Some Photographic terms
by Andries Loots 6 August 2003

Photography has been one of the most sought after mediums in the USA over the last few years and there is hardly a contemporary art gallery not showing photo-based art. One of the main reasons for this is the crossover from the way in which photography was seen in the past. The move is from the traditional to the contemporary and that has given many an artist the opportunity to explore the new field. Auction houses are now regularly having sales of photography where record prices are fetched. 

Photography is fast becoming popular even in South Africa. We have leading International fine art Photographers living and working in South Africa,  like Zwelethu Mthethwa,  David Goldblatt and Rodger Ballen. Description of the work can sometimes leave a casual viewer very confused. Photography in South Africa is still misunderstood and highly undervalued when it is compared to the other visual art mediums. A few of the terms most commonly seen are explained below.

Lambda print
Printed by a lambda printer which is regarded as one of the best digital printers. It uses three lasers ( red, green and blue ) to print digitized images onto traditional photographic paper at a very high resolution. The process allows a consistent reproduction of a large run without loss of quality. Traditionally c-type paper is used for the prints.

Involves printing enlargements from small colour negatives. This is the most traditional way of photographic printing that has always been done in photo labs. Printed on c-type ( resin-based ) paper,  made by Fuji. The paper offers excellent colour reproduction and has superior archival properties. The print can also be printed on Fujiflex which offers an extreme high gloss finish.

Iris Print
The Iris print is a digital ink print with photographic quality that can be printed on a variety of materials,  PVC,  fabric and paper. As a relatively new medium research is still being done into the archival properties of the Iris Print. The main archival consideration is the combination of the inks and the material printed on, interacting over a period of time.

Inkjet Print
Liquid inks are electronically sprayed onto the surface. The dots are so fine that they cannot be resolved by the naked eye. The printing can be done on a variety of materials but some materials are unsuitable. The Giclée Print is one of the most commonly used Inkjet prints.

One of the finest means of reproducing a photograph in large editions. Copper plates are acid etched directly from the original silver plate,  the etched areas then hold differing amounts of ink in order to correspond to the tones of the original print. The image is usually trimmed at the edges to cut away the indented impression of the plate. With this technique blacks often appear as delicate charcoals but whites stay brilliant on high quality paper.

Silver Gelatin Print
The Silver Gelatin Print gives rich dark blacks and a crisp whites when printed on high gloss paper. With very good archival properties these prints will not fade if cared for.

Platinum Prints
Similar to silver gelatin prints but utilising iron and platinum instead of silver salts. Platinum prints have aesthetically  high tonal variations and unrivalled archival properties. This is however an expensive method because of the price of the platinum used.

An early photographic process invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1839 in France. A polished silver plated copper plate was made sensitive to light by treating it in an enclosed chamber with iodine vapour. The plate in its light-tight container was then exposed in a camera and developed over toxic mercury fumes and cured in a sodium thiosulfate bath. After being toned with gold chloride, a detailed unique positive image of the subject resulted.

Wet collodion process
This early and dangerous process was discovered in 1848 by Frederick Scott Archer. A glass plate coated with collodion binding agent (nitrocellulose, alcohol and ether mixed in a sticky solution with iodines and bromides) and sensitized in a silver nitrate solution was exposed and developed before drying. The resulting negative image was cured with hypo or potassium cyanide. Contact prints were then made on albumen-coated paper.

Gelatin dry-plate process
Richard Leach Maddox discovered the process in England in 1871 where the collodion was replaced by an emulsion of gelatin from animal material. The plate remained dry until developed. Modern gelatin celluloid film rolls resulted from this breakthrough.

Courtesy: Eyestorm and sky&telescope
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