Beginner question: Tonality at different enlargements.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Cybertrash, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. Cybertrash

    Cybertrash Member

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    I recently got my darkroom set up again, and yesterday I decided to make some prints from a 35mm roll of FP-4+ I shot recently. First I made a contact sheet and noticed a shot with some great tones that I decided to print. I put the negative in my enlarger (I use a diffuser head with a Schneider Componon 50mm) and made a 9"x12" print (there were some borders, but the image covered almost the entire paper). When I developed the print I noticed that the tonality that caught my attention on the contact sheet was completely absent from the final print. On the contact sheet there was beatiful separation of shadows and highlights, and very smooth tones alltogether, whereas on the print everything looked kind of muddy and flat. some parts of the subject almost melted into the background.

    I was wondering, could this be due to too much enlargement, could I be pushing the limits of a handheld 125ASA 35mm negative? It should be noted that both prints were made on the same type of paper and both with a grade 2 "filter" (using a dichro head, so no filtration at all really).
     
  2. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Nothing beats the quality of contact prints. Are you using the same type of paper, using the same grade filter and processing the prints the same way? I think tonalities are smoother the smaller the print. For me, bigger is not necessarily better. What might also help is to stand back to look at the print.
     
  3. Barry S

    Barry S Subscriber

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    That's one of the reasons I no longer shoot 35mm--it's much easier to make good enlargements from medium and large format. I used to notice that difference between the contact sheets and enlargements all the time. However, you should be able to make a beautiful 9x12 print from 35mm. Have you tried split-grade printing? In my experience, it's a very reliable method for managing highlights and shadows--and getting a high quality print. My other remedy is slightly more complicated--large format contact prints. :devil:
     
  4. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Contrast used in a contact often differs from the actual grade required for a print. I make my contacts at grade 2,5/3 but I prefer to print with 4.5-5+.
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I think this is an expectations issue. I'm not saying 35mm has better tonality. For me, just know what you're gonna get in the end with your workflow. I'm seen some amazing shots from grainy film done on purpose. It all depends on what you want to say.
     
  6. ROL

    ROL Member

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    I would add that recognizing the difference between contacts (of any size) and enlargements, as you have, is a great asset to the process of making a fine art print. This is the reason one needs to make proof prints – enlargements of sufficient size to grasp the fine art potential of any print. I have boxes and boxes of 8x10 proofs from 35mm to 8x10, which except for a happy few, will never go any further as print enlargements. I feel so strongly about the false potential of contacts, save for contact printing itself, that I no longer contact LF sheet film as part of my process, preferring to go straight to the small enlargement 8x10 proofing stage. Simply, as many contact printers will certainly attest, a contact print is not, for better or worse, an enlargement (and vice versa!).

    Perceptually related, I cannot say how many times I have clicked on an intriguing thumbnail only to be disappointed by the banal digital enlargement thus presented. (This is not digi criticism, I'm only drawing a parallel.)
     
  7. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    From a well exposed and processed 35mm frame, you can make a wonderful 9x12 print.

    If you insert a #2 filter in your enlarger and make a contact print, then make a enlargement with that same setup, the contrast will appear lower on the latter. I don't know why but it always happens to me. Maybe it's a visual thing... or maybe it's real. I only use contact sheet as a guide, and work on making a great print. THAT is a separate process.

    But, there's also a matter of degree... if it is excessively lacking contrast, sharpness, or just plain muddy, then you'll need to inspect your lens closely. It is not unusual for enlarger lens (which we almost always get them second hand) to have some light haze. More than half of my lenses came this way. If this is the case, you'll need to clean that.
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Like tkamiya notes, I would also suspect the enlarging lens to have contributed some loss of contrast. Check that out!

    Also, contact printing and enlarging ARE two different ways of printing, with different results to be expected. Continue to work with your print in the enlarger until you are happy with the results, is the best advice I can give. Eventually you will learn to interpret your contact sheet, and what expectation you can have of your enlargements.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 1, 2013
  9. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Check for dirty or hazy enlarging lens.
     
  10. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    This doesn't sound correct. Are you sure both contact print and enlargement were made from the same filtered lightsource?
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I've seen the same, prints generally take more.
     
