Frequently Asked Questions
Buying Prints FAQ's
Do you ship internationally?
Yes, we ship to most countries worldwide as long as the order comes through our official order processing system and payment has been made.
You are responsible for any import and other fees your country may impose. The parcel will be marked as a commercial shipment with the amount that you paid.
Please don't ask us to ship your order as a gift; this is illegal.
How are prints provided, are they mounted, unmounted, etc.?
Original Prints, hand-printed by Dave Butcher, are mounted and have a white window mount over the image. They are supplied flat.
Silver prints are provided unmounted. Small prints are supplied flat, large prints are usually supplied in postal tubes.
What's the difference between Original and Silver Prints?
Original Prints are hand printed by Dave Butcher using traditional darkroom materials and methods. These use Ilford Multigrade Fibre Based paper (FB silver gelatin paper) and are processed archivally. That means they are expected to last hundreds of years as the image is made of silver and the paper is traditional baryta base, both known to be exceptionally stable on ageing. The range of tones in the print is also the greatest possible using any technology currently available today, either traditional or digital.
Silver Prints are made from a digital file from a very high resolution scan of the black and white film negative. The digital file is manipulated by Dave Butcher to have a similar look to one of his darkroom prints. The file is then sent to the Ilford Lab who print the image onto a different type of darkroom paper. This is stable for several decades and has a slightly reduced range of tones but still greater than the range of tones produced by digital inkjet printers. The print is made of silver gelatin but the paper is resin coated rather than fibre based. You still receive a traditional darkroom print but not quite the same high quality possible using the FB paper described above. This is used for the largest sizes (images greater than 60 x 50cm) which are too big to be printed by Dave Butcher, as well as the smallest prints (30 x 24cm prints).
How do I book and pay for a course?
The easiest way is to book through this web site and pay online by debit or credit card using Paypal. Your payment will be converted into UK pounds from whatever currency your card is set up for. Alternatively, we can accept payments in Euros and US Dollars by bank transfer into our respective accounts. We can supply full details of our IBAN codes, etc. to help you pay this way.
Alternatively, you can telephone and book direct by speaking to either Dave or Jan. We take credit card payments using our Chip and Pin terminal.
You can also pay using UK or Euro cheques. You will need to allow extra time for paying in this way; the UK needs just a week or so.
We also take bookings using cash or card at shows around the UK and from personal callers to our studio in Derbyshire.
What level of expertise do I need to come on one of your courses?
You don't need any expertise! Our landscape courses are designed to be flexible and meet the needs of everyone whether they are complete beginner or a professional cameraman working for the BBC (actual example!).
The darkroom workshops are primarily for beginners and people who have some skills but want to make better quality prints (they are not for experts). This includes people who have never taken a black and white film but would like to experience darkroom printing; in this case you will be using some of Dave's 35mm negatives.
What is the group size?
The landscape photography group courses on our programme have a maximum of 3 people but, unlike most courses with other companies, there are 2 tutors for every course. That gives you a lot of attention. We can run private courses with more people if that is what you would like.
The darkroom printing workshops have a maximum of 2 people. There are 6 enlargers to choose from so this allows quite a bit of space per individual and a lot of attention from Ilford Master Printer Dave Butcher. Formats to print from include 35mm, 120 roll film and 5 x 4 inch sheets.
What equipment do I need to bring with me?
An information sheet is supplied once a booking and payment has been received. This details the equipment that you should bring. We can supply some equipment if you are struggling to find something; give us a call to talk through any doubts you may have.
What camera should I bring on the landscape photography course?
You can use any camera, film or digital, since we mainly spend the day covering the more artistic side of seeing landscapes with a bias to black and white. If you need help with the technical side we can cover that too. As far as the camera to use, I would suggest you bring the one you will be using in the future for landscapes. Some people bring both film and digital cameras and can see how they perform side by side. People on courses have used simple pocket-sized compact cameras up to top of the range digital slr's and medium format film cameras. Using sheet film cameras on our group courses is usually impractical because of the time it takes to set up each shot.
We can supply 35mm film cameras to anyone who would like to try black and white photography using film. There is no charge for this.
We are helping you take pictures with the camera that you want to use, it doesn't matter what type it is.
I don't have a camera can I still come on a landscape photography course?
Yes, you can. We can supply simple 35mm film cameras or a small compact digital camera. It is better if you use the camera that you would do normally (if you have one), especially with digital cameras being quite complicated and full of menus.
Our digital cameras are a few years old with low resolution (7Mp), such as a Canon Powershot S70.
