Is there an optimum viewing density of print? : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

When printing, I always struggle to determine the best overall print density. If Iím printing for gallery lighting, I usually print a bit darker, while under ďnormalĒ living room lighting I might not print as dark. I would like to hear what type of lighting others use to judge the overall density of their prints, and perhaps your technique for determining that density while printing. For example, currently I completely tone and dry down each test print and view it under gallery lighting to determine overall base exposure time (extremely time consuming), but Iíve also used Fredís compensating enlarger timer with mixed results.

TIA Ė Doug

-- Doug McFarland (, January 06, 2001


Doug the technique you are using seems sound to me. I view prints straight from the wash which I sponge and wipe dry under mixed lighting, a 100W daylight lamp and 20W white tube. The prints are held at about 1M from the light sources. I mostly produce 10x8 work prints first before undertaking the exhibition prints. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, January 06, 2001.

I try to use the light that will be where the print is displayed.

My darkroom has halogen track lights (simulate gallery lighting). The room outside the darkroom door has overhead flourescent lighting, and other rooms have normal household tungsten lighting.

-- Terry Carraway (, January 07, 2001.

The most optimistic solution to this question that I've seen is to go to the National Gallery and measure the light level there. ;)

-- Chris Ellinger (, January 08, 2001.

In my somewhat limited experience, there's no such thing as 'standard' gallery lighting. Commercial galleries seem to go for bright, brash, spotlighting designed to sell the work to a fairly indiscriminate public, whereas public art galleries vary widely in their presentation.
I've visited several public galleries where they seemed so afraid of fading photographic prints (modern, non-historical ones), that the light level was barely adequate to see by. Another, brand new, public gallery actually allowed in some natural light (shock, horror!), but when direct sunlight hit some sensor positioned miles away from the artwork, then automatic blinds came down and the lighting was diminished below a comfortable viewing level.
Actually, I think that should be your aim; view your prints at a comfortable light level, and get the density right for that.
If some over-zealous curator or dealer thinks that it's more important to sell or store prints than to actually view them, then that's just tough luck on their distorted mindsets.

-- Pete Andrews (, January 08, 2001.

Here is some info I came across regarding standard illuminance for print viewing. Museums and galleries I've been in vary widely, so this may be nothing more than a reference point.

ANSI PH2.30 1988

Comparison viewing/Critical appraisal 2200 +- 470 lux

Display, judging and routine inspection 800 +- 200 lux

My Minolta Autometer 4f manual has a conversion table for lux to EV. With the meter set for an ISO of 100, in incident mode:

2200 lux is about 9.8 EV 800 lux is about 8.3 EV

-- Jim Snyder (, January 09, 2001.

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