This is the process I used for printing the image from Maple Hill Cemetery. I hope to get the story of this image posted soon and will link to it when it’s available.
The first step is always to create a contact print to select which exact image to print and try and guess at a good starting point for exposure times. I usually shoot the same image with a different aperture or shutter speed and then select the one to print after the film is developed.
For this roll of film, I selected the image from the bottom right. The contact sheet is exposed for 10 seconds and the image appears to be in that range for a correct exposure.
The next step is to create a print with a range of exposure values. I do this by moving a card slowly in steps over the paper during the exposure. At this point, I am trying to find out how many seconds to expose the paper to get the lighter shades where I want them. For this step, I usually use a filter that gives me a Grade 1 paper.
A quick note – more exposure means the image is darker. Looking at the ranges in the image above, the right side has no detail in the lighter shaded areas. The left side doesn’t have any white values at all. The exposure time that I selected was the one just to the right of the middle of the image
Paper Grade Selection
Next, I did a print on Grade 2 paper using the selected exposure. The paper grade affects the contrast. So the technique is to use the exposure time to get the lighter shades where you want them and then use the grade of paper to get the darker shades where you want them.
Grade 2 was a guess, and I thought it was a bit too dark (especially in the shaded grassy area). I changed to a Grade 1 paper to lighten up the shadows a bit and I like the result.
Fine Print Adjustments
Now that I have a good print to work with, I wanted to make the top of the image darker overall. This technique is called “burning” where you give extra exposure time to a certain area of the paper. From my experience, images with large sections of near-white at the edge look terrible when matted. It’s hard to tell the difference on a website though.
Now that I have the image that I want, it’s time to move from a resin based paper to a fiber based paper and add a step for toning.
The fiber based paper is more expensive and more delicate, so I always wait until I have exactly figured out the process before I switch. The step of toning extends the life of the print and makes the dark values a little more intense.
Now that I have a great print, now it’s time to mount it. Some photographers use a “hinge mount” to attach the print. I do as well for smaller prints because they don’t have the same tendency to warp as larger prints. For a large print, or anything on fiber based paper, I prefer to dry mount the print directly to a mat board.
I use dry mount tissue and a heat press to attach the print to the mat board. This ensures that there is no rippling or waves in the print that occur years after it is mounted.
The most difficult part is getting the print centered on the mat board before it goes into the press. To do this, I use a tacking iron to secure the print along one side so that it can’t move when I slide it into the press.
All that is left to do now is to sign the mat and frame it. There’s a whole other story about framing choices and where to find them without spending $$$, but that will have to wait for another time…