The 35mm cameras are easy to use and in good condition: Nikon FM2, Nikon F50, Nikon F55 and Canon EOS Rebel 3000.
I don't have any black and white film negatives, can I still do a darkroom printing workshop?
Yes, you can. Dave will let you use his 35mm negatives (taken in the 1980's but still in excellent condition, as you would expect). If you can manage to bring along some negatives of your own you will get more from the day as the subjects will mean more to you. If you manage to expose a film but not to process it then let me know and I will see what I can do to help to make sure you have some of your own negatives to print from.
I would like more personal tuition for just me or possibly with a group of friends, do you do this?
Yes, we do lots of courses for individuals as well as for couples and small groups. With 1 or 2 people it is usually with Dave Butcher as the only tutor. For larger groups we usually provide 2 tutors, Dave and Jan Butcher. The largest group we can take in our vehicle is 5. If your group is larger than this we will use our 2 cars which makes the maximum group size 9. We don't offer tuition for groups larger than this as the individual attention is then much reduced from what we expect to provide. The other advantage is that we will agree dates that suit you and the rest of your group rather than being limited to the ones we put on our programme of courses.
We have prices for courses in the Peak District, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland Coast and Glencoe.
Contact us directly to discuss your needs.
Private darkroom courses for individuals are a good way to guarantee the highest level of guidance and tuition from Dave Butcher, which translates into faster progress with your black and white printing. The maximum number is still 2 people unless you let me know me that you have 3 people who are very patient with each other and don't mind a bit less attention as long as you are having a fun, productive day or two in the darkroom together.
I would like to experience black and white photography from taking the picture to processing the film and making prints, can you help?
Yes, we can easily do this and need 2 days to cover the whole process. Day 1 would be taking photographs and processing the films. Day 2 would be making prints in the darkroom. All materials and cameras can be provided within the price.
Is accommodation included in your course prices?
No, we do not provide accommodation any more. We do provide accommodation information and hot-links to accommodation providers through this web site to help you find somewhere. Our courses are mainly on weekdays which makes it easier to find somewhere. In each location there will be campsites, bed and breakfasts up to comfortable hotels to choose from.
Is transport included in the course price?
Yes, once you arrive in your own vehicle or by public transport, we will do all of the driving. A group of up to 5 people will be in our our very comfortable Nissan Pathfinder 4 x 4 vehicle. It has lots of space for equipment as well as being a 7-seater.
We can also pick you up from the local stations: Whaley Bridge is the closest and is on the Manchester to Buxton line. Chinley station is on the Sheffield to Manchester line and just 4 miles away. Macclesfield station is on the London to Manchester line and is 10 miles away. We may be able to do similar pick-ups from local stations for other courses too, such as Fort William station for the Glencoe course.
General Advice FAQ's
I have another website, DarkroomDave.com where there are lots of technical details, FAQ's, videos and illustrated articles. All available free of charge! If you need more information on anything have a look here first.
I have always taken colour photographs but would like to try black and white, can you give some advice to get me started?
To learn what’s important for black and white photography you need to come on one of my landscape photography courses!
For successful black and white you need to pay more attention to what you put in the picture and where the light is. Less is usually better. Shapes, textures, tones, lines to lead into the picture and lots of other things all make for strong images.
If you can make good black and white images then your colour work will improve because of the extra structure that you will put into your shots.
General Camera and Film FAQ's
How do you use SFX so that it produces a good infra-red effect on prints?
A good infra-red effect is one where green foliage in the image is rendered very light grey and the blue sky is dark grey.
Infra-red photography works best when there is good bright sunshine on foliage. Deciduous trees such as willow, oak, beech, birch, and bracken, grasses and many small shrubs, etc. work really well. Conifers generally do not give off infra-red and will stay dark grey in your images. There is more infra-red given off by foliage as it is growing than when it matures so in the UK this means May and June are the best times to use infra-red film but any time there is green foliage (that are not conifers) in the scene it will give the effect.
Ilford SFX is HP5 Plus with different dyes that are sensitive to near infra-red light. It is rated at 200 ISO and will behave like down-rated HP5 in the absence of an infra-red filter. It is the only top quality infra-red film still available in 35mm and 120 formats.
With the correct infra-red filters it will give good infra-red effects under the right conditions.
I have written an illustrated article with full details on my DarkroomDave.com website.
Do you have a problem with fogging due to airport scanners?
The short answer is yes. I have seen fogging from airport hand luggage x-ray machines after just 3 or 4 passes (this was using UK and USA not 3rd world airports!).
