Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography


Lesson Info

Van Dyke Troubleshooting and Resources

This is a Van Dyke print gone wrong. And I know, somewhere at home, somebody's like, "so that's cool, how do I get that effect?" So, one of the things with these different papers is that they have to be, what's called, they have sizing in them, and what sizing is, a process that allows the chemistry and synethizers to be held on the surface of the paper. Some papers don't come sized. All the papers in the kit and all the papers we've been using are pre sized, so they're able to hold all of that. If you don't have it, you have to put a sizing onto the paper. We normally use a component called a gelatin bloom for that, so we basically dissolve this gelatin into the water, the paper goes in there, the getalin's absorbed into the paper, the paper is then able to be dried, you just hang it to dry, and then it's able to take the chemistry. What happened in this one, it looks like the gelatin didn't fully dissolve completely before the paper went in, so you ended up with these explosions of g...

elatin on the paper. Like I said, you look at this, and you think, "that's cool", and then you have to figure out what you did and what happened, and what was the likely thing that happened, an then you have to figure out how to re-create it so you'd have to at this point then, drop in the gelatin, quickly stick it in to merge the paper, pull it out early, and hope that you get the same effect. You might be able to get something like that by sprinkling salt on your print while it's wet, not in the bath, but outside the bath, it might come close. So that's kind of a weird effect. Don't ever, every throw away this when it happens. So one of the things I've learned over the years, people see this and they're like, and they throw it. On the back, you can see some pretty extensive notes about what happened. How long was it in, what was the developer, what was the paper, what was the UV box number, cause there's multiple components here. Everything that caused this to happen. And the reason for that is, every print you do, you learn from. So that first print you coat, you learn how to use the brush better, and then, a why did the density not work there, and why did that not work there, everything is a learning process, and every process is informative of the other. So, if you saw this and it happened to be dark blue, you'd be like "oh, scena type, I'm using a weird paper, it's never been used before, I had to make the gelatin blue, I have a Van Dyke print that has a very similar problem." If you throw it in the trash, you wouldn't have that, so you would actually lose that component to be able to work with. Tim Redmond calls his bin that he has those in, his learning bin. Yeah, you will learn more from bad things happening than you will from good things. This is a Van Dyke print as well. You see this has got a redder, warmer color. So this paper is a legion folio paper. So just by changing the paper type you would use, you can also change the tint and tone of the image. This is also one of the reasons you'll see a lot of people do a lot of experimentation with these processes when they first get started, because it's not just about that you want to be in historical process, but it's which look of the historical process is appropriate for the work you're creating. Maybe the work works in a sci enic type, but it doesn't work when it's got a brown tint to it, or maybe you want something that's a little more reddish than a little bit more of the traditional red, brown, so picking that paper can make a difference. And then you can also see in this case, because this is testing work we're doing, we've left in that eleven step step wedge. Cause the other thing it allows us to do is see is there a significant difference in the tonal response between the papers. So, in this case, the five percent here actually holds about five percent tone, but the five percent here isn't quite developed, so what that means is we're losing highlight, tonality in detail, and we would need to adjust our tone mapping curve to make that happen. Also, you can see there's a little bit more compression down here in the shadows, so this paper, which is the archest platine, the curve here needed a slight adjustment to make it get the full tonality that this image is getting. The other piece that I recommend is you can see in these test pieces, we've got the same image being used. And this is one of Gina's test images, this is off your iPhone too, right? Not that one, that's one's actually a scanned print that I made a negative of. So a scan of a print, but this I have seen this on her test work probably a thousand times. It's the same image. So the other thing when you're starting to work through these processes and tests, you have the lights. Can we kick that red lights on just for a few minutes? Just to make sure I get that without fogging. That will ruin by half demo for the next one. The same exact image being used over and over and over again, and the reason for that is, you know what that photograph is supposed to look like. And so, the step weight is giving you information about how your curve is working, but if every time you're putting in a different photograph while you're testing your alt processing, you're gonna be like, "well that photograph doesn't look right", well is that because the image needs to be fixed in the computer, is the issue with the printing process, where is the actual issue when I'm looking at this particular photograph? So by using the same image in every one of your tests, you'll be a lot more successful. And I do that, by the way, in my digital testing. When I'm doing digital paper, I have the same sets of photos that get printed digitally because I know what they're supposed to look like, so if they don't look right, it makes the troubleshooting easier, because I'm not trying to figure out are the highlights blowing out or is the shadow blocked up, I know what they should look like. So we can use those various pieces in that process of testing. We mentioned that the organization of being methodical during the digital aspect, but it's also important in your testing for this. The other pieces that's important is you can see the notes on the back there, this one had the most detail, the other one is it's got the arches on wheel, VD brown curve two, green tint, ultra violet box one, all that information is written on the back of the print in pencil. As you're starting to work and learn the processes, I would recommend you write all of that on the print as well. Just like we talked about with the digital negatives and making sure that those were labeled, scyena type, the name of the printer, the name of the ink, the version number, you want this information as well, because when you pull this out, you can quickly look on the back and see what you were using, what the process was, how long it was in the ultra violet box, you'll be amazed at how fast you will forget that your time is five minutes. You don't do Van Dyke for six months, and you'll be like, "Ah, geez, was that three minutes, was that five minutes, where do I even start with that." If you can pull out your prints and you have the notes on the back of the print, it works great. When we talk later today, we're gonna talk about when you get to your final prints, some of the things to write on the back. I still include some of this information on the back of the print. I include that it's got what the paper was, and I include a date, I include certain components which we'll talk about. And the reason for that is, if this print ever got damaged and I needed to re-create it for a collector, or I needed to reprint it because it's number one of an edition, or a museum called and needed information about it because it got damaged in the museum, if they can look at the back and see certain pieces of information, then they're better able to restore the photograph. So, recording things on the back in pencil when you're working in all processing is also a really important part of the process. Daniel, I also keep, when I'm testing especially, I keep a journal, and I keep those notes but I also write down why I changed something so I remember where I was at, and it saves a lot of time, I don't have to do the test over and over and over again.

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!