Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography

Lesson 11/49 - Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves


Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography


Lesson Info

Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves

The next thing I kind of wanted to talk about was a little bit about keeping organized because we're now to the point now we've created some step wedges. We're about to start to generate a large volume of data for doing this alt processing. We're gonna have tone mapping curves. We're gonna have files. We have prints that we've made. We found different processes we're working on. So I want to talk just a little bit about organization. So I want to jump back over into Keynote here. When we start creating files and we create curves, you're gonna have these tone mapping curves you create. You can have these customizations you're gonna create. You might think to yourself, "Oh, I've got Untitled Curve number one." Then you create the next one and you call that Untitled Curve number two. Then you're like, "Okay, okay," "I've got two curves, I'm good." Then you're like, "Oh, now I have" "Untitled Curve number two but I'll use a lower case c" "instead of an upper case C." And then "Oh, I'm gonn...

a use Curve 2" "and then I'm gonna use 2nd curve," "and then I'm gonna use My newest curve." Okay, and then you come back tomorrow, and you're like, "Which curve was I using?" And then you're like, "Oh, I have a better system." I know exactly what I'm gonna do. I think what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna create a system that has Final curve. Then I'm gonna have Final curve and then I'm gonna have Final final curve, and then I'm gonna have no, no, really my final curve. Okay, this is actually what I watch people do when they start this process because they're gonna start creating these curves. They're gonna start testing these curves. They're gonna start tweaking these curves and they start creating things like this and they're in a hurry, so you just start naming things off. It's like I said when we were looking at digital artifacting. If you don't label those layers and you don't know what they're doing, you're never gonna figure out what caused the artifact. Similar thing, we want to start to make smarter decisions about how we create the curves. If I said my curve was named this or my file was named this, Cyanotype_EpsonP800_AchesPlatine_V4. When we're dealing with historical processes, the thing that we have to start to get our head around from an organization standpoint and a consistency standpoint is the process is extremely important because the curve is specific to the process, the tone mapping curve we create. The tone mapping curve is also specific to the printer you're printing it on. Not like the exact printer, but if you're on a P800, that curve should work for nearly every other P800, but the curve will need to be changed if you switch to an Epson 3800. It's also the paper you're printing on. The substrate you're actually coating with the surface makes a difference. If you're printing on Arches Platine or you're printing on Hahnemule Platinum, or you're printing on Rives BFK, the curve will be slightly different. Now is it dramatically different? No, but it's subtly different enough that you would want to know that, particularly if you're a person who's trying to get these really exact, high quality prints done. Then you'll have multiple variations that you've worked with over time. I didn't want to feel like people should give up your Untitled 1, Untitled 2, Untitled 3. But at least if you have this information up front, you now know when you come back in and look at your file name, you say, "Oh, this is for a cyanotype print" "for this type of Epson printer for this type of paper," "and I've revised it four times." Because sometimes you're gonna go back and you'll be monkeying and tweaking your curve and you'll be like, "Oh, version three actually was better." "So I want to go back to version three." Things like humidity affect alternative processing in a significant way, so you might have a higher humidity and a lower humidity curve because you're able to figure out, oh, in higher humidity I have this problem or I have that problem. The cyanotype process when we get into that, there's cyanotype, there's new cyanotype, there's the Sullivan variation. There's with and without an acidic bath. There's all sorts of different ways you can modify that. Having that information stored here is nice to have in the file. Just a quick question. I'm trying to translate this into previous knowledge from the traditional black and white darkroom. This step wedge we're using is to generate the negative, or is it gonna translate also into the final print? Okay, great question. Because I'm sorry. Yeah no, that's a great question. What is... What's happening is the image is created in its digital black and white form and then the curve is gonna get created. What its only job is is to help build a negative so that when it prints, the tones match the computer screen as closely as possible to the print. It's a translation program. In the digital printing space, we call it an ICC profile for the process. In the color management world, you don't have an ICC profile for a cyanotype Arches Platine paper. You have to create that. You're building basically a customized analogy of a customized ICC profile. Because okay, so yeah. It's starting to fit together. Cool. Because