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4x5 Negs - the heart of a business system

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  #11  
Old 05-24-2002, 03:51 PM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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Re: Prints...I do all my in house work digital, as I have no room to set up a conventional darkroom plus, the results I get from my printer are very satisfactory to my clients. The value I see for digital print from a negative scan is that with the improvements in paper/ink/printer technology, it is quicker and less expensive for the client to run a digital print for casual display vs. a traditional print. The key to getting exceptional digital prints is really knowing your equipment, proper ink/paper selection and selecting a printer which is intended for that type of work. The "one size fits all" approach definately doesnot work in this instance.
What is your lighting set up like for doing the copy negatives? Do you use different lighting set ups for different types of photos, i.e., tintype vs albumin etc..? I had noticed that Kodak produces a special film for "archival" work...have you tried any of this type film and if so, what is your opinion? Tom
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  #12  
Old 05-25-2002, 10:58 AM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Wow great feedback here! First, Tom I think maybe you have enhanced my reasons for using 4x5 negs at the heart of my system. You can produce good digital prints, maybe even great ones, I wouldn't doubt that for a minute - I'd like to and someday maybe I will be able to, but for now mine suck and so do a lot of them that I've seen! Some being sold by my competition here would make you sick no lie!! So what about the clients? Now it's 20 or 30 years down the road and I'm long gone. How difficult would it be for my old client with their neg in hand to find someone that can make a high quality wet lab print or find someone like you that can scan and print from my negative? Piece of cake - and that's my point, it's the simplicity of it. Now, if we reverse that and I have your PhotoShop file, pity that poor client of yours! Have you no heart! :-)

ON PROCESSING - I may have processed as many negatives in bathrooms at kitchen sinks in my lifetime as I have in a lab! I still use those little 55 oz.Yankee tanks that take 12 sheets at a time and although I do line them up and generally do two batches (24 negatives) in a run, it's possible to process just a couple of negatives with no effort at all - it's just time and temperature. My control is in film selection and exposure so they can all be processed at the same time.

ON LIGHTING - I'll show a photo if anyone want to see my setup - the problem is that nothing like it can be purchased any longer as far as I know. They are ColorTran light banks that use four common old 7" 150W kitchen bulbs on each side . The controller is sensational and in my mind something akin to the eighth wonder of the world! It boosts the power of the standard light bulbs up to the same output that you would normally get from photofloods and it can be set for color temp at 2800, 3200 or 3600 K. with total accuracy. And yes, I do use different settings for different originals - very thin materials like albumen need very low light levels to keep from picking up the irregularities from the backing. I've seen copy setups that use strobes - wonder why those people don't just paint the inside of their cameras white, it would have the same result!

KODAK ARCHIVAL FILM - never heard of it nor have I seen any mention of it on the PhotoConservation Forum nor on COol (Conservation online) but will look into it. Interesting note on your comments of combining the best of all worlds, Kodak obviously agrees and is putting their millions behind their talk - spending as much of their R&D budget on films as they are on digital.

Jim Conway
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  #13  
Old 05-25-2002, 06:26 PM
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I keep running across references to " 4x5 Duplication Film", if that helps any...I have no idea what qualities it has that set it apart from the ones you mentioned, except that the inference is that this type of film uses finer silver grains and something to do with ASA value, and produces higher quality negatives.
The problem of saving just digital copys is a thorny one. At present I donot believe that there is any hard proof of how long a CD will last and what the optimum storage conditions are...however, as digital continues to mature I suspect that those questions will be adequately addressed. Because of the overlap in storage technologies, such as, 5.25 to 3,5 floppy; CD to DVD and so forth, keeping a digital archive up to date and avaliable does require that the data be transfered from one storage medium to another on some sort of a regular basis...perhaps yet another avenue for Digital retouchers to look into.....a sort of digital "copy-transfer to new storage media" service....
Right now there are several other folks in this area doing digital prints and I know what you mean about quality..specifically lack there of...cheap, thin paper, run off on $99.00 inkjets with refilled cartridges do not produce lasting, high quality prints. Most begin fading after 6 mo. and by the end of 18 mo. are usually in pretty sad shape....Again, quality comes from using equipment and supplies which are designed only for photo printing. Plus, taking time, Lots of it, to really learn the strengths and weaknesses of the entire process.
Do you have any insights into film transfer? I still am curious about being able to correct/retouch in an Image Editor, then transfer the product to film, either 4x5, 220/120 or 35mm negative. Thanks, Tom
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  #14  
Old 05-26-2002, 02:58 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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All roads lead to Rome!

