Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography

Lesson 2/49 - Overview of the Alternative Process


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.

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!