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Thread: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

  1. #1

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    Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    I learned printing by making test-strips. It's fine if you have only few negs to go though, but when there's many, it is a waste of time and paper. So?

    Last few printing sessions I have, I have weened myself from the test-strips.
    Now I expose all sheets 30s. I only change the aperture, sometimes during exposure when I see the neg being lit. I also do the dodging/burning straight on the first sheet.

    Then I dunk the paper in developed face down with continuous agitation. Count to 30s, turn the print face up while keeping counting and look for changes in the image. I stop the development as soon as I thinks its fine. I only wasted 2 sheets for 64 prints! Max development time is 1 mn, but more commonly between 40 to 50s.

    I also found that this way requires more attention and makes the whole process more interesting. I'd like to call it: "action printing".

  2. #2

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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    That's great Stephane.

    I've played and practiced with that thought a bit. I'm surprised how well it works but I must admit that I'm not as consistent as you.

    I do use an Ilford EM-10 to check myself, even that requires judgment by eye.
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

  3. #3
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    Much like lith printing you must look at the print in the dev, I also make all assistants do exactly what you are doing to make them aware of emergence time , enlarger apeture and time.
    It is a great learning tool and for quick proof prints of a lot of negatives I think you are right on .
    For final customer / exhibit work I do use time tempeture method, but the practice that you describe allows me more confidence reading negatives and I never do test strips but rather full sheets, I am very concerned how the image emerges and will gain tons of information regarding dodging and burning.
    I also try to go for the upper mid low highlight areas of the scene to develop out to the right density. This then allows for a good dodge**which I think is most critical and a slight burn to bring in highlight detail.
    I use a modified split filter method of printing where I use a starting filter that is lower in grade and lighter than what I would consider if I was making graded prints. This exposure is aimed at the upper midtones lower highlight, then I will give a 100% blast of grade five. after this first test print I will adjust my first and second exposure to balance the overall look of the image. I am now dodging and burning my second test print from the knowledge I gained from the emergence in the developer.
    Third test print I will start using dodging and burning more extensively and introducing the 00 filter and the 5 filter into my burns to bring out local contrast.
    Then it is about 2-4 more final variation prints and I should be done, in total for a final print anywhere between 6 and 10 sheets of paper.
    I have taken you a bit off your post, but I think you will become a better printer using your method for contacts, proof prints, working prints . Then move to time temp for finals but using all the knowledge you have gained by looking in the developer which IMO is critical for good printing.
    And yes this process does make the whole printing thing more interesting and fun.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephane View Post
    I learned printing by making test-strips. It's fine if you have only few negs to go though, but when there's many, it is a waste of time and paper. So?

    Last few printing sessions I have, I have weened myself from the test-strips.
    Now I expose all sheets 30s. I only change the aperture, sometimes during exposure when I see the neg being lit. I also do the dodging/burning straight on the first sheet.

    Then I dunk the paper in developed face down with continuous agitation. Count to 30s, turn the print face up while keeping counting and look for changes in the image. I stop the development as soon as I thinks its fine. I only wasted 2 sheets for 64 prints! Max development time is 1 mn, but more commonly between 40 to 50s.

    I also found that this way requires more attention and makes the whole process more interesting. I'd like to call it: "action printing".

  4. #4
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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    In 1949, my first job in a professional photo studio was printing 8x10 B&W proof prints for a group of wedding photographers.

    Many prints needed to be made in a limited amount of time. The method you described is very similar to the method they taught me for making down and dirty proof prints.

    However, the final prints were made by an older, more experienced printer. He used test strips to arrive at the exact amount of time for his initial exposure, as well as his burning and dodging times.

    The way he explained it to me; print paper needs to be developed to completion. Pulling a print out of the developer tray before it is fully developed results in dark gray, instead of rich blacks. Leaving the print in the developer tray too long results in muddy highlights.

    He controlled print contrast with exposure time, instead of development time.

    Of course, those were graded papers.

  5. #5

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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    It doesn't take a lot of experience to be able to look at a negative and get a very good idea of the correct exposure time for a proof, especially if you do as I did and find the optimum aperture for your enlarger lens (usually one or two stops from wide open) and just leave it there so that your only variable is the time.

    I never judge a print by how it looks in the developer and always did as Gem says. If I had to reduce or extend development time to get the print to look right then I figured it wasn't properly exposed. Also there's no way to accurately judge the nuances of subtle shadows and highlights under a safelight IMHO.

    The only advantage I ever found to test strips, once I was able to make an accurate estimate for proofing by looking at the negative, is that on rare occasions I'd see something in the test strip that gave me an idea about making a different print than I originally planned and that I probably wouldn't have thought of without seeing the test strip (I actually didn't use strips, when I used to make them I tested the entire negative on a full sheet of paper). But that happened very rarely.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  6. #6

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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    Just finished my printing session now... Prints are taking a bath of fresh water.

    I though this method is good for fb paper as the image appears slowly.
    For rc papers, the image appears too suddenly to be able to control the development time well enough.

    Also, sometimes overexposing brings nice textures tat make the print looking like a real vintage shot.

    Arrested development is a better term, maybe...

  7. #7
    Chuck P.'s Avatar
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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    Interesting.....to make quick proof prints of my 4x5 negs I'll print a standard size, 5x7 or 8x10, which ever I choose. I know the exp time needed at each of those enlarger heights to reach Dmax on the print surface and so only expose the negative for either the 5x7 or 8x10 "Dmax time". No dodging or burning at all as it is just a quick proof and provides a chance to view and contemplate at a later date how the final print will be made. I have found this to be very useful and it works very well with negatives that are standardized by exposure and development testing that I have done for a consistent density range.

  8. #8
    Death Before Digital matthew klos's Avatar
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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    i don't think you can fully judge the print under safe lights.

  9. #9
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Printing: Test-Strips or Not?

    You are right , a quick blast of white light will confirm what you see under safelight.
    Watching emergence is more for dodge and burn applications and not for final judgement of print density.

    Lith Printers would argue that they can judge under safelight. We only can pull a print when the look is right.
    Quote Originally Posted by matthew klos View Post
    i don't think you can fully judge the print under safe lights.

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