How long with Silver : LUSENET : B&W Photo: Alternative Process : One Thread

Howdy, I am spending a lot of time and effort working in the darkroom to get the Ansel Adams look to my pictures.What worries me is 'HOW LONG IS SILVER GOING TO LAST'.I do not think I will continue to create pictures on the computer.

-- K. Rajkumar (, December 11, 1999


That depends on the processing, the type of paper, the toning, and the environment in which it is stored.

The least stable are RC prints, but not so much because of the silver being instable. It is rather the plastic carrier that can deteriorate, particularly when the print is exposed to sunlight. FB prints are more stable in this respect.

The silver itself is attacked by chemical contaminations in the air or in the carrier (the latter being a particular problem with insuffienciently washed FB prints). Especially sulphur compounds tend to stain the image, and to make it fade. This can be helped by

Thorough washing, and toning with toners that convert the silver to more stable compounds. The toners with best archival qualities are 1) selenium toner (which, when used at high dilution, hardly alters the image tone, but which is said to improve the paper's D_max, i.e. it gives blacker blacks), 2) gold toner (which is conceivably expensive and tends to cool off images, i.e. to make them a little more blueish), 3) sepia toner (which makes the image brown, the exact tone depending very much on the paper used).

To make your images last, store them in a dry place. Generally, it is better for an image not to be exposed to light, but you might want to look at your print, and hang it on the wall. Toning is recommended then, the most neutral and least expensive option being dilute selenium toner.

-- Thomas Wollstein (, December 13, 1999.

I don't think you are talking about archival processing. I think you mean how long will we all be using silver printing instead of printing off a computer. I think this is an excellent question. What is there to silver prints that will have them survive the techno age. Will silver become an "alternative process" like gum printing or platinum prints? Isn't there a quality and precision in silver printing that is lost on the ink-jet or laser printer? And does anyone appreciate the difference enough to keep silver printing alive? The standard for print media has certainly gone downhill in the past 5-10 years with more people doing their own typesetting and layout on their home computer instead of using the professional. And with photojournalism's need for the fastest possible dissemination of work, of course the darkroom must go. What's the opinio

-- David Reynolds (, December 25, 1999.

B&W film photo has already been an "alternative process" for 30 years now. Color disposible cameras and film processing is now so fast, easy, and relitivly inexpensive (1 hour labs) that its considered cheap. Digital is just more of the same. It's much faster, easy, inexpensive (after equipment), and editable. For the first time most people can process there own color shots at home and the quality is not so bad. No more expensive film & processing. Even now the Pro camera shops in my area have stopped/limited stocking of 120 film becouse Pro photog's have/plan to make the switch or are retireing. All 16mm (110) films have been dead for over a year. My answer is to do both, but the real question is:

Why do film/home wet darkroom with all it's time requirements, smell, expense, limited editbility, and only B&W?

The practicale reasons: Print Longevity - Well done B&W prints will last >50 years, common color photos about 10 years, I think <5 for ink jet is a safe bet. Cost/Quality ratio - Digital can deliver high quality at a high cost (Pros) or low quality at a low cost (consumer), but not high quality at low cost. However, cost of film-B&W could go up if the cost of film, papers, chem, and other stuff go's up due to fewer people doing it and therefore lack of competition. Equipment Depreation - History has shown that all that computer stuff will need replacement in 3 years. If the film equipment is recent then it's also depreating quickly. However, ventage equipment has already bottomed out and now is comming up in value. B&W acceptance - B&W was shuned for over 25 years as somthing done only by poor geeks who had no life. Color was the obvious choice. In the 1990's generation X saw B&W as "fresh". To them it's a nice, viable alturnative that is better then color in many situations. Just look in any magizine and even on TV. B&W is back as an art form. Color (like DOF and grain) should be used to help communacate a message, not just by defalt.

Not so good reasons: "YOU CAN", most others can't. Your ventage photo equipment will never be seen otherwise. It's produces wall art that can show class.

-- Andy Clements (, January 26, 2000.

Did oil painting Not to many commercial tecnical illustrators left. My point is that we will all end up getting our equipment in art supply houses, or their 21st century equivlaent, instead of camera stores. As a matter of fact how many camera stores sell B&W materials...not many! As for me, they will have to drag me kicking and screaming into the digital world.BTW in case you think I'm a hypocrate for using a computer, I'm not. I am typing this on a communications terminal.As a matter of fact, I've spent too much time on this thing. I think it's time to go back into the darkroom.

-- Robert Orofino (, April 17, 2000.

I for one will jump into the digital age once they have a printer that can capture the detail of a good silver print but until then I will be sticking to my dark room. Like you I fear that we may be stuck with an availablity problem. Convenence of a digital imagine may take over the quility of a silver print cause I know americans at lest favor convenence over quility

-- (, December 09, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