We are in the wild west, at times, when it comes to making negatives for alternative processes. Upon reflection, I’m willing to bet there never has been a hard and fast rule regarding this aspect of photography. Everyone has their own formula and workflow. For me, I use elements of Mark Nelson’s method with a touch of Jill Enfield tossed in for laughs.
The secret to making digital negatives is to have the patience to sit down and make digital negatives. There are no shortcuts. There is a lot of pain in the neck too. Alternative processes are inexact sciences so when you apply something that is very consistent (digital files and prints) to it, there will be problems to solve. Discerning what you can control and what you can’t is a great step in learning any process.
I have spent more time and money than I care to admit working to “perfect” the digital negative process. I’ve gotten as close as Im going to get and it still has some wiggle room. Instead of getting nuts, I’m just going to keep printing and adjusting as I go. My clients are happy, my galleries are happy, and I’m happy.
Digital (inkjet) negatives allows for the modern photographer to experience the fun and joy of making a photo from scratch. What it rather subversively does is move the image maker from the realm of perceived perfection to the wilderness of imperfection. Since my business is built on making consistent prints that match what is on my computer (and yours), the tolerances are very narrow. However, I’m making peace with the fact that “close enough” sometimes has to suffice.