Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography


Lesson Info


The next piece I kinda wanted to jump into and talk about is the archivability of these prints. Cause that's one of the things people always ask me is well how long do these prints last? The cool part about that answer is, if you go to a museum, guess what you can see from 180 years ago? Cyanotypes, Van Dyke's, Daguerreotypes, glass plates. So we know properly washed and properly resinced that these will last for the entire, so far, history of photography. Cause these are the earliest ways we printed. So from our carab ability stand point they are incredible archivable. As long as you follow the process through and make sure you do the proper rinsing and the proper washing, the prints are gonna last longer than you will. So you've got an opportunity to really build a great legacy from a print standpoint. And the other part that's nice is a print actually, in some ways, barring a fire or something like that, I have never once worried about my hard drive crashing once I had this. If the ...

hard drive crashes and I have a print, I still have the print. I can go scan the print and make another digital negative if I needed to. So the print in some ways, from an archivabiity standpoint, is much more permanent than even having the digital file backed up in multiple locations. So that's one of the other things I've really liked about from an archivability standpoint, my own work and printing. I've taken the capture digitally. I do all that work, but once I make a print I know that has a long term survivability. That being said, there are some things you're gonna want to do to take care of your prints. Gina, can you bring me the print box? One of the things you want to do is, it's still paper. It's still subject to damage. It's still subject to being injured. And than also, can you bring me your print that has the Cozo. Uh this is my box in x out. And then bring me box if you can find it over there. I buried it. So you're gonna want to store all your prints in a print box. These print boxes come in a number of different options in different varieties, but the thing you're gonna want to look for is, they'll call it museum quality or they'll call it acid free, and what you want is you want a box that's not gonna then introduce, thanks, artifacts into the paper. So the paper, for the most part, these are long term archivable papers. These are papers that have been used for and built for hundreds of years by these companies. That we're repurposing into this process. But you didn't want to store it in a box that's not gonna leach acid in there and cause the paper to degrade. That's our biggest risk from an archivability. Is not the chemistry that's in there, particularly with the silvers and the metals that are in there. We're not worried with that leaching out. What we're worried about is the paper degrading. So we want to put it in a museum quality box. And they come in a number of different kinds. This one's a little bit thinner, this one's a little bit heavier weight. Pricing will change here or there. But when things go into a box, and in this case Gina's added some gaffers tape just so the lid stays attached, so she doesn't loose the lid. But the one print I wanted to show in here this is that Cozo paper we've been talking about. And you can see how thin that is. That is just, I mean it's see through. You can see my fingers through that. So this paper's extremely fragile as a materiality object. So if I just take that and throw that on my desk that's eventually gonna get crunched, stepped on, and squished. So I need a place to store and organize the prints. So a print box is what you want. So you're gonna want boxes to store your various prints in. They come in various sizes and you can get them down from four by five and you can get them up to my biggest box is 30 by and I think they have them bigger than that online. But I don't print bigger than 30 by so I can't definitively say what the next biggest size is. But you're gonna get the print box. It's one of those investments that you're gonna be like, 35 dollars for a box to put my stuff in. Ten dollars a sheet for coding your platinum. It holds 100 of them. 100 times, 700 dollars to store, for 35 starts to get the price analysis pretty good. And I know how photographers are. A 4000 dollar brand new digital camera, well everybody needs that, but I'm not paying 30 bucks for a box to put my prints in. So pay the money, get the box. The other one is you're better off getting a box for the size of print you're gonna store. Because what happens (shaking) those start to slide and bounce around in there, you're damaging the ends of the paper. Remember that deckled edge? That deckled edge could start to get smashed. Those corners could start to get bent. So if you've got a set of material, a set of paper in here that you want to store for the long term, you want to hold for the long term, you want a box where they don't have a lot of slide and a lot of movement in. In terms of cross contamination. So one of the questions I get asked is well can I put my cyanotype and my Van Dykes and my platinum prints all in the same box? I would hope that you get so excited about this, that you print so much, that they all won't fit in the same box. But you can absolutely put them in the same box. Once the prints dry, there's not gonna be much cross contamination that could occur from a dry print. I do separate them. Barring teaching like we've been teaching where everything's kind of pulled together and I didn't want to bring down five boxes of prints. I put them into a travel box. But for the most part, my prints are all segmented by types. So I have platinum prints it a box. I have Van Dykes in a box. I have my salt prints in a different box. And then I usually just put on a label here on the end, I just label the edge of the box on this side and on this side, I label it with what is in the box. So it's platinum prints. And then if I'm really cruising by year, it might have the year on it. The other thing I'll occasionally do is I'll make sure my name is on the inside of the box. So that way if I take this box somewhere, you'd be surprised how many photographers when you go to a portfolio review or you're showing prints at a photo club, have the exact same black box as you do. So just making sure your names in it or your names on the outside of it. I have some marketing stickers that I just had made. We just changed the name of our studio. So we have the new marketing materials. So I have stickers I just bought that'll go on the outside of all the boxes so I can identify the box that way. But just making sure that I know that's my box. So archive a box, appropriate size for that. The other piece about these boxes, it's great, is this kind of work is great for show, for gallery. It actually works great right now in some commercial spaces cause it has a unique look. I doesn't look like everything else that's out there. We're seeing a number of galleries and a number of industries start to kind of gravitate back towards this. We're seeing more portfolio reviews. I'm seeing more and more type of alternative processing work coming in the portfolio reviews. So one of the things too that these archivable boxes do is they're prepped for you to go into a portfolio review at a much more professional look for your photographs. It shows that you're taking care of the photographs, you're understanding the importance of the photograph, the longevity of the photograph. And so for somebody who has a deep knowledge about photography and the collectibility of the photographic object, it says that you also understand that about the process. That these photographs themselves, as printed materials, have an intrinsic value and you've put them in something that helps preserve and respect the value that the object has. So there's a psychology to that process that actually does make a difference if you go out and start show piecing the work. So, museum grade boxes. New Century makes some, I know Daniel Smith and Blake also have private branded ones that are museum quality acid free. But really that's just what you're looking for. Something that's not gonna leach in any additional chemistry to the paper. Cause that gassing off gassing that happens is what damages the print. People always ask me, well how serious is that? It could take a long time for that to happen. So I used to store and I still store a number of my old traditional chromogenic prints, which are some of the most fragile prints we have, I still store those in the print box that the paper came in. And those haven't faded yet. But they will fade over time and they will fade faster because they're not in an archivable box. So just over time and that preservation, that becomes something that is, I think really works and speaks to that process. The other piece I will say is some of them come with some Velcro edges and some of them come with a little tie like that. That you kinda spin wrap tie latches around. Those are actually pretty nice, they actually keep the box closed. Some of my bigger heavier boxes that have more prints I have actually put on a little wrap tie just to keep the box closed, just so if it does hit it doesn't accidentally flip open. The other piece that you will see in some of the print boxes is you see how this one actually folds flat. Some of the boxes won't fold flat. So they'll actually, the lid will come up to about here and then it has to be held open. Or the lid will have to completely come off. But I like the ability of the print box to be held flat because if somebodies looking at the prints, they can then just flip it over to here. Flip it over to here. And then when they close the box back, the prints are still in the right order and the piece is preserved. The other thing you will occasionally see on some of the bigger Century boxes is this front leading edge will actually flop down. And then that way the prints can be pulled out and it's for the larger boxes, so they can be pulled out and then viewed and slid back into the box. So that flip down thing you'll sometimes see is an option and if you've never had to move those big of prints around or know what that's for, that's what it's for. The easaility of moving the prints back and forth. You can by century boxes or arrchivable boxes, like I said, online. Most photographic stores will carry them so they're easy to find. It's just one of the things if you've never thought about storing prints, you would have no reason to actually store them or save them The boxes work for digital prints as well. They work for silver gelatin prints. So if you've got prints of any kind, the storage boxes work for any medium. So they're not specific to an alt processing component.

