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Thread: Unsharp masking

  1. #11
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Your concept is correct. But unless your original neg is terribly contrasty, you shouldn't need such a dense mask. A good way to learn is to bracket your mask exposures at different densities, then experiment. Later you could get more scientific if necessary; but that can be a distraction when trying to learn basic technique. What developer are you using for the mask? Quite dilute HC110 works esp well.

  2. #12
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    How much effect? As much as you need. Too much will start looking fake, much like oversharpened or excessively unsharp-masked digital images. The technique itself should not be apparent, but just some extra magic that wouldn't be there otherwise. It takes practice. But I mask b&w images far less often than I used to, because VC papers have dramatically improved. Such things can be used in combination, of course.

  3. #13

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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Quote Originally Posted by Dario View Post
    Thanks everyone for the comments.

    My objective is to increase the perception of sharpness and local contrast (which presumably go hand in hand).

    Because I had to increase my print exposure by 2-3 stops, I take it that my mask is too dense. An average mask density (not Dmax) of 0.3 would presumably require just one extra stop. But would a thinner mask make more of a difference to the final print? It's hard to imagine.

    The question exercising my mind most is just how much effect should an unsharp mask have? What I've achieved is perceptible but so subtle as to be not worth the effort.
    Let me say a recommendation. Learn how to simulate masking effect in Photoshop, by using layers, blending and LUTs, then try work it in the darkroom. IMHO simulating it in Ps does not substitute all real darkroom tests, but it is an straight way to prepare for a darkroom fine job so save paper, film and time.

    A LF shot can be very sharp, not requiring unshrap masking if you control illumination, flare and optics. IMHO what it is not well done at shooting time its hard to fix with unsharp masking, at least to the level that a good shot has. Anyway this is a personal choice.

    Then we have CRM, SCIM, etc masks...

    But I found a way that I find better, this is color masks for local contrast control and exposure control, in the way Alan Ross teaches: http://phototechmag.com/selective-ma...onal-darkroom/

  4. #14
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Yes, PS obviously had options resembling darkroom masking. But it can be done more seaslessly on film with no need of a scan. Best of all, you go to a true silver print. This isn't necessarily about "fixing" an otherwise flawed negative, but often about bringing out something special that simpler technique cannot. I'm looking at some old 8X10 HP5 negs now and planning to make masks. They printed beautifully to begin with, but might be even more interesting masked, esp on newer papers. Different mask techniques can be combined, including Alan Ross's method to more typical methods. It can get quite involved in serious color printing, but the end result is worth it. I have no interest in digital printing.

  5. #15
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Masks can be made to essentially automate complex dodge/burn sequences. That is often their function in color printing, along with hue correction. But that's just one aspect of the technique. Going film to film with precise pin registration, fine detail can also be tweaked in an efficient manner. I like doing this with real LF film because the transitions and edges look more realistic than PS results, plus I like the way silver prints tone. Masking can deliver an enlargement every bit as nuanced and rich as a contact print. Of course, you can mask negs intended for contact printing too. It's fun if you're not in a hurry and prioritize final print quality.

  6. #16

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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Steve, masking can truly do what "none of the above" on your list can. It's more of a highly versatile tool kit than a single tool. But it's obviously more work, and can be overdone if not careful. Things like flashing, reduced film dev, lower paper grades etc just squish microtanality along with the total image contrast. With masking you can have your cake and eat it too. It takes some practice printing masked negs to appreciate when it's a valuable technique, and when it's not.
    Yea, it can, but as usual in the lab, adding an element often means one has to pay for it somewhere else... A higher contrast paper has a different scale, so much testing is required to be able to get a natural looking result, but one can avoid this (complicated) step/process by nailing film/development with a very good neg, and have an easy less stressful printing session...

    Often the cause of the loss of microtonality etc is just dumb stuff like over-development, not perfect exposure, neg not lining up to paper contrasts, wrong dilutions (film or paper), film or paper choices, etc or shooting issues like vibration, flare, diffraction, (or many or all of the above) etc...

    I realize that adding contrast can create the illusion of greater sharpness, but then that contrast has to be controlled for a natural photo look, so hopefully does not open "Pandora's Box" of other elements that need to be balanced... (But makes more sense for color, with shorter scale, local CC shadow casts, etc...) Someone can get good at it, but...

    Not against it, but get the rest of the system in order first, then try if needed...

    Steve K

  7. #17
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    I'm glad the subject came up. It inspired me to go back thru some early 8x10 negs and make masks for them. It's going to be quite rainy the next several days, so a good time to print. But each combination of film and paper has its learning curve that takes awhile.

  8. #18
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    ...and I did have about a decade of doing precise color masking before I ever even started black and white work with a camera per se. That helped, as did owning the specialized lab gear. But not only is b&w masking quite different from color, but significantly different approaches to color itself requires different masking techniques (Ciba vs dye transfer vs chromogenic color neg printing). A lot of up front testing, but after awhile it gets nearly instinctive.

  9. #19
    David Lobato David Lobato's Avatar
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    Unsharp masking for edge enhancement in the darkroom has interested me for a long time, though I never tried it. Bruce Barnbaum was a practitioner of darkroom unsharp masking, and there are others. Here are wiki articles about it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsharp_masking and edge enhancement. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_enhancement

  10. #20
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Unsharp masking

    It was standard practice in color repro work for decades). Several entire companies were dedicated to the equipment. You can find more info and gear searching the printing industry rather than conventional photography. Wickipedia doesn't seem to understand the scope of applications. I find darkroom work relaxing, so it's fun to me.

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