Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography


Lesson Info

Overview of the Alternative Process

First I wanna talk quickly about what is alternative processing? So we hear that term like the introduction to alternative processing. Well what does that exactly mean? In even before we had digital we had alternative processing and basically what that was was anything that wasn't using silver gelatin based papers or traditional silver color printing methodologies. So anything that kind of was outside that realm fell into that space. Today with how much digital technology we have you can almost include some of the traditional silver printing into that alternative processing as well because the inkjets and things like that have supplemented a lot of that different printing methods. So we've got an opportunity now to kind of extend what we would define as an alternative process. But there's a couple of things that make alternative processes sort of unique in that regard. The first of which is that they're contact printed. So when we look at an image, this is a four by five negative and t...

his is an eight by ten negative. So one of the things about alt processing is that the image is the size of the negative. So when we make the print if I wanna make a print that's eight by ten, I need an eight by ten negative 'cause the negative's actually gonna overlay the paper. So unlike in a traditional dark room when we have analog where we would go in and enlarge with an enlarger and we'd move the enlarger head up. We'd get a bigger image to print or in digital where I can just resize and resample. For all of these historical methodologies we're gonna be talking about, our negative needs to be the size of the image. So in that four by five case, here's a doubled up four by five. So in that case, here's the four by five negative and you can see it would overlay the image. So we end up with a print size this size. That's one of the pieces is our image size is our print size. The other one is the contact print, in which case the negative is actually gonna lay directly onto the paper. That's what we mean by contact printing, is the actual negative actually lays on the coded material paper and then we expose it to create the print. It's really kind of an interesting process. One of the reasons I actually like the contact printing is I can play with weird sizes. I can go in and resize and create different shapes and sizes. If I wanted to create with a digital negative, I could create a star in the computer and print that as my digital negative, where here I'm kind of limited a four by five format 'cause I refuse to cut up my large format negatives. I'm sure there are people out there who do, but I happen to not be one of them. The other piece is that this is a eight by ten camera. That eight by ten negative came off of a camera this size. In the old historical methodologies for doing this, or if you wanted to do what we would consider a traditional way of doing alt processing, you'd have to use a large format camera or your images would be contact printed at these tiny spaces. This is an eight by ten camera, and if you look at the back, the ground glass here is the size of the negative. To get an eight by ten print, I have to shoot this camera. If I wanted an 11 by 17 image, I'd have to shoot an 11 by 17 camera, which is about twice the size of this one. If you start to think about well, I'm kind of interested in these historical processes, but I don't know how to use this. I don't have one of these. Now if you do want one of these, I do have a class on introduction to large format in the CreativeLive catalog that you can go watch. But if you're not interested in going this route and dealing with the actual camera side, that leads us to the notion of the digital negative.

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!