when you were doing, the only moment I had something to do similar to that step wedges was when we were enlarging, you would do, okay two seconds, four seconds, six seconds to see at what moment you start getting true black. Okay, yes. (mumbling) Yeah, that makes sense. We're gonna do that as well. That's gonna happen as well, but also if you are a person who comes out of the analog darkroom and you had a negative and then in the analog world, we control contrast through contrast filters. An image that has a really high contrast negative might use a low contrast filter so we can even out the tones and a low contrast negative, we'd use a high contrast filter to boost the contrast. This curve we're building is basically to get the equivalent so that everything was printed with the same contrast filter and all the tones were perfectly mapped. Does that make sense? Yeah, thank you. Great question. So yeah, this organization piece, if you get this early on, this is gonna let you come back. In my own work, before I started to get a handle on this, I literally would open up a folder and I'd be like, (groans) I don't know what that is. It was my own fault. I just wasn't that organized. Then I started to label things Cyanotype Curve 1, but I didn't know what it came with. I own three different printers. I teach at a school that has eight different printers. I was having students show up with like, oh, I'm like, "What'd you print this on?" They're like, "Oh, I printed it" "on that one and then that one." I was like okay, so how do we translate that? Having at least this level of information was good. The other piece I would recommend is on your hard drive, start to think about all of your work and group it by process. Start to chunk things together so that you have a big alt process file folder and then you have cyanotype as your thing you work with. Then you have your curves, that tone mapping custom curve we're gonna build in the next session. You'll have those there, 'cause you might have one for Arches Platine. You might have one for Mike Ware's cyanotype. You might have one for traditional cyanotype. But all the curves specific to cyanotype are in one location. Then you have your final files and then you have your working files. A final file to me is we have the flattened black and white image. We have the customized curve correction in it. We have the invert layer in it. It's in the right color space. Everything's good and that one can be printed over and over and over again. Then the working files are the ones I'm still testing, I'm still figuring out, I'm still editing the file because somewhat to your point about that map we're building. Once the curve correction, sorry, the tone mapping correction curve is made, that is the one to one mapping of tones to values in the print. If there's something I don't like about the print, I don't ever edit that tone correction map again. I edit the image again. If the contrast is off, I'm gonna edit the original black and white image to increase or decrease contrast because the tone mapping curve's only job is if Photoshop says print 50%, in the cyanotype, I get the equivalent of 50%. If I went in and adjusted the tone mapping curve to fix the contrast, I'm always chasing my tail. So that's why we're building that map, so it's known to known. The final files have the known map applied and everything is good. The working files for me is a folder where I'm still editing the image to get the look I want in the final print. That way I can come back in, 'cause the other thing I found with a final file is if I have artwork shown somewhere or I've sold a piece and then a client calls or it's an addition of four, I need to be able to come back in and open that exact file and know what was in it, how it was printed, and how all those things happen so I can go back and give the gallery or the client the exact same file. The other thing I do is if we come back to this image and we're about to step into some printing information, some various things. The other thing I do is there's a feature in Photoshop that not a lot of people use. It's kind of buried under the eyedropper tool and it's the notes tool. The notes tool you can select and you click, and then you can add a note into a Photoshop file. I can come in here and I can type, you know, "Printed on," if I could actually spell printed. "On 1/8/18, Epson 7900." "It was for Bob Roberts," "client, 11 by 15." I can make a note in there... and then that note appears as just a little tag on the Photoshop file. Then I can come back in and look and I can add multiple notes, but this is a way for me to kind of keep some additional information that could be specific to the file. In this alt processing world, there is a lot of variables to get in about the type of chemistry you used, if something worked or didn't work. Those are recorded obviously in notebooks and other places, but I have found for things specific to the file I am working on, that notes field is a great one because when I open the Photoshop file, if I see that yellow tag there I'm like, "Oh, something specific I need to know" "about this one for that." The other piece is for... I could do it in metadata if I'm organizing in Lightroom and things like that but I'm then having to go back into Lightroom. I'm having to read the large comments field. I just have found that the notes field is a nice little component for getting things set up.

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!