I always use FP4 medium speed film (125 ISO) so it happens on this, not just high speed films as airport staff would have you believe. I used to work for Ilford Photo and ran the world-wide customer service area for product problems and saw lots of examples of airport x-ray fogging from around the world. The fogging I have seen on my film I know not to be an isolated incidence.
There are 3 ways around this that I use:
1. Have film delivered to my address at the destination I am travelling to (hotel or friends, etc.) by a supplier in that country.
2. Ask for hand search of film at airport hand luggage x-ray areas. You have a legal right to a hand search on film in the USA unless they are on red alert for terrorism. I have never been refused a hand search in the USA and I have had dozens of them at Newark, JFK, Boston, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco. I have also had hand searches of my film at Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch airports. I try and avoid flights in Europe, preferring to drive. This is specifically to avoid airport x-ray scans. I always carry my film in clear plastic bags (I use Ortlieb A3 map cases as they are large, very stong, have a velcro closure to secure the films inside and are crystal clear with a carry chord).
3. Have film processed locally when on a trip. This can be done but is difficult as there are not many good b&w labs left.
I have seldom managed to have a hand search at UK airports even though I know that they have the same equipment as is used at USA airports and most others around the world. Consequently, I always travel to the airport for the flight leaving the UK by car or train, I don’t use UK connecting flights.
There is an excellent lab in New York – Chelsea Photographic. They often turn jobs around the same day. If I’m in NYC I use them. Make sure you let them know to expect you and how many films they have to process.
I have also used Reed Photo in Denver and Image Lab in Wellngton, New Zealand.
Mostly I bring exposed films back here for processing and endure the hand searches. In the UK for processing large batches of film I use Ilford Lab Direct. Up to 30 rolls, I process myself.
What advice can you give for taking photographs in cities and elsewhere?
Photographing buildings is very complicated and, for commercial work requires you to obtain permission from property owners, fill in risk assessments and have public liability insurance for several million pounds (pretty standard in pro photo insurance policies).
There are other reasons too:
- Police and security stopping you as a suspected terrorist
- Private security stopping you because you are on private property
- Health and safety in busy places and/or when using a tripod.
Private property will often allow individuals to take a few photos hand held as long as you don’t make a nuisance of yourself, say you are an amateur with no interest in selling the photos and you are not using a tripod. If you are professional they usually expect you to fill in some paperwork and pay for a permit. A recent one for the area around New City Hall in London were very helpful and sent me the forms and rules to follow, albeit quite lengthy, for example.
Police were using section 44 of the anti-terrorism act to stop and search photographers until the European Courts told them to stop in 2010 because it was illegal. It has reduced but not stopped them doing this but they must believe that you are a serious terrorist threat now or face a complaint and compensation claim from the harrassed photographer.
If you are commissioned to do building photography then you must include the cost of the permits in the quotation for the job and find out all the property owners to contact for costs to avoid being stung at a later date, or worse, the job having to be delayed or called off. If you are doing speculative photography to go in a picture library then it’s up to the person at each property whether they make a charge.
What is split grade printing?
This is probably the most useful and powerful technique to learn for darkroom printing. It is the technique used by Ilford printers for pretty much all hand prints. Once mastered it will considerably reduce the amount of dodging and burning adjustments that you will need to do.
It involves using a low contrast exposure and a high contrast exposure instead of the usual single exposure.
This is the technique that I usually teach on darkroom workshops. It can be used for all types of negatives except very underexposed negatives (thin negatives) which are usually best printed with a single high contrast exposure.
For full details and some video demonstrations visit my DarkroomDave.com website.
How do you dry fibre based (FB) paper?
This covered in lots of detail on DarkroomDave.com.
The Dave Butcher Approach to Photography FAQ's
How do you choose what to photograph?
I photograph what presents itself to me and what appeals to me.
- First I see the overall picture
- Then I decide if it needs foreground interest or not.
- If it does need foreground interest I look around for rocks, plants, lead-ins from the lower part of the shot to the main area
- Decide on camera height
- Choose which filter to use, if any.
- Check for and remove distractions from the image, especially at the edges. A tripod is really helpful for this.
- Check camera settings to make sure the image will match your expectations; use a small aperture like f22 if you want everything in focus, use a fast shutter speed of at least 1/100 sec to freeze water droplets from a waterfall in mid-air.
I also take photographs that people ask me to or to fill gaps in my library after receiving requests.
Do you have a favourite location for photography?
My favourite local area is the Goyt Valley. It’s just a couple of miles from home and it’s full of photogenic locations.
