Controlling local contrast during exposure

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Compaq, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. Compaq

    Compaq Member

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    Hi!

    I'm not sure how to control local contrast when making prints.

    I am starting to produce very good negatives that are easy to print. However, I feel I'm stopping the work at the "work print", and not being able to take the prints to the next level. I'm currently at the "good album quality", you know, but I feel many prints lack "pop".

    Adjusting global contrast is relatively easy by adjusting the magenta filter or by large dodge/burn operations. However, I'm not able to bring out detail and local contrast. Can anyone refer me to the literature, or perhaps post tips or things to do?

    Here's a shot of a canon in Fredrikstad, Norway. I found the placement a bit funny, as it aimed straight into the tree :tongue: I took this with my Olympus 35 SP loaded with Delta 100, shot at 50 and developed as if shot at 100 (yes, I forgot I pulled it, really ought to make notes!). I can't remember the exposure to the paper, but the print is developed in MG 1+9.
    (the lines are from my sqeegee - which I won't every use again! Two rolls like this!)

    Is it just a matter of carefully planning small dodge/burn operations? How would chemically treating the print with intensifiers do (I know very little of this)?

    Any help is appreciated!
    Anders
     

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  2. HTF III

    HTF III Member

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    correction
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2013
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Compaq:

    There was a recent thread here about controlling mid-tone contrast, which is virtually the same thing trom a technique perspective as how to control local contrast. You may want to refer to that thread, but here is how I suggest thinking about it.

    Assuming the negative contains the information you need, to begin with you control local contrast in any part of the tonal scale primarily with the grade of paper (or filtration with variable contrast papers). Normally a common printing technique is to key the base exposure to important detailed high values or upper midtones, and then adjust contrast to get the shadows where you want them. If everything falls into place, you end up with the right total contrast and local contrast, and only minor burning and dodging are required to fine tune the print.

    However there are times when this approach may not result in the desired local contrast in key values, or throughout the print. In that case, modify the procedure to choose the filtration that gives you the desired local contrast. Then, you use burning and dodging to control the highlights and shadows. So in essence you are using the paper grade to determine local contrast first and then using other controls to manage total contrast. Note that to take the print to the "next level", when burning and dodging you might want to add multiple filtration to your toolbox. This means burning and dodging with different filtration (different contrasts). This can help alot in controlling shadow and highlight contrast in addition to helping bring in dense highlights etc. For example you might print your base exposure at a higher contrast, to get good local separations in key midtones, dodge some shadows, then burn in some highlights at a lower contrast. Any combination is possible.

    This is where I would start if you want more local contrast. You can develop a lot of technique this way and for the vast majority of prints you won't need more than good, careful multiple filter burning and dodging skills.

    Then there are additional controls you can learn such as local chemical bleaching of the print, masking techniques etc. But it is best to start simple and only introduce as much complexity as is required.

    Hope this helps.
     
  4. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Have you considered the zone system?
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I rest my case.

    The local contrast could be controlled by split grade printing, for example dodge and burn using specific contrast values. However, I would try and keep things simple. Actually, looking at your print, I would guess this is printed from quite a thin neg and has little to do with print control and more to do with under exposure or under development.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2013
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    It's very hard to tell what to suggest from this scan - the overall image feels muddy, especially in the highlights, which would imply either that you're over-exposing the print as a whole, burning down the highlights too much, your negative has issues or your scanner settings are off, none of which can be eliminated from this scan. Also, the main subject is not sharply detailed the way I'd expect it to be between the Oly lens and the Delta 100 film. Is this a scan from a print or the negative?
     
  7. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    It is a contrasty subject, which can lead to underexposure (depending on metering technique) when photographing, which adds to the challenge of printing a contrasty negative.

    Printing should always begin with an evaluation of the negative.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    There's always flashing the paper before exposing it.
     
  9. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Having difficulty printing, seeming to not be able to get it the way you want it, is a clue that the problem may could well lie with exposure and development of the film rather than much to do with the printing stage.
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I agree. Taking a little time to test your film, exposure and development will definitely pay off in the darkroom. Nothing worst than struggling with a bad neg just to get mediocre results.
     
  11. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    They key to more pronounced structures in a print is to increase the contrast of the paper. This contrast is above the overall needings for the image in most cases. This is when burning and dodging comes in: You have to balance the overall contrast with the help of these techniques.
     
  12. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  13. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    One technique for bringing out highlights within a shadow area is to use a bleach such as potassium ferricyanide. Make your print as usual (on FB paper), and wash completely after fixing. Mix up a very dilute solution of potassium ferricyanide, and paint it onto the area of the print where you want to pop out the highlights, and rinse the area almost immediately with running water. The bleach will take away some of the silver which leads to darkness and enhance the highlights. It works better at bringing out detail in highlights and doesn't do much in the shadow areas.
     
  14. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    > Ralph Lambrecht. The man is a genius.
    yes.
     
  15. HTF III

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    I've read most of these posts, I think. And I have a question. Would flashing have been of any value in this instance? Is this photo the kind that can be done that way?
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Not likely. At least not overall flashing. Flashing reduces total and local contrast. It is the same as reducing the contrast grade of paper/filter. It can sometimes be helpful when it is localized.
     
  17. phelger

    phelger Subscriber

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    agree!

    compaq, to me your photo looks underexposed, which could be explained by the light meter taking in more highlight than shadow zones. I've turned to incident light metering, setting film ISO half a stop under box speed and developing as per box recipe. that gives me shadow details and good contrast.
    peter