View Full Version : how to evaluate a negative without a darkroom?

Darin Cozine
7-Jan-2004, 22:36
I finally am getting the hang of the LF thing. I am producing clean 4x5's with no scratches, dust, or fingerprints. My problem now is that I have a very hard time evaluating a negative. How do I know (by looking at the neg) if they are properly exposed? My enlarger doesnt do 4x5's..

Andrew O'Neill
7-Jan-2004, 23:14
Well, the best way to evaluate your negatives would be to print them. Why are you working with 4x5 negs when you do not have appropriate enlarger? If you have an enlarger is it a condenser or diffused/cold light type? Are you contact printing them? Even by contact printing them will give you a pretty good idea. Are you using variable contrast or graded paper? Is there detail in the shadow areas of your negs? You could do the "minimum time for maximum black" when contact printing your negs on a "normal" contrast grade to see how they look. This has helped me in the past.

Andrew O'Neill
7-Jan-2004, 23:18
I just remembered another way to evaluate your negatives without printing them. I remember reading somewhere that if you slip a newspaper under your negative you should just be able to barely read the print of the newspaper through the negative's densest areas. This may have been for when using a condenser enlarger. I think I read it in a Kodak booklet. Hope this has helped.

Darin Cozine
7-Jan-2004, 23:59
Andrew, I have a 6x7 difusion hot-light enlarger, havent had the cash to get a better one to do 4x5 yet. I do have a flatbed scanner with a 4x5 film option on it. But the scanner software doesnt have any exposure controlls.

i want to make sure I am exposing and developing my negs properly. This is a problem I have had with other formats as well. Some negs print easier than others, but that may be more the scene rather than the neg.

*You mentioned 'minimum time for maximum black'.. could you explain that technique? -Thanks. I havent done any contact prints yet, does it matter what light source I use?

Other details: Ilford fp4+100 developed in agfa rodinol for reccomended time.

Jon Shiu
8-Jan-2004, 00:23
Hi, you can make a negative carrier out of mat board that would fit your 4x5 negs so you can use your small enlarger. This will allow you to print part of your negative to evaluate contrast/filtration, sharpness, grain etc.

8-Jan-2004, 02:31
It's best to print the negatives in a darkroom. You (at least for me) can't really tell if the negatives are fogged due to a minor light leak in the camera. I lost two years' work in this manner. The fog is uniform and the prints are dead. I didn't have a darkroom then.

phil sweeney
8-Jan-2004, 03:49
Darin, Since you have a darkroom. You should proof all your negatives (any format) with a contact print. Try a 25 watt frosted bulb 3-4 feet overhead. Develop an unexposed negative and test strip it to find the time for max black, and that can be your standard proof time. If your exposure and development is good the proofs should look good.

John D Gerndt
8-Jan-2004, 04:46

If they look like your other negatives that print well, you're fine. You can check focus with a lupe.


Tom Perkins
8-Jan-2004, 08:26
Darin, I agree with Phil, and would take it one step further from proof sheets. Use your enlarger to make contact prints on 4x5. You can use the same paper you use for enlarging. Just get a small sheet of plate glass--they will round off the edges at the glass shop for you--to lay over the negative and paper when exposing. You can cut up your larger paper or use 5x7 stock. You can make beautiful prints and learn a lot about how your exposures are doing. Good luck.

Andrew O'Neill
8-Jan-2004, 09:37
Darin, minimum time for maximum black is basically finding the minimum time that produces maximum black.....lay your negative down on the photo paper that you use. Make a test strip. Ignore the image but instead look at the clear edge of the film base. Find the step that produces the blackest black. Be careful. Look very carefully. Use this time to expose your negatives. Also I should add that you should keep the enlarger height, bellows and lens aperture the same everytime you make contacts. This technique will tell you if your negs are over /under exposed/developed. Use the same contrast grade/filter, and print developer. Like most people have said, printing is the best way to tell. Hope this has helped!

8-Jan-2004, 09:51
Darin, read the (sadly recently departed) Barry Thornton article at: http://www.barry-thornton.co.uk/unzone.htm. This article goes in to detail about how to use contacts to calibrate your system for best results.


Yuri Saniko
8-Jan-2004, 17:01
Another option - get an inexpencive scanner with 4x5 transparency adapter. Something like http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?query=epson+2450&ht=1&sosortproperty=1&from=R10&BasicSearch= will work great.

Frank Petronio
9-Jan-2004, 03:26
Shoot a few color transparencies - they will quickly and easily give you feedback as to whether your system is working properly. For black and white negs, ask a professional photo lab to measure them on a densitometer or just show them your negs and discuss with a good photo lab tech. For $20-30 worth of custom printing, they could help you out.

A good custom lab that does mail order: http://www/4photolab.com - ask for Mike Parks or Edgar Praus.

Řyvind Dahle
9-Jan-2004, 09:21
Do make a contact print as mentioned above.

Do like me, take a picture of it! My girlfriends digital camera makes it easy to see where I would dodge and burn and choose contrast, and also use it on the web if I wan't other peoples input.

You will need i filmholder of some kind, a light source of any kind and a compact digitalcamera or a digital SLR.