In the article today I am hoping to show you that black and white darkroom prints are much more than shades of gray. There are so many options that it is truly endless. The only limiting factor is your own imagination when it comes to tone and color with silver gelatin darkroom prints. I have scanned in the actual prints for this article without any further modification of any kind. Also, I just started a new Flickr group called “Analog Prints in a Digital World“. The group is dedicated to traditional darkroom prints. Anything goes as long as it was made by hand and not edited on a computer. Join and upload some of your prints. The price is right (free) and don’t hesitate to start a new discussion in the forum for the group.
I have scanned in a few different prints to give you an idea of some basic choices that you have when printing in the darkroom. I could literally post hundreds of photos for illustration purposes. My goal is to get you thinking about your own photography and maybe light a creative spark in you to try something new. Some of my most creative and best work was born from experiments and even at times accidents.
I will provide a brief comment below each of the prints to hopefully give you a little more insight into my personal thoughts.
Silver Gelatin with Archival Selenium Toning for DMAX
This print almost made itself. No real mystery here except I wanted a boost in the brilliance of the print that I would get from archival processing with Selenium toner. I use Selenium as part of my archival process and I vary the dilution and time for one of a few options (archival permanence, max DMAX, boost in contrast). For this print I wanted the archival benefits as well as the increase in contrast between the water and dark rocks. I used Ilford MGIV FB paper with Dektol.
Silver Gelatin with Warmtone Paper and Selenium Toning
To illustrate a completely different look I used Ilford MGIV WT paper in Dektol and Selenium toned. To me the print just worked better via the warm tones versus a traditional silver print. I diluted my Selenium to 1+10 for 5 minutes in this print. If you look at the top print and this one on your screen you should notice a significant difference in color.
Silver Gelatin with Selenium Toning for Archival
This print already had the tone and richness that I visualized so my goal was to simply process the print to my archival standards using Selenium. If I had pushed the DMAX any further I would have lost detail that I didn’t want to lose. I used my standard Ilford MGIV FB paper.
Silver Gelatin with Bleach/Sepia/Selenium Dual-Toning
This print is a far cry from a traditional silver print. The traditional print looked flat to me so I made a creative decision to take it in its natural direction of brown and yellow. I processed the print as I normally would in the darkroom then I bleached for 1 minute, then Sepia toned for 4 minutes and then Selenium toned for 5 minutes. Based on my paper (Ilford MGIV FB) these are the tones and colors I expected for this specific combination. I could have varied the bleach time, sepia time and temp as well as the Selenium dilution and time for much different results. The key to this is just play, have fun and experiment. You should take good notes if you want to duplicate your work.
Silver Gelatin Large Format Contact Print
This print is a large format 4×5 contact print of a Gerbera Daisy. This was a straight contact print using Ilford RC Pearl paper. I have all of my variables dialed in and this is the type of print you can expect when you are in control of your photography. I literally used my proper proof time and processed the print without thinking about it. I made a few extras and went on with my next photo.
Silver Gelatin Large Format Contact Print
This print is also a contact print of a large format 4×5 negative. The same goes with this print as the one above. It was a simple contact print because I had a good quality exposure. The reason I included this is because this exposure was about 4 minutes as opposed to a few seconds in the print above. Being in control of your variables (EI rating, reciprocity, bellows factor, etc) allows you to make quality prints with very little effort.
Silver Gelatin Standard Print
In this final print I used my standard Ilford MGIV FB paper and processed using my normal archival procedures. The reason I included this print is so you could visually compare it to the first and third prints. Because of the subject matter and scene this print looks slightly warm as compared to the other two prints. Are the tones really different? Is it your mind leading you in that direction? I will let you decide.
Let’s stay connected: