View Full Version : Soft Contact Prints

brian steinberger
22-Aug-2005, 17:49
Last night I was making some contact prints from some 4x5 negatives. I was very unhappy with how they appeared soft compared to ones that I had done months ago on someone elses enlarger. It was with the same paper. The only thing I could think of would be that my paper is old, which it is. Does paper do this when it gets old? Also, could certain glass cause contact prints to appear slightly soft? I'm not contacting through pages or sleeves. I'm taking the negative out and lying it right on the paper.

Mike Lopez
22-Aug-2005, 18:25
Are you sure you have enough pressure between the glass and the negative?

22-Aug-2005, 18:25
I don't think it is the paper. I've used 10 year old paper, and it prints sharp.... the highlights may be fogged a little, but it's still sharp.

It may be the glass. Have you printed through that glass before?

Mark Sawyer
22-Aug-2005, 18:26
Brian- Conventional silver paper will go soft gradually, (and pick up a fog), but not appreciably over a period of a few months, unless it was left in a hot environment, (in a car on a hot day...) Perhaps your developer was not as robust as the earlier one? Or, if you're using a variable contrast paper, a different wavelength lightsource could change the contrast. Just quick thoughts...

Dave Moeller
22-Aug-2005, 18:27
I'm assuming that you're using some sort of contact printing frame...if not, the weight of the glass alone probably won't hold the negative tightly against the paper. You can improvise with weights and/or binder clips, but a contact printing frame is best.

A few other things things that come to mind: Is the glass clean (if not, softness could results), is the negative being held tightly against the paper (any gap between the paper and the negative will introduce softness), and what developer are you using (some developers are softer than others)? Also, are you contact printing the same negatives that you enlarged previously? If not, are you sure the negatives are sharp?

Lots of things to check...but if the negatives are sharp you should find it pretty easy to get sharp contact prints as long as the negative and paper are held tightly together.

Will Strain
22-Aug-2005, 18:27
condenser vs. cold light/diffused source?

Grasping at straws here... I doubt it would make as much difference on this end of the enlarger, but I'm just looking at the only known variables.

Brian Ellis
22-Aug-2005, 18:28
If the negative itself is sharp and the glass on your contact printing set up is normal clear glass without any defects and is kept clean, and if the glass maintains good contact with the entire negative and holds it and the paper perfectly flat, I can't think of how it would be possible to make an unsharp contact print.

Michael Jones
22-Aug-2005, 18:38
By any chance did you place emulsion next to the glass rather than the paper?


Paul Fitzgerald
22-Aug-2005, 18:40
Hi there,

Soft?? soft contrast or fuzzy image? Emulsion to emulsion, right? Spent developer?

Just a thought.

22-Aug-2005, 18:40
Adding onto Ellis' good points, consider the temperature of the light source and the condition of the developer and triple-check the grade of the paper.

brian steinberger
22-Aug-2005, 22:11
I'm using Dektol at room temperature, about 70 degrees. The paper is foggy in the highlights, I know that it's old. I'm using a condenser enlarger. The negatives are the same one's I've printed before and got sharp contact prints. The glass is clean. Maybe I should just order some new paper, and see if that helps? I'm not using a contact frame. Just simply a peice of glass.

Jorge Gasteazoro
22-Aug-2005, 22:52
I'm not using a contact frame. Just simply a peice of glass.

Did you make the prior prints with this same set up? This might be your problem, glass is not completely flat many times and if you dont have some kind of support underneath the paper, the ripples in the glass might not make good enough contact with the paper. Try putting a piece of felt or rubber underneath the paper and then the glass on top, this might help.

John Cook
23-Aug-2005, 04:12
I believe that if the glass is squeezing the paper and film emulsions together in perfect contact, you are achieving maximum sharpness regardless of developer, light source or any other factor.

From experience however, I wouldn't have too much faith in a piece of 1/8th inch windowpane to weight down film and paper.

Go to your glass store (catering to commercial store windows) and get a piece of 1/4 or 1/2 inch glass. They will grind the edges smooth to protect from cuts. It should be an inch or two larger than your paper on all sides. Pay extra, if you have to, for special careful handling with no scratches.

If you normally purchase 100 or 250 sheet boxes of paper and have a humid darkroom, another sheet (same exact size as your paper) kept inside the paper carton will prevent raw paper curling during storage.

Nick Morris
23-Aug-2005, 10:56
Using old, old paper usually results in "fog" for me, giving the print a dis-colored look rather than a loss of sharpness. Overall contrast can be altered, but the fogging will persist. Sometimes a chemical can be added to the developer, which I do not know the full name for, but it starts "benze...or benez...", and can reduce or elminate the fogging. Old or exhausted developer sounds like it might be the problem. It can reduce contrast significantly, if not compensated by extending the time. Other points mentioned above are also important considerations.