Printing Photography: The Difference Between Digital Printing and Lab Printing
Printing a photograph is a complex process that requires a team of talented experts. Duggal Visual Solutions has been leading the art of printing photography for more than 50 years, and would like to share some of the basics with you so you have a foundational understanding of photographic printing.
Before we get started, let’s get familiar with a few key terms:
Negative: An image that is on a strip or sheet of transparent plastic film, in which the lightest areas of the photograph appear the darkest, and vice versa.
Latent Image: An image on an exposed film or print that has not yet been made visible for developing.
Fogging: Deterioration in the quality of the image caused by extraneous light, or through the effects of a processing chemical.
Bleach and Fix: The colloquial terms used to describe the chemicals used in the final step of photographic processing.
Printing Photography Digitally vs. in a Lab
We’ve all seen 80s movies, where the processing of a photograph is done in a dark lab with other photos hanging off the ceiling, while photographers carefully produce their final images. Although that practice is still used today, digital print capabilities have introduced a new form of printing that is more commonly used today.
Printing Photography Digitally
Digital photo printing usually incorporates the use of a high-volume laser or inkjet printer. Printing photography digitally is a much less labor-intensive process than traditional methods, because of the lessened time required to set up and maintain a print throughout the production process. Digital printing also tends to allow a larger role for the photographer in the production process, including retouching and color correction.
Printing Photography in a Laboratory
Laboratory printing, also referred to as photographic processing, was the original method in which photographic prints were produced. The three most common forms of photographic processing are black and white negative processing, black and white reversal processing, and color processing.
The term, “black and white negative processing,” refers to the chemical process of a photograph being treated after exposure. Once this process is complete, it transforms the photograph from a “latent” image to a visible image. This makes the photograph permanent, and unaffected by light thereafter.
The black and white reversal process uses the same methods as negative processing, except it adds a few steps that include “fogging” the image by exposing it to light, or treating it chemically.
Lastly, color processing has three different sub-processes, based on what your desire is for the final product:
C-41 is used for developing modern color-negative film. Is driven by the person responsible for developing the negative image and simulation of the color dyes in each emulsion layer.
RA-4 is similar to the C-41 process, except that the developer must combine the bleach and fix first, and then wash them out of the paper using water.
While E-6 processing uses the same equipment as C-41, the difference is that the developer must be aware of the hyper-sensitivity the film has toward temperature variations. For E-6, a heated bath is required to stabilize the temperature at exactly 37.8 degrees Celsius.
Printing Photography at Duggal
As you can tell, there are a lot of granular and nuanced steps in printing photography. Let Duggal’s industry-leading team help you create the optimal photo prints for your work based on your preferences and our recommendations. Get in touch with us today!