joe Lipka photography

Photographs for Exhibition and Enjoyment


Processing the Print

Wherein the author demonstrates the final step of the process creating a photograph using technologies that span the history of photographic technology.


Usually the next day, I am ready to print my negatives. First step, which I must admit is a hold over from my days of printing with Palladio paper is to humidify the coated paper. So, I go back into the kitchen and start the tea kettle again. I then steam the coated paper on both sides. The same rule of thumb applies. As soon as the paper sags in the middle, it has enough moisture in it. It then gets some rest time before exposure.

The next step is pretty obvious. Align the negative over the coated section of the paper.


I use a NuArc vacuum frame to hold the paper and negative together. I have a vacuum gauge on the frame inlet. It is set for 25" of Hg. That's a pretty good pressure to make sure that the negative is held against the coated paper.

I have used other methods of securing the negative to the paper, but I think that the vacuum frame is the best. I was able to find this set up used for just about the same price as a really nice spring back frame. For those that are really technically minded there is a relationship between the ability to reproduce a highlight value and amount of vacuum held on the frame. The higher the vacuum, the better the highlight detail is rendered.

Now to exposure the print. My UV light source was purchased from the Palladio Company when I first started platinum printing. It takes four minutes to print maximum black through a clear piece of Pictorico OHP film. That is the correct exposure for all my platinum palladium prints. My trusty (old) GrayLab timer is accurate enough for measuring these exposures.

Psychedelic! Ah, fans of the sixties, we have here an amazing unretouched photograph made with a combination of UV and Yellow light. This is really far out. Noisy, too. With the vacuum pump and the cooling fan on the ballasts, this is not a quiet process. Note the Ilford antistaticum cloth. I use it for every exposure. Clean, static free glass is a requirement. Especially in a house with three cats.

Four minutes later, the exposed print is ready for development. Here is what a print looks like after exposure and before processing in developer.

I develop my prints in warm (98 -108 degrees F) Potassium Oxalate developer for about a minute and a half. It may not need that much time, but that's what I give it. The intial development is instantaneous, so there is not gradual appearance of the image that is characteristic of the silver print.


I tilt the developing tray to get the developer welled up at the far end. I then slide the print into the tray just until the edge of the paper touches the developer. I then lower the high end of the tray quickly. The developer rolls over the print. I have just about lowered the tray completely. You can see how fast the development has occurred.


Platinum developer has a wonderfully long life You are more likely to contaminate it than exhaust it. The developer shown above is fresh. Here is a picture of the previous batch of developer.

Yummy. Looks great doesn't it? That developer is about three years old. I have filtered out the chunks of platinum several times, but the developer is still pretty good. I chose to make myself some new developer because I discovered a flaw in my technique. You will lose some developer with each print because it is absorbed into the paper. I used to replace the missing volume with some of the rinse water from the next step. After a few years of this, I finally figured out that I might be diluting the developer. So, out this stuff goes.

I have mixed two batches of developer. One will be used for developing prints, the other for replacing volume absorbed by paper.

Learn something new all the time.




Development is complete according to the clock, so the print is drained of developer. Once the drops from the lowest corner take longer than a second to fall off, the print is ready for the rinse bath. I use distilled water for my rinse bath. There may not be a need to because our tap water is very soft, but it's a hold over from days gone by.

I do everything by the clock. Elimination of variables is the key to consistency. Boring and inflexible, but that is the key to successful darkroom work.


I rinse the print for about minute. Rinsing consists of repeated dunkings of the print in the plain water and letting it drain off the surface of the print. I also agitate the print when completely submerged just to keep from getting bored.

Drain it completely and move it on to the first of the two clearing baths.




Well, the print is now resting comfortably in the first of two five minute clearing baths. I use EDTA and some sodium sulfite. There are other formulations, but this is simple enough for me. The reason for two baths is that this solution will lose its effectivity. I usually change out the first bath when it starts to look like weak iced tea. Number two bath becomes the number one bath and a fresh solution becomes the number two bath.

There might be the occasional dip and dunk or tray rock throughout the clearing phase just to keep the print from going to sleep.

From the clearing baths on to the holding tray. After the holding tray, the prints are washed. I use a Kodak tray siphon. I figure if the Kodak tray siphon was good enough for Edward Weston, it should be good enough for me. Squeegee the prints to remove some of the water and then the prints go back on the screens to air dry over night.

That's all folks...

Well, not really. You have been with me this far (thanks for coming along) so I think that you should be rewarded by seeing what we have actually produced here. Click on the picture to view an elarged version of the example print.

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Introduction Page


See how I make negatives How I coat paper How I print



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Last updated: May 28, 2017