One of the most difficult things to learn about black and white printing is to recognise good from bad prints and know how to make any print into a good print. For me this was just a matter of time. Working for Ilford for 21 years seeing and talking about prints, good and bad, every day was one way to do this. More usually it just needs practice, practice and more practice. To guide you, I have run many dozens of darkroom printing courses and Ilford Darkroom Masterclasses and the two most common features that could be improved in the prints that I see are:
- Low contrast – it is easier to make low contrast prints but high contrast gives more striking prints.
- Prints that are too dark from over-exposure – you should usually just be able to see detail in the highlights (light areas) and in the shadows (dark areas).
If you can address these two points you will be well on the way to good prints.
In the tutorials here I describe a few of the details that I have picked up over the years. They are not meant to be comprehensive treatments of each topic but will help you get started or maybe give you a few ideas to improve something that you are already doing.
I have a strong bias to Ilford materials and equipment. Having spent 21 years working for them this is unavoidable. However, I still continue to use them now, many years after leaving Ilford in 2002, because I honestly believe they make the best products available for the darkroom printer. I leave you to work out what is best for you!