Platinum! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

After much hemming and hawing and having the equipment around for a while, I've finally begun making Platinum/Palladium (Pt/Pd) prints, about a dozen over the last two weeks of pretty intensive printing, from 8X10 and 12X20 in camera negs, using the traditional developing out process and not POP/Ziatypes. I've really been very excited and drawn in by the whole process, the hand-coating, the degree of control of contrast and color, the relative ease of printing negs with a very broad tonal range that were painful or impossible in silver, the warmth of the image and the ability to render with great subtlety and force values at the very lightest end of the scale. All the stuff that everybody else likes, I guess! It seems that much of silver printing involves various tricks at the time of shooting/processing (eg the Zone System) or printing (dodging, burning, VC papers, etc)to get around the fact that our eyes can easaily take in a brightness range of a dozen or two stops (I should know the exaxct #: I'm an ophthalmologist!), but silver papers can only print a fraction of this. Pt/Pd accomodates so much of a broader range that I feel I can really focus more on the presentation of the image and less on technical "tricks" like dodging and burning, which can be maddeningly difficult to repeat.

I know there are a number of people following this site who have extensive experience with Pt/Pd (Carl Weese comes immediately to mind). Those of you with experience, what appeals, or doesn't appeal, to you about Pt/Pd? (you can leave $ and time out for the minute, just talking about the results and one's control over them, or any other subjective aspect you'd like to comment on) Do you tend to do most of your work in silver or Pt/Pd? Do you prefer Ziatype or developing out processes, and why? When will you go for Pt/Pd and when for silver, if you use both? I guess I'm curious to elicit people's subjective feelings about the Pt/Pd process and its place in their work.

Finally, I'm not looking to Pt/Pd as a panacea, or a "fix" for work I'm unsatisfied with. I've actually been happier than ever with my silver prints recently, but had always been curious about the Pt/Pd process and just found time recently to take the plunge. I think I may be hooked!

I have read Carl Weese's and Dick Arentz's books, by the way, and several other general refs on Alt process, and have spent some time on the B+S alt process server, though not actively posted there.

Thanks for your thoughts, and Happy Holidays!


-- Nathan Congdon (, December 26, 2001


Welcome to the addictive world of Pt/Pd printing.

In all seriousness, I choose platinum for pictures I think will look better that way. For what started me with the process, I have to credit my partner (who is a painter). She kept telling me that I would never be happy with my contact prints of New England woodland scenes unless I bit the bullet and started printing them in platinum. She was right.

Silver remains more brilliant: pictures that want this quality still look best in silver. Soft subjects (like those woodland scenes) can be shown wonderfully in Pt/Pd. Hard subjects (architecturals come to mind) are often better in silver. You're right that it can be easier to encompass extreme brightness ranges in platinum, but don't miss exploring the opposite possibility. A scene with very little scale (mist and fog for example) often fails in silver unless the scale is artificially expanded, while a platinum print faithfully showing the all-gray short scale of the original subject can be evocative and s

-- Carl Weese (, December 26, 2001.

Hi Nathan,

I dabbled a bit in Pt/Pd quite a number of years ago and I agree with Carl that the images which require more subtle shades/tones seem to be the ones that work best - well for me anyway. I found that the subject (tone/contrast/what is trying to be conveyed) plays a big part in choosing between silver or platinum. Portraits that I tried, looked good with this process, particularly for some reason on darker skinned people. I also got some excellent results with images of older New York buildings, so architechture worked with this process for me too, but perhaps they wouldn't have looked so good with modern architecture.

I only did 4x5 contacts so I probably wasn't getting the most out of it, but I was hooked then and it is only because I have moved around a lot in the last few years that has prevented me from taking it up again.

I'm seriously looking at trying to make larger digital negatives from 4x5 to see if they will produce a good result. Anyone who has tried this, please comment.

