series that was shot under the same lighting conditions I seldom
    have to do any test prints after the first.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from my novel "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 3, 2003

  12. I agree that time is needed to know your workflow.

    I think the single most important issue with a digital darkroom is monitor
    calibration and sadly I think it is one that is most often overlooked or has
    copped the "that'll do" approach.

    I have spent a lot of time getting mine right, as printing to a Lambda,
    D-Lab or Pegasus at a lab does not give the option of a test print.
    Naturally I have the option to re-print any that are no good, but getting it
    "right on screen-right in print" is the better way to go.

    Actually, perhaps we should had "profiles" to that "most important" list
    also.... grossly miss-understood the poor things :-(
    AU Digital Photo Of The Day, Nov 3, 2003
  13. should ADD "profiles"

    ........Sorry for the typo :-(
    AU Digital Photo Of The Day, Nov 3, 2003
  14. Giorgis

    Don Guest

    Its the bloody profiles, that I can't get my head around. Tried a number of
    sites but still looking for the "dummies" guide. Any suggestions? (Keep it
    clean, the kids use my machine).


    Don, Nov 3, 2003
  15. Giorgis

    Nige Guest

    a portfolio with photoshop borders... are you serious?
    Getting away from a mouse and CRT is enough for me but to answer your
    question more completely, for a colour digital workflow (why's it called a
    "darkroom" anyway?) it is in a different league to colour wet processing.
    There were very few people capable of quality work when it was somewhat
    popular, and I doubt those that claim they could print colour, actually
    could. Alternatively, who got prints from a lab and got the image
    reprinted several times to get it 'right'? Now you can do all that to your
    own satisfaction.

    For hobbiest B&W work I think it's a different scenario. Regardless of the
    final output, some people (this includes me) actually like processing film
    and spending time in the darkroom printing. For some reason, the digiworld
    can't come to grips with that aspect.

    Cheers, Nige
    Nige, Nov 3, 2003
  16. The result on the print is not the same. Notice I don't say one is
    better, but they are not the same. Much the say as my opinion of apple and
    cherry pie. I love both, but they are not the same.

    Again we have two tools. Many people are choosing digital. Digital is
    more convenient and easier to learn and even has some tricks not available
    in the wet darkroom. But I still see a difference in the result.

    For NOW I see the traditional darkroom as having an edge in some cases.
    I don't know if this will continue.

    I use both, but most of my work now is not wet. That choice is
    convenience. That may change, either way in the future.
    I agree, depending on how you define "clear lead." It is clear more
    people are going digital, but it is not clear if this is because of quality
    choice or convenience choice. I tend to believe it is do to the practical
    decisions made my many knowledgable talented photographers after due
    consideration of all the factors for the work they are doing.
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 3, 2003
  17. Giorgis

    Mark Herring Guest

    No easy answer here.

    I spent years doing "conventional" Band W printing, I finally
    converted to digital. I doubt if I will ever go back---for one
    reason: convenience. I can start a project and put it away at a
    moments notice. No way to do that in a darkroom.

    My latest kick is panoramas---stiching together 5-8 shots in the
    computer. I would not even know how to do that in a darkroom.

    I suspect that the quality of inkjet may never be up to the silver
    print, but it is very close. If the inkjet print doen not meet your
    needs, there are commercial options.

    Mark Herring, Nov 3, 2003
  18. Giorgis

    Browntimdc Guest

    I have embraced digital, but darkroom work provides a joy that digital
    cannot. So IMHO digital wins for practicality. I only do B&W film from a
    medium format camera, but without it I would have a void in my life.



    "The strongest human instinct is to impart information,
    and the second strongest is to resist it."

    Kenneth Graham
    Browntimdc, Nov 3, 2003
  19. Giorgis

    k Guest

    I agree that time is needed to know your workflow.
    then there's the issue of recallibrating for colour changes as the tube heats
    and changes, and ambient lighting too, unless it's controlled :-( LCD's don't
    offer much hope due to the viewing angle issues and the frequently crossed

    I guess I see a major stumbling block in the following comparison of processes:

    RA4 from neg.
    colour chemistry.
    paper stock.
    any variation in colour correction is delt with by adjusting the filtration
    until it's right, so there's three ways to stuff things up.

    Digital from neg:
    calibrate scanner
    calibrate scanner for film stock.
    calibrate monitor for video card and monitor.
    adjust file on monitor
    adjust in printer interface for paper stock
    adjust in printer interface for ink stock
    send to print

    I can see many, many ways to cock this up - fine if you have your own dedicated
    machine that you calibrate regularly (not relying on those goddam 'profiles) but
    one thing goes out of whack and there's a lot of problem solving to rectify

    A great project is to whip off a dmaned fine RA4 print and then try to replicate
    it digitally. Not an easy task by any measure.. And I don't mean a print that
    looks good, or one which is _mostly_ right apart from the purple flower which
    now looks a funky blue, but I mean an exact copy. Damned hard..

    Ah! wet process :)
    you really mean to say you'd trust some bloke somewhere on the other side of the
    world with different inks and different paper to you, not to mention a different
    video card and monitor to create a profile that's better than one you can


    k, Nov 3, 2003
  20. Giorgis

    k Guest

    I spent years doing "conventional" Band W printing, I finally
    that bit I too like :)

    been there, done that, got the five enlargers to prove it :-(

    ...but before we get off this point, have you ever seen Bob Carlos Clarke's work?
    beeeooootiful composite stuff using multiple negs and multiple enlarger setups.
    Bloody hard work - and he stood alone in being one of the few people who could
    do what any spotty kid with a PC can do in a minute

    hang on, did I just shoot myself? ;-)

    k, Nov 3, 2003
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