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Friday, 30 January 2009

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In retrospect, this could have been made into a really funny documentary movie.

;-)
Adam

P.S. Congratulations on successfully completing a Sisyphean task!

You really deserve a nice long rest or maybe a nice long holiday. The set of prints I received look wonderful and are prominently displayed in my office. I appreciate all your hard work.

As a resident of Canada helping a friend who sells electronic equipment on eBay and ships worldwide can well appreciate the problems of shipping goods. Forms upon forms upon forms. Because we ship electronics the detail on the form must be exact and even then, US Customs has a fit and needs to know more. You'd think the world was out to destroy the country. Paranoia plus. Mind the same thing applies to the UK and other foreign jurisdictions.

And as we ship using the postal mails, we know the item will arrive. Then too often the cost of shipping and paperwork
far exceeds the actual physical cost of the item, sometime three or four times as much. Such is life these days.

So I can well appreciate your shipping and packaging problems. Another reason too why I don't personally purchase anything on eBay or similar from foreign countries; the shipper is saddled with all too many forms and
requirements.

Which is why IMO eBay should really be country specific shipping only.

But then there would be no source for many of the items people think they require.

Ctein, I thought of you when I spent my Martin Luther King Day holiday in NYC at the MOMA exhibit, "The Printed Picture" (thanks to earlier postings for making me aware of this excellent exhibit). There was a dye transfer print on display, and the description closed with a sentence that read something like, "manufacturers have ceased producing the materials, so when privately held stocks are exhausted, this process will belong to the past." It's nice to know that through your dedication and the generosity of those two paper donors, your art will "belong to the present" for a while yet. (Received my prints - thank you very much!)
Carl

Ctein,

I got my print the other day. It's wonderful! Thank you for all of your hard work. Owning a one-of-a-kind object like this is a real joy.

Chris

Ctein,

Congratulations! It's good to be finished. Now that I've read Richard Benson's book, I finally have an inkling of how dye transfer works. My hat is off to you, sir.

Thanks for all your hard work Ctein. I look forward to seeing the final results.

Ctein,

I will look forward eagerly to your lessons about mail order. Thinking about that has kept me from selling prints/art until now.

I am glad you're not too modest to raise your price. Too many people are. (Of course then there are those who will charge $40 for a friggin' downloadable e-book.)

This is one reason why I think chemical prints and inkjet prints should be viewed separately. It's not an issue of quality but there is a world of difference between a craftsman toiling away to make a run of prints and someone selecting "50" and hitting "print".

Steve

'but there is a world of difference between a craftsman toiling away to make a run of prints and someone selecting "50" and hitting "print".'

I would insert a few caveats on this point. It's a truism that folks who disparage the skill required to make a really excellent inkjet print generally have not successfully performed the task themselves. Image editing, color management and accurate profiling are non-trivial tasks. Quality control over a run of as few as 5 large inkjet prints from the same image can be more difficult than one would think. There are a multitude of traps and 'gotcha's' for the unwary. For example, the apparent brightness and contrast of an image changes significantly when printed at 8x10" versus 12x18"—despite using the same image file, inkjet printer and paper. The perceived difference becomes even more obvious as you print larger or smaller than these sizes. There is no algorithm or formula that will reliably correct the discrepancy; it requires an experienced eye and judgment to get it right. Sharpening and color adjustments also need to be 'tuned' to the output size. It's not just a matter of hitting Command/Ctrl P. At least not if you care about the result.

No disrespect to Steven, but I agree with Geoff. Obviously dye transfer prints are a whole different kettle o' fish, but I've done numerous runs of both silver (darkroom B&W) and inkjet prints, and I really don't think there's that much difference. It still takes time and care to get the first one right, you still have to attend to the printer as it works, and things still go wrong--in fact, on my last run of inkjets, I was reflecting that I had about the same percentage of loss as I used to have in the darkroom--about 10%, half of which are my fault (chiefly from inattention) and half of which are the result of glitches or irregularities in the equipment or materials. Inkjet printing in volume is somewhat less arduous and less time-consuming that darkroom printing, but as Geoff says it's still not trivial. In fact, if I was doing repro prints on RC, I think I was faster doing larger runs in the darkroom than I am on the inkjet printer. Especially if I had an RC print dryer at my disposal.

Overall I think it's more similar than different. The big time saving with digital is getting from the "latent image" to the "proof image"--that took laborious processing with B&W film, and is virtually instantaneous with digital--but that's the extent of the major time and labor savings. From then on, it's pretty even.

Mike J.

