This page covers the differences between the different kinds of prints I sell. If you want to see some information on the mechanics (how to order, how they're shipped) check out the prints page.
First off, I'm often going to lump "handmade prints" together. If you don't know what a cyanotype or platinum print looks like, I'd suggest at least a skim of the alternative process prints page.
If you're looking for something I don't list, like gallery wraps or inkjet/pigment prints or whatever chances are I can either make one or one of my labs can make one. Just email me at contact (at) san-francisco-nudes.com and we'll talk.
Lab prints are made from digital files sent to my lab. They are printed on Kodak Professional Supra Endura VC paper via a chemical process. They have a 'lustre' finish is which basically a semigloss with a bit of texture to it. It's a color paper even if you get a black and white print. It's your basic photograph, it's just made with more care and better materials than you would get at a local place.
Silver Gelatin Fiber Base prints are made by a different lab, and by a very different process. They use a fancy laser system (Durst Theta Lambda) to expose traditional fiber paper, and then wet develop it with traditional chemistry. I love this kind of hybrid system of the best of the old and new. It's black and white only, very high quality (second only to a platinum print), very archival.
Handmade prints are made by me at home via a traditional wet process - they are made by various historic printing methods. They are each unique. Platinum/palladium prints are generally considered the highest quality photographs you can get - pretty much across the board they have tons of advantages over silver, even fiber prints. Platinum is unfortunately now 85 times more expensive than silver (palladium only 25 times, whoo hoo!) and not that many people make them anymore. Cyanotypes are very dear to me - on a really contrasty image they're spectacular. They are also highly archival. Platinum is more chemically stable than silver so it's pretty much a question of when the paper itself eventually fails. Note that these cannot be ordered via the shopping cart system but I do occasionally offer them for sale.
Ordering time - Lab prints take a couple of business days to get back from the lab. Silver fiber prints take a couple of weeks since the lab has to do quite a lot of work to make them. Handmade prints might take a week or two - there are several long drying stages and I have to set aside a morning to make them. If you don't want to wait, you can see what I have in stock on eBay. Note: I am so busy at the moment that I cannot commit to custom handmade print orders at this time.
Finish - The handmade prints are matte. The silver fiber prints are glossy. The lab prints have a 'lustre' finish which is quite nice - it's sort of a textured semigloss.
Longetivity - See Wilhelm Imaging Research for more on this, but as good as they are these days, color photographs are simply not as archival as traditional prints. Platinum and cyanotype prints are the most archival, with silver fiber in the middle. Obviously the way you display or store the print makes a difference - there are many guides to photo preservation on the net, or you can feel free to ask me specific questions.
Print to print variation - Lab prints are the same every time. The lab does an awesome job of keeping their machines calibrated. Silver fiber prints in theory should show some small variation but it's nothing you would be able to notice. Then again it's a custom lab and they could make slightly different decisions every time. Handmade prints vary quite a bit in their borders. There's always some variation in the image are as well. Each one is unique.
Borders - Using an 8x10 image as an example, the lab print or silver fiber print will be on 8x10 paper, and the handmade print on 11x14 paper. The lab and silver fiber prints are printed flush to the edge except by special arrangement. It's not a big deal, but you do need to ask. The handmade prints usually have brush marks and such in the area between the image and the edge of the paper - you can just frame it and leave it, you can mat over the border, there's a lot of flexibility there. Usually people want to show off that it's handmade so they leave it.
Heft - I mean the weight of the paper, here. Lab prints I don't have a weight for, but they're heavy for "regular photographs" but not super thick. The handmade prints are on COT320 which is extremely thick and hefty - not surprisingly it's 320 gsm. The silver fiber paper is a very heavy paper similar to COT320 (which was originally developed as a silver fiber base) but is 315 gsm.