Publishing a book.... scan prints or scan negatives?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Ron789, Jul 6, 2017.

  1. Ron789

    Ron789 Subscriber

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    I'm working on a book that I hope to publish fall 2018. The book will contain poetic black and white images. I shoot mostly 35mm, some medium format, some large format.

    Question regarding workflow.....
    Option a: make darkroom prints, typically at size 24x30 cm (single page or smaller images) or 30x40 (double page images) on Ilford MG WT FB glossy (my favorite paper); then scan these prints to get the digital files the lithograph and printer will require, or
    Option b: skip the darkroom prints; scan the negatives, apply digital image manipulation where needed.

    Lithographs recommend me option b.
    I did both and see no significant difference in the dummies I printed so far. But I'm not an expert on scanning and digital printing (on a steep learning curve though) and I printed these dummies on my home printer so the print quality is limited.

    Does anyone have experience in using these different workflows? If so, what are the pro's and con's for each?
     
  2. darkroommike

    darkroommike Subscriber

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    If and another if...
    • if I had a good film scanner or a really good flatbed scanner with a film scanning capability
    • if I had a little time to master the tools
    I would scan from the negatives, the quality will be higher since the scans are from the originating material, and for a book many prints would be needed, so you not only get better quality but save time and money.

    Just my two cents.
     
  3. dmr

    dmr Member

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    Scanning the negatives removes one generation from the camera to the published page, and the rule of thumb has always been the fewer generations the better.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Scanning can become an issue when using textured papers, which is not your case. I have had this problem with platinum prints on watercolor papers. Rephotographing the prints with a digitial camera has worked the best for this so far.

    Scanning the negs would seems to be even better...as long as one can duplicate the look of the print.
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    always follow the printer's recommendation
     
  6. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Scanning definitely. I would invest in high-quality scans if you do not have your own scanner. Of course, this will cost some money, but printing all the images on paper would cost time and money as well, plus it would cost double the time if you print and scan afterwards. The quality will be higher if a professional scanner (e.g. Flextight) is used. The only reason for me to choose the print and scan option would be if I wanted to make a book on different toning techniques, Lith printing or something like that and wanted to show the results to the reader.
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    My experience is that the only prints that scan extremely well are those on Glossy RC paper, as all my prints are on Fibre based Glossy paper I've found that either re-photographing with a DSLR as Vaughan suggests or better still scanning the negatives works best. I have no problems matching and duplicating the look of my darkroom prints.

    Ian
     
  8. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Photograph dark room prints for me. If you're more comfortable in darkroom work in there.

    Id be pretty disappointed if someone said heres a book i shot with film and all the negative manipulation was done in photoshop. I personally am paying to see darkroom work.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    do what the publisher suggests you do. they have the experience.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  10. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    +1. I've done several projects where I've scanned from prints and the glossier the better, RC gloss is certainly the best. Fiber gloss can introduce some extra Photoshop work if images contain a lot of black as the texture of the paper can take over the shadows. Would printing 'reproduction prints' for the scan on RC be an option? I have long found that scanning from a larger original saves a lot of time. For me, I can make a good RC print and scan/adjust that faster than I can get an equal file from a negative scan - for 120 and smaller film.

    I do a fair bit of restoration work of old photographs, via a scan and Photoshop. Textured papers can be scanned and reproduced, but retouching is complicated by the need to keep the pattern of the paper uniform.
     
  11. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    First and foremost, ask what your printer requires, then deliver what is requested.

    The printer, that is, the people actually putting ink onto paper for reproduction. Require a specific dot size for the highlight-tone, shadow-tone and mid-tone for their specific printing press.

    In another life last century, I worked in the graphic arts industry, manufacturing material that the various printers with their various printing presses and paper stock, could use to faithfully reproduce the original image.

    You may offer other material, which they can try, but I doubt it will be as easy to reproduce what you are wishing to achieve with something the printer is not happy with.

    What you produce is one thing. For a printer to faithfully reproduce on inked paper what you produce in a darkroom, usually requires something completely different.

