Social Media

Collecting Tips: Understanding the Print Process

photo-eye Gallery Collecting Tips: Understanding the Print Process In the latest entry to our Collecting Series, photo-eye Gallery Staff describe four popular print types, what makes them special, and reasons to collect them.

For some time I've been ruminating on a series about collecting photography to help demystify the process. This summer we kicked off the series with a piece highlighting 5 basic tips to start your collection and then moved into some of our staff’s favorite images. Today we are going to bring our focus back to the basics by defining four common types of photographic prints, their strengths, and why to collect them.

NOW is a very exciting time for photography. New technologies have created unforeseen printing possibilities but have also caused a resurgence in classic processes — resulting in a slew of possibilities and a longer glossary of terms.  The range of what is considered 'photographic' has and is expanding. Occasionally, gallery visitors get caught up between the type of print and the process of creating the photographic image, and typically the two are related, although they don't need to be. This post is a guide to four of the most common types of photographic prints, how they are made, and why they may be a good fit for your collection.
– Anne Kelly, Gallery Director

Silver-Gelatin Prints

Capodacqua Lake, Capestrano, Abruzzo, Italy, 2016, Gelatin-Silver Print, 8x8" Image, Edition of 25, $3000 
© Michael Kenna

Silver-Gelatin prints are papers coated with a layer of gelatin emulsion containing light sensitive silver salts and typically made from a film negative in the black and white darkroom. Introduced in the 1870’s, these prints became a favorable black and white print type from the turn of the 19th century to present day.

Photographers and collectors alike can always appreciate a gorgeous gelatin silver print for its rich tonal value and unique surface. For over a century, the traditional silver print has remained as a fundamental printing method and quintessential representative for the medium’s history.

Select Artists making Silver-Gelatin Prints:
Michael Kenna
Pentti Sammallahti
Edward Ranney
Hiroshi Watanabe
David H. Gibson
Mark Klett
Raymond Meeks
John Delaney
Steve Fitch

Archival Pigment Prints

Cloud caster, 2013, Archival Pigment Print,8x8” Image, Edition of 15, $1500– © Maggie Taylor
Archival Pigment Prints are nearly ubiquitous these days as many photographers continue to move their work out of the darkroom and onto the computer. Originating as a digital file, either from a camera or scanner, Archival Pigment Prints are created on professional inkjet printers utilizing refined particles of tonal pigment resilient to degrading environmental elements. Ok, what does that mean? Essentially Archival Pigment Prints offer exquisite rich tone, black-and white or color, and can last for hundreds of years – far longer than the traditional chemical color C-Print.

In the past ten years, we've also seen a renaissance in paper choice for Archival Pigment Printers, including thick matte cotton rag and the introduction of a clay base just like Silver-Gelatin Prints. These papers have been especially freeing for color photographers who were previously limited to plastic based resin coated papers. We love materials at photo-eye and how they can affect the interpretation and feeling of an image.

Far from push-button, mastering Pigment Printing means possessing an intense understanding of your materials, including paper, ink choice, and the profiles used to transform a digital file into a physical object.

Select Artists Making Archival Pigment Prints:
Maggie Taylor
Julie Blackmon
Mitch Dobrowner
Tom Chambers
Jock Sturges
Jamie Stillings
Laurie Tümer
Richard Tuschman
Brad Wilson
Zoë Zimmerman

Chromogenic Prints

Red Curtain, 2016, Chromogenic Print, 14x14" Image, Edition of 10, $2500 – © Cig Harvey
Chromogenic Prints, or C-Prints, are made from a color negative, slide, or digital image (known as a digital C – print). A color photograph in which the paper has three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitized to a different primary color - red, blue or green. During processing, chemicals are added that form dyes of the appropriate color in the emulsion layers. The silver salts are bleached out and only the color dyes remain. This process was developed in the 1930s and became quite popular upon Kodak’s introduction of Kodacolor film produced from 1942 to 1963. C – prints remained as the most common color printing method until the recent shift to archival pigment prints.

Chromogenic prints often speak to photographers and collectors with a more traditional or purist approach to the medium. What makes these color prints unique, or stand apart from more contemporary pigment prints, is that they are made from an exposure that requires light – photography’s key ingredient.

Select Artists Making C-Prints:
Cig Harvey
Terri Weifenbach
Carla van de Puttelaar
Liz Hickok

Platinum Prints

Dried Clematis Blossom, 1995, Platinum/Palladium Print, 10x8" Image, Edition of 25, $750 – © James Pitts 
Like most other alternative photographic processes, the Platinum Print's roots stretch back to the nineteenth century. Born of noble metals, platinum prints became prominent among photographers in the late 1800s and early 1900s as photographer's sought to elevate the medium's artistic status by creating images both elegant and handmade. 

The platinum printing technique consists of hand-sensitizing fine cotton rag paper with a custom emulsion cocktail built specifically for each image. Once dry, negatives are laid against the paper and contact printed via a UV light source — such as the sun. The procedure is specific, peculiar, and laborious, with a single platinum print sometimes taking up to eight hours to render.

Although complicated, the aesthetic and archival benefits of using platinum materials is astonishing. Compared to contemporary printing procedures, platinum prints exhibit a long and graceful tonal range, deep luscious blacks, a sense of three-dimensionality, and unique luminous quality. When properly cared for, platinum prints are also very permanent and can last thousands of years. 

Select Artists making Platinum Prints
•   Ronald Cowie
•   Teri Havens
•   Nick Brandt
•   Bob Cornelis

For more information and to purchase prints please contact 
Gallery Staff at 505.988.5152 x 202 or