I recently began to make silver gelatin prints and it’s been an extremely rewarding endeavor. There’s nothing like seeing a nice-looking print emerge from the developer as opposed to seeing it uploaded to a computer. Further, I’ve found that wet printing actually gives me more broader control over tonality and contrast than Lightroom/Silver Efex. The computer software are unmatched for their ability to precisely fine-tune parts of an image, but for “the look,” I’ve found that wet printing has the edge. Not surprising that many of the presets in the computer programs are based on emulating the silver gelatin look! Anyway, I’ve attached a series of work prints with quick explanations of each step. I’m happy with the results of this fascinating, iterative, analog process and hope to continue to add mini-tutorials about the process and my work in the future. Click-through the images to see the captions. Enjoy!
The digital version can be found on my flickr here.
Edit: in case the captions are hard to see on your screen, here they are:
1.This is the first test print I made (after determining my “base” exposure). I like to start with a low contrast filter, in this case a Kodak 1 1/2 (similar to Ilford’s Multigrade filtration system).
2. I then made the base, low-contrast exposure and then made test strips with a high contrast filter, to fill in the shadows without affecting the highlights.
3. This is my first split filter exposure, using my base low- and high-contrast filter exposures. I also burned in the sky, but the bright band means I did it poorly. That’s why it’s a test print!
4. I also decided that my initial base exposures were too dark, so I decreased each one by about 2 seconds. The sky was not burned in on this one.
5. I was happy with the new base exposures from the previous slide, so I tried to burn in the sky using a middle-grade filter and extending into the trees. Notice: no bright band! Ready for full size.
6. This is my first attempt at “full-size.” I like it and will make another just to be sure and so I can compare the two when toning.
7. This is the same exposure as in #6, but it has been toned in selenium. Toning increases permanence and also gives the print a nice purple/pink hue (not noticeable on this photo, unfortunately).
8. This is the final print. I decided to burn in the edges/corners to darken the left rock and the lower righthand corner. I also dodged the lake a bit to make it “pop.” This has also been toned.