Recently I was invited to address a regional photographic organization on the hows and whys of digital negatives. One participant—a film-based photographer who didn’t use Photoshop—was puzzled as to why you’d want to make another negative if you already had one from the camera in the first place. I fumbled through multiple attempts at explaining how I’d exploited digitally produced negatives for the past 16 years, using them to print on materials ranging from silver gelatin to cyanotype to platinum/palladium. I could see that I wasn’t getting through to this fellow for whom photography and computer had nothing in common. After the presentation closed, my wife Jill said I should have told this doubter, “Look, we both know you have negatives that you just haven’t been able to print well. If you’d learn how to make digital nega- tives, you’d be able to control the contrast and fix flaws in those problem negatives to make beautiful prints. Wouldn’t you like that power?” As usual, Jill’s wisdom capped the day. Sometimes the simplest answers are the best.
Reasons for making digital negatives Yes, fixing a problematic original is a good reason for making a digital negative, but there are other equally practical reasons for making negatives via your computer and an inkjet printer:
• You capture digitally so you never have a camera-original negative.
• You can only afford (or manage) a smaller camera, yet you want to make large contact prints.
• You can’t take the hassles of traveling with large sheets of film in the post- 9/11 world.
• Pushing Command/Control-P to make an inkjet print just isn’t enough of a creative expression.
• You want to composite parts from multiple images and print in the classic darkroom.
Yep, there are lots of reasons for making a digital negative.