Are contact prints of 35mm negs. "a must do"?

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Mike Kennedy, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. Mike Kennedy

    Mike Kennedy Member

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    Now that I have a light box and no longer have to use the Rusco porch door to view my negs. should I start making contact sheets? I did it while taking darkroom classes at night school but have been told by a few printers that they were not necessary.
    If this step is a "must do" can anyone point me to a site with plans for a home made unit. Love to get a new contact frame {BUT} my bank account is registering "TILT" after the holiday blowout.

    Thank You,
    Mike
     
  2. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    It's up to you. I do neg scanning instead.

    But generally, it's quicker to make contact prints to check photos.
     
  3. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Hi Mike, I have been using a light box and it does the job. However I am going to get a contact frame for 35mm (I use a sheet of glass for 6x6) for the simple reason that it helps with filing and I don't have to get my negs out (just realised that sounds like a double-entendre !) every time I want to choose a print.
    A second hand dealer I use has one for £15 (C$ 30 ?) and they are on e-bay
    see http://cgi.ebay.ca/PATERSON-35mm-CO...577500446QQcategoryZ29987QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    I don't have ANY connection with that sale btw.

    Hope it helps; Chris
     
  4. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Making contact sheets has always been a natural next step in the process after developing the negatives. It gives me a better idea of which images I want to spend more time on in the printing stage, tells me about exposure and contrast, and serves as a reference in the future if I want to go back and look at images I have made in the past. As far as a contact printer, I use a 1/4" sheet of plate glass purchased from a local glass shop. They beveled the sharp edges so i don't cut myself. Simple, elegant, and cost only a few bucks.
     
  5. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Contact sheets may not be "necessary" if you can read a negative and tell from looking at it how it will print (I confess that I can't), but it is certainly useful when it comes to filing. As Chris said, it makes finding a shot you want much easier if you can just look at a contact sheet rather than have to remove a sheet of negs from a folder and put them on a light box one by one.

    It also helps you narrow down your personal exposure index (EI) and development time if you do not want to do detailed testing (see attached PDF article by Barry Thornton who is, sadly, no longer with us).

    Cheers, Bob.
     

    Attached Files:

  6. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    When I did a lot of 35mm I found no use for contact sheets. Then I read Fred Picker's Zone VI Workshop and learned that I needed to be making proper proofs. I got a lot of useful informatioin from the proper proofs - and avoided wasting a lot of time on unprintable negatives.

    Basically, through testing, you determine the proper time to expose a print so that the film edge just prints maximum black (after you've worked out proper negative exposure and development time). You print your contact sheet at that time invariably. The good ones - and the bad ones - become obvious.
    juan
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I use contact sheets for filing/indexing and as a crutch for negative selection. But, my "contact sheets" are now mostly printouts of full-page scans of the entire roll in its PrintFile sheet.

    For some folks (inlcuding me in the past), however, a real contact print is/was an important element in their overall processing regimen.
     
  8. esanford

    esanford Member

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    I'd like to underscore this comment. A proper contact proof tells you if the negative is printable. The other thing that Fred Picker emphasized is that you should make contract prints on the same paper that you normally print on. Again this let's you know whether or not you should be spending your time trying to make a fine print of a negative. Another thing that is helpful with 35mm negatives is a nice magnifyng glass. Because 35mm negs are so small (especially to old eyes like mine) it will enable you to fully analyze the contact sheet. When I used to do a lot of 35mm, I was often fooled by what appeared to be a good proof. Then upon enlarging it would be out of focus due to camera shake or poor focusing.

    Looking at negatives on a light box really does not provide sufficient information as to whether the negative is printable in the wet darkroom.

    Also, negative scans really show you nothing, if you plan to make a wet print in the darkroom. Computers can do a good job of producing pictures from really bad negatives that are unprintable in the darkroom (I will concede that a negative scan will tell you how well you used the camera). The other risk of negative scanning is causing scratches or other damage to your negatives. Therefore, I try to avoid the short term gratification of 'seeing-the-picture-now' that is afforded by negative scanning. If you are going to negative scan, I say stop the charade and just use a digital camera :smile:!
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I make contact sheets primarily for filing purposes and deciding on printability from a composition/ content standpoint.

    With a lightbox and loupe I pretty much know how a neg is going to print, and since some negatives lend themselves to different printing papers I simply contact on RC paper. RC makes filing simpler since it lays flat in folders.
     
  10. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Mike,

    I agree with those who advocate the use of contact sheets. For consistency, always use the same kind of paper, the same lens, the same enlarger height and condenser adjustment, and the same exposure time. This will make it easier to hit correct enlargement times when going from one roll of film to another. Since I scanned rapidly through the responses above, I don't recall if any mentioned that the back of a contact sheet is also a good place to write printing data. A Sharpie pen works well on RC paper.

    Konical
     
  11. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Nice PDF Bob. Did someone convert all his articles to PDF files?

    --John
     
  12. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Not officially, but I converted a few for reading on the Tube on the way in to work...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  13. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    I agree. I have scanned negatives that looked great on the screen but were very difficult to print in the darkroom. I now resist the urge to "peek" with scanning and do a proper proof sheet. Like Fred says, if a negative looks bad on the proof sheet, it is because it is bad.
     
  14. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    I have not found the contact sheet of much value to my self, as I can simply look at the negative and tell pretty much what it will look like printed,
    However editors art directors and most other like the proof sheet. I do not use them for file purposes, so they are pretty much a waste of time for me personally. My thoughts are if you need them, like them and use them then indeed make contact sheets, if you are like myself, I can work very well without them. Each unto his own. I do not personally agree with a lot of Fred Pickers philosophy and tecnique, it worked for him, if it works for you,
    use it!

