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Old 21st April 2019, 07:16 AM
KPtheamateur KPtheamateur is offline
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Default Another contrast question

Hello everyone,

I am new to FADU, and have been skimming the fora hoping not to take up anyone's time with questions already answered by others, but I can't see a recentish thread on my specific question, so I hope you'll forgive starting a new thread.

I am fairly new to printing in the darkroom, and enjoying experimenting with prints a heck of a lot. However, my specific question is about how to get maximum contrast in a print.

My enlarger is a Kaiser V diffusion head, so I often max out the magenta and use dodging and burning techniques, and use glossy RC paper (Kentmere VC Select for preference) when trying for maximum contrast. Generally I can get a print I'm fairly happy with, but there are some negs where the image is a bit underexposed and the highlights and shadows are just too close together in to use dodging and burning effectively. What else could I try to get the most contrast out of my setup? Getting a condenser head isn't really an option!
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Old 21st April 2019, 12:11 PM
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MartyNL MartyNL is offline
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If your enlarger doesn't give you the equivalent of grade 5 then you could try using ilford mg under the lens filters.


However, it may be that your negs need longer development in order to increase contrast.
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  #3  
Old 21st April 2019, 12:42 PM
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Drewtwo Drewtwo is offline
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The only way I can get the look I am wanting in B&W is with a condenser enlarger.

I was never happy with my black and white prints when I had a colour enlarger but I needed it for colour prints. I have now gone over to the devils side for colour prints so the condenser enlarger is all I need.
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Old 21st April 2019, 03:05 PM
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B&W Neil B&W Neil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KPtheamateur View Post
Hello everyone,

I am new to FADU, and have been skimming the fora hoping not to take up anyone's time with questions already answered by others, but I can't see a recentish thread on my specific question, so I hope you'll forgive starting a new thread.

I am fairly new to printing in the darkroom, and enjoying experimenting with prints a heck of a lot. However, my specific question is about how to get maximum contrast in a print.

My enlarger is a Kaiser V diffusion head, so I often max out the magenta and use dodging and burning techniques, and use glossy RC paper (Kentmere VC Select for preference) when trying for maximum contrast. Generally I can get a print I'm fairly happy with, but there are some negs where the image is a bit underexposed and the highlights and shadows are just too close together in to use dodging and burning effectively. What else could I try to get the most contrast out of my setup? Getting a condenser head isn't really an option!

It seems you are nearly there with what you are looking for with your good negs. So I would try to get more consistent with your neg exposures and maybe play around with adjusting the ISO rating of the film in use to fine tune.

Neil.
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  #5  
Old 21st April 2019, 03:47 PM
Tony Marlow Tony Marlow is offline
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One way to get deeper blacks is to selenium tone your prints. It is very easy to do once you have washed your prints just give them a few minutes in a selenium bath in daylight either diluted from 1+3 to 1+ 9 which will give you deeper blacks with a slight colour change if you leave them long enough in the toner. 1+19 or weaker will deepen the blacks without the colour change. Normally you can give them 2-5 mins but they can be left much longer to get different effects. I usually use 1+9 for about 3 minutes to improve the blacks and contrast but different papers react differently just try various dilutions and times and see what you get.

Tony

Last edited by Tony Marlow; 21st April 2019 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 21st April 2019, 08:55 PM
Mike O'Pray Mike O'Pray is offline
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It may simply be that you like a very high contrast print in which case what I am about to say can be ignored but if you need grade 5 to get what may be a "normal" looking print then you may need to examine your negatives

Correctly exposed and developed negatives should as a rule give good contrast at about grade 3 to maybe 3.5. This gives you scope where required for "artistic " reasons to use grade 4-5. Unless you use grade 5 to give you a "soot and whitewash " look and this is your preferred option then we are back to negative exposure and development.

The easiest way to settle this is to show us a print at max magenta then. Nearly all of my prints look right to me and those I show them to at grade 3-3.5 and I'd get comments from my viewers if they were grade 5 prints but it could just be a matter of taste

Showing us a print to your taste may help clear matter up

I too have a colour head but choose, for ease of exposure calculations, to set my colour filters to zero and use Ilford under the lens filters which will give a genuine grade 5. The great thing about Ilford filters is that grades 00-3.5 require one exposure and grades 4-5 require double whereas colour filters require that you need to do tests to calculate how much increased exposure you need to compensate for the increase in magenta

Mike
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Old 22nd April 2019, 06:46 AM
John King John King is offline
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Default Contrast

I don't really find any problem with using any problem with using a colour head enlarger when making B&W prints. Even with 'thin negatives' so long as there is some detail in the shadows I can generally manage to print something acceptable.

