View Full Version : Burning & dodging when making contact prints...

17-Jan-2007, 03:23

This is a follow-up posting to the recently resuscitated thread posted by MaryAnne in 2002 entitled, "Why do the contact prints look so good?"


A friend has just started making contact prints from his 8x10 B&W negatives using a bare bulb. I'm about to follow suit in the next short while.

Anyway, while having a cup of coffee one day, the discussion of burning and dodging came up with respects to contact prints. It's easy enough to understand how this would work with an enlarger and doing standard printing since you're projecting the image and you can see what you're doing. But, in the case of contact printing... it's hard to see the areas in the negative being burned or dodged.

So, how do most of you burn and dodge when making contact prints from your large format negatives using an overhead light source? What do you do to control light spill-over?

Thanks in advance for any input. :)


phil sweeney
17-Jan-2007, 03:55
For AZO and art papers brighter lamps are used so seeing is not a problem. If you are using enlarging paper I would think you will use a 7 watt bulb, but your negatives are thinner. I think you will see the negative OK. Not sure what you mean by spillover. For dodge or burning hold a card or cutout close to the glass and shake and wiggle the card. Have fun!

Patrik Roseen
17-Jan-2007, 05:31
My contact print experience only includes 4x5" and using an enlarger as light source.

I have not experienced too many problems related to not seeing what's on the negative during contact print, but it could also be that my negatives are not so dense. I agree it could be hard to see if I am using Multigrade filters though.

One advantage with dodging and burning a contact is that one can make a 'template print' from which different areas are cut out and used as shields or holes. These are then used very close to the contact glass plate or simply layed flat on the glass for almost perfect fit. Be careful not to touch the glass leaving finger prints or accidently hitting it so the negative moves during printing and dodging.

Important to remember when using an enlarger for contact printing is to make sure that the lens is not focusing on something, picking up any condenser dust or above the lens MG-filter scratches etc, thus projecting this on the contact print. It happened to me and I was very annoyed trying to clean the contact glass several times to remove dust that I could not see!

Ben Calwell
17-Jan-2007, 06:19
I contact print 8x10 and 5x7 negatives using an enlarger for a light source. I've had no problems, so far, seeing what I'm doing when dodging and/or burning.
I've had success using sheets of clear acetate and a red Sharpie pen to make dodging masks. Place the acetate over your neg and "color in" the areas you want to hold back. During the exposure just move the mask very slightly up and down and side to side.

Ralph Barker
17-Jan-2007, 08:04
I use an enlarger as the light source for my 8x10 contacts and use the same dodging tools that I use for enlargements. While it is more difficult to see the detail in the negative during the contact exposure, it's not impossible to dodge or burn moderately large areas. Having an uncorrected contact print to use as a guide helps, as does studying the negative a bit in advance. For precise control of small areas, masking might be a better approach, but I've never tried that.

Eric Biggerstaff
17-Jan-2007, 09:11
I have done a few contact prints using a method of dodge/burn masking and they seem to come out very well. These were 4x5 contact prints so the masking really helps with such a small area. You can cut holes in the mask for burns and use pencil to color in the areas to be dodged. Also, you can try using magenta colored pencils to create dodge's with more local contrast. This is just the Alan Ross method of D/B masking used for contact printing. I am by NO means a skilled contact printer and was just palying around with this method to see what would happen, but the prints appeared to come out very nice (at least to my eye).

Brian Ellis
17-Jan-2007, 09:28
I always had quite a bit of difficulty seeing well enough to burn and dodge anything except large areas. The problem wasn't that the image was dim, it was the reflections from the glass. I don't know of a real good, easy solution. I used to wonder about maybe trying an anti-reflection glass but never got around to it and suspected it would leave some sort of pattern anyhow. In the old days I think they used those printing boxes with banks of lights that could be turned on and off separately. I never used one and it always seemed like a very crude system. Fortunately contact prints generally require a lot less burning and dodging than enlargements and I could usually see big areas such as skies well enough to do the little that was required using the same tools I used for enlargements (mostly my hands).

17-Jan-2007, 12:47
I contact print 4x5 and 5x7 negatives. For Azo I use 150W flood light bulb while for bromide paper I have 20W regular bulb which is in fact too strong. I have to reflect the light from the sealing. Anyhow - burning/dodging is not a real problem. Usually you can easily see the image. I am using cut exposed radiography film as a masking material. One problem is that 4x5 negatives are too small for precise burning/dodging.


1-Feb-2007, 04:59
I use a wasted print of the same neg, cut with scissors. I don't try to do anything fancy, just burn in the sky a little.

Stephen Willard
1-Feb-2007, 13:37
I do not do contact printing. I use an enlarger to make my prints, but I do not do D&B by hand. In most cases I find the technique to course. Instead, I build b&w masks for 95% my color negatives. This allows D&B in the smallest of areas with great precision. It takes a while to make a mask, but once get one then subsequent printing for your negative is a simple one time exposure. The mask would simply sit on top of the negative to be contact printed and would hold back light proportional in those areas where the negative is thinnest.

Building masks is easy once you get good at it. The book "Way Beyond Monochrome" is an amazing book overall and has a excellent chapter on building masks.

1-Feb-2007, 14:09

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions... will have to look up the book you suggested, Stephen. :)