Darkroom (Wet) vs Digital (Inkjet) Printing

In this video I show prints made from the same negative, but using different processes: traditional wet printing, and inkjet. Very different processes and results (at least for me, with this negative).


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18 Thoughts on Darkroom (Wet) vs Digital (Inkjet) Printing

  1. weworkforamerica

    Let me suggest doing some research on photo printing before jumping into his subject which has been covered ad nauseum by others and better. Such as Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen and the Zone system guys. If you had been "exposed" to those experts then you might have reconsidered making this rather simplistic video. I have made hundreds of thousands of prints by both systems and even I could add little to the expert print makers I mentioned.

  2. Marco Toselli

    What's funny is that in my opinion the darkroom print looks better! The digital print looks too artificial in my opinion, that scene has too much dynamic range to make it possible to fit all the information and have a natural looking print. In my opinion even if someone skilled in darkroom printing can manage to fit all the dynamic range on the print, the result will look artificial. Four years have passed since this video was made, we have incredible sensors that almost double film resolution and with almost infinite shadow recovery possibilities (ok, but not highlights!) but it's still impossible to recover too much from the shadows and not make a scene like that look like a cheap looking hdr…

  3. airscrew1

    I would choose a black and white wet print over a digital print every time. I have been processing and printing photos since 1974. However, when I got good enough to want to try colour printing in a darkroom it was a totally different ballgame. I gave up with it. However, proper digital colour printing doesn't come cheap. The inks are a rip off and you need to buy Pigment ink not dye based ink or the images will fade. Now I just bought myself a decent scanner and scan all my film and get it printed at an online lab. DS Colour in Manchester. Home printing is just uneconomical. The printers clog up with ink and you waste a hell of a lot of ink cleaning them. Never again. Don't even think about colour printing in a darkroom. There is so much trial and error even if you have a decent colour analyser.

  4. Randall Stewart

    What's all the fuss about? An experienced darkroom printer could make a much better [final] wet print in less time than Mike's effort, since the deficiencies he notes are all subject to basic corrections with more thoughtful trials and tests. Likewise, an experienced digital printer should be able to overcome the flat contrast of the digital print. So, is the takeaway here "how to print" or which type of print is "better" if all technical abilities are applied? Clearly, no. It's just what Mike says at the start: if you do not have printing experience, you can get a print more to your liking with less time and effort [marginally] with digital than if you are starting cold in wet printing. No one would question that conclusion. Did Mike contribute by relating his experience? Not really. What seems to upset people here is that they [we] were expecting a more serious and technically valid presentation, and we do not get it. So, it's not the first YouTube video which leaves the viewer wondering why it was made. This is more like a Facebook update or tweet that no one needed.

  5. Yeah even on vids you can see how the digital print is flat …let alone in person. The ease of ability to control tone changes in the image would be the digital benefit, but I am still hard pressed that I would take it over the wet print. with a narrower tone base.

  6. Noeyedear90

    I find it amazing when looking for reviews of film or paper, all you can find on youtube is people doing reviews that start with a sentance like " I'm not very experienced at this….or I've only just started shooting film etc" Seriously if you know sweet fa about the subject why do a video about it and inflict your none experianced opinion on the World?

  7. Victor del Razo

    This is basically the whole argument about digital and analog photography and printing… Digital is more convenient but is not better…

  8. quinto brena

    I use to take simple portraits of childs with black and white film and medium format, carefully make a 11×14 print, and show it to the family. The analog appearance is so striking that most of the time the print sell and i get comissions regularly. People just love these prints. Analog texture and color is outstanding even for the untrained eye. For analog black and white photos, you need to use filters to control the sky and clouds highlights. You cannot shoot it like digital. Also, there is one important thing. Usually when a photo is very good (with medium format the hit rate tend to be very high), the client's family ask for copies….To make copies in the darkroom is very fast and cheap (no more testing strips, focusing, etc are required); you can make 5x 16×20 prints in 30 minutes. In a few days, you get used to do dodge a burn intuitively, and post print adjustments are possible (ferricyanide bleach). Romanticism for analog photography is not so important to me, more important is to have TOTAL control over my process. Being said that, i like your video, and the window for dialog that you open.

  9. usanineoneone

    Even on the video, you can see the inkjet print has a color tint to it, where as the darkroom print is true black and white. I normally send my photos off to print to a pro lab for wet printing but you still see a colour tint to it if its a scanned negative, especially if you hold it against a darkroom print. The only digital true B&W system that I know in the UK is Ilford, who light jet onto Silver Halide paper (resin or fibre), but not exactly cheap.

  10. Richard Keeling

    Interesting video making perfectly valid points and I like how the presenter takes pains not to dismiss one technique at the expense of the other. However, we are really comparing a beginner at wet printing with an accomplished digital image manipulator. It takes time – a lot of time – to get good at making gelatin silver prints, but once you have mastered the techniques you will get results that more closely match. Personally, I'm glad both methods, scan and digital print versus enlarger wet printing, exist for making prints from negatives. It's good to have those options.

  11. denny11lane

    I hope you comprehend the points you have made:
    1. It was MUCH More Difficult to be a Good Photographer using the traditional skill sets of a Darkroom and wet chemicals. Forty years ago, there was NO Equivalent of Flickr, Photobucket, Imgur, etc etc. Today, anybody with a digital camera can be a photographer.
    2. Ansel Adams was a VERY Good photographer. It requited a lot of hard work and talent to print the photographs that he made. Today, a person can fire 400 frames, and them spend 2 days on a computer, and generate 100 quality pictures……photography has become part of the Walmart Syndrome…..the more something is simplified, the more it is mass produced, the less value it has.
    3. The darkroom offers the traditional photographer something the digital guy will Never Have…..a magical world to retreat to, a special place where photographs are born in real time, right in front of his eyes. The digital guy chains himself to a computer, and becomes part of the thankless world of Steve Jobs, a mediocre human being that dedicated his life to the creation of useless, land-fill products.
    4. Toning, dodging, burning in, masking, etc etc etc…..all those terms have Real Meaning, and come from traditional photography…..where you could not just push a button, and let a computer play God for you
    Learn the real art of photography, and your time will be worth something. In 10 years time how many more digital "photographers" will there be…another 50 Million, 100 Million, 500 Million maybe.?
    good luck

  12. Twostones00

    Digital may be more convenient but I have never been satisfied with the quality of an ink jet printed black and white print.  It seems commercial printers are using a colored ink jet printer to make black and white prints.  I wish I knew where could get really nice true black and white prints from a digital source but to date I have not found anything I am satisfied with.  I am pondering taking the jump into wet printing.  I really don't have the room or I would probably be doing wet prints now.  I have a few wet prints and I cannot find anything I do not like about them.  They are simply a treasure to me.  I'm forever hooked on film but do shoot digital too.  Film is where my heart is.

  13. East End Photographers Group

    I think from a collector's point of view silver gelatin prints are more collectable and ultimately, more valuable, at least at this point in time. I continue to work in both areas but there is a certain "suchness" to a silver print that is not present in an inkjet print. Be it its three dimensional like surface quality or just that it's a one of a kind hand made item–whatever it is, it seems a bit more unique than a machine created print. For me the greatest thing about digital vs analog is that I don't have to touch up the dust spot on the prints!

  14. Charles Springer

    Sorry. Couldn't finish. Slow intro and you don;t flip the prints around enough. I nearly saw one for half a second. People please, don't make YouTube videos without a license. In case you never got around to it, silver and RC paper makes for prints that are good for hundreds of years.

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