Contact Proof Printing vs Scan

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by RedSun, May 10, 2014.

  1. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    This is not a discussion of photo scan in general... This is also not a discussion of general contact printing.

    I shoot MF, from 6x4.5, 6x6 to 6x7. I always scan my film with my Epson V750 scanner (without processing). I save it to TIFF for archive, and convert to jpg/png if I want to upload online. I also have a make-shift darkroom and make large prints from my negatives.

    I did some contact proof prints from the negatives. But with the electronic scan, I'm not sure if I still need the contact proof scan. From the scans, I know exactly what photo I want to print. I think this is exactly contact proof is for.

    Please let me know if I'm missing something from the contact proof.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It's not easy to judge sharpness from a scan, unless you're very sure that the scanner is focused properly and there is no digital sharpening being introduced by the scanner software.
     
  3. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Some sharpening is always required since the sampling in scanning is a low pass process. My apologies to those who hate all things digital.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    And that's why I don't try to judge the actual sharpness of a neg from a scan.
     
  5. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    When I scan film, I turn off all scan features. From my film scans, I found two frames that had some light leaks inside the camera.

    Some recommend contact proof for "maximum blackness". But again, that can also be subjective since you can over-expose the contact proof. The scanner would just scan with the default settings and would not over or under expose the proof intentionally.
     
  6. omaha

    omaha Member

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    This seems like more of a question of what happens downstream.

    If you have a hybrid workflow and process/print digitally, then your approach seems fine to me.

    BUT...contact prints are better, present a more authentic representation of the negative, and provide more guidance for picking negatives to print, particularly if you are making analog prints.

    JMHO.
     
  7. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Maximum black for the paper, not for any specific contact print. You would typically find the maximum black point without film in the light path or with blank film or the clear edge of the film.

    Yes you can choose a different negative density point but once the contact print setup is known, it isn't varied.

    Once you have "fixed" your contacting setup, it becomes an objective measurement.

    By standardizing the contacting setup it allows you to see if your camera exposure is falling where you want it.
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I would always contact print over scanning. You do not need an enlarger to expose the paper, just a dark room with chemicals and trays.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    if it is what you do, and you don't have trouble whats the point of changing
    so you can have an "authentic" contact print ?

    plenty of people do exactly as you do and the world hasn't ended yet
     
  10. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Since I have learnt how to scan properly, I envisage that I will not produce another contact print of my 6x6/6x7 negatives. I am using scanning to produce photographs from my negatives for 2 reasons - so I can look at the ones that I probably will never get around to printing and so I can get an idea of what I would like to do in the darkroom.

    I followed through with this for the first time not that long ago. I scanned and 'processed' a negative and then I tried to replicate it in the darkroom. It worked out exactly as I had hoped for. I think the thing is that I need to be disciplined electronically so I don't go over the top and produce images that are hard to replicate manually.

    If I want to check the objective sharpness of a negative before I either scan or print, I'll look at it through a loupe.

    I have stacks and stacks of contact prints that I have never really looked at - in the end, for my own process, I find it is becoming a waste of paper.

    But, this is totally subjective. What works for some won't work for others.
     
  11. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I contact print because I can have a sheet showing the whole roll at once and because I always do them exactly the same way, I can judge where to start when enlarging. Scanning doesn't give me either of those, though I do scan on occasion to see a frame larger in order to decide if I like it enough to print it.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Scanning has two advantages:
    1) it gives you a digital file that you can do digital things with; and
    2) it gives you data that you can organize, search and sort on a computer.
    In my mind, the second advantage is a real one, even in an all analogue workflow. Anything that makes it easier to organize photographic records is very good.
    Photographicallym I prefer contact sheets.
     
  13. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I don't have a darkroom and always scan for printing and internet.. Because of the variables with negatives, I normally shoot chromes. I can see exactly whether the shot is exposed properly. (I always bracket my shots with my RB67 MF).


    However, when I shoot negatives and also bracket those, I have the lab provide contact sheets. The lab actually furnishes two contacts at slightly different exposure levels. So I had two contacts of every shot. When I looked at them, I couldn't tell which was the best. It was very confusing. However, when I scanned them flat, and looked at the resulting histogram, I could more easily select the more properly exposed negative- It had the largest range. So in the future, I'll probably not pay for the contacts.
     
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  15. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    I like contact printing.

    It is very fast. Takes me less time than scanning a roll.
    It is an easy way to check my exposures.
    I shoot so much film that it is time-prohibitive to scan everything. (See first one)
    I get a good record of a roll of negatives in one contact sheet.
    With a good contact sheet I can spot the negatives I would like to scan.
    Besides, I like to look at my contact sheets.

    There are probably a lot of other good reasons for it but these are my current list of excuses. :smile:
     
  16. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    Yup, indeed. Theory is good, but seeing this in actual practice was a revelation. It has been a very good feedback loop for me since I started doing this. It fits my way of working.
     
  17. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    This is more important than people realize: with scanning every digital file will look ok - not over or underexposed, scanner will compensate you exposure error. So with contact printing you can see what when wrong in exposure better that with scanning.
     
