View Full Version : Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

James Phillips
18-Sep-2003, 16:44
During the past year I have been gaining in both knowledge and interest in regards to the Platinum / Palladium printing process. In addition to this fact, a few of you who are regular visitors to this site have been so kind as to write me with helpful information, suggestions and guidelines on how I might begin and I thank-you. With all of this information I feel quite close to perhaps buying the appropriate chemicals and papers and attempting to create a few 4x5 prints.

This is I feel, a fine start to the process but of course I expect that I shall soon wish to go to 8x10 and perhaps even larger with Pt/Pd. I have given careful consideration towards the acquisition of an 8x10 camera and thus the ability to make 8x10 negatives in the process. The actual contentious point that is stopping me from proceeding along this line is the cost of 8x10 negatives. At this stage of my skill level I am still shooting too many 4x5 negatives in order to achieve a good one but at least at the 4x5 level the cost is tolerable.

So I now am asking you where from and approximately how much are you 8x10 shooters spending on your negative material?

My second request, although not specifically a direct question has to be about the creation of 8x10 digital negatives from 4x5 originals. I have bought and now read most of the book (a few times) written by Dan Burkholder on this subject but feel somewhat in the dark on the overall process. I am wondering if not someone who has created digital negatives with good success might consider writing an article for Tuanís site to help the rest of us get over the hump on the learning curve.

I also see many benefits from such an article as it should lead to an increase in the population of the Pt/Pd user community which by pure economics would mean a larger buying base for the necessary materials and chemicals involved. As perhaps an added bonus this article may encourage more folks to buy Azo paper which in itself would also be considered a good thing in keeping Azo alive.

So do you think that I am just an exception and that digitally enlarging negatives is straightforward and quite simple or am I in a group of interested photographers that needs the additional help to get started?

Kind Regards,

18-Sep-2003, 17:35
I have a degree in Physics, and over 50 years of practical darkroom experience (including 4-color dye transfer), and the Burkholder book is completely unintelligible to me.

Donald Miller
18-Sep-2003, 17:38
In response to your query on the cost of 8X10 negative material. I buy 100 sheets of ISO 125 film (supposedly FP4 in private label) from Photo Warehouse for around $125.00. Other films will be more costly.

I went through some of your questioning period awhile back myself. I finally opted to shoot a big negative as opposed to enlarging smaller negatives. When one factors in the cost of the initial 4X5 film, processing, then the time spent enlarging it to a larger negative with the cost of that material, processing etc. the answer became clear to me. I found that shooting a bigger negative will cause one to slow down and become a better photographer much the same as when I moved up to medium format and then to 4X5. I now shoot both 8X10 and 12X20 and almost no 4X5.

Hope that this is of some help to you. Good luck.

David A. Goldfarb
18-Sep-2003, 17:44
I suppose I shoot fewer sheets of 8x10" and do it more carefully than 4x5", mainly because it's harder to carry as much film as it gets bigger, and that does something to keep the cost in check. If someone comes up with an 8x10" Grafmatic, that could be dangerous to my wallet.

Bear in mind that you can also create enlarged negatives by conventional methods with an enlarger.

Jorge Gasteazoro
18-Sep-2003, 18:43
James, in "The New Platinum Print" by Weese& Sullivan David Fokos describes a workflow for making negs for pt/pd. I beleive Bostick&Sullivan also has an article in their web site.

ALternatively if you dont want to mess with Service Beaureaus you might like to learn how to make enlarged negatives with ortho lith film developed in Pyrocat HD. There are a couple of good articles in Unblinkingeye about making enlarged negatives. The one person I know who is making both enlarged negatives and digital ones is Michael Kravit, lets hope he sees this thread and pitches in.

I use 400 TMY for the 8x10 and it is $175 for a 50 sheet box from Badger Graphics. I like this film for the speed and reciprocity but if you want to save money the Photowarehouse film is great (is what I use for the 12x20) and also you might want to give a try to J and C, the have I belive efke in all sizes you might want. Both are cheap alternatives, but that does not mean they are bad films, they are actually pretty good.

Good luck..

Doug Howk
18-Sep-2003, 19:21
In the long-run it may be cheaper to get an 8X10 camera. Costs of enlarging from 4X5 include: good drum-scan $5-15, Imagesetter service bureau enlargement of digital file to 8X10 negative $15-20.
Benefits of digital negatives include what Photoshop can do for your image, and lighter weight of 4X5 camera(which appeals to me at my age).

