calibrating your printing process

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by B&W_arthur, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. B&W_arthur

    B&W_arthur Member

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    Recently, I have gathered equipment for enlarging and is ready to start. I want to get my printing process standardize somehow that I can save time/cost in processing my prints. Here is my though:

    1. Buy a Stouffer Transmission Projection Step Wedge and then use it with my Ilford EM10 and Durst 605 for calibrating my film processing, i.e. EI and development time.

    2. Use the Step Wedge to calibrate the EM10.

    3. Use the same equipment for determine the standard print time for Ilford VC paper for maximum black, esp. for 5x7 and 8x10 paper sizes. (Ralph Lambrecht plots the EM10 graph similarly, right?)

    Hopefully, I can determine:
    (i) EI and N development time for individual film
    (ii) Calibrate the EM10 that the corresponding film density for each EM10 number is known.
    (iii) Standard printing time for commonly used print sizes 5x7 and 8x10 are known
    (iv) determine the filter grade for a given film with a contrast range measured by the EM10 exposure monitor

    I have everything standby me except the Step Wedge. There are other Stouffer products, does the one mentioned above suit my need? Should I opt for a 21-steps or (EM10 not sensitive enough for) a 31-steps one? Calibrated one?

    Please feel free to comments and share your experience on calibrating your printing process, in particular if you use similar equipment.
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    If you want to get serious about this then I would follow the procedure outlined in the BTZS 4th edition.

    The reason that I suggest this is that it seems to be more comprehensive then other methods.

    I recognize other methods exist and I am not discounting them...just offering what my experience has shown me.
     
  3. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    For the weary, note: BTZS can be very dense stuff (no pun intended)

    edit: Ansels 'The Negative' and 'The Print' can be equally as dense
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 20, 2006
  4. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day arthur,
    it seems to me, and it's my experience, that one shouldn't standardise too much as each printing is a creative process with lots of variables that can be manipulated to produce unique works
     
  5. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Knowing what's going to happen to your film when you push the button is nice. Some may even say it is important. For me, it's like knowing what the piano is going to do when I press the key. For nearly everybody, I'd say get that far: know what's going to happen when you push the button.

    Beyond that, it's up to an individual's temperament. Some folks look outside and see a mass of details, and measure everything in sight before deciding if it's a nice day. Fine. For them, I heartily suggest Beyond the Zone System.

    For me, well, if it looks good, and I feel good, it's good. I have a less numerical approach, and it suits me well.

    If you are more confident in an analytical, numerical, approach to life you'll be confident and effective only if you bring this approach to your photography. If you are more intuitive, don't on any account start drawing graphs.

    An incredibly effective and reliable approach for the intuitive is to begin with a manufacturer's suggested Exposure Index and development time. Pick a scene that is the kind of scene you like to shoot and make a series of exposures at different settings, and give them the suggested development time. Make a series of proof prints. You'll probably have a couple pictures that are close to what you like: pick the one you like best, and note the exposure index you used for it. Load a second roll, of a few more sheets, and makes a series of images that are at the same setting, and give them development times. I'd choose the manufacturer's time, 20% more time, and 20% less time. Make quick prints and see which one brings you closer to your ideal. If you like the results, shoot that way. If you think an in-between setting is better, go with that.

    This is no more than applying sorting theory, and is equally effective to less integrative approach like BTZS. Use what makes sense, keep notes whatever you do, and go take pictures.

    Most importantly, SHOW us the pictures !

    good luck
     
  6. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    The entire premise behind the concept of calibration is that you will be able to maintain consistency throughout the process. This is what Fred Picker espoused with his Zone VI methods. That's cool. The key point that is missed by most people is that you need to purchase enough film and paper (of the same emulsion batch) to get through your calibration and testing to take advantage of the efficiencies of the standardization.

    If you must, do the calibration and testing for one batch so you know how it works and you can develop your eye for what works and what doesn't. Then you can get to spot that df cardwell describes above.

    The technical stuff is easy. Get it over with quickly so you can spend time on making better pictures.
     
  7. B&W_arthur

    B&W_arthur Member

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    It's enjoyable to chat with APUGers. Thanks for the kind reminders.