  18. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    This is not true. You can set the scanner not to compensate for anything, just the native (default) scan. I have over-exposed and under-exposed frames and they show in scans.

    In contact proof printing, there is still the human processing in proof exposure. This is where the "maximum black" comes in. But even with that, it is still somehow subjective as to how the "black" is black.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    While I am very mindful of getting camera exposure "right", it must be said that my "right" is a range more than an exact point. For negative films of any stripe that's normally anywhere from box speed to box plus 2, but it can be 3 or even 4-stops on occasion. I will also happily go to box minus 1 if needed but do try to lean away from the underexposure side when I can.

    The contact printing process simply doesn't care how I shot or about my feelings, my failures, variations, and successes. These stand out like sore thumbs on a contact sheet.

    Conversely when I skip the contact sheet and use an enlarger meter to set my print exposure the process hides the frame to frame differences of the camera exposure from me. I can simply grab the aperture ring on the enlarger lens and turn it until the needle on the meter is where it belongs, I don't necessarily know or care exactly where the aperture setting ends up as long as it provides the right print exposure.

    In my experience using a scanner (even with the optional stuff turned off) is more like using an enlarger meter to print, than like printing a contact sheet.

    By default or by choice certain "rules" must be applied to even display a digital image. Image data + Image rules = Displayable image. If there are no rules, there is no image.

    The scanning software itself and or the people using it normally define at least a minimum set of "rules". It is truly rare from what I've seen for any scan to ever be viewed as a truly linear representation of what the scanner saw.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2014
  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Nope.

    The black point for the contact print setup is typically decided upon ONCE based on your paper's exposure and development process and your preference for black point.

    That same exact setup and developing procedure is then used for every contact print that follows.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2014
  21. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    Even you said the human "preference". For a maximum black, I can expose it 20 seconds, or 15 seconds. Both get my "max black". But I still need to "judge" the exposure of the contact proof, or to judge the negatives.
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    RedSun don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you won't see real differences with your way of doing things or that your way won't work for getting what you want, but what you see on your screen and on your wall are going to be different.

    What I am suggesting is that a contact proof can provide an objective reference point on the same output medium that you want to make your large prints on in your makeshift darkroom and that the contact print can be held up against the wall in the exact place and under the exact lighting conditions you plan to hang that print. Digital images can't replicate this because they provide their own lighting.
     
  23. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    This is a valid point.

    The reason for my asking is that, I already scan the negatives to archive them. For contact proof, I'll need to put the negatives down again, test print several times to get a "good" contact proof. So I did not know if this is really necessary, or I really miss anything to skip the contact proof.

    From the discussion here, I think I'm going to skip the contact proof. Contact proof adds some value, but it is still not entirely objective to present the negative. If I do not scan the negatives, I'll be happy to print the contact proof.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    For a normal contact print process you would choose one time setting, not adjust at a whim. Every part of the contact print process is "locked"; height of the enlarger head, aperture, lens, focus distance, developer choice, time for developing, stopping, fixing, temperature... everything. Essentially once you define your process for a given paper you are done adjusting forever.

    You are right that you can get max black at either time. Let's assume though for a second that everything else in your contact print process stays the same.

    If both times will get your paper to max black using 20-seconds will simply mean that the contact prints of your negatives will "tell you" that you need more camera exposure than if you use 15-seconds as your standard.

    Typically though the exposure for a contact sheet is found by testing for the minimum enlarger exposure needed to get max black for that paper with developed but clear film base in the negative holder. That becomes your fixed/absolute standard.

    Now, if down the line somewhere you decide you want negatives with more shadow detail available than with your minimum exposure for max black standard then adding 5-seconds of exposure to your contacting process standard will consistently "ask you" for the extra camera exposure needed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2014
  25. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I probably have a bad scanner with automatic settings only. In any case I think best thing today is to make contact print and scan.
     
  26. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    This is probably more than you wanted to know but this is what I do.

    I usually contact print 4x5 negs just because they look so darn nice. I don't think having a contact print for reference or for judging exposure of a print is necessary since I have been doing this a long time. I just use my eyes and a lightbox.

    Other than that, I scan everything I shoot for cataloging and sorting. It is pretty fast for me since I have a Nikon scanner that will do a whole roll automatically. Medium format takes a little longer obviously. Everything gets put in Lightroom and metadata is added. Negs are numbered whist doing this, so everything is kept organized. I still prefer to have a paper copy so I output the decent images every so often so I can get them printed on a 4x6, usually 4 or 6 per print at the local Walgreens or CVS. It is cheap and saves a lot of time. The images are cut up individually. I use these to sort different projects or series by using small magnets on a large metal surface. The computer definitely makes keeping track of everything a lot easier. After I make a final print, I scan it properly and that becomes the new reference. I keep track of images that I want to print inside Lightroom and when I am going into the darkroom, I make a quick contact sheet and print it on a laser printer. The negative number gets printed with the little image and I cut it out and paste it into the binder I use to keep track of printing data. The binder pages are numbered and I use a china marker to put the page number on the negative sleeve so if I want to print the image again, it only takes a second to see how I printed it before. I have found this whole process to be incredibly fast and efficient.

    Hope that helps you.