  12. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Precisely, Mark.

    In my opinion, contacts are really only useful for quickly evaluating what you've got on the roll. 35mm contacts are less helpful because they're so small as to hardly even provide you an idea of what you've truly got. I prefer to make 4x6 mini prints on cheap rc paper, or make a good scan of the neg to evaluate frames that I think might be worth taking to 11x16/16x20/20x24" FB. My scanner, a Minolta Scan Multi Pro, can deliver a 25x25" print from 6x6 at 300DPI with no interpolation with the glass holder, so if the neg holds up to that sort of enlargement (which I can preview on my computer) I know i won't have any trouble with it in the darkroom.
     
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Can you provide a scan of the contact and the enlargement, so we can see what you refer to as tonality?
     
  14. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Dear OP,

    What you have experienced is quite normal.

    A contact print is the result of direct contact to the photographic paper.

    When you enlarge an image other factors come into play:
    • Progressively lowering of contrast due to enlargement
    • Flare introduced by the lens
    • Individual tones being more apparent due to size of enlargement


    What you need to do is the following:
    • Find a negative where you have a shadow detail on a negative that is almost clear (i.e. it only has flare caused by your lens and any possible chemical fogging) and which will look almost as clear as the rebates (area that was not part of the image where the manufacturer's frame numbers/make of film is printed) but has slightly more visually density.
    • Use this area of the negative to find your minimum black time (this involves doing a test print where you give this area successively more exposure until any extra exposure shows no increase in the density of the black). Then you will know what is the minimum exposure required to achieve a full black on your print.
    • Using this exposure time do a series of tests at differing grades to find out what grade of paper will, at this exposure required to achieve a full black, give you bright highlights.
    • You now know what grade of paper you need to replicate the tonality you saw in the contact prints. This is the grade of paper you need to use in the future.
    • If, after these tests you find that your dark shadows are always too black, this will indicate that you need to give at least one more stop exposure to render the dark shadows with sufficient detail.
    • If, after these tests you find that you always need to use Grade V (the norm being between Grade II to III), this will indicate that you need to give at least 40% more development time.
    • If, after these tests you find that you always need to use Grade IV (the norm being between Grade II to III), this will indicate that you need to give at least 20% more development time.
    • If, after these tests you find that you always need to use Grade I (the norm being between Grade II to III), this will indicate that you need to give at least 20% less development time.
    • If, after these tests you find that you always need to use Grade 0 (the norm being between Grade II to III), this will indicate that you need to give at least 40% less development time.

    If anything is not clear, please send me a PM with full details of how you are working from exposure/film used, processing regime and which photographer's work you admire.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  15. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    David, with all due respect, please note the OP states a Beginner question. I think this reply may be confusing at this stage. Let's try and find out what he means by tonality.
     
  16. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Every time light passes through glass, there is some degradation of the image. Many years ago, I gave up and just bought larger cameras so that all prints are contact prints.
     
  17. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    By "no filter at all really" do you mean you didn't dial any filtration and relied on the papers grade two default, or you dialed grade two for the contact print? If you didn't dial any filtration, you need to. If you did dial up the filtration, then maybe you need to add contrast as you enlarge. I sometimes find I need to add half to a full grade of contrast to get 8x10's to look close to my contacts from 35mm negs.
     
  18. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I thought he expressed it very well in his original post - what he exactly means by tonality.
     
  19. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    To kind of distill down what David said:
    1. Bump up your printing filtration a grade or so when you enlarge. Depending on the image, a grade 3 may give you the "pop" you're looking for if the contact sheet looks good at a grade 2.
    2. If your print only has dark shades of gray but no blacks, your print is underexposed. Expose long enough that you have some spot in the print go to maximum black.
     
  20. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    In addition to the above suggestion to consider the cleanliness of your enlarger lens, there's an annoying effect wherein increasing the size of a print reduces the apparent contrast even if the contrast has not changed at all (i.e. the same tonal range is represented).

