Black and white blunders!!

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ted_smith, May 8, 2008.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    I'm so dissapointed. One of the reasons I came to APUG was to learn more about B&W but it seems I've not being paying attention! I sent my first roll of of Kodak T-MAX 100 to Peak Imaging the other day and the prints that have come back look almost sepia - I'm assuming I've just messed up the exposures totally.

    I thought that film was really tollerant to tonal variations etc and the conditions I was photographing in weren't massively demanding. When exposing each scene I generally dialled in my values based on the matrix meter readings (using my Nikon F80) and checking that the scene was neither under or over exposed and then pressed the shutter.

    What do you think I've done wrong? Why are my black and white prints more like a pale grey that lack punch and contrast? A far cry from Ansel Adams' masterpeices
     
  2. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Ansel Adams first prints weren't up to much either Ted; come to think of it neither were mine.:sad:
     
  3. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Ted,

    Good news, your exposure had nothing to do with the tone of the prints. Bad (not really, I guess) news, the prints were probably scanned and printed on color paper.

    You can probably discuss the print tone with the printer and your photos could be reprinted in a more neutral tone.

    Neal Wydra
     
  4. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Sepia and grey? That sounds like they have been printed (very badly) on colour paper... You will generally only get good prints if you either print the negatives yourself or have them printed to your detailed requirements.

    The important thing is what the negatives look like. Let someone local who is experienced have a look at the negs and prints and give their opinion. But, sight unseen, I'd guess the printing was simply badly done. Having said that, if badly over or under-exposed, that may be the best the automated printing machine could do with the negatives...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  5. apochromatic

    apochromatic Member

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    Duff prints - no excuse

    These days there is no excuse for labs printing BW badly, even if it is on colour paper. Send them back and have them done properly or use another lab next time: there are plenty that offer good BW processing.
     
  6. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    Printing is half the battle in photography and that's why most of it do it ourselves. If you can scan a copy of the print it will give us an idea who is to blame..most likely the print operator!
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I don't think Ansel sent his B&W negs out to a commercial lab to be developed and then printed on color paper:tongue::wink:

    If you are going to sending out your film to be processed, you are going to have to learn how to judge your negs by inspection. Not easy for the beginner.

    The color of your prints will depend on the machine and the operator of the machine -- neutral color is tough to achieve if both are not up to snuff.

    Things to check for in your negs:

    1...do the shadow areas have detail in them -- or are they underexposed which would have your shadow areas be clear like the edges of the film (where the sprocket holes are).

    If you can see detail in the shadow areas, then you exposed it enough -- if the entire neg is dark, then you probably over-exposed.

    2...The highlight areas are dark -- but one should be able to see detail them when you hold them up to a light. If what you are photographing has a "normal" range of lights and darks and if the lab processed them correctly, the highlights should be dark like above, but not a medium gray.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2008
  8. G.M.B.

    G.M.B. Member

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    Regarding your uncertainty about exposure, I would try shooting with an all-manual camera (gotta say that I have a mild distrust for AE cameras), and bracket your exposures. This way you control all aspects of exposure, and you can choose the negative that best represents your mental image of the shot in question.

    As for the prints, it does sound as if they were printed on color paper. I agree with those who've written that to obtain the best B&W prints, you should ideally print them yourself or go with a professional lab, though this latter solution would probably be costly.

    GMB
     
  9. aparat

    aparat Member

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    The Nikon F80 has a really good matrix meter. It is unlikely that you messed up your exposures, unless you were shooting in extremely backlit situations. I would say the lab messed up by not being able to scan your film well, and, consequently, printing garbage on color paper. I would either contact the lab and have them re-print the photos, or go to a different lab. You can also ask a lab to give you proofs first. In the US, even a drug store lab can do a decent job, provided you get to know the tech and ask them very kindly to try to do a good job on your prints.

    Good luck!

    aparat
     
  10. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    Don't overlook the obvious. Maybe they gave you sepia toned prints by mistake.
     
  11. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    Peak only print on colour paper as far as I can tell from their website. There's a lot of ads in the back of B&W Photography magazine for people offering dev&printing on real black&white paper.
     
  12. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Thanks everyone!! I feel a little better now - I thought I was just rubbish!

    I thought Peak Imaging were 'top notch' - they come highly recommended on most forums including this one - which is why I assumed they had not done anything wrong. My colour prints that came back looked great. I can't beleive that a lab like that would use colour paper for B & W though! Additionally, I thought B & W was 'kinda easy' to develop by anyone who knows what they're doing - i.e. a photo lab.

    Akki - your reply is insightful. I did not know that. I will try out a proper B & W developers perhaps

    I wonder - would anyone here who's from the UK and who knows their stuff about B & W be good enough to allow me to send the prints and negatives to them so that they can look at them and give me their opinion? I don't mean their opinion of the art, but their opinion of the prints quality and whether I have done anything wrong? I'm not sure that by scanning a few prints in that it would show up properly.
     
  13. Solarize

    Solarize Member

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    Ted, thats pretty common practice. My local lab print black and white on colour paper unless you specify otherwise; and they charge twice as much if you do.
     
  14. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    B&W is a pain to develop because there's so many variables involved, tweaking the time here and there to get the perfect negative for the perfect print according to the person developing the negatives and printing from them. C-41 (colour negative) is easier. There is a set ISO standard of developing all the colour negative film in the world so most screw ups there are on the user(though you can still have awful prints from a bad printer). The massive dev chart gives you a mindboggling clue as to how many different combinations you can have for B&W film developing and that's not even the printing side of things!
     
  15. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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  16. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Although they get a lot of stick I found Jessops BW printing was pretty good last time I used them (2 years ago when I returned to analogue). Maybe they could reprint one of your negs.
    If you can get access to a scanner then scan a neg and post it here - you know how helpful this place is :smile:
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Ilford has a B & W processing service for 35mm (with 120 coming soon!). They indicate that they will "any standard process 35mm black and white film".

    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/wheretobuy/page.asp?n=145

    I understand from posts here that they have happy customers :smile:.

    Matt
     
  18. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Matt - that looks like just the ticket. I've also made an enquiry to www.the-darkroom.co.uk. In the meantime, Bob F has kindly agreed to look at my pictures for me.