    Often, a duotone printing process is required to get the tonal rendition looking reasonably like what you are after. While printing is simple, getting something to look like a darkroom print on paper stock, using an ink press; is another ball game.

    Smaller press operators started using direct from computer to the printing press technology in the 1990’s. By burning the printing plate as it was sitting on the press, two colour through to five colour plates were in perfect registration. Smallish two colour presses had this technology at an extremely affordable price about 20 years ago.

    Essentially a scan, whether that be from a million dollar drum scanner, or a home based desktop scanner should be able to supply exactly what your printer requires. In the printing industry, virtually everybody these days use some kind of film scanning technique to produce electronic files for their presses.

    Using camera ready material (reflection art), whether that be for a reprographic camera (basically museum technology today) or an electronic camera, flatbed scanner or like machine, you are placing extra steps into the process. Every step has a loss, generally speaking, each step adds a step of contrast. The least amount of steps you use to get the material that your printer needs, is the best way.

    Mick.
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    As it happens I'm a committed darkroom worker, I've been scanning prints for over 20 years and negatives for a bit less. It's practicalities and finances when it comes to high quality digitisation of analog images and prints. Whether I scan prints or negatives there's a degree of tweaking to ensure that output matches the original as closely as possible.

    There's also some logic, for me to get the best digital reproduction from a print I'd have to reprint my work on RC paper, that in itself is a costly time consuming task, and wasteful as I'd not use the RC prints for anything else and then there's the time scanning the RC prints. So it makes much more sense to spend the time scanning my negatives, I'm not re-interpreting my negatives as I'm outputting to match existing darkroom prints.

    There's a world of difference if the negative scans are being interpreted differently with heavy manipulation in a digital editing program. In my own case I could show you FB B&W prints (on Polywarmtone), Platinum/Palladium prints (digital internegs) and Harman Warmtone FB Inkjet paper, all from the same negatives and all are clearly very similar interpretations, the closest being the Polywarmtone and Harman Injet papers the latter looking no different to a Silver Gelatin print. More importantly there's no differences in dodging/shading etc.

    Ian
     
  13. guangong

    guangong Subscriber

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    I assume that you are using digital publishing with InDesign and Photoshop or similar programs. Before doing anything I would talk to my printer and seek his advice. I gather from your comments that you are producing a book of photographs and not a book with some illustrative mamerials. My own work falls into the latter category where I must use whatever pictures I can get. Since your project is more aesthetic I would even visit several printers to explore options.
     
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  15. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    You are right - in todays world is almost impossible to bypass digital somewhere in the process but for me I am paying for handwork. I am paying for craftsmanship in darkroom. The digital negative and the darkroom negative may indeed match up but all I have for that is the photographers word (not that I doubt your word personally!) ... I want the darkroom print. If I want digital work I want to see the limits of that genre (Lichtbild and DatenBild was a recent one I enjoyed in that style) but when it comes to film I want darkroom and the printers craftsmanship. There may be a small loss in quality but that is far outweighed for me by seeing handmade work.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi craig75
    i understand where you are coming from
    but unless it is a hand made book or a modern book that
    is made using a gravure plates with images hand tipped on pages
    i think it is not likely the OP or anyone is going to not have digital in their process
    seeing each book would cost more than anyone would be able to afford.
    if it was a hand stitched 1 or 2 off or small production run, i can see it being done
    even with hand printed darkroom prints, but a large production ...not sure how that could be done.
     
  17. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Its not having digital in book process - thats fine - it's doing all the negative manipulation digitally that rings false for me for a darkroom worker. If that's your workflow then fine ,but if one is a darkroom worker thats what i am paying to see. I am looking at that for inspiration to improve my own work in darkroom work etc - a dodge or burn in photoshop is not a dodge or burn in darkroom.

    There's a zillion books using darkroom prints as source material in very high quality digital reproductions so personally I can't see issue. Get those prints scanned and let's see what you can do. Any potential loss in quality is 100% outweighed by knowing source material was done by hand. If one is suddenly worried about achieving the highest quality all the way through the workflow then starting with a digital camera would make more sense!
     
