B&W Negatives - Judging Good or Bad?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by KeithM, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. KeithM

    KeithM Member

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    Coming back to developing my own b&w film after a gap of over twenty years, I am in a bit of a quandary when it comes to judging whether or not I am getting the development right or not. I am aware there are lots of guides and 'how to's' on the web and yes I do have Ansel Adam's 'The Negative'! If I dare mention the word 'scanning', this is where part of my problem lies I think, in that using VueScan on my Epson Perfection 3200, the results all look very light but the histograms seem OK.

    Therefore I am trying to eliminate the negative as being at fault and if the negs are OK, I can then dig further. At the moment I seem to be going around in circles! In the image below, the left side is HP5+ developed in Ilfosol 3 @ 1+9 for 6mins 30secs. The right side is a neg from 1988, FP4 developed in Unitol. There is a difference in the film-base colour in that the FP4 has a pinkish tinge whereas the HP5 has a more blue/grey tone - presumably a change in base material in the intervening years?

    I would appreciate opinions on the HP5 neg as to whether it looks to be correctly developed - thanks!

    [​IMG]
     
  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    They look too contrasty, but they also look like they were shot on a very harsh sunny day. That itself will give too much negative contrast, even if you are developing correctly. Reducing the developing time by 25% and giving one stop more exposure (the reduced developing time lowers contrast but also reduces the film's effective speed by a stop) will give negs in those lighting conditions that are easier to scan (and easier to print in the traditional way if you ever go for a darkroom).

    As far as the scans looking too light, keep in mind that films scans usually look too flat and sometimes too light. That's just how scanners work. You have to edit the scans to bring out the normal tonality. Use Photoshop or Elements or whatever you like to work on photos with in the computer. See my tech info webpage for examples of that.
     
  3. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    That should scan beautifully. Looks perhaps 1/2 stop underexposed compared to the fp4, but still perfectly usable, and maybe that's the look you were going for? you can see the building is denser looking on the fp4 negative. Probably a metering issue because the building looks fine, but the lawn is a little thin, but it's that way on both. I don't there is any problem with developing.
     
  4. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The best way to tell about development is to see how it prints (ie how it matches your paper).

    I'd say #10 is underexposed. #20 can be a challenge to print even when processed to a contrast index that matches a paper exactly (depending on how much shadow detail you want in the print).
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Impossible to judge from a scan (if I'm forced, I'd say underexposed and overdeveloped). To be sure, you need to print them and tell us what grade it took to get detail in all areas of the print, or if you exclude the sky, how much burning-in did it require. Can you show the scans of the print?
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Concur. There is plenty of information in the shadows but getting it all to look right...

    Get to printin'.
     
  7. panchro-press

    panchro-press Member

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    Read 'The Zone VI Workshop' by Fred Picker. A 'proper proof' will help you to easily evaluate negatives.

    Dave
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    All I know is that a good neg is a joy to print. It's even better if the whole roll is the same. The highlights are rich with detail and the shadows too. I hate blocked up highlights and empty shadows. I know this is a very general question but, does anybody know if the response if BW paper is different than CCD and CMOS sensors of scanners? If so, in what way?
     
  9. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    The image on HP5 was taken in overcast conditions whereas the image on FP4 was taken in bright, directional, sunlight. You can tell by the way there is little contrast difference between the elevations of the church in the image on HP5, whereas, in the image on FP4, there is a clear contrast difference between the two visible elevations of the church tower (the grass in the middle foreground is in deep shade).

    The slight colour variations are insignificant. The HP5 neg looks a little underexposed (that grass in the foreground would be closer to a a mid tone, if the exposure was correct) whereas the FP4 image might prove more difficult to print because of the greater contrast range caused by the lighting conditions. One solution to this might be overexposure/underdevelopment as mentioned above. Another solution might be trying to print it with a diffusion head enlarger, especially if you've tried before with a condensor head.

    The difficulty is learning to spot those differences in contrast in the field and being able to accommodate overexposure/underdevelopment using a 35mm camera, when it's not always possible to separate exposure/development for individual images on a long 35mm film...

