Do you remember the good old days when black-and-white prints were cheaper to make than color? Well, this year's disproportionate price increase between black-and-white and color photographic paper has changed all that.
As of this writing the tab on a box of 100 sheets of 8" x 10" Ektacolor 74 RC negative color paper went up from $37.70 to $41.47, while its equivalent in black and white RC stock rose from $36.08 to $51.23. That's a 10 percent increase for color but a whopping 42 percent for black and white.
That makes color paper cheaper than black and white.
And if you want the fancy stuff, like Gallery fiber-based black and white, the price is now $812 for a box of 100 sheets of 8" x 10".
The culprit, of course is silver -- that black sludge on the bottom of your developing tank and print tray. Once this residual gook was considered a nuisance. Now commercial labs are refining the silver, and you should look into this too if you do any amount of darkroom work.
But for the average darkroom buff, recovering silver just won't replace that added cost. The only viable solution; print in color instead of black and white. Actually it's a lot more fun and just as easy with the new simplified procedures and chemicals now available in Ektacolor, Cibachrome and Unicolor processing. What's more, there's usually a demonstration at your local photo store to teach you how. True, the chemicals and filters will be an added cost, with the paper difference, it may be a tossup.
The purists cry: black and white is the only photographic art form. But for most of us today the world is in color: on TV, in the movies and on the magazine racks. So why not in photography as well?
Whether you opt for color to keep up with inflation, or swallow the spiraling cost of silver, the price increase of photographic materials will affect your picture-taking.
You'll have to think twice about making that extra enlargement or shooting that extra frame. You may even have to consider putting your motor drive in low instead of high gear.
Now, you'll have to take fewer picture and put more into them. And the way to do this is to tighten up on your technique as well as your pocketbook.
Read books on photography. I've mentioned in this column the Kodak/Amphoto series called the Encyclopedia of Practical Photography and the equally practical Understanding Photography by Carl Shipman of H. P. Books. But there are many others on the bookshelves of your photo store, by publishers like Petersen and others.
If you want to save money, you can find some of these in the public libraries.
Other cost-saving information is furnished with your camera and film. Often you'll find tips in those throwaway instructions that will prevent misuse of equipment and wasting of material.