Commercial printing on Color Paper

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by kintatsu, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I've been shooting Ilford FP4+ at EI 80 for my camera/meter/developing style. I develop to control the contrast with Tetenal Ultrafin Plus diluted to 1+9, with 3 stand cycles and 4 agitations, as I often shoot with a #25 red or K2 yellow filter and a CP. The negatives of clouds and brights come out looking nice, with good separation in the highlights and seemingly dark shadows and midtones. Everything looks good on that side. The trouble comes when I bring in the negatives to get printed commercially. They print on Fuji Color Archive paper using digital enlargers, processing through a machine. The clouds in print come out almost pure white with little to no separation, the shadows come about in the midrange, and the midtones are about right.

    When I asked the photographer where I order prints about it, he said the higher contrast in the negatives was the problem. He suggested I either print myself or decrease exposure. He also said that the machines read an area they see as midtone and print based on that, causing the rest of the scene to appear overexposed. He also said this particular paper is the equivalent to grade 2. Is this a fair statement? Doing so would make it more difficult to print myself when I can get a darkroom together, wouldn't it?

    I appreciate your time and any answers, as I find this quite perplexing.
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    FP4+ is a traditional B&W film. Your local lab who only processes color film won't be able to an adequate job. His machine is not calibrated for it either. If you are going to do that, you might want to use C41 based B&W film instead. Both Kodak and Ilford has one.

    You could reduce the development time and reduce the contrast but yes, you will end up with low contrast negative and you'll have to compensate for it when you print in a darkroom. You shouldn't have to compensate your processing to tailor your lab. That's the other way around.

    Beyond that is pretty much off topic for APUG.... as will need to talk about hybrid process.
     
  3. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    Thank you for the answer. They also charge more for black and white, which is a little strange to me. Traveling to the next city, I can get the same or slightly better results for about 80 cents less per print. They both use the same company, CEWE, to process their prints, though. For lower contrast shots, like portraits, they do good work. The results I've been getting in my negatives seem quite nice, especially when viewed through a loupe, where the detail can be seen and sharpness checked. While they are of a higher contrast, the full range is there in the negative.

    The sad thing is there are no darkrooms around my area, and the only room I have that could be remotely useful is only 4 feet wide by about 8 feet deep. It's populated by a sink, toilet, and cabinet.

    I've used Kodak's BW400CN and Ilford's XP-2 super. Both are decent. I actually tried the XP-2 in traditional chemicals and achieved some nice results. Slightly off the mark, but with an old time feel about them. Again, my thanks for the time and answer! I think I'll try to keep to what I've been doing and work on creating my own darkroom.
     
  4. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Negatives are capable of holding a much longer range of tones than any printing paper, be it b&w or color.

    This means that because you see a detail in the negative, doesn't necessarily result in something that will actually be visible in the print.

    Therefore, whether you print in the darkroom, or have someone else do it for you, and you end up with prints without highlight detail, it means the highlights in your negatives are too dense. To fix it you need to decrease development time to reduce contrast and highlight density.
     
  5. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    Thank you for the advice. Using Ultrafin Plus at 1+9 is half again the dilution of the maximum recommended 1+6, so too much decrease in development time will most likely be detrimental to the overall range of the image and feeling I wish to portray. I'm about to develop a roll with shot with a K2 yesterday at -15% time, using the rest of my procedures unchanged. The fields here are coming along nicely, so should give a nice scene when printed properly. Thanks again, as all the advice is a real help!
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Yes. Just keep dialing it in where eventually you will have an ideal range for the paper and paper exposure system you have chosen. If -15% isn't enough, try -15% more. Keep working it, and eventually you will hit the sweet spot.

    After you have found the sweet spot, you can also use longer agitation intervals if the content of your scenes is of high contrast. This will bring down highlight density while mid-tones develop normally, which is useful sometimes in high contrast lighting. For example, instead of agitating for 10s every minute, you can agitate for 10s every two or three minutes. The difference is less pronounced than when you decrease developing time, but agitation is definitely a tool which you should use to your advantage.
     