    Regards
    Jerry
     
  10. AmsterdamMartin

    AmsterdamMartin Member

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    Yes, slight underexposure and minimal irrelevant overdevelopment of HP5+.
    You could change that or just dial in iso 320 or 200 on your camera and forget about it.
    As a surplus you could also underdevelop: pulling ! But rather go back another day.
    To me neither development nor scanning are an issue here.
    Your 1988 photos just are better: lighting etc.
    The situation in 1988 was more preferable, and allthough I am not sure, you might have used a yellow or orange filter in '88 ?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2011
  11. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    Hi Keith, I'm a bit unclear, are you going to print those negs in the darkroom eventually? If so, then a standard printing time test will quickly evaluate your negatives. That's where you expose a sheet of paper through a blank frame of the same film type, processed the same, until you reach a convincing black. Then just print your negative the same way, without making any changes to the enlarger. That can recommend adjustments in exposure and development. I can go into grater detail if you need it. On the other hand, if you're scanning to go into digital prints, most scanners have a way of changing the scanner settings to maximize the image. I never use the auto settings on the scanner. I adjust the settings to get as much detail in the shadows and highlights as possible, and then adjust the values in Photoshop. Same with sharpening.

    Also, the tint on the film backing is caused by the dye that prevents halation. Different fixers and hypo clearing agents remove varying amounts of it. it is not going to interfere with image quality. Sometimes environmental factors will cause the antihalation leuco dyes to reappear over time on films that were originally clearer. It's no biggie.

    Best, Doug Schwab
     
  12. KeithM

    KeithM Member

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    Thank you everybody for taking the time/trouble to respond - appreciated! At the risk of being thrown out of the forum, my b&w work is limited to development only, not printing having only a changing bag, tank and a kitchen sink to work with. Therefore the scanning is a necessary precursor to loading into LR3 & CS4 and any printing would be inkjet.

    As mentioned in my original post, it is over twenty years since I last developed a film and given the struggle I have been having with the results from the scanner, I was having some doubts about whether I had got the development right or not. There is understandably some variation in replies but mostly they indicate that the HP5 neg is not too far out. This is encouraging and hopefully with more practice I will be able to have more confidence in producing good quality negs.

    Thanks again.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Keith:

    The two examples you show are both quite challenging - they may not be the best negatives to use when you are trying to fine tune your exposure and development.

    Do you have any negatives where the scene is illuminated by less contrasty light, but still exhibits a wide range of tones? A scene where the illumination is high overcast, and the shadows are present, but illuminated would be a great target. The classic "light from a north facing window" can also be great.

    If you can get your exposure and development dialled in for that sort of scene, adjustments for light that is either more or less harsh are relatively straightforward.
     
  14. KeithM

    KeithM Member

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    Below is a shot taken on the same roll. There was a high overcast with diffuse light. For info, the photo of the negative was taken with it on a small light-table (as was the earlier shot).

    [​IMG]
     
  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    That last example looks just a bit over-developed to me. I would think, however that you should be able to make a good print from it (whatever method you choose).

    I'd try a 10% decrease in development, and bracket some more test shots with similar lighting.
     
  16. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    That's probably good advise. I would try the same and don't be shy to try a 20% decrease in development, but no need to bracket towards underexposure.
     
  17. KeithM

    KeithM Member

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    Thanks Matt and Ralph. Before posting here I had been trawling through various examples on web sites and re-reading my copies of M. Langford's 'Basic Photography' and A. Adams's 'the Negative', seeking enlightenment on what constitutes a good neg. The responses here have been of great help.

    I had started to pour the Ilfosol 3 in ten-seconds before the full minute, agitated as per the leaflet and started to pur the dev out at the 6min 20secs mark. It may well be that by being a bit slow of the mark in getting the Ilfostop into the tank, some over-development has taken place. Will try harder with the next roll!
     
  18. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    This should probably be over on "Hybrid" but, if you're intending to scan your negs and print digitally, Keith, then there's not much wrong with any of your negatives - you should be able to squeeze the information out of them quite easily in Photoshop.

    Regards
    Jerry
     
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    That's only about 2.5%. Not enough to worry about or to see any difference.


    Steve.
     
  20. KeithM

    KeithM Member

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    Thanks for the info regarding the 'Hybrid' forum, which I have just discovered is now DPUG. Have registered and will now pester members there with my questions! :smile: