Creating soft focus

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by sqphoto, Dec 1, 2005.

  1. sqphoto

    sqphoto Member

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    I have several portrait negatives that are sharp and I want to create a softer image. Medium format 6x6 b&w negatives, Omega enlarger, color head for variable contrast work. Printing on Ilford Multigrade glossy, fiber paper. Thanks.
     
  2. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Diffusion on an enlarger head makes the shadows fuzzy instead of the highlights. Many people don't like this effect. Maybe try a matte paper.

     
  3. wfe

    wfe Member

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    Try anything that will difuse the light a bit such as plastic wrap. If you have a glass neg carrier you could try smearing some gel type stuff on it. Experiment and I am sure you will find something that works. Nylon stockings stretched over the lens works also. try throwing the lens a bit out of focus for the last bit of the exposure.
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you have a 6x6 slide mount with glass, the anti-newton side of that is the best darkroom diffuser I've come across. Use it for 1/4 to 1/2 of the total exposure.
     
  5. gwatson

    gwatson Member

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    I'm with Ole on this one. It will reduce the contrast a little so you may want to crank it up a grade or so.

    Geoff
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm one of those people who generally doesn't like diffusion at the enlarging stage, because it's unnatural to bleed the shadows into the highlights, but the most effective way I've seen of doing this subtly is to use a Softar 1 filter under the enlarging lens for 25-50% of the enlarging time.
     
  7. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    The classical technique uses a bit of nylon stocking stretched taut in an embroidary hoop. The amount of diffusion depends on how far the hoop is held below the lens.
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    It would appear to me that the best way to create soft focus that does not bleed shadows into highlights is to create a very diffuse, medium density mask that would be printed in register with the camera negative.

    This should bleed highlights into shadows.
     
  9. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Try printing 1/2 or a third of the exposure sharp then back off the focusing knob a tiny bit. Diffusion above the negative does vertually nothing to spread the high lights into the shadow. Remember you are focusing on the grain. To soften it back off on the focus. None of the methods are very good in my opinion and will never come close to the look of a soft focus lens.
    See Jim Galli, he has an old Wolensak copy of a Pinkham and Smith lens that he might part with to the highest bidder! :smile: Charlie............
     
  10. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Charles,

    Have you ever done any masking of camera negatives with lithographic film?
     
  11. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    If you are really desperate you could make an interpositive and then reshoot it.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    the cellophane that boxes of tea are wrapped in passed in the light as you make your exposure sometimes will diffuse enough.
     
  13. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I use a combination of things, with varying results. The old standby for me is a nylon stretched over a coat hanger loop. Thin paper over the enlarging paper produces an interesting effect. Then there's smoke when it's warm and breath when it's cold. It all depends on the look and effect you want - they all make it look soft to one degree or another. There are many ways to skin this particular cat, it all depends on what you want to do with the skin afterwards.
     
  14. Mark H

    Mark H Member

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    The perforated plastic bread bags used for "crusty" breads works nicely. One thickness gives soft diffusion; two thicknesses creates more of the "bleeding shadows".
     
  15. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Indeed I have! Nothing I have used has really been much help since the demise of Pan Masking film. The lith masks are a lot of work in my opinion for the little amount of good they do. I used negative masking in color and B&W applications for some 21 years as well as using a matte box under the enlarger lens for multiple images on a single sheet. I am no stranger to the masking processes. Even so I don't consider myself to be an expert at it, or at anything else for that matter. I do not say anything that has not been proven to work by myself and others working full time in the field. Charlie.............
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Charles,

    Thanks for your response. I am not saying that it will or won't work. I want to give it a try...perhaps in the next week.