Look at it this way, the original scene had "gigs" of information - the negative or transparency of that scene had "megs" of information and the poor print that represents the negative has a very small percentage of that even if it was made by a master printer! Let the print deteriorate for decades and it has even less so information so you might say you are lucky to have bytes of information on most of the paper copies (originals) you come across..

The confusion is introduced by thinking in terms of the wrong point in this process. We all learn by saturation advertising that we need to select the "right" film for our scenic or portrait shoots. Kodak makes special films for everything and tells you theirs is better than Fuji. etc. so you can all go out and make really great transparencies of pretty girls flying through bigger than life posters on water skis!

When you want to "duplicate" that transparency or negative rather than print it, you are down to the "megs:" of information that was on the film (no pretty girls) and to KEEP what is left of that information, you are looking for duplicating materials to do the job. It's for making new slides, transparencies or negatives and has nothing to do with prints or printing.

So here is the important part of this - if I go from the "scene" to a "negative" and from the "negative" to a scanner, I can make a big enough file to preserve the detail (just like I can using a duplicating film in a wet lab) because the detail is there..

Continuing from that perspective, if I go from a "paper print" to a negative (or scan) (what we refer to as copy work), I never had the information that was on the original negative because it wasn't on the paper. I get 120 shades of gray at best. I can jazz up the image a little, print it, run it off with lots of lines on a film recorder or save it to a file big enough to fill a 20 gig hard drive, it STILL won't change the fact that the information wasn't there to start with.

So I'm back to square one here - a good copy negative on film is the one thing you can't go wrong with - it stops the clock on deterioration, it's easy to do and as good as you are going to get for any further work or reproduction and it preserves history as a factual representation of the original.

From that point on it really doesn't matter how you reproduce the image. That's just a case of satisfying your client. Let them decide how they use or view them. I say that my copy negative is the heart of my system because I can count on it being there even when Wilhelm or Epson gets it wrong again. History repeats - George didn't get it right the first time and had to pull his dry plates off the market and I'm sure that some of you are old enough to remember what happened when Polaroid introduced color! In preservation you work from a "base" with a proven product so that anything you add is reversible - but that does not have to extend beyond that negative! With that gem in place - have fun - you can't go wrong!

Jim Conway
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  #15  
Old 05-27-2002, 07:59 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Anyone with a digital heart?

I don't know if any of this helped anybody or not but I've been thinking about it all weekend and wondering if any of you that are basing your systems exclusively on digital are willing to offer some explainations on the hows and whys of your systems.

I'm curious about your starting points. Do you think about the clients need for preservation or feature that in your product mix in any way? Do any of you clean the originals? How do you sell big prints - 16x20 and up? Are you using CIS systems on desk top printers or sending your output to outside labs? What do you do about hand coloring or offering your clients any of the traditional prints styles that we have so much demand for with people trying to "match" other old photos. If you limit your offerings to simple desktop capabilities, how do you keep enough work in the place to pay for all this high price computer stuff that I'm supporting with a traditional wet lab????

I know you sell what you show and all that, but so far at least, I've never had a single person ask me for a "digital" print of any kind so I'd really like to know?

Jim Conway
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  #16  
Old 05-28-2002, 05:47 AM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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I'll give this question a go.
First off, I think it's necessary to point out that the type of business I receive appears to be different from yours. The customers I encounter are more interested in replacement, repair, or enhancement, than preservation.
Keeping that in mind:
I am strictly digital, and have no desire or intention of doing this work by any other means. Regardless of all the excellent qualities of the traditional methods, I will never use them.

