Lost Highlights

highlights can be washed away or crushed in assembly — huh? Okay, they can, but not if you are making dye transfers correctly.

Dye transfer was used by commercial photographers doing flatware, silk goods, diamonds, crystal — it seemed good enough for those highlight intensive products photos used for point of purchase along with sample books.

Dye transfer was used by portrait photographers selling upscale bridal portraits for their wedding — the 20×24 for the family to remember the bride in her white wedding gown. Another highlight intensive requirement.

Further examples seem unnecessary. The large-format dye transfer expert isn’t experienced. Sadly, those involved in that conversation don’t know enough to know — maybe they just don’t care, since they’ve nothing else to do. It is after all, only chat among the idle — an endgame move of resignation.

Why do so many believe the persistent posters?

The difference between a carbon print and a dye transfer is extreme. That they are assembly processes using gelatin as the image carrier, and that the image is a result of differential hardening of gelatin is what they share. Exposure method is a major factor in how highlights are maintained or lost.

In pigment processes exposure is from the top of the emulsion/coating. In dye transfer (imbibition ) exposure is through the base; this means the gelatin is hardened from the support upward. The highlight is thin but it is close to the support. In carbon the highlight tends to wash off, since it is being dissolved away. The pigment will actually collapse. The dye transfer mat has a relief image but it is durable. In imbibition printing the final image is assembled in thin layers; in gum/carbon it is stacked up in thicker reliefs. This can, likely will, result in some undercut of fine color details which occur alongside larger detail areas. In an effort to reduce this problem, screened negatives are being used by some carbon printers.

Dye transfer has additional controls to manage highlights which provide even more advantage over carbon printing. Carbon’s advantage is the tissue is easier to make than matrix film. Carbon rules because it can; it’s’ disadvantages have been made a part of the aesthetic feature: lots of “dimensional” texture.