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Thread: Contact printing

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2005

    Contact printing

    I want to start contacting 5x7 negs, what is the benifit of using Foma's contact paper or Bergger contact paper over Ilford's warm tone fibre base paper as I've read mixed reports about the two contact papers, I live in the UK these two contact papers are easy to obtain.
    Also a lot of people use a bulb above paper as exposing light source, this may seem a silly question but would an enlarger with out the lens attacthed be a usable light sourse.

  2. #2
    Hack Pawlowski6132's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Detroit - Come Visit

    Re: Contact printing

    Hi Terry, I find myself in a similar situation. I just started contact printing 8x10 and I am using Ilford WT FB VC paper. I have been very curious about the Bergger Art Contact paper and even the new Foma. Unfortunately, I can't buy the Bergger here in the states ( can you send me some??) or I'd give it a try.

    So, I'm looking forward to reading some responses here.


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Richmond, VA

    Re: Contact printing


    Yes you should be able to remove the lens from your enlarger and use that is a light source. I've never used the Forma or Bergger papers, preferring Azo/Lodima instead. When I started with Azo, I could lower the Zone VI cold light head on my Beseler 4x5 enlarger and blast the Azo for about 35 seconds. At that time I was shooting Tri-X and developing in HC-110.

    Later, I switched to TMax 400 and Pyrocat-HD. The stained negatives took between 120 and 240 seconds with the Zone VI cold light so I switched to a bare bulb suspended on the ceiling and running THROUGH the Enlarger's lens stage. I can raise or lower the bulb if printing times are too fast or too slow.

    I would highly recommend you visit the Azo Forum at I know you don't use Azo, but there is a wealth of information there on almost all things related to contact printing on silver papers.

    Good Luck and Welcome to the Club!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Seattle, Washington

    Re: Contact printing

    Hi Terry,

    which paper you prefer is a matter of taste, but there are practical differences between contact speed and projection speed papers. For people who regularly print by projection, sticking with the same paper for contact printing will be the most familiar method, since you can use the same light source ( your enlarger) with all the same utilities for timing, contrast control, etc.. When contact printing on projection speed papers, I leave the lens in place, defocused, for quick exposure adjustments by clicking the aperture open or closed. By using my enlarger as my light source for contact printing I can also use my analyzer/ timer, and stepless contrast controls, which I find very convenient. That being said, convenience isn't everything, and there is something to be said for the simplicity of working with slow, graded papers under a simple lamp, though this simplicity is deceptive. To make a good print by either method demands a thorough understanding of one's materials, and a well controlled process. I use both methods, but if I was a practical person I'd choose one or the other, and since I'm not about to give up enlarging, projection speed paper for all my prints would be the most sensible approach. I've rarely been accused of practicality! Good luck, and have fun!

  5. #5
    Daniel Stone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Los Angeles area

    Re: Contact printing

    contact printing from what I've found is an art in itself. It really helps you to focus on exactly HOW and WHAT you frame in your photograph.

    this summer I had the chance to assist Michael Smith and his wife Paula in Iceland, they're contact printers(only), and they've been working the last 5 years to bring out a new paper, Lodima. At the beginning of the trip, I had a chance to look through their portfolios, and I'll tell you right now, I've NEVER seen better prints. Most of the prints were on the original Kodak Azo paper, but they had some prints(mostly from their Chicago series) on the new(1st run) of their Lodima paper.

    developed in Amidol, the prints exhibited the best tonal range I've ever seen in a print, and the 'snap' in the midtone contrast was something you have to see in order to really 'get'. Now, they use 8x10 and 8x20 cameras(and Paula occasionally uses a 5x7 back on the 8x10), using the now-discontinued Super-XX film(which they purchased the remainder of in the early 90's), so if you're looking for a close 'clone' to that film, Tmax 400(TMY-2) is the best bet.

    the paper isn't cheap(8x10-100sht box is $149), but its the paper I'm going to use when I print my negs from the trip this summer. Hands down. I'm hooked. just seeing what is capable with that paper, TO ME, is reason enough for the expense.

    I'm looking at the Foma 111 paper(fiber base) as well, since its slightly cheaper than the Lodima, but for proof prints(not final prints), I'm going to give it a try as well.

    also, with any developer(but especially Amidol), you can use a water bath to control highlight values. Amidol and Lodima is like 1 minute in the developer(or developer and water bath combined total time), so its a very fast, and effecient combo.

    look on M+P's website under the "writings" section and read up, lots of information and technical "know-how" from many years of honing their technique!

    5x7 is a great format though, so a 100sht box of Lodima is like 200shts of Lodima for 5x7 . Thats a good thing .



    EDIT: I've been using a 60w frosted lightbulb in a bullet-style safelight that I hang from the enlarger. Its about 3ft above the contact frame, and with 2 paper towels taped over the opening(no 5" filter installed), the light is even with no hotspots. I've found that turning on the lightbulb(not a CFL!!!, just a regular incandescent) with a black 11x14 piece of matboard over the frame(8x10 frame), the uncover the frame, and use a metronome(digital timer from the enlarger, it beeps once per second) to count my exposure, along with dodges and burns. I then re-cover the frame with the matboard, then turn off the light. Then develop, etc...

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