I have more to add, but I've run out of time.. more to follow.
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  #17  
Old 05-28-2002, 10:05 AM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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I'm into this stuff strictly as a hobby. Although I have a few old negs, almost all of my images come from a print, therefore I rarely make a copy neg. Most of my family members can't even differentiate between a good print and one which lacks tones. A digital print is just fine for them. But I've been following this thread, and I find it *very* interesting. My darkroom days are a thing of the past, but if I ever came upon a historical negative, it would certainly be copied on medium or large format film. Jim has some excellent points, and Tom is trying to get the best of both worlds. Hats off to both of them.

Ed
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  #18  
Old 05-30-2002, 10:41 AM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Vikki - you said "The customers I encounter are more interested in replacement, repair, or enhancement, than preservation." and then said you didn't have time to finish!

Don't leave me hanging here! I'm not sure I know how that's any different than Tom's or my objectives - so please pick up on it again, OK. I'd really like to know what your thinking is on this!

Jim C
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  #19  
Old 05-30-2002, 08:11 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Unhappy

Jim,
Sorry to leave things in mid air, but I had a lot to say, and not enough time to write. Now, a few days later, I've lost that train of thought!!! I was replying to your question about using digital methods, exclusively.

To be honest, I'm not sure if you're against the whole idea of "digital", or just trying to find a way to get it to work for you - that matches what you're doing now.

I guess my point is, the traditional methods may very well offer a better result - but to the average person, it may just be overkill, that they can't see, and are not inclined to pay for. In other words, some may view it as the "extended warranty" pitch.

And that is where the differences are. My customers want another photo, like the one they had, only fixed. The question of preservation never comes up. Perhaps it's me, but I don't think I can "sell" traditional over digital, in that area. I beleive that they assume it will last as long as the first one did. And I it can, if archival methods are used in the printing process, and maintained throughout it's life. (I don't recommend inkjets, nor do I sell them).

I'm actually very curious about those terrible "digital" prints you've seen. When you say "digital" what do you mean? How large of a sampling have you seen? Do you think you've seen the ultimate capablilities?

As far as other services. I can't imagine what can't be done digitally. Of the items you mentioned, I see no barriers.

Also, I don't do this for a living, but if I did set up a shop (not my goal though), I know I would pursue strictly digital avenues.

I have to go (and I still haven't finished writing!)
Vikki

One more thing. I don't think I would be able to do what I do, traditionally, so if I want to keep working, I have to go digital!
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  #20  
Old 05-30-2002, 10:35 PM
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Jim Conway Jim Conway is offline
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Don't mean to upset you girl!! Digital is anything I can do with the "electronic equipment I bought ...and yes, I'd like to make it pay. In an inventory of our work, in the sizes, styles and to meet the needs of the clients very little of it can be done on, by or even in the same room with a computer. Most of it can't even be scanned on any ordinary scanner, and right now we have over $3 K in hand oils to do mostly duplicates of old 13 1/2x 18-1/2 "Crayon" prints (I have several freelance artists who do most of it) so I was asking for the same type of information I was giving on my business. I'm not at war against computers, I have a very heavy investment in them!

I think it was Doug that said in another thread that he wouldn't want to get stuck with more business than he could handle. So, I'll second that . I'm stuck in a darkroom seven days a week - so help me get out of there! (complete with the income I need of course!:-))

The work that a lot of you do (like Tom) is NOT duplicating old photos but creative things that fit the media. I have seen LOTS of that type of thing that are beautiful works that could never be done in a traditional way, but I've also seen lots of attempts at duplicating old photos that are just that - attempts that missed the mark and nothing more.

So my inquiry as to the "heart" of YOUR systems was indeed an inquiry not an attempt to suggest that one way is "better" than
any other way. Every business has to have a basic plan and operation system to function and it has to make a profit or fold. My systems work and the business is highly profitable but sharing those methods with all of you does not mean that I think for a second that it's the only way things can be done.

Jim Conway
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