...They're not at all the same things, at least traditionally. Some basic terminology:
Work print: Work prints are in effect enlarged contacts, which enable you to see the frames that interest you larger and better than you could see them on the contact sheet (speaking "traditonally" here). Another use for work prints is for editing purposes—editing is a visual process and you often need visual representations you can shuffle around, pin to a work board, or rearrage—or for making book mockups. Example: I used to gang-process full-frame 6x9 prints on 8x10 resin-coated (RC) paper from my 35mm negatives. I'd expose all the paper based on a eyeballed "seat of the pants" average exposure, usually at a relatively low contrast (because you want to get a good idea of the detail the negative contains) and then develop all the paper together. The prints were good enough for me to "see" the negative but had none of the refinements or balancing of a fine print. Work prints aren't strictly needed in digital photography, since most people simply look at the image on the computer monitor.
Test print: A test print is one of several or many intermediary steps along the way to making a final or fine print. In the traditional darkroom it was a process from an initial "straight" print to one that was corrected for contrast and exposure, balanced, and perhaps selectively darkened or lightened (burned and dodged). The first one was often the test strip, a segment of the image usually printed on a strip of paper at varying densities to arrive at the initial basic exposure. There was no standard; some photographers would slam out a "final" print using just one or two pieces of photo paper, while others would refine their expression over dozens of test prints over several days or even weeks. (My own process was to make a very good print, pin it up and look at it for three days, then return to the darkroom to make the final prints.) Traditionally, a fine printer would arrive at the final print, make however many copies were wanted or needed, and then destroy all the intermediate steps. Test printing is still needed in inkjet printing, just as it was in the darkroom—it just refers to all the intermediate trials you made before you arrived at the one that fully satisfies you.
Proof print: a proof print is a preliminary print offered to a client for their review. Examples: a portrait photographer might provide small proofs (often watermarked to prevent copying) to a portrait client to help them make a selection, or a book producer might send a printed proof to a publisher's production manager for approval before printing the run.
Repro print: a print created specifically to be reproduced. Reproductions were in some cases made from fine prints, but in other cases are made from prints specifically made for the reproduction process. In the '80s when I was "coming up," a repro print might be a small (often not larger than 8x10) print on RC paper. In earlier eras, repro prints needed to be tailored specifically to the needs of the reproduction methods: early newspaper prints often had to start out with much lower contrast because the halftone process added contrast. (It offended me to see obvious repro prints of Cartier-Bresson masterpieces exhibited as "vintage" prints in a museum. They might have been vintage [that word means the print was made roughly contemporaneously with the taking of the photograph], but they were vintage repro prints, not vintage fine prints.) Repro prints are often marked as such and there were various restrictions intended to guard against their further dissemination or resale. Another reason for repro prints was to try to limit theft. I once made the mistake of sending a rare fine print (of another photographer's work—I had been the custom printer) to a magazine for reproduction purposes—it was American Photo, and they deserve to be called out for this—and they stole it from me, by refusing to return it despite repeated requests, finally claiming that it was "lost." I'll bet dollars to doughnuts it is currently "lost" in a frame on some former sub-editor's wall; it's a gorgeous print and a superb picture. I still have one.)
Fine print: can also be thought of as a "final print." A fine print is the photographer or custom printer's best effort to print a photograph as the author of the photo intends it to exist in final form—it's the way you want the work to be seen. Traditionally, a fine print will be signed by the photographer, which is in essence the ultimate authorial approval of a print as the fixed expression of the picture; a signature on a print says "yes, this is how I intend this to look." This is the case whether the photographer him- or herself made the print or not.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
No featured comments yet—please check back soon!