The Zermatt area in Switzerland is my favourite place outside the UK. There are so many high snowy mountains and the village is very picturesque.
Do you do much manipulation of the image when making a print?
My fine art prints are all made in the darkroom using traditional methods so the opportunity for manipulation is far less that for digital. Mainly I adjust the tones to match what I saw when I took the photograph, bearing in mind that camera film is very sensitive to blue light compared to the human eye. This means that blue skies will be overexposed on the film leading to lighter skies in the print than the eye sees when the image was taken. A yellow or orange filter will help at the taking stage but I also adjust for this by giving skies more exposure in the darkroom. That is about the limit of what I do in the darkroom.
I use Photoshop for all the images on my web site and that are used for image licensing. After I have scanned a negative I edit it using Photoshop so that it closely matches what I would produce in the darkroom. I don’t like to over-print. There are far too many bells and whistles in Photoshop which tempt people to over-edit images.
How did you select the film that you use?
I need to use a film that has a wide brightness range, medium speed, fine grain and is tolerant of difficult conditions. Ilford FP4 Plus is far from being a new film (introduced in May 1968, updated to Plus in 1990) but it meets all of these needs. I use a medium speed film (FP4 is 125 ISO) for finer grain than something like HP5 Plus or Delta 400. I would have finer grain with Ilford Pan F Plus but the longer shutter speeds needed from the slow speed would more often require the use of the B setting for exposures over 4 seconds and I prefer to avoid this. The latent image (recording the scene on the film after you press the shutter button) is not as stable with Pan F compared to FP4 so on long trips and at busy times I can leave processing my films and not worry about the latent image fading and losing detail.
Here is a bit more history. The film format I use is 120 roll film. This format was introduced by Kodak in 1901 for its Brownie No. 2 cameras and survives today as the only medium format film, other than the double length 220 which Ilford deleted from its product range in 2003.
Why do you use exclusively Ilford films, papers and chemicals?
Harman Photo, the parent company of the Ilford Photo black and white brands, is the only company with a full range of black and white products still committed to traditional black and white. Kodak stated in the early 1990's it was a digital company and has been regularly deleting products since then and now has just a few films left and no papers. Fuji has never had a complete black and white range, for example they have never had a variable contrast paper and their C41-processed Neopan 400CN film was in fact Ilford XP2 in different packaging since they didn't have the technology for their own version of such a film. Agfa went out of business several years ago and the Eastern European brands are mostly old technology with poor consistency between batches of films and papers; I need to be able to rely on my films and papers having very similar performance between batches. Oh, and I used to work for Ilford Photo for 21 years until 2002 so I have seen the products from both sides. The chemical products are what I worked on while working at Ilford; 6 years as a research scientist developing new chemical products and 15 years as the Technical Manager responsible for specifying the performance and testing of all new Ilford chemical products and ensuring the worldwide compliance to chemical regulations.
What filters do you use?
I use yellow, dark yellow and orange filters to add contrast and enhance skies. I occassionally use yellow-green and green if there are lots of green trees and shrubs in the shot and not much sky. I don't use red filters. I also use infra-red filters (Heliopan 715, similar to a Hoya R72) with Ilford SFX film.
The dark yellow is my favourite since a lot of shots have trees in and this does not darken them as much as an orange but still darkens blue skies quite a bit more than a yellow.
What film format do you use?
I always use Mamiya 7 cameras which produce 7 x 6 cm negatives on 120 roll film.
In the past I used Mamiya 6 cameras for 13 years for 6 x 6 cm negatives, a Mamiya 645 Super camera for 7 years before this (6 x 4.5 cm negatives). I also used 35mm Nikon cameras for 15 years before switching to medium format Mamiya cameras in 1986.
Why did you switch from 35 mm cameras?
The only reason was image quality. The larger the negative the less enlargement of the negative is needed for a given size print.
Why did you switch from slr medium format to rangefinders?
I changed from Mamiya 645 to the Mamiya 6, then Mamiya 7, because of the difficulty in handling the brick-shaped 645 out in the hills. The Mamiya 7 is very portable, easy to use and the lenses are top quality. If you look at ebay they hold their value well too. For close-up work there can be a problem with parallax since you look through a viewing window NOT through the lens. For macro and close-up work the 645 is better, for travel, landscape and city shots the Mamiya 7 can’t be beaten for what I do. For colour work there is a special polariser that you can set before pushing it down into place. You would have trouble using graduated filters though since you don’t look through the lens so you would need to guess how far to push the filter down in front of the lens. The 7-II is better than the mark 1 if you want to use the multi-exposure lever. Otherwise the mark 1 is the same except for a few cosmetic changes (strap lugs, cable release socket moved, lens change lever different).