  7. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I just finished a roll, waiting for it to dry to check. Thanks for the advice. I usually use a modified stand, so the contrast should be within printable range, where the stands allow for reduction in the highlights. If this roll doesn't do it, I'll try another 15%.

    Thanks again!
     
  8. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    After checking the above at -15% development, I noticed a slight improvement in highlights, but a more noticeable loss of density in the shadows. Unfortunately, the slight improvement could be from using a yellow vs red filter or the change in developing. I'll try to modify by combining stands and going -15%. This may improve on both. I shot 2 rolls today with a K2 and CP at EI100. Cloudy and rainy, yet still fast enough to get something decent. I'll try the first roll for 2 stand and -15% and move on to the second roll with adjustment based on first roll.
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Shadow detail has nothing to do with development (well, mostly, but extremely minimal effect), as it is almost wholly decided by exposure. So if you lack in shadow detail, you have to expose more.
    Don't change more than one thing at a time when you try to address a problem, or you will end up not really knowing what went wrong.
     
  10. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I developed both rolls shot at EI100, being shot in cloudy, foggy, and rainy conditions, they came out nice, although thin in the shadows. I developed them normally, due to the low contrast. After verifying the first roll, kept the second the same. I just shot at roll at EI80, which is the speed I tested for. This roll will be developed tomorrow, although I doubt the contrast will be too high with my normal, as the lighting was quite nice and even, with only one or two very think and small clouds. Exposing for the shadows and mids at 80 usually gives me good results. The next "cottony" cloud day, I'll have to shoot with the shadows overexposed slightly, and reduce development by about 25%. I had hoped to keep the shadows appropriately lower in values, as keeping the wheat fields shadowed and allowing the shadows from the clouds to deepen to nearly pure black would add a sort of moody interest. At least to my eye, it seems it would.

    Thank you for taking the time to help me out and offer your advice. It is well and truly appreciated!
     
  11. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    Just a quick update. I tried underexposing and developing to bring out the highlights, while keeping everything in the range I wanted. The negatives came out very thin in the shadows, but almost spot on in the clouds. Even with almost pure black shadows, the prints from Cewe came back overly bright.

    The other place where I get prints sent back something decent, so it must be related to the operator/equipment in combination with my developing.

    Thanks again for the help and correspondence.
     
  12. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    R4 cannot change the contrast of the print to match the negative. From what I recall R 4 color paper has less ladatude than black and white paper. You may be in a situation in which the R4 color paper cannot print all the tones in the negative. Does your lab only print on auto or does the operator customize the exposure? You may want to send one negative you think has printable highlights and shadows to a custom lab just see if the lab can adjust the contrast of the paper to match your negative. If so, and you need to use the local lab due to price you may want to consider exposing for the highlights and letting the shadows fall where they may, or just accept blown highlights.
     
  13. anikin

    anikin Subscriber

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    Typically to reduce negative's contrast, you need to increase exposure and decrease development. It sounds like you've done the opposite. On the other hand, if a hybrid printer cannot adjust contrast in printing, it is a clear case of a PBCK problem. Get a new lab.
     
  14. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I get better results from the lab further away. Neither does anything in house, as it isn't cost effective anymore. For my normal stuff both do good work, but Cewe just doesn't match the other lab.

    After my last attempt with Cewe, I've given up on them. They do everything auto, take 2 weeks, and have no QA in place. The other guys do better work, clean the negatives prior to loading, and get the job done in far less time. I think it's related to Cewe's bulk handling of things, even their scans are terrible. Although, it has forced me to improve my procedures, so it's not a total waste!

    Thank you to all, for your help and time!
     
  15. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    Just an update. I verified that the printing is indeed the issue. After contact printing the negatives in question, and several other large format negatives developed the same, I found that my results are what I was desiring. Perhaps, as mentioned above, the issue is the R4 process.

    To all who helped, my sincere gratitude. Now back to making contact prints the hard way!