Darkroom equivalent of "levels" in PS???

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by stradibarrius, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    In the darkroom what technique would be the closest equivalent to "levels" adj. in PS???
    I am not asking any type question about PS, I am asking about a technique to use in a real darkroom darkroom.
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    What are "levels"?
     
  3. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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  4. zippie

    zippie Member

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    I would say "split grade" printing.
    You optimise the highlights and shadows so the histograms shifts.
     
  5. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    "Darkroom equivalent of "levels" in PS???"

    Levels has lots of options.

    For example, I use the blue channel, with a color image, to give a more warm skin tone. I will drop the middle arrow down to 87 or 88 to achieve what I see the client would like. Usually I achieve the desired results in RAW with Bridge.

    In your darkroom, run test strips to determine what you see you like. Take copious notes! Then make your final print.

    I believe the best way to utilize levels in a darkroom is with variable contrast paper, different developers and times of development. Different papers can give you results you may be looking for along with other items I mentioned.

    It's a much more tedious process in a darkroom than on a computer. However, once you have established your vision then you can sometimes determine the final outcome based on past experience.


    Try experimenting with the things I've mentioned and be sure to have an empty garbage can in your darkroom!

    Good luck!
     
  6. domaz

    domaz Member

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    You could also use Contrast Masking instead of Split Grade Printing. That requires making a mask which isn't so easy though.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The "levels" in analog B&W photography are characterized by a series of graphs showing the "tone reproduction cycle"

    The one most similar to your posted example is the paper characteristic curve, where the negative densities are the "Input Level" and the paper density is the "Output Level"

    Of course, to alter the relationship one uses either multigrade or graded paper and/or developers to achieve the effects. It is also very much limited to the characteristics inherent in the materials and is not unlimited in its scope.

    Also, unlike the world of "sensors" and "binary representation of continuous data", the analog "tone reproduction cycle" has two steps for contrast manipulation, the negative and the print.
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Moving the white slider is setting the highlight exposure. Moving the black slider is the equivalent of changing the paper contrast (filtration). Moving the gray slider, on the other hand, is like switching to a different film/dev/paper/dev combination.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2010
  10. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Assumimg black and white, the three sliders in the "Levels" dialog are BLACK POINT, WHITE POINT and GAMMA.

    Black point sets that level of gray in the image that registers as the darkest black. Everything below that is clipped or registered as darkest black, as well.
    I assume that would be the same as timing your exposure to achieve max density. Right?

    White point sets that level of gray in the image that registers as the whitest white. Again, everything above that point is also clipped to white.
    I assume that this would be the same thing as adjusting your combination of developing to get the highlights and/or adjusting contrast. Am I right so far?

    Now the tricky thing for me to understand is the gamma.
    In Photoshop, gamma adjusts the midpoint between black and white. It sets the "average."

    For color things get weird. You basically have to repeat all the steps you took to achieve best image in black and white and do them four times. One each for R/G/B or C/M/Y channels and one more time for overall brightness.

    As others have said, I am guessing that to adjust the gamma in a photograph in the darkroom would require a combination of all three, exposure, development and contrast to find the average brightness overall.
     
  11. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    There is no actual equivalent. It would be more or less a combination of exposure and contrast. The post above explains the levels control quite well. Analog photographic materials do not work quite the same way. Even more confusing, you are trying to get a positive from a negative, so some of the things you learned for exposing film are backward. Silver gelatin materials have a certain threshold exposure below which you don't get any image. In printing, you need to expose enough so that the highlight detail is properly visible. This is more or less like setting the white point in PS. Then you adjust the contrast so that you get a full range of tones from shadows through midtones to the whites. This is like setting both black point and scale. Sometimes you have to adjust exposure some more to get the balance, however. In fact, most people try to find an exposure level that pretty well covers the picture by using test strips, and then they adjust the contrast and fine tune the exposure to get a full range print.
     
  12. hadeer

    hadeer Subscriber

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    One could look into the zone system or buy a Stopclock/Analyzer from RH Designs.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Exactly.
     
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  15. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    I agree with this statement once the film has been developed. But, it seems to me that the most important controls we have for B&W are 1. proper exposure combined with 2. variable development times.

    With digital, varying the exposure will only move the curve to the right or the left in the levels box. It will not change the distance from the white point to the black point (unless you clip the highlights or shadows). That is done in post, with levels, which has the effect--in layman's terms--of stretching the curve to fit the black and white points. In B&W, we set the shadows with proper exposure and then expand the curve or contract it through development of the negative to match the paper.
     
  16. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Thanks for some great answers and explanations. Ralph, your explanation makes sense and is simple. Thanks for answering the question and understanding that I am interested in learning more about my analogue photography and growing my skills in the darkroom. Understanding the spirit of the question.
    I expected to get some responses that I shouldn't be asking this question here????
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Great description!

    I know it's not a direct comparison but burning and dodging could be considered as moving the the middle slider around, in a localized sense.

    In this sense, and yours, it applies to both color and B&W.
     
  18. henk@apug

    henk@apug Member

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    I am just wondering if it makes sense to think "digital" in the wet darkroom.
     
  19. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    Good grief, Ralph. Are you saying that digital and analogue may be, gulp, analogous...?

    FX : Mournful sound of wind as tumbleweed drifts across screen...

    Jerry :wink:
     
  20. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    There was a news story this year about a virus in some plants that was reported in the news media as spreading "like a computer virus." Of course in fact it is spreading like a real virus which is what it is! Sadly it seems that digital analogies are now closer to the front of the consciousness of most people these days.
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Most of the Photoshop tools were developed to mimic analogue techniques, so I think it makes perfect sense to use those concepts to explain traditional darkroom work to people who are coming to film from digital. There's no reason that you couldn't use a densitometer to plot a histogram of a print or a negative, and I suspect that Photoshop users might have a better idea of what digital unsharp masking is, and they might better understand the concept of sharpness in general, if they knew something about the analogue process of unsharp masking.
     
  22. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Full Circle?

    So it has finally come to this... an ostensibly traditional analog forum must use digital techniques to teach its own techniques? :confused:
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, if we want digital photographers to try film, it makes sense to start from what they know.
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I agree with David.

    Photoshop is frequently using analog terminology and combining it with relatively simple statistics. Histograms are a typical example. If using the terminology helps to open the analog doors to digital photographers, why not?
     
  25. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Here are two shots. One is a scan of a wet print I made last night and the other is a scan of the negative.
    I guess first question is which do YOU think is a better rendering.
    To me the scan of the negative has more snap and sparkle that the wet print scan. The paper for the wet print is Oriental Seagull VC and I used a 2 1/2 CF. 13 sec @f/16. I developed the print in LPD 1:2 for 3 min.
    This is back to the original question...how to get the wet print have more "sparkle" than it currently does.
    I made several prints at different times. 15 sec is too dark and 10 sec. is not dark enough. Do I need to use more contrast and less time???
    If there are things that I just cannot do in a traditional dark room I want to know that as well.
     

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  26. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    First, you need less exposure. The skin tones are too dark. Shorten the exposure until they are similar to your neg scan. Then, look at the shadows. If they are too dark, use a softer grade or dodge the shadows. If they are to light, use harder grade or burn them in. You may have to slightly adjust the exposure again when you're done with the contrast changes.