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Thread: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

  1. #1

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    Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    I appreciate this question probably has many answers all of which may be right but I am interested in reading how the more experienced darkroom printers work.

    Scenario.
    White Flowers against a dark textured background still life.

    Using no filters in the diffusion enlarger (white light), I established the shortest time (15seconds) for the blacks with detail. Having found this time, the whites in the flowers looked a little grey to me.

    Apart from careful dodging (which I am not that good at just yet) during the base exposure which is only 15 seconds, how would you get the whites back into the flowers. I do own a set of Ilford MG contrast filters and I am printing on to Ilford MG RC Pearl paper.

    Ian

  2. #2

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Ian, you have to increase contrast, first try with filter 3 to 3.5.

    Exposure time for filters 00-3.5 is the same; that for filters 4-5 is double.

    After some tests I'd recommend you start using split grade printing, this is making two exposures, one with 0 or 00 filter, and the other with 5 filter. Depending on in you expose more time with the 5 or the 00 the print will have more or less contrast, but then you have the chance to burn or to dodge certain areas while you have inserted the 00 ot the 5 filter, so you have local contrast contral, added to local exposure control.

    For split grade printing when you shorten 1s the exposure with the 00 filter then you extend 2 seconds the exposure with the 5 filter, because the 4, 4.5 and 5 filters require 2x more time...

    I'm happy that you engage wet printing, that's a nice trip. It would take a while until you get powerful results, but this is something that will make you a better photographer, because you will think in the print when you are adjusting a shooting, IMHO.

  3. #3

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    OK, this goes back to basic exposure control...

    When spot metering, you get a reading for the dark background, and then you meter the brightest area for your highlight... You decide if this will fit your established range you tested for the # of stops that will read on the neg & print on your normal #2 paper... Does this range fit???

    For now another control kicks in, where you can alter contrast, but at the price of having the darks too dark or lights too light...

    The present solution is to slightly increase the contrast (with your MG filters) where both ends of the scale will record with (at least) some detail...


    This will lighten your whites, but the dark background will be an endangered species...

    Good Luck!!

    Steve K

  4. #4

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Pere Casals View Post
    Yo have to increase contrast, first try with filter 3 to 3.5.

    Exposure time for filters 00-3.5 is the same; that for filters 4-5 is double.

    After some tests I'd recommend you start using split grade printing, this is making two exposures, one with 0 or 00 filter, and the other with 5 filter. Depending on in you expose more time with the 5 or the 00 the print will have more or less contrast, but then you have the chance to burn or to dodge certain areas while you have inserted the 00 ot the 5 filter, so you have local contrast contral, added to local exposure control.

    For split grade printing when you shorten 1s the exposure with the 00 filter then you extend 2 seconds the exposure with the 5 filter, because the 4, 4.5 and 5 filters require 2x more time...
    So are you saying that I would be better to start with a filter in place rather than just white light

  5. #5

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    So are you saying that I would be better to start with a filter in place rather than just white light
    Yes, start with the 2.5, the middle one, because if you change the filter you will know the base exposure, that would be the same until 3.5, and twice beyond it...

  6. #6

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Pere Casals View Post
    Yes, start with the 2.5, the middle one, because if you change the filter you will know the base exposure.
    Thank You

  7. #7

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Well, for a "regular" negative if you start with 2 or 2.5 depends on if you have a condenser or difuser enlarger, on how you cook the negatives, your personal preference. As you get used you may decide starting with 1.5 or 3 by just taking a look to the negative.

    Or even you can find the exact grade you would like with a densitometer, with an exposimeter or after analyzing an scan...

    It's about starting... and then refining, learning and practicing. This is not as straight as Photoshop, but IMHO it's very rewarding obtaining a sound print by optical means.

  8. #8
    Eric Woodbury
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Ian, 'expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights' is for making a negative. Printing a negative to make is positive is opposite. Expose for the highlights, control contrast for your shadows.

    Sometimes hard when you need contrast in both the ends and there are no middle tones. Other handy tools for this are split printing (as noted), flashing, local bleaching, dodging with a mask or crocein scarlet.

    Also mentioned, practice, practice, practice. Same as Carnegie Hall.

  9. #9

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Woodbury View Post
    Ian, 'expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights' is for making a negative. Printing a negative to make is positive is opposite. Expose for the highlights, control contrast for your shadows.

    Sometimes hard when you need contrast in both the ends and there are no middle tones. Other handy tools for this are split printing (as noted), flashing, local bleaching, dodging with a mask or crocein scarlet.

    Also mentioned, practice, practice, practice. Same as Carnegie Hall.
    Ah.... it looks as though I was doing it the wrong way round Eric. Thanks

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Pere Casals View Post
    Ian, you have to increase contrast, first try with filter 3 to 3.5.

    Exposure time for filters 00-3.5 is the same; that for filters 4-5 is double.

    After some tests I'd recommend you start using split grade printing, this is making two exposures, one with 0 or 00 filter, and the other with 5 filter. Depending on in you expose more time with the 5 or the 00 the print will have more or less contrast, but then you have the chance to burn or to dodge certain areas while you have inserted the 00 ot the 5 filter, so you have local contrast contral, added to local exposure control.

    For split grade printing when you shorten 1s the exposure with the 00 filter then you extend 2 seconds the exposure with the 5 filter, because the 4, 4.5 and 5 filters require 2x more time...

    I'm happy that you engage wet printing, that's a nice trip. It would take a while until you get powerful results, but this is something that will make you a better photographer, because you will think in the print when you are adjusting a shooting, IMHO.
    If the split contrast concept is not yet within your grasp, just start with the 3.5 (I'd say 3 but your neg sounds like it's a little flat...as the commenter above was explaining, that can be fixed...but one thing at a time). Stop the lens all the way down and then open up about two stops or so. If you train your eyes, you will eventually be able to stop down to a relatively consistent level and have more consistent exposure times with your negs even if the exposure of the neg varies. When you learn burning and dodging, that consistency can really help. When you do your test, see where you get highlight detail. Make a second strip if you have to and get a look at the shadows at that exposure to determine how much you need to dodge them. Dodge a bit more than you think you'll need the first time. You can waste a lot of paper by "creeping" to the right amount but never quite getting there. I think that might be the best way for you to approach this neg. Once you get a bit more comfortable, you'll definitely want to use split contrast printing and even variable contrasts for burning or dodging. Before we had contrast emulsions, we had fixed grade paper and had to get the best possible image through burning and dodging. If you really like the wet darkroom as a learning experience, you might want to stick with it. "Better living through chemistry," as we use to say. Good Luck!

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