Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography


Lesson Info

Lab Safety and Workspace Set-Up

Up to this point, I've been talking about all the steps necessary to kind of create a black and white image, how to get our step wedges, which we use for calibrating and creating our tone maps. So now we're actually ready to do the most meat and potato part of the process, and that's actually get our tone mapping curve built. So this is the part that actually allows us to take our digital file, and have the tones get mapped so that they appear properly in our alt processed file. But before we do that actual step, in order for that to happen we actually have to jump in and actually do our alt processing 'cause we have to do a couple of things to make sure that we can get that tone mapping to work properly. The first is we have to get our required printing time. But to do that, we have to set our lab up, because we're gonna actually have to make an alt processed print to determine that. So before we jumped into that, I wanted to talk a little bit about getting your lab space set up, and ...

some things to think about ahead of time, and we'll cover this and you'll see this when we do the cyanotype, the Van Dyke, and the platinum printing. We're gonna do those processes so you'll see the full set up. But one of the things when you're dealing with alt processing, particularly if you've not done it before, is it's, there seems to be a lot of moving parts, there's trays that need to be set up, you have different types of chemistry you're trying to organize. And so one of the things you wanna do is you wanna make sure that your space is clean and organized. You do not want any food or drink present. So there's not a lot of ways to deal with safety in the dark room that's a big issue You can have inhalation issues, which can be mitigated by wearing a mask. You wear gloves to deal with absorption, and wear aprons to keep yourself clean. But the place where I see people make the biggest mistake around their safety is they have food or drink. So even if you're gonna process in your kitchen, because that's the spot you have running water, you want to make sure that you clean the surfaces from food, you put down a drop cloth. You want to make sure that you're putting yourself in a position to have the least contamination as possible. The other thing you wanna do is, you wanna make sure that you have your gloves out. We'll talk about the different types of gloves, when we get to the cyanotype and why you choose that. But you wanna get yourself as organized and set up as possible, before you get going because where you don't wanna be is, having something in the chemistry and then trying to figure out how am I gonna get out of the chemistry, and I don't know where my gloves are and you just start to get a little bit frazzled. So getting all that stuff set up ahead of time is important. The other thing that's important is, if you're processing at home, making sure that if you have pets like I have a cat who if I'm doing something, he is involved in it. No matter what it is, he's involved in it. So if I was gonna process in the house, I'd have to make sure he was locked up in another room, or he was outside in his catio for the day or whatever he was doing, he would need to be distracted, because you don't want to have people get involved in that or children, for some of the processes if you wanna be safe, The cyanotype process is great because we're gonna start with that one, it's the most benign of pretty much any process so that one's relatively safe but we want to make sure that your lab is set up. The other piece is you wanna make sure that you have a well ventilated area. A piece I do see people have is, some of the processes, they have a little reaction to the chemistry, but a well ventilated area often times fixes that. So as you're getting set up, those are the kind of things you want to start to consider in getting that lab set up, you want to be, have everything ahead of time, have all the things you need. In the bonus material, I have a handout. In the handout is a list of everything you need at the various stages. In the kit Bostick and Sullivan has, their instructions have a list of everything you need, so you'll know what you need ahead of time, but you just want to get everything prepped up and set up as soon as possible. It just makes it a lot easier and a lot smoother.

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.


Class Introduction
Overview of the Alternative Process
Overview of the Digital Negative Process
Working with Black and White Digital: What You Need
Working With Black and White Digital Images: Color Settings
Working with Black and White Digital Images Lightroom
Working With Black and White Digital Images Photoshop
Working With Black and White Digital Images 3rd Party Plug-ins
Avoiding Key Artifacts
Creating the Step Wedge for Curve Corrections
Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves
Setting Up the Printer
Lab Safety and Workspace Set-Up
Setting the Maximum Black Time
Getting the Initial Curve Test Numbers
Correcting the Curve
Printing the Curve
Sharing Curves
Caring for the Digital Negative
Intro to Cyanotypes and Safety
Paper and Brush Types
Coating Process and Cyanotype Chemistry
Making the Cyanotype Print
Washing the Cyanotype Print
Creating Cyanotypes Photograms
Toning Cyanotypes and Cleaning Up the Darkroom
Introduction to Van Dyke Printing
Setting Up the Van Dyke Workstation
Van Dyke Paper and Coating
Van Dyke Exposure and Developing
Van Dyke Troubleshooting and Resources
Van Dyke: Split Toning
Van Dyke: Wash Cycle and Drying
Van Dyke: Clean Up Process
Introduction to Platinum / Palladium Printing
Platinum/Palladium Coating Chemistry and Safety
Platinum/Palladium Paper and Coating Options
Platinum/Palladium Exposure and Development
Platinum/Palladium: Equipment and Supplies
Ink Jet Negative Coating and Exposure
Platinum/Palladium Chemistry Options
Ink Jet Negative Development
Platinum/Palladium Waxing Images
Platinum/Palladium Troubleshooting and Resources
Sharing Your Work Digitally
Matting and Framing Options
Editions and Signing Options
Alternative 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!!!
  • 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!