Do my negatives have too little contrast?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by anjo, May 30, 2009.

  1. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Being new to film photography, it's not clear to me how much contrast my b&w negatives "should" have. I've attached a representative example of how my current negatives look straight out of the scanner.

    I do not have any immediate plans to do any optical prints, instead I wish to scan my negatives.

    In this case, is it better to have negatives lacking in contrast (to be fixed with "curves" in Photoshop), or should the development procedure be altered to give more contrast?
     

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  2. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Hi,

    can you explain in details procedure how do you develop your negatives (which film, developer, agitation...)?
     
  3. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    The information darkosaric asked for would be helpful. The thing I notice is there are no good highlights or whites. They look gray. I would say a little more contrast would be good. That said, it does depend on the scan, and, as I print mine in the darkroom, that's the eye I look with. Let's see what others say.
     
  4. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Looks like natural lighting in shadow. No flash. No direct sunlight. If you're using roll film and this is but one exposure then I doubt that changing processing would do much for you. However, for the aforementioned reasons, this is a guess. NEED INPUT.
     
  5. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    I agree that your sample is quite flat without good highlights. Are your film edges completely clear of fog? Consider photographing a black card, a white card, and 18% grey card side by side in sunlight using a series of exposure values that should produce one or more good negative going from Dmin to Dmax. Then adjust your processing accordingly to get the best possible result.
     
  6. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Note that "straight from the scanner" images tend to look flat, because the first priority in scanning is to avoid clipping. If the highlights look grey in a scanned image, you can always brighten them later, but if you lost information at scan time you can't get it back. So I wouldn't be too quick to assume that a flat scan means a flat negative.

    But the highest values in this image still look pretty low, and that's where more information from the OP would be helpful. How dark are those areas on the negative (as compared to, say, the exposed leader)? Do those grey highlights mean that the white point on the scanner was set too high, or that the densest areas of the negative are kind of murky rather than a substantial black?

    Sorry for the d*g*t*l content, but I think it's necessary to tease apart the aspects of the image that can be traced to various stages of the hybrid process that got it to us.

    -NT
     
  7. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Straight from the scanner images do not look this flat. I can tell he's using a Nikon film scanner as well (which I also have) and they do not output flat negatives like this unless the negative is lacking contrast itself.

    This looks underexposed and/or underdeveloped. Shadow detail is there but highlights seem more than a stop off. Also, you can see shadows from the arms so I don't think the entire scene was under a shadow.

    My vote is for underdeveloped based on the feel. Edge markers will tell the tale.
     
  8. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Thanks for the replies.

    The film is Fomapan 100, developed in Calbe R09 1:40 for 7.5 minutes at 20 degrees Celsius. I agitate continuously for the first 30 seconds, then for 5 seconds every 30 seconds. I use Kodak Max-stop.

    The scanner is an Epson 2480 and I use the included "Epson Scan" software set to "BW Negative".

    I see no fog on the film edges.

    To my untrained eye, the highlights on the negatives look completely black. Before I got the scanner I was actually concerned that I was severely overexposing and overdeveloping, because there appeared to be absolutely no detail in skies etc.

    I can't remember what the light was like in this particular shot, but almost all of the shots I've taken (some of which I know were in bright sunlight) share the same problem.

    I don't think I'm underexposing. I've actually exposed 2/3 - 1 stop more than what the meter suggests.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2009
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    If it's 120 roll film then there may be an issue with the Fomapan 100 film base which is quite blue, while this has no detrimental effects when enlarging it does when scanning compared to a more conventional film base.

    I rarely scan negatives but did scan some Fomapan100 negs from my Mamiya 645 last Sunday and they do have the same flat look as yours. So it may not be the best choice of film for scanning unless you spend some time tweaking the scanner settings to get the best from these films. Both Fomapan 100 & 200 give best results around half the stated box speed.

    Ian
     
  10. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Sorry, should've mentioned that it's 35 mm film. I don't know how the base of the 120 version looks, but the 35 mm version is also sort of blue-grayish.
     
  11. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    To me it looks like this was a very sunny scene - there are strong shadows coming from the arms of the students and the birch branches.