Class Description

In a world where most photos are captured digitally it’s good to remember the beauty of print and all of the creative options alternative processes have to offer. The history of printing photos introduces techniques and tools that can improve your eye in the field and open up doors to new perspectives. Fine artist and educator Daniel Gregory gives the steps needed to get you started in exploring the many formats out there. You’ll learn:

  • An overview of what alternative processing is and the many formats out there
  • How to create a digital negative
  • How to setup and test your curve
  • How to print a Cyanotype
  • How to create a Van Dyke Print
  • Chemistry, Safety and Developing techniques
  • Platinum and Palladium Printing processes

In this introductory course, you’ll be given the key elements to get you started in expanding your creativity and exploring alternative photographic processes.


1Class Introduction 2Overview of the Alternative Process 3Overview of the Digital Negative Process 4Working with Black and White Digital: What You Need 5Working With Black and White Digital Images: Color Settings 6Working with Black and White Digital Images Lightroom 7Working With Black and White Digital Images Photoshop 8Working With Black and White Digital Images 3rd Party Plug-ins 9Avoiding Key Artifacts 10Creating the Step Wedge for Curve Corrections 11Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves 12Setting Up the Printer 13Lab Safety and Workspace Set-Up 14Setting the Maximum Black Time 15Getting the Initial Curve Test Numbers 16Correcting the Curve 17Printing the Curve 18Sharing Curves 19Caring for the Digital Negative 20Intro to Cyanotypes and Safety 21Paper and Brush Types 22Coating Process and Cyanotype Chemistry 23Making the Cyanotype Print 24Washing the Cyanotype Print 25Creating Cyanotypes Photograms 26Toning Cyanotypes and Cleaning Up the Darkroom 27Introduction to Van Dyke Printing 28Setting Up the Van Dyke Workstation 29Van Dyke Paper and Coating 30Van Dyke Exposure and Developing 31Van Dyke Troubleshooting and Resources 32Van Dyke: Split Toning 33Van Dyke: Wash Cycle and Drying 34Van Dyke: Clean Up Process 35Introduction to Platinum / Palladium Printing 36Platinum/Palladium Coating Chemistry and Safety 37Platinum/Palladium Paper and Coating Options 38Platinum/Palladium Exposure and Development 39Platinum/Palladium: Equipment and Supplies 40Ink Jet Negative Coating and Exposure 41Platinum/Palladium Chemistry Options 42Ink Jet Negative Development 43Platinum/Palladium Waxing Images 44Platinum/Palladium Troubleshooting and Resources 45Sharing Your Work Digitally 46Archivability 47Matting and Framing Options 48Editions and Signing Options 49Alternative Processes: Further Exploration



For a long time, I have read, studied and tried alternative processing, mainly Platinum/Palladium printing. I want to create longest lasting prints and may be share the info at Creative Live. But this presentation saved me many a hours. A few minutes into the lecture, I purchased the class and as the class progressed, I was extremely glad. Thank you Creative Live, thank you Daniel Gregory.


Excellent class on Alt Process and fantastic bonus materials included with purchase!!! I have extensive digital printing and darkroom experience but haven't done much alt-process to date. This is perfect timing for me as I have several personal projects that I would like to re-visit using some of these techniques. Thank you Daniel!!!

John Hendricks

So good to hear the info. I am glad to have more input into this, my favorite process! Bought this one and will gain a LOT from this!