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Thread: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

  1. #1

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    Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    I always cut photo papers into several pieces/strips and use them to do a test strip for printing in darkroom, but sometimes there is not enough information to guide me for next step. A teacher in our local art school suggested to use a whole sheet of photo paper instead of a strip of photo paper to do a test print every time. He uses a whole sheet of photo paper every time for his printing.
    What are your thoughts?
    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    Fred Picker taught the same thing. I think that it's a waste of paper.
    What I learned to do (when I was hired as a custom b/w printer in 1981) was to make sure that the test strip covered the high values in the projected image. When I find the proper exposure for those, then I'll try a half sheet of paper, then adjust contrast as necessary to make a full sheet. Dodging/burning will follow that, and hope to make a final print soon after.
    Of course every print-maker has their own methods. The one I've outlined above seems to be economical in both time and materials; at least it works for me.

  3. #3
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    In general, when enlarging I use strips and when contact printing I use whole sheets.

    Paper is expensive. If you find strips generally effective in arriving efficiently at your final exposure, there's no reason why you can't use strips as your default but go to whole sheets if you encounter a particularly complex negative that you're having trouble getting right.

  4. #4

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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    A whole sheet of paper for an exposure test??? Gimme a break... ;-I

    Steve K

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    Strip, small print, not much difference. Depends on the final print size. For example, a single sheet of 16X20 b&w will yield me enough width-size test strips on the rotary cutter for four of six different images. Often I need only one per image, but sometimes two. I want the whole range of values present, not just the highlights. Color printing is different since I use drums. So I cut down the paper or big roll into little 8X10 or slightly smaller sheets suitable for the 8x10 drum, my smallest size. I can't imagine foregoing test strips unless one is just intending the final itself to be tiny. How rich are you? Rarely does the first full-sized color print come out ideal anyway, and if you're talking about a 30X40 inch one on polyester, that ain't cheap to make! Premium FB b&w paper isn't cheap either; but often the first full sized one can be tweaked a little in the toning phase to bring it darn near to a hole in one, a keeper at least. I never really know until it's completely dried down, post-toning. With color, a basic heat gun on low setting will tell you in half a minute.

  6. #6
    Martin Aislabie's Avatar
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    I cut a whole sheet in half and use one of those halves.

    For years I used to cut sheets of paper into 2 inch wide strips and use those.

    But - I never had all the highlights and shadows in the test strip.

    So now I just use half a sheet - some may say it is a waste of money - but I think it's a waste of time and effort trying to be that economical.

    I'd rather spend a bit more and not waste so much of my own time.

    Everyone has their own opinions on what constitutes value for money.

    As they say YMMV.

    Martin

  7. #7
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    I want the whole range of values present, not just the highlights.
    +1. Usually it's not hard to position a strip to accomplish this.

  8. #8
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    I think this is a great question that will generate many useful tips for making better prints.

    Here are a few of my personal habits, heavily summarized Ė and there are, of course, infinite variations to these habits based on my aims, chemicals, paper type, difficulty of negative, and occasional need to conserve paper due to my personal supply or its cost!

    To start, I have my field notes handy to determine how to proceed with test strips. The notes show me how wide my light values are, and how they spread across the image.

    Typically Iíll create a pre-test strip, estimating time intervals (simply based on experience), to help determine time intervals for a final test strip/sheet.

    For 5x7 and smaller, the pre-test strip is usually a full piece of paper (not a strip). But when itís 8x10 and larger, the pre-test strip is usually a cut strip, often 1/3 or 1/4 of the full size. (Iíll position this pre-test strip where I know I need to make exposure judgments.)

    Once my pre-test strip is done, itís easier for me to choose time intervals for a final test. For example, the intervals might be 10, 12, 15, 20, 28 sec. Itís key to have too little exposure on one side, and too much on the other. Makes it easier to choose a Goldilocks exposure.

    If itís a difficult negative, with a wide range of light values involving important elements across the composition, a full sheet is better than a strip, for all sizes of paper.

    If the lighting is flat, I sometimes get by with a final test on a strip, no matter the paper size.

    ***BTW, AA has a nice, real-world example of a contrasty test print, with time intervals, in ďThe Print.Ē Letís just say it includes sunny snow and black rocks.

  9. #9
    Robert Bowring
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    What Mark Sampson says. I use the same method and it also works for me.

  10. #10
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Re: Do you use a test strip or a test sheet when you print in darkroom?

    Can't argue with Martin's sensible advice above.

    If I've recently printed a negative that looks similar in contrast and density to the negative in question, I'll dive in and use a whole sheet and set the exposure and contrast at or close to that of the prior negative. If the negative doesn't look much like one I've printed recently, I'll use 1/3 of a sheet of paper cut the long way and just guess the exposure and contrast. Usually within two strips I'll be close enough to use a full sheet.

    Certainly, you can't fine-tune exposure or contrast with strips, no argument there.

    At the price of Ilford MG Fiber Warmtone 11x14 these days, I prefer to see almost-black or almost-white prints on 1/3 of a sheet rather than a whole one.
    Where are we going?
    And why are we in this handbasket?


    www.josephoharaphotography.com

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