As I still print colour RA4 so having 2 dedicated enlargers is really not practical due to the space I have available.

The convenience of being able to make minute contrast changes instead of 1/2 grades outweighs the possible advantage of condenser optical arrangement. On the rare (very) occasions where I need grade 5 I use a Gd 5 Ilford MG gelatin filter on the negative carrier above the actual negative. Introducing the filter below the lens can affect a high quality enlarging lens and the actual grade may be less than the value suggests. It could be like using a lens element which is uncoated and also adds another surface for dust to reduce any possible contrast

OK, my way of working may be micro-managing the printing process, but for me - it works.
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Old 22nd April 2019, 06:53 AM
KPtheamateur KPtheamateur is offline
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Thanks very much for all the suggestions, I really appreciate people taking the time.

Mike and MartyNL - it's a bit of both. I have some negs that are not terribly well exposed but I like the composition and want to salvage them, and some prints I really want to get very high contrast on because it suits the composition. I don't have a scanner of my own so the only prints I can share are ones on my Flickr, and they're ones I'm happyish with. This one (shot on SFX200) and this one (shot on FP4+) were printed at 100% magenta although as I'm sure you can see, quite a bit of dodging and burning was used in both so I don't know how useful that will be.

Also my Kaiser setup has no place to mount Ilford multigrade filters, sadly.

Tony - thanks very much for that, I will have a go with selenium toning when I get the chance!

B&W Neil - thanks, as you and others have pointed out I should probably get more discriminating in my film stock choices. I don't develop my own negs, I send off to Ag at the moment, and FP4 and PanF50 come back with lots of midtones. I have made the assumption that if the negs have lots of info on them I can burn and dodge more and still get some good detail, but maybe that's not always the best way.
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Old 22nd April 2019, 08:44 AM
alexmuir alexmuir is offline
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Hi Kieran. The answer is to start developing your own negatives. It’s not difficult, and shouldn’t be too expensive to get started. I looked at the images from your link. Your subject matter doesn’t look like it should need the hardest contrast settings on your enlarger. Producing your own negatives allows you to tailor them to your printing equipment and image requirements.
I would also make sure your enlarger bulb is working properly. They tend to yellow with age, which can affect the contrast of your prints.
It should be possible to fit Ilford filters to your enlarger. The below lens type come as a kit with a holder that fits between the lens and its mounting. You have to be careful buying them secondhand, however, as they fade with use. In a good set, the filter material should look shiny, and each filter should have a distinct colour.
Alex


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  #10  
Old 22nd April 2019, 02:13 PM
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dsallen dsallen is offline
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The two examples that you posted links for do not have high contrast, no real blacks and look very light. Assuming that they have been developed to a reasonable quality by Ag better prints should be possible.

These kind of prints from reasonable negatives are quite often the result of too little exposure at the enlarging stage and/or too little time in the developer at the developing stage.

Firstly, let's tackle the developing stage. Are you developing for a consistent amount of time? or taking the prints out of the developer when they 'look right'? The best way of improving the consistency of your prints is to always develop the prints for a fixed time and, for RC paper, I would suggest with any fresh mainstream developer this should be for a minimum of 2 minutes. This creates a constant in your workflow and then you can address the question of how much exposure in the enlarger will deliver blacks where they should occur in the image.

Once you have a standard developing time, you should then do a test strip to identify what exposure will produce a good black in an area which should be black. During this process, you may well find that you have been giving insufficient enlarger exposure. If the exposure that gave you a deep black where it should be in the image produces a dark print with no bright highlights this would indicate that the film has had insufficient development. As Alex wrote, the best way of dealing with this is to develop the films yourself as you can fine tune everything yourself. If this is not possible for you, then you should, in the first instance, ask Ag to process your film for 20% longer than their standard development time (I have had a number of students who have used labs to process their films and were not satisfied with the contrast and the labs have told them that they have moved towards shorter development times because the majority of their customers scan their films and a lower contrast is better for scanning).

One final thing to note is that both myself and many photographers that I know have found that the modern Kentmere papers do not deliver a true Grade V contrast.

Bests,

David.
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Last edited by dsallen; 22nd April 2019 at 02:16 PM. Reason: Typos
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