View Full Version : Muddy Prints, Why?

Jonathan Abernathy
17-Sep-2000, 15:21
Lately I have been plaqued by muddy mucked up shadows and listless dull prints. Before I went to summer camp, my prints were alive with shadow detail and glowed with life. I am getting very discouraged.

The only thing I can think of is that my camp counsellor told me to shoor my T-M ax 400 at ISO 320, I used to shoot it at ISO 200.

Anyone have any suggestions.


Your friend Jon.

John Hennessy
17-Sep-2000, 18:24
Check your safelights.

Charlie Stracl
17-Sep-2000, 19:26
Shooting at a lower speed could loose shadow detail, but to pinpoint your problem, why not print some of your old negative that give good prints. If they show the same problem, then the issue is in your printing process. If they are OK, then the problem lies in your negative processing. Come back to this forum after testing and report your results.

By the way, if you were happy with your results, why did you change? In photography, you will find many people who have sure fire ideas for this, that, and the other thing. But if you work out a process that you like, you should believe your results. Nothing in photography (like most arenas) counts more than results.

Good luck.

17-Sep-2000, 22:45
Are your chemicals fresh? Start from scratch; fresh paper, developer and fixer and see if that helps. The most expensive thing I have ever done in the darkroom is use old chemicals, have problems and have to re-do a bunch of prints wasting time and materials. It is hard to discard chemicals you "think" are good, but muddy prints and used up chemistry go hand in hand!

Dave Anton
17-Sep-2000, 23:06
Jon, have you been consistent with your agitation? You should be able to tell if it is a processing problem by inspecting your negatives. As mentioned by others above, it sounds like it is exhausted chemistry or paper fogging.

Another point that comes to mind, besides the advice listed from others, is to check the accuracy of your thermometer. I had this happen to me once before. I had it go the opposite way (my negs increased in contrast). It wasn't until several sheets (and shots) later that i realized my thermometer was off by 4.5 degC! Good Luck. Dave.

Jacque Staskon
18-Sep-2000, 04:54
Jon, I have to agree with the other posters. Check your safelights, did someone move them or change out a bulb while you were gone? Mix fresh chemicals. Working strength developer will oxidize in the bottle and give you those types of results. Are you agitating your prints properly? Poor agitation will also give you muddy shadows. Just because the camp counselor says to do something with your film doesn't mean you have too. Did your counselor run an ISO exposure test with a gray card and a light meter on your camera or was your counselor just spouting information? Your paper could have gotten hot while you were gone, that too will give you poor results. Anyway, we have all been there and made unspeakable mis steps with our equipment, film, etc. Fortunately we all have this forum to come to when we need it. Anyway, keep at it and keep us informed.

Carl Weese
18-Sep-2000, 07:37

Check your darkroom equipment as others have suggested, but *first* go back to rating your film at 200 or 160. Rating the film near the manufacturer's recommendation is a great way to get poor shadow detail and overall muddy prints, and since you know you made this change going back to what used to work is your first move. ---Carl

Brian Ellis
18-Sep-2000, 10:06
A minor correction to Charlie's excellent advice. Shooting at a lower film speed should increase shadow detail, not lose it. Otherwise, your problem sounds like fogged paper to me. Going from ASA 200 to 320 is a change of around a half stop. With black and white photography that small a change shouldn't produce the drastic differences you describe although, as others said, if 200 was working why make a change? Fogged paper could be a safelight problem (too bright, too close to the paper), light leaks in your darkroom, paper left out of the box under the safelight too long, manufacturing defect, paper stored only in the cardboard exterior envelope rather than in both the exterior envelope and the black plastic interior envelope, and probably a bunch of other reasons I can't now think of. Exhausted developer is usually fairly obvous both from its strange color and from how the print comes up in the developer compared to what you're used to. Still, making sure your chemicals are fresh is always a good idea.

Ed Farmer
18-Sep-2000, 12:51
This shows exactly why you shouldn't take too much advice from others and why you shouldn't change a procedure that you are happy with. A 2/3 stop change in exposure can be significant, depending on what type of work you are doing. Any change this large should be paired with a chagne in development time. Specifically, a -2/3 stop exposure change should be matched with a 10 - 20% increase in development time. The secret is that you have to do these experiments yourself. Personally, I expose TMY at 320 and like the results. But, I have experimented (and still do) with development times to get results that I am happy with.

Scott Walton
18-Sep-2000, 13:02
If you were getting good prints before all of the above advise is good... and while your at it, check your bellows for light leaks. Fogging of your film will give you muddy results too. Scott

Doug Paramore
18-Sep-2000, 17:42
Amen to sticking to what you know works. For every photographer out there, there is an opinion. Listen and learn from the so-called experts, but remember it might not work for you. Even what you know works for you may not always work. Film and paper can vary a little from batch to batch, as can paper and chemistry. It is a good idea to take the time every few months to run a quick test to make sure the paper or film hasn't changed. The companies make changes all the time, and we who know all about the film and paper don't lower ourselves to read the papers with the information, which is always inside the box. Maybe they oughta' do like the laundry soap and cereal makers and write "New! Improved!" on the boxes. I would recommend you do as suggested...go back and print a neg you know is good. Then work from there.


Charlie Stracl
18-Sep-2000, 19:03
Of course my posting was wrong. My brain was tired and I didn't say what I meant. Thanks for catching it, Brian.

james mickelson
18-Sep-2000, 21:36
You rerated your film to a lower speed. It increased the density of the shadows. You didn't increase your development time which in effect relative to your increased shadow densities lowered you highlight density. You in effect contracted your densities and now have muddy prints. You should calibrate your system instead of just doing something someone else says. Go back to shooting TMY at 320 and see what difference it makes. Then take the time and calibrate your system. james

Jonathan Abernathy
18-Sep-2000, 22:20
Thanks to everyone for answering my question. I loaded up some more film this weekend and shoy the TMY at 200 and I usually do. I processed it as normal and made some test prints with fresh chemicals.

Everything looks great. I can not say if it was the paper, film, ISO, or me, but right now I am very happy to get nice shadow detail and no muddy stuff.

Thanks Jonny