18-Sep-2003, 19:29
Personally I find Dan Burkholder's book on making digital negatives very readable and straightforward, and if you follow the instructions you will be able to make very good digital negatives for Pt/Pd printing.

Basically the procedure can be outlined in the following steps.

1. You calibrate your monitor so that what you see on screen is what your print.

2. You adjust the image on screen in Photoshop with tonal corrections, dodging, burning,etc. as necessary.

3. A curve is loaded into Photoshop from one of the ones supplied on the CD that accompanies Burkholder's book. The curve is different according to process and whether negative output is to be Imagesetter or desktop printer.

4. If output is by Imagesetter you send the file off to a Servicebureau. If by desktop printer (Epson inkjet printers are the most popular for this) you print the negative on a suitable OHP material. Pictorico is very popular for this application.

When printing Pt/Pd on art papers (drawing or watercolor), the paper itself becomes the limiting factor in sharpness so there will be little if any difference between a Pt/Pd print made from an Imagesetter negative and one made an inkjet negative on Pictorico. If you are making digital negatives for processes that use very smooth papers (silver gelatin, albumen, POP, etc.) you will get slightly better quality from an Imagesetter negative.

Peter Hamilton
19-Sep-2003, 05:18
One cheap and cheerful, but surprising good quality alternative route is to make paper negatives from an enlarged positive print. Single weight paper (if you can find any) is best, but I have had some quite successful results from using glossy plastic paper (i.e. resin coated). Enlarge to the size you want, make the best quality print you can, perhaps a little on the soft side. Use this print to make a contact print onto the paper that will become the negative, under glass is best. Hey presto, a paper negative that will print quite successfully in contact with any paper or film base you want.

Carl Weese
19-Sep-2003, 07:21
Contact printing from direct in-camera negatives is simple and the results can't be matched by enlarging. For Pt/Pd where you must make the print by contact, I find the process of making enlarged negatives (either traditional darkroom or digital) to be complex, annoying, and no fun at all. So for me at least, it's vastly preferable to work with a big camera and print directly from the negatives. At 12x20 the film gets expensive, but so are enlarged negatives. If you feel that a big camera will hamper your working style for the kind of pictures you want to make, then making enlarged negatives from 4x5 originals could be worth while. If you find that working with "rilly big cameras" is rewarding in itself, then direct contact prints are the ideal workflow.---Carl

James Phillips
19-Sep-2003, 08:56
Thanks for all of your suggestions in helping me decide. I just wish to add a few additional pieces of information that I perhaps forgot to mention. I presently own a very good flat bed scanner (Epson Expression 1600 with TMA) that will do a very good scan of a 4x5 negative. I also recently purchased an Epson 2200 printer for the output negative as well as to try some color printing in my future. My intention here is to perform my own scanning and printing of the digital negative and not use a service bureau.

The other aspects which have swayed me towards scanning/digital enlargement is that I already have some 4x5 negatives in my archive that I wish to work with. In conjunction with that fact is that I am much more likely to take my 4x5 camera hiking than an 8x10 camera (if I owned one) so my chances of having good 4x5 negatives is probably better than having many 8x10 good negatives.

On the flip side of the coin I simply am enticed with the idea of working with a huge 8x10 negative. I also agree that this is a much more straight forward approach to the problem. I guess that I have wrestled the problem down to wishing to first try the digital scan solution and then if my skills warrant the progression I will mostly like purchase a used 8x10 camera.

So hopefully someone might wish to come forward and do an article on the creation of digital negatives for Tuan's site.

Any and all thoughts and comments most welcome.

Kind Regards,

19-Sep-2003, 10:22
I have seen many contact prints made from both enlarged negatives and original in-camera negatives and I am personally working at this time with both methods. Within the past several months I have made quite a number of carbon, kallitype and palladium prints from digitally enlarged 5X7" original in-camera negatives, and 7X17, 12X20 and 20X24 prints from original in-camera negatives.