Why did you become a photographer?
I always wanted to be a photographer, and had a talent for it, but it is only since 2005 that I have done it full-time and I am now making my living from it. I have been selling my photographs at a low level since the mid-1980's while working for Ilford. Unfortunately, in my youth local photographers did not need an assistant and when I went to the local careers officer in Hatfield and asked for help with a career as a photographer she laughed and told me to get rid of all ideas of such glamorous jobs but she could get me a job with an engineering company making planes! Not quite the same so I declined, tried and failed to find work as a photographer myself, so became a chemist (I also found chemistry interesting).
Most of my working career was as a chemist and I have a PhD from Cambridge University (the English one) and am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Luckily after my PhD I managed to get a job with Ilford who make black and white films and papers. They taught me a lot more about photography and my own work improved as a result, particularly my print quality after I ran the photographic printing department for several years. I left Ilford in 2002 after 21 years because of a back injury. My first book was published a couple of years after this in 2005 and prompted me to take the plunge to be a professional photographer. I now sell fine art original photographs, run landscape photography and darkroom printing courses (I am also an Ilford Master Printer). I also give lectures, write and sell books and license my work to companies for posters, greetings cards, stationery products, advertising, etc.
What is it about landscape photography that you enjoy?
It’s the combination of photography with being in the great outdoors that is so appealing to me. There is no other job like it and I know I’m very lucky to travel around the world making a living from the photographs that I take, although there is always pressure to get shots that sell.
Where did you get your inspiration from?
The inspiration for my style of work comes from Ansel Adams (an American landscape photographer), Walter Poucher (an English landscape photographer) and several of my colleagues who used to work at Ilford.
The inspiration for taking landscapes comes from living in, or close to, the rural landscape all of my life.
Why did you choose to photograph landscapes, skiing and cities?
I have mostly lived in the countryside so landscapes are everywhere. I feel somewhat uneasy in cities and they do not have the same appeal as the great outdoors. However, I sell lots of city shots and travel through them on my photography trips so I include them in my portfolio because of this. In cities I look for 2 sorts of shots – a record shot that is easily recognised and quirky angles / small parts of buildings that are interesting pictorially.
I feel at home in hills and mountains and live in the Derbyshire hills of the English Peak District National Park, about 25 miles SE of Manchester. I started skiing as a way to reach the summits of the mountains in Scotland in winter not realising that the snow conditions were seldom good enough. This led to ski mountaineering in the European Alps as well as downhill skiing in resorts across Europe and the USA. Everywhere I go I take a camera and this has been the case for the last thirty years so I have an extensive picture library.
Why do you work exclusively in black and white?
I used to take both colour transparency (slide) films and black and white negative films and carried separate cameras for each so that I could do both at the same time. I take good shots in both but usually found the black and white photographs more satisfying. Colour usually wins at sunset and sunrise, unless it's misty!, but black and white can be taken at any time of day and in most conditions.
Creativity: Colour eventually became a distraction, I just wanted to take black and white. It is more creative, for me at least. These days I even avoid toning my prints with sepia or selenium as I prefer the pure black and white image. It forces the viewer to look at the scene as I want to present it, with all the graphical elements, shapes, textures, tones, patterns, etc. rather than for the colours present which can often divert your eye from the overall picture.
Control and quality: I take and process my own films as well as making the prints in the darkroom using far better quality print materials than are currently available for digital black and white inkjet prints.
Image life: My negatives are on silver gelatin films that are known to last many decades, probably hundreds of years. My darkroom prints are on the finest quality silver gelatin fibre based papers that are known to have a life of over 150 years as similar materials were being used in the mid to late 1800's.
Career and Employment FAQ's
Would you consider taking on a student as an assistant?
No. The main selling point of Dave Butcher Photography is that Dave Butcher takes all of the black and white photographs and makes all the darkroom prints himself. The admin. side is run by my wife Jan.
I would like to work in the photo industry after finishing my University course, do you have any advice?
All I would say is that you'll make more money if you work for yourself rather than being employed by someone but the experience from working with someone could move you forward professionally quicker than doing it on your own. It's more satisfying succeeding without the help of others too.
If you set up on your own be prepared to take work that you would prefer not to do as it brings money in for the short term - you can specialise later once you can afford to turn away work you don't need.
Lastly, if you have a talent for photography do not let anyone put you off making it your career. There are lots of opportunities for those with talent, follow your dream.