  18. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    Agreed. There is unlikely to be a printer today that would not have a very digital workflow. Everything I've had printed in the last ten years was a PDF. And every scan requires post production. One can match the silver image, but this is not done without knowledge gained from trial and error with the print device being used.
     
  19. Wallendo

    Wallendo Subscriber

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    Unless the publisher has a specific request, the real issue is which technic, Photoshop or darkroom magic, best allows you to create the initial images you visualized when you took the initial photograph.

    The negative is just in intermediate step in the photographic process. By necessity, the final image will be determined by paper choice, filter choice, exposure time, cropping, dodging, and burning, or digital manipulation. You need to decide which technic is easier for you, keeping in mind that even when prints are scanned, the resulting digital scan will need to be tweaked to match the print.
     
  20. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    I agree - manipulating tonal values in the darkroom is quite different from scanning a negative and adjusting that.

    What I do is photograph my prints (which I already have) with a digital camera (10Mb is enough for up to A4). I then have to do a slight tweek but the balance of tones, light and dark and overall 'feel' have all been achieved in the darkroom. An expensive A3 scanner is not needed and, despite the comments of others here, I have absolutely no problems getting great reproductions in my catalogues using my normal exhibition prints which are 30 x 40 unglazed FB glossy.

    Bests,

    David.
    www.dsallen.de
     
  21. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Why?
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    not to get in to the murky and sometimes harsh DvA sort of thing
    that said, personally i find there is no difference between doing it in a darkroom or
    emulating that same thing with my mouse, especially if there is a print to match.
    some see a difference but i see no difference,
    sort of like how i've met people who love to insist they can tell the differnce between a darkroom print and
    one that was made by a light jet or whatever ..
    maybe some can, i know i can't, and these people i have met always picked the wrong one
    what i would have issue with is buying a book filled with images that were inferrior just to prove a point.
    it would be like making a magazine out of black and white prints copied by a xerox machine to prove there
    was no digital enhancement...low budget "fanzines" in the 1980s were done this way but that was the
    day of the garage band ...
    the tools to make great books are there, to me at least it would be a disservice not to use the tools available ...
     
  23. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Its like saying I'm a water colorist, so i scanned the pencil sketch in and did all the colouring again in photoshop or i do woodcuts so I recut them as vectors.

    North Point by Hiroyasu Nakai won awards all over the place last year and that was digitised prints and looks gorgeous so I dont buy the quality of scanned/photographed prints as so inferior to scanned negs. Its nothing at all like a xerox magazine. I was just looking at a book of Otto Steinerts - not once did I think ahhh if only these had been reconstructed negatives rather than prints.
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    again i see your perspective, but disagree.
    i've never made a modern book, but
    i have stitched a lot of them, maybe 20?

    to each their own.
     
  25. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I think you should scan you prints because you wanted to show your work with film. If the photographs are only for illustrations then you should scan the negatives.
     
  26. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Your printer should be doing the scans, whether film or prints. I guess there are cheaper ways to go, but a good printer will have a prepress shop or supplier that will scan the images on gear not available to mortal men, and they'll be scanned to color match the print process, and there will be paper proofs guaranteed to match the final press output - and they'll be natively scanned to the CMYK color space, not RGB like you'd use at home.

    I started my career in prepress and as a designer, I've worked with all sorts of technologies from the old days of film stripping, to scitex and drum scanners, to the next gen flatbeds, and the short-run digital presses used today. I have very rarely supplied my own scans, though I do use DSLR photos - but I know how to make them work for offset printing.

    If this work is at all important to you, you should plan on doing a press check - being there at the start of the run, where you'll watch the first sheets come off and compare them to the proofs under controlled light, and make tweaks to the color balance of the press. You sign off on a sheet from the press when those tweaks are done, and the final product should match those press sheets. Your rep should walk you through all that, and your rep and the press operator should be able to help you spot color issues and know which buttons to push on the press.
     
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