    I've taken photos of the students under similar conditions when I lived in Göteborg and got very contrasty negs (but I aimed for high contrast). The whites on the caps, dresses and suits are rather dull.

    Perhaps you could hold the neg sheet up to a window and photograph it so we could see how the negs look.


    [I noticed on the massive dev chart that Foma 100 + R09 for 7.5 minutes has the note "Lower contrast suitable for scanning"]
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    It is really hard to tell anything from a scan. Is there any way you could get some density readings from the negative, or post a well exposed but unadjusted digital shot of the neg on a light box? The exposure should be made so that the light from the light box ends up white.
     
  13. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Heh, how did you determine that it was taken in Göteborg? (Because it's true). I've attached a photograph of a film strip.

    Interesting. I got my developing time from the store I bought the film in and they didn't mention this.
     

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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    That was quick!

    Every one of us should get best results by finding out our own settings and methods (such as EI and development times), but none of these things would be so far off from box speed and recommended times that you would get a picture as flat as the one you got. The negs are not nearly as flat as the positive that you first posted (which looked well exposed to me, BTW). I think you just need to tweak your scanning so that the contrast of the negatives is translated more accurately into the contrast of the image file that you get. You want the scan to be a flatter than the neg if there may be some clipping, but not that much.

    The less you have to tweak in printing (Photoshop), the better. Try to make a scan that is as close to the desired final print as possible, without unwanted clipping.

    At any rate, try Hybridphoto.com for the specifics of dealing with the scanner.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2009
  16. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I recognised the Göteborg light! Seriously, I was guessing. You bought the R09 from Fotokompaniet, then? Nice guys in that shop.

    The neg you posted looks fine, If it was mine I don't think I'd expect any issues in the darkroom.
     
  17. wogster

    wogster Member

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    The 2480 usually does produce slightly flat scans, it's to keep from clipping. You can usually fix this at scan time using the Epson driver, which is quite good. Don't use the automatic mode, you need to use the professional mode, and set each image individually, set the black and white points using levels from the histogram. You also need to set the focus, which is done by using paper shims under the negative holder, to get the best scan.

    Also you need to make sure you clean EVERYTHING, the negative, the glass and the light panel in the scanner lid.
     
  18. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    The reason for the flat scan seems pretty simple to me. The scanner will always automatically snap in the lightest and darkest parts of the image area the is selected. On your scan you did not crop into the image area, leaving quite a bit of room around the actual negative. So as you can see, the brighter areas above and below the negative were thought to be the lightest areas by the scanner, and the blacks to the left and right of the negative were thought to be black by the scanner. By simply cropping into the actual image area before you scan and even tweaking with the histogram, this negative can have perfect contrast.
     
  19. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    I agree. Looks like a bad scan, not bad film/exposure/developing.
     
  20. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Doh! This appears to have been EXACTLY what was wrong. The automatic cropping was set to "small tolerance" (or somesuch) the first time I scanned. This didn't work at all (it gave me half frames), so I changed it to "large tolerance" thinking I'd just crop later.

    Changing it to "medium tolerance" gives (more or less) correct contrast, and even properly cropped images (saving another manual step!). The attached image is straight out of the scanner, and obviously looks a whole lot better than the one in the original post!
     

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  21. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I have an Epson 3200 and long ago gave up on the "intelligence" built in to the Epson interface. I always use the professional mode and manual settings, tweaking settings while looking at the histogram, as Wogster recommends.

    DaveT
     
  22. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I agree. That is good. :smile:

    I have canoscan 4400F - I find out that best result I get when I scan B&W prints that I developed. For this case I use 18x24 cm FB paper, when scanned in color mode - it gives warm and nice yellow tone.
     
  23. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Yeah, scanning film with a flatbad is probably not optimal. But to be honest, I just want something good enough for presentation on the web, and I don't want to spend the time or money making prints.
     
  24. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    For web - any scanner with some editing in photoshop will do. But if you have chance - try to make some prints (if you know somebody with equipment...) - you will not be sorry :wink:
     
  25. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    My screen shows no whites where there should be
    whites. I've flashed print paper to yield the same
    effect. The blacks show well. Dan
     
  26. anjo

    anjo Member

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    Yes, it still needs a slight "bump" in Photoshop.