View Full Version : Achieving deep blacks
How desirable is deep blacks to you in your printing? Sometimes when the contrast and 'feel' is right, the blacks just isn't as deep, even after toning (I'm talking about a 5-6 stops situation). Is this a common occurance amongst printers? How else does one get the blacks darker without messing up the atmosphere of the print? Thanks!
If you like the atmosphere of the print, then the blacks are deep enough, I'd say. There's no rule that says the blackest blacks and whitest whites must be represented in every print. I feel that the most important qualities of an exceptional print are the hardest to quantify. If you're wondering wether or not a print is excellent, no measurement will provide the answer. As a technique, the ability to acheive deep blacks and delicate highlights is important, but to apply it to every image reminds me of the saying " To the man with a hammer, every problem is a nail".
What is generally desirable in a print is a 'convincing' black. This is seldom maximum paper black. Just as one doesn't push the speedometer through every mph shown to have a nice drive you don't have to go from max black to max white to have an excellent print.
"the contrast and 'feel' is right"
Congratulations, you've succeeded!
If you are using variable contrast paper, just give a few seconds with a no. 5 filter after the main exposure.
Thought I should have mentioned occasionally I wish for a deeper black, not all the time. Sorry!
Jon, thanks for the #5 filter suggestion. I'll try it.
Are you doing the whole, "Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights" thing? Do you take separate readings for shadows and highlights that determine both your exposure and development?
Do you take separate readings for shadows and highlights that determine both your exposure and development?
Neil, yes, shadows on Zone III or IV and highlights on VII or VIII.
Depending on the scene, a true "black" may be the last thing you want. If you have a shot with fog or mist in soft light, you don't typically want those blacks as they may skew the image and look contrived.
A yellow filter will depress the shadows, but there is a fine line between dark textured shadows and empty black space. I have a shot I exposed for PMK and developed with ABC (oops!) of some datura blooms. They are a very pale white with subtle textures and need careful exposure. I increased the contrast in this shot without meaning to, but due to the white blooms, the dark shadows look fine. This is one mistake I can live with.
It is nice if you have a small area of deep black to act as an anchor, but it is like having a pure white in the picture, is it necessary for the image to work, or is it just adding a pure white to satisfy some craving for extremes? Depends on the shot, composition, contrast and feeling you want to convey.
If the local contrast looks correct and the image is in balance, everything will look right, regardless of whether you have a true black or not. In fact, if the local contrast is right, typically the black does look 'convincing'. Cheers, DJ
Thanks for the response. Appreciate it!
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