    The problem is that our eyes are very good at auto-adjusting to absolute light levels so we don't really perceive the actual magnitude of the tonal range. Instead, we perceive the rate of change of brightness, i.e. the slope of density with respect to position. You've made an 8x enlargement, which means that the gradient present on the paper is 8x shallower than it is in the contact print.

    Making a larger print have as much impact as a smaller print generally requires you to bump up the contrast a little, which of course is a problem because the paper will no longer have enough tonal range. Assuming you fit the tonal range that you care about into the smaller print, it's not going to fit in the larger print. You may want to think about dodging & burning or masking in order to compress the total dynamic range of the image while maintaining high local contrast, i.e. the gradient present on the print: it will bring the print more impact from steeper gradients, more sparkle, etc, without loss of detail in highlights and shadows.

    Of course once you have the dodge/burn/mask etc techniques mastered and apply them to the small print, it may look even better.

    An 8x enlargement from FP4 should provide sufficient quality if it's well-processed. Grain is likely to be visible though so you lose a little smoothness from that: a matter of taste.
     
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I recently ran into this exact problem. I made a contact proof and was very pleased with everything about it. It was "love at first sight." And that is a look that is difficult to get out of your mind's eye once it has set in.

    Then when I went to print, the enlargement fell short of my expectations based on what I saw in the proof.

    I discussed this at LFF and ROL saw one weakness in my Red Cones shot, soft background - likely because I used a relatively wide aperture f/8, focused closer than appropriate for infinity. This was not evident on the contact print. But it stands out as a defect on an enlargement. You might see this as a reason to recommend shooting 8x10 and making contact prints.

    I take it as a reason to "never" make contact prints, or small prints (unless that is the intended finished size). Then I won't be disappointed (because of these differences) by the enlargements.

    In a practical sense, I do that. I make most of my prints at 11x14 and if they don't look good they get filed away.

    If they do look good, I am done.

    I like that part of the plan.
     
  22. mesantacruz

    mesantacruz Subscriber

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    looking through this, this post is helpful for me...
    thanks... although the op didn't ask this, i'm sure he does find it very helpful as well.
     
  23. Cybertrash

    Cybertrash Member

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    Thanks everyone for your answers, they have been very informative and I definintely feel that I've got a little more to "stand on" when it's time for my next printing session.

    There were some questions asked that I feel I should answer. I am indeed using paper from the same box, and I use the same filtration for both the contact sheet and the actual print, and I process in the exact same way.

    Someone mentioned that an unfiltered light from a dichro head does not equal to using a grade 2 contrast filter. I read the "Controlling Contrast" PDF on ilfordphoto.com which claimed that a grade 2 filter should correspond to a 0 filtration setting on my (130M max) Durst Enlarger. I must admit to being a bit confused though, as the PDF had two tables, one for single colour filter settings, and one for double, and I'm not quite sure what the difference is, is this for different types of dichro heads?

    The day after I wrote this post I went back into the darkroom and made a (roughly) 5"x7" print from the same negative. To me it looked a bit better, I think the very apparent grain might have had an effect on my perception of the 9"x12" print, but I also think a higher contrast grade would yield even more improved results.

    I've also cleaned my lens as suggested, with the help of a rocket blower and an Ilford cloth, it was fairly dusty and looked like it had a fingerprint on the front element. I'm going to the Stockholm Photographic Museum tonight to look at a exhibition on Helmut Newton, so I won't be able print, but hopefully I should have time for a printing session during the weekend, during which I'll try out of some of the remedies suggested.

    Thanks once again for your help, much appreciated!
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Double filtering and single filtering have the same effect on the paper for a given grade, final prints should theoretically be the same either way.

    Single filtering is simple but it requires you to adjust aperture or time with every filter change. Just like when you add a filter in front of the camera lens.

    Double filtering allows you to keep the enlarger aperture and time settings more constant. The filter theoretically remains the same density. For small changes it can be quite handy, say to go from grade 2 to 2.5 dial in the filter and print, no new test strips.

    I use single filtration because it has become really rare for me to need to adjust away from grade 2 when printing and because I find that with every contrast change I like a different exposure setting anyway and I use an enlarger meter to set exposure so its no streatch to reset aperture or time for whatever reason.