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Thread: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

  1. #1
    Steven Ruttenberg's Avatar
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    How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    From negative? Like base exposure without wasting paper? I assume it will be different for each nevative and f-stop of enlarging lens. I have not done this beforedoes an exposure table come with paper when you buy it?

  2. #2
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    If you have a consistent batch of negatives, it will be fairly close, but you will still end up wasting some scraps of paper fine tuning or doing test strips. Things will dry down somewhat darker than they look in the tray too. There are a few different ways of making test strips; visit youtube or read an old photo instruction book. Use smaller pieces of paper for test strips and you really won't be wasting much. Enlarger lens aperture is predicable with doubling or halfing the exposure.

    You can gain a ton of experience with this making contact print proof sheets of your negatives to get a feel for the paper and process. I'd recommend starting there.

    And when you make good test on a piece of scrap, fix/wash/save it and they make stunning bookmarks. I feel like my book marks of scrap paper with photos get more viewing than most of my prints.

  3. #3

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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    There are exposure analyzers/meters for under the enlarger that get you in the ball park. The RHDesigns model even plots your measured points on a grey scale. I can usually get close in one test sheet because it even has a test strip mode. Fine tuning with that system is a little harder for me since my head uses partial blue and green light for the entire exposure.

    Experience is still key because every image is different.
    Adventure is worthwhile in itself. ... Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done. -- Amelia Earhart
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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    JP:
    Love your use of "good" test strips as bookmarks !!!
    Drewf64


    Quote Originally Posted by jp View Post
    If you have a consistent batch of negatives, it will be fairly close, but you will still end up wasting some scraps of paper fine tuning or doing test strips. Things will dry down somewhat darker than they look in the tray too. There are a few different ways of making test strips; visit youtube or read an old photo instruction book. Use smaller pieces of paper for test strips and you really won't be wasting much. Enlarger lens aperture is predicable with doubling or halfing the exposure.

    You can gain a ton of experience with this making contact print proof sheets of your negatives to get a feel for the paper and process. I'd recommend starting there.

    And when you make good test on a piece of scrap, fix/wash/save it and they make stunning bookmarks. I feel like my book marks of scrap paper with photos get more viewing than most of my prints.

  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    Yes, test strips and test corners.

    I do a lot of testing with RC not FB. Way quicker wash and dry down.

    250 sheet boxes of 5X7 for economy and larger sizes for final.

    The 5X7 can be placed in 4 corners and center to check exposure, contrast and sharpness/focus.

    I keep a lined trash can by the sink for quick disposal of tests.
    Last edited by Tin Can; 18-Oct-2018 at 06:34. Reason: add dry down
    sin eater

  6. #6
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    I agree with easering (post 4). Intelligent use of inexpensive enlarging meter is a quick way to get close to the right exposure, often close enough to permit fine=tuning the print in the developer. Enlarging meters vary widely in precision and convenience. My last one was an Ilford EM-10. It was faster and more convenient than test strips. I had to establish my own procedure for using it, though. It relies on varying enlarging lens aperture for adjusting exposure, while I prefer to use a lens at optimum aperture and vary exposure time.

    If you compare the difference between the density of the film rebate and image areas of each negative, it will help you to guess at the proper exposure. However, this does take practice. I eventually could get the right exposure most of the time without metering.

    When making two 5x7 prints from a sheet of 8x10 paper, those 1x5 strips of scrap paper do make good test strips.

  7. #7

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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    As you are probably aware there are multiple variables:

    negative density
    negative contrast
    paper speed
    print size
    enlarger lens aperture

    I have two pieces of advice:

    1) this stuff can take a lot of time to get comfortable with you will have many questions, get a good reference book on black and white printing

    2) start simple by making test strips, they respond to all the variables listed above, purchase of an enlarger exposure meter does not eliminate the need for test prints

    PS developing paper is not like developing film. Film can produce a continuous range of contrasts by adjustment of the development conditions, chiefly time. Paper on the other hand has fixed contrast and is developed to completion, that is, the development time recommended by the manufacturer produces full development and the time should not, at least while you are learning, be manipulated in attempt to adjust tone or contrast, those are adjusted by exposure adjustments.

  8. #8

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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    experience? test strips+test prints?
    i don't think there really is any other way.
    Ditto. There are so many variables involved. And in addition to exposure, there's also print contrast on which to decide. Mostly, I manage contrast with development time. But even still, I find that I typically need to add some contrast to "normal" contrast. (No magenta or yellow added to filtration for VC paper.)

  9. #9

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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    Test strips, test prints and more test strips, test prints and work prints. Don't try to save money on paper; it's counterproductive and will end up costing you more in the long run.

    I choose a target contrast grade for a negative from my proof and make a test strip in 20% intervals to find a base exposure for the highlights. Then I make a straight test print. I evaluate this and adjust contrast grade if needed (new test strip, new test print) while planning dodging, burning, masking, bleaching. Print no. 3 is usually a work print with manipulation in the correct contrast grade or very close. Then it's small adjustments and evaluation and making more work prints till I get one that sings. Then I'll make a couple more.

    If you're just beginning with a particular paper, you might have to make two initial test strips to find the best exposure range for further test strips. Keep notes and you'll get to know your materials more quickly.

    Some say they can just look at a negative and (somehow magically) know what exposure to use for a good print. In more than 35 years in the darkroom, I've never acquired that skill... I've never seen an exhibition print that was a first-print-without-test-strips-etc. either...

    Best,

    Doremus

  10. #10
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    Re: How do you know exposure time for paper when making print

    When I print regularly with a given paper, developer and type of negative I pretty quickly get to the point where I can eyeball the negative and expect to be in the ballpark on the first test exposure - i.e., my test strips are where they need to be. There's no way to avoid trial and error after that for arriving at the final rendering, though.

    In principle an enlarging meter can help, though you can expect to spend some paper up front figuring out what it's telling you and how to use that to print more efficiently. Systems for using enlarging meters to assess particular densities in the negative, once calibrated, can give you repeatable results in placing particular tones in the print. But identical placement in the print of particular densities from your negatives won't always produce the best-looking print. And without a good intuitive understanding of how your paper's characteristic curve maps a negative's density range into the tonal scale of the print, you won't know how to get from the meter-directed first print to where you want to be.

    The bottom line: printing a lot is your best teacher.

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