Based on what I have seen and the results of my own work I am in partial disagreement with Carl Weese. I agree that if one is making enlarged negatives by projection with traditional wet processing there is no way three results can match an in-camera original. However, with enlarged digital negatives I am of the opinion that one can not only match, but also in many cases exceed, the quality of an in-camera original. However, both methods leave their own artifacts and depending on viewing criteria an individual viewer might prefer one or the other.

My comments assume that the same level of meticulous craftsmanship is applied to scanning, working on the image in Photoshop, and making the final print when working with a digital negative as when working with in-camera originals. They also assume that the original negative used for the scan is of high quality and that enlargement is relatively moderate, say up to about 3X or 4X. and that the quality of the scan be such that it allows a minimum of about 400 dpi at the printing size. That means that if you want to make high quality 16X20 prints from 4X5 negatives you need to be able to scan with an optical resolution of at least 4X400, or 1600dpi.

20-Sep-2003, 01:30
Sandy, I'm very interested in your experiments. Having got used to the benefits of PS over the years I'm trying very hard to make enlarged digital negs for contact printing. I'm having negs drum-scanned at full optical resolution (4000ppi), doing the work in 16 bit in PS and then outputting via an Epson 7600 or 9600. My problem comes in getting what I have on the digital file onto the paper. In order to 'calibrate' the process, I output a 25 step wedge to the neg, make a test strip and expose to paper giving just enough exposure to turn the 100% black wedge black. I then dry the print and scan it into PS on flatbed using levels to nail the black to 100%. Using the densitometer I then make a correction curve to bring all the other steps of the wedge into line. I then apply that new curve before outputting my image files, but I still can't get the tones falling in the right place and am having to dodge and burn which negates much of the digital part of the process. Am I doing something stupid here?

20-Sep-2003, 08:06

What process are you printing with? There might be a ready-made curve on the CD that accompanies Burkholder's book that you could use. There is definitely one for the Epson 2200 for Pt/Pd printing and that one might work with the 7600 or 9600 since they use the same pigmented ink system.

If not there is a fellow in Chicago named Mark Nelson who has developed a real nifty system for developing a curve for Photoshop, and it works with any process and any negative output device. The process is very simple but requires some initial testing, as follows.

1. You print a file with your process of a step wedge that has 100 steps, from Photoshop 0% density to 100% density.

2. You read the printed values of the step wedge with a reflection densitometer. (I think it is also possible to do this with a scanner but I don't know the details)

3. You enter these values into an Excel spreadsheet and calculate the input/output values at 16 points for the Photoshop curve.

4. Then, when you get your image finished you go to Curve, enter the input/output values, and then save the curve before pressing OK.

5. Next time around you just load the curve from the saved file.

I beta tested the method with a couple of different processes and it works like a charm. Mark has been putting together a package to market the method and it should be available soon. If interested contact him directly at Ender100@aol.com

20-Sep-2003, 08:20
Sandy, thanks for that. I'm using my local pro-dealers setup of 7600 9600 loaded with MIS ultratone inks and studioprint rip. I helped them set it up and linearise the inks etc so I get free use and the loan of some lf gear! The inks are good because they don't smear on the film, and using the rip I've made sure I'm not laying down too much ink. To do this successfully yo have to really have your printing and digital chops in order, but even doing that you end up with a neg that has more tones on it than the silver paper (ilford warmtone) can bear, so then you work a curve which compresses the tonal values to match the paper values and it is tricky stuff! I'll try the process you mention. Thanks!

Brian Ellis
20-Sep-2003, 15:37
I was told by someone who attended the APIS conference earlier this year that there supposedly is some brand new method of making enlarged digital negatives that makes Burkholder's book obsolete. Perhaps Sandy could elaborate on this (or correct it if it's wrong), I think he attended.

20-Sep-2003, 17:49
Hi Brian,

The negative making method discussed at APIS is the one by Mark Nelson that I mentioned in a previous message.

But as good as Mark's method is, and it is really outstanding, it does not make Dan Burkholde's book obsolete. Dan's book is an extremely valuable reference that anyone interested in making digital negatives should have, unless of course they already understand all of the issue involved.

I first started to make negatives for alternative processing following the instructions in Dan's book, and using the curves provided on the CD that accompanies the book, and at his website. Mark Nelson's system for developing the curve is a refinement that allows better representation of tonal values for a specific process and negative output device, but it does not replace all of the instructional information in Dan's book.