It's a great process and what makes it interesting for me is the subtle colour and tones that can be achieved with a real "handmade" process, and the slow and thought-provoking aspect of the process, much like LF photography - an oasis in the middle of a digital revolution.

Kind regards Peter brown

-- Peter L Brown (, December 26, 2001.

Hi Nathan I got hooked on platinum after seeing a Paul Strand exhibit several years ago. I started with precoated "Palladio" paper and that really got me hooked, when the Palladio company started having trouble with their paper stock I had to start handcoating to keep printing in this wonderful medium. I have made a few attempts at making silver prints but usually not happy with the results, too hard to make a good silver print! I think my heart just isn't in it. I love seeing fine silver prints but I guess it's just not my thing. Good luck with your platinum printing and Happy New Year

William Blunt

-- William Blunt (, December 26, 2001.

Nathan, Welcome to the club! I shouldn't really comment on the platinum vs. silver question, because I'm one of the few oddballs who have actually made more Pd/Pt prints than silver prints. However, my results with Pd/Pt have been very satisfying after a short learning period. Short, mainly because of the excellent Weese/Sullivan book!

I'm not too enamored with the POP Ziatype, because the contrast can be too low for my taste. Although, this may be due to lack of experience with Zia contrast control and is very subjective. I saw fantastic Ziatypes at this year's APIS meeting that far exceeded what Iíve accomplished with Zia. Iím happiest with my traditional develop- out Pd/Pt prints and most recently have switched to the Pt+4 approach for contrast control. Bostick & Sullivan call their Pt+4 salt "Na2 Platinum". Lately, Iíve started to develop my negatives using Sandy King's Pyrocat-HD (see: and have found it to be a very good developer for Pd/Pt negatives.

I shoot 8x10 and very recently 8x20 on a crude, but functional, homebuilt 8x20 back. Best of luck with your Pd/Pt printing and Happy New Year!

-- Linas Kudzma (, December 26, 2001.

There are few questions I've often wanted to ask, so I hope you don't mind sidetracking a little here:-

For negatives, is it correct to overexpose by one stop and develop for twice the usual time?

What is the ideal film density range if read by a densitometer?

Do you require specially tailored (digitally altered) negatives to make 'perfect' prints?

Can normally camera-exposed negatives yield the desired tonal relation within the image since the process is self-masking?

Many Thanks,


-- Aaron (, December 27, 2001.

There are few questions I've often wanted to ask, so I hope you don't mind sidetracking a little here:- >For negatives, is it correct to overexpose by one stop and develop >for twice the usual time?

Film speed should be the same or a little higher than you get from the same film for silver printing. Development should be 50% to 75% more--double is apt to be too much for subjects of normal dynamic range. Pyro development also can yield excellent negatives that print either way.

A range of at least 1.6, and 2.00 is fine as well. Bear in mind densitometer readings from 'real' negatives are tricky because the probe seldom gets to read a pure single tone as it does with grayscale tests.

Good results can be had with either digital or traditional enlarged negatives, but they never match the magic of a print made directly from an in-camera negative. For many, the direct contact print from in-camera negative is the ultimate platinu

-- Carl Weese (, December 27, 2001.

doesn't seem to matter what I do about extra returns or added characters at the end, the tail of messages keeps getting cut off. ------------------

-- Carl Weese (, December 27, 2001.

Dear Nathan, Came across your notions and questions about platinum printing when I searched the web through a search engine for my own new site Not on the search engines yet, though have a look at the site if you like to see what I'm at here in London England. I just love making portraits of men in their later years, and without a doubt, platinum palladium on watercolour paper, 30inches by 20, gives a depth and presence that I just don't get with silver. As someone else remarked, silver gives great brilliance, but to convey the quietness I love in my portraits, Platinum's the thing. I've never tried to print platinum myself; I'm lucky to know a painter in Gloucester England who spends some of his time printing platinum. Lucky me! John-David Biggs,

-- John-David Biggs (, February 23, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