    Cardwell, a photographer's intuition is very important. Yes, photography is more than a scientific process, it also needs our creativity and interpretation as input. I will keep this point in my heart. As Joe points out, the underlying idea of calibration is to maintain consistency, i.e. for quality control. Like many other APUGers, I had been spent much time testing and comparing different dev/film combos to the point that I seldom focused on making good pictures. I have a 6 weeks summer vacation. Of course, I will spend only part of it on calibration. Hopefully, calibration is to set up an emergent exit for me.

    Comments and thoughts are welcomed. ;p
     
  8. stormbytes

    stormbytes Member

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    For what it's worth...

    I've spent years and years on senseless "calibration" without much success. Let me cut to the chase and save you what could very well be a similar fate. Photography, though not altogether without some scientific constants, is above all, an art form. What you are aiming for is a photograph that is aesthetically pleasing rather then one that may or may not be "mathematically correct".

    So here's my advice:

    Choose a film & developer combination, and a subject range that is in line with your area of interest.

    Batch 1:

    Shoot a few frames of your chosen film at varrying ISO settings. Process your film at two or three time/temperature configurations. Print the resulting negatives to their respective states of "perfection".

    Batch 2:

    Repeat the tests, tweaking your exposure/process based on the results obtained from batch one. Repeat this step as needed.

    Batch 3:

    Confirm that you are getting the results you want, based on data obtained from previous batches.
     
  9. kunihiko

    kunihiko Member

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    Hi arthur,
    It looks like you've already tested and found standard film/dev combo which works for you. Then, standard printing stage should be very easy. You would be able to fine your standard printing time without such equipments, but with little experience.
    Most of the time, especialy in the prtinting stage, experience works better than equipments.

    And, standard tends to be boring.
     
  10. RJS

    RJS Member

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    If you want to or are willing to spend I would suggest you obtain an RH Designs timer. Read Paul Butzi's review - it will make doing what you seem to want far easier and save considerable time and money in printing. Perhaps the best investment I have made in 'gear' for many years!
     
  11. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I agree. Paul also has a nice article on how to set up a constant exposure/different grade system for use with a color head and VC paper. It's not that hard to do, and it's helped my printing a lot.

    A good resource to consider is Way Beyond Monochrome by Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse. This has some of the clearest testing methodologies, and explanations thereof, of any text that I know. It's also quite current in processing recommendations. Ralph is member here, and you might want to check out his site.
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've got an AGFA step wedge, 22 steps. I used that first to get a feel for how the EM10 worked. Then I printed a couple of "step wedge images" using a constant 10s exposure time on a couple of papers.

    Then I found a nice negative wih a touch more range than "normal". I made one print (on unfiltered MG IV RC, 10s exposure time), and picked aread I called I, II, V and VII.

    The next step was to print this same negative at different filtrations, to see what came off it. It turned out that my VII was consistent across filtrations - they always printed the same tone as 10s if the EM-10 gave the same reading (my MF enlarger has a ND wheel, which makes it very easy to adjust illumination).

    And then - all my umpteen different papers, same exposure, same processing.

    The result is a small stack of prints from the same negative which clearly show the differing highlight and shadow contrasts, the differences in sensitivity (cross-referenced to the original step wedge print and readings), and a by now crumbling piece of paper with a cross-plot of EM-10 readings and print "densities".

    Total no. of prints of step wedges: 3.
    Total prints made: About 30, but all but 3 were from negatives.
    Total number of readings with the EM-10: 30, duly noted down.

    Result: A "booklet", a list and a graph.

    Papers saved - countless, even in the first few days!
     
  13. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I agree, buy one, they are great, but don't buy it before you understand what it does and why. When you do, they are even better.
    Some people steer you away from testing by telling you that photography is an art form, which needs no or little mathematics. Then they tell you to buy a magical device that does all the mathematics in the background, because it will improve your printing beyond your wildest dreams. What gives?
     
  14. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Testing is about understanding materials and processes, and taking control. It makes our work consistent and predictable. Art is conscious creativity. When techniques and processes are not understood, artistic success starts to depend on serendipity and is no longer intenionally conceived.

    You can tie a brush to a donkey's tail to get a painting, but it ain't art in my book.