    Charlie..........................
    I personally would feel pretty dumb to have spent all these years in photography and not have learned how to be able to read a negatives potential at a glance.
     
  15. Mike Kennedy

    Mike Kennedy Member

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    I guess proof sheets are a matter of preference , six of one and 1/2 dozen of the other. The ease of filing and ability to wright notes on the back of proof sheets would probably improve my system, which is at best ,a fairly chaotic undertaking.
    Thanks one and all.

    Mike
     
  16. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    It's really personal preference. I find making proper contact sheets to be a waste of time and photographic paper and contact sheets in general to be totally worthless. Obviously others disagree and get good results by making them. I'm a much better judge of a negative than a contact sheet.
     
  17. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I have not made a contact sheet of 35mm since I was in High School, and don't feel my photograhpy has suffered for it...But as others have stated, contacts are a personal preference thing, if you have never done any, you might do some up and see if it works for your particular work flow.

    Dave
     
  18. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    This is not something to debate, and I think the answer to the original question is, it's both yes and no at the same time.

    I prefer the neg scan of 35mm negs because I know my negs are pretty consistant in quality, so their appearence on the computer screen is for the benefit of demonstrating the potential images of the final prints. And if the exposures are poor, I can see that, too.

    Also for the magnification purpose, it's easier.

    And about scratching the negs, not really if you use a decent 35mm scanner like Nikon Coolscan V. But I remember when I used the flatbed scanners (old Agfa and Epson) for my 35mm negs, their neg folders often caused scatches. But still, those scarches were on the plastic side, which affected none to the prints when I put nose oil.

    Considering how much I have to spend for each 25 sheet pack or 100 sheet box of 8x10" Ilford RC today, I just don't see the reason why I have to have such expensive index paper for filing my negs. Filing on the computer however saves all that, and I don't have to print them out.

    At the same time it serves as a backup just in case something terrible happens to the negs and they get deteriorated, which hasn't happened, though. But of course, if you don't have negs but just digital files, then you have to worry about storing them even more carefully. So I think the combination works the best.

    But if I were to teach someone who's never developed film and/or made a contact sheet before, I would say no neg scan yet. :smile:
     
  19. esanford

    esanford Member

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    Charles,

    You are one of the people on this site who I highly respect because of your vast experience. But really, you can look at a set of negatives and determine which ones are printable and which are not? I can't count the number of times after developing film that I thought that I'd really hit it on the button only to find after proofing the negatives that they were all trash. I don't have your experience, but I have been doing this for 25 years. I absolutely cannot look at a negative and determine anything short of fogging or severe underexposure.... Bravo man!!!

    I have to proof everything. I will confess that I am a student of Fred Picker... I've done all of his tests and many of his exercises, and I have found his methods to be absolutely dead on... Now I don't want to start a debate on Fred, God Rest his Soul, because mentioning his name can start a soap box controversey. I just found his methods to be based upon hard work and discipline. Not only did I use his technique for photography, I've applied it in other aspects of life.... For instance his saying that products do what they do and not necessarily what the manufacturers says is something that I use all the time...
     
  20. esanford

    esanford Member

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    No debate here man... just a discussion.... In my case, if I look at negatives too hard, I tend to scratch them:smile:. For me, it's develop, dry, place in the neg holders, and never touch them without film gloves. The negs never come out unless I find one that deserves printing...which is very seldom.

    I understand all of your other points and have tried them. Frankly, when I want to do all that, I just pull out the digital camera and stay electronic all the way.

    I am glad that you would teach a newbie the old analog way before you would recommend short-cuts... To me, most of the digital photographers have entered that world because its easy and not because its better. Having said that, there are some very creative digital photographers out there.... But for me, when you add the computer, you've left the analog world... I know, I know, we have to scan prints for post here on APUG. I only do prints for that purpose; never neg scans. Moreover, I never comment on someone's negative scans. I think that printing in the darkroom is a necessary part of that process.... But then again, I'm just one guy...
     
  21. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I really have to relate this, simply because it makes my point that contact sheets are not really that useful.

    When I was a newspaper photographer (with a rotating door of news editors and photo editors), one of the photo editors I dealt with required contact sheets of everything.

    I shot an MVA (motor vehicle accident) one day that wasn't particularly earthshaking but I had some good pictures. The photo editor looked at my contact sheet and said, "I don't see anything" and went home for the day. I was PO'd because I knew what I had shot. I went to the lab, printed a photo of a firefighter pulling an infant out of the smashed up car and gave it to the news editor--sort of going over the PE's head. It ran small inside the paper but it ran. But, at the end of the year, I won a first place in news photography for that picture.

    Stuff on contact sheets are hard to resolve. Your eye, your mind and a negative are all you really need.
     
  22. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    If you shoot multiple subjects on the same roll, contact sheets assist in keeping track of your negatives.

    If you shoot several images of the same subject, with only minor differences between negatives, contact sheets assist in identifying the right negative.

    There are other methods (carefully numbered and labeled proofs, carefully labelled scans, etc.) but contact sheets are the easiest way to keep track.

    Just make sure to label the contact sheet and the negative sleeves carefully, and use film with frame numbers, or add your own.

    Matt
     
  23. MSchuler

    MSchuler Subscriber

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    I also used a sheet of glass from the local window store with ground edges. In addition, I put a border on it using black gaffer's tape. This gives me somewhere to grab the glass without leaving fingerprints. Plus I don't worry as much about chipping the edges of the glass accidentally.