Dear Geoff,

Thanks for the praise on my skills and my prints. The truth is that I can achieve remarkable consistency from print to print. If you think about it, I really have to be able to, what with doing custom printing for other people. If someone orders 10 prints from me, they expect those 10 prints to look just like the proof print that they approved.

Peculiarly, though, one of the things I discovered doing this run was that I liked the way the prints look a whole bunch of different ways. That was a surprise to me. There are some things I'm very fussy about. The overall color balance has to be spot-on as does the overall lightness or darkness of the print. But so long as I have nailed both of those, I can make prints with considerable differences in both contrast and saturation (independent parameters in dye transfer work) that I like equally well for different reasons.

I didn't expect that. But it did make my life easier. I didn't even attempt to make all the prints match each other; I just made prints that I thought looked good.

"Perfection" seems to be a multivalued variable. At least, it was for these two photographs. I'm sure I must have many photographs where if they are not exactly right in every respect, I don't like them. But it's a new experience for me to find that I like many versions of the same photograph at all.

Possibly doing a lot of printing of the same photographs in disparate media like dye transfer and inkjet has broadened my perspectives (in a good way).


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Dear Bryce,

I think a clarification is in order. Under most circumstances I will ship internationally, and should I do another print offer in the fall it will definitely be open to non-US customers. It is a lot more work preparing orders for foreign shipping, but not so much as to dissuade me from selling work that way. (For very low priced items, it would be a different matter.)

The reason I'm not letting outside-the-US folks buy any of these sets of "seconds" is that there's a sufficiently high possibility of them being returned that I just don't want to deal with the hassle and the potential for loss. I am also tired, and I just don't feel like messing with the extra paperwork. Also, it could make it extremely expensive for non-US customers, as they would be paying shipping and handling both ways on a return.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Dear Steve,

I hate to be ganging up on you, but I'm with Geoff and Mike on this. You're not buying labor. You're buying art. Its value is whatever you'll pay for it.

I do dye transfer printing for Jim Marshall, the rock music photographer. He pays me for my labor, but it's less than I charge for my own work when I sell it. And he has to put relatively little additional time into selling one of those photographs. So his "labor" investment per print is far less than mine. Funny thing; his work sells for 5-10 times as much as mine does. Imagine that! [ grin ]

The amount of time it takes me to prepare an order (which includes administrative time, packaging time, and so on) sets a lower limit on what I can afford to charge. But I assure you that even at the bargain prices for dye transfer that Mike and I offered here, you were paying far, far more than that minimum.

(It wouldn't be too hard for someone to sit down with a pocket calculator and go through the previous postings on this subject to estimate how much I made per hour. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader [ grin ], but I'll tell you that even after commissions, expenses, and taxes, I cleared a very high hourly wage, even by elite Silicon Valley techie standards.)

Incidentally, it takes me longer to make a large inkjet print exactly the way I like than it takes to make the first dye transfer print.

If you honestly don't feel that inkjet photographs are worth much to you because they don't have all that craft labor invested in them, well then all I can say, in all truth, is "It's your loss." Because it means you're missing out on an awful lot of really good photography out there.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
======================================

I'm with Geoff, Mike, and Ctein on the subject of digital inkjet printing. I'm using good equipment, exellent advice, and a lot of time, and getting a really excellent print is still exquisitely difficult. The main benefit of digital is that once I get the first print (at a particular size, of a particular image, on a particular paper, with a particular ink set), I can make more with relatively small effort and expense.

But I'm an amateur and I don't sell prints, so most of what I print is in editions of 1. This means, on balance, that I spend more time getting prints right in the digital darkroom than I used to in the wet darkroom.

The upside of the whole thing is that I've learned much more about color than I ever dreamed was out there to learn - and that's a benefit when I'm shooting and working in post, too.

Ctein said,

"Peculiarly, though, one of the things I discovered doing this run was that I liked the way the prints look a whole bunch of different ways. That was a surprise to me. There are some things I'm very fussy about. The overall color balance has to be spot-on as does the overall lightness or darkness of the print. But so long as I have nailed both of those, I can make prints with considerable differences in both contrast and saturation (independent parameters in dye transfer work) that I like equally well for different reasons."

This comment is particularly interesting to me, because it seems to show something I find quite often in the results of my own processing or printing: within a reasonable range of variation, I may end up liking different versions of the same image. But, and here lays the motive of my worries and commentary, my likings may vary with time. Thus, the corolary: why worry on nailing the image perfectly if what I cannot nail is my own taste?

Don't know if I made my point clear, since English isn't my mothertonge. And, just to clarify what my post has probably shown anyway, I'm a low-level amateur.

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