Gaining higher contrast in the darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by TheVDM, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. TheVDM

    TheVDM Member

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    Hi, I have finally set up my bathroom darkroom and have been really enjoying it although I cant help but feel that the prints are a little flat in comparison to those printed via the mini lab I use at work.

    I am currently using a paterson colour head like the one pictured below, this head has a number of coloured filters (I assume more for colour paper) built in (Cyan, Magenta & Yellow variants), which coloured filter(s) would be the best option for increasing the contrast or am I getting the wrong end of the stick.

    Any useful tips for a first time home darkroom owner would be much appreciated.

    Regards
    Jim
     

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  2. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Generally with variable contrast papers, magenta would be what you would filter the white light with. If the filters are numbered, the higher the number the more of that color. You can match the numbers of the head, with the included data sheet of the paper you are using, to get a general contrast grade chart from 0-5. Various equivalent manufacturer's filter numbering is usually supplied, if not you can do tests.

    With any contrast filter, you must increase the amount of time or light(opening up aperture) as well.
     
  3. TheVDM

    TheVDM Member

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    Many thanks for the response, when my daughter goes down for her nap I will try some test strips using the magenta filters and also have a good skim through the datasheets for the Ilford Multigrade IVRC paper.

    Regards
    Jim
     
  4. mr rusty

    mr rusty Member

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    To help me get exposure and contrast right I invested in an RH analyser pro. Really, really useful piece of kit. Not saying you should spend out for one - they are not cheap. However, the manual has a useful chart showing various filter settings for different enlargers as a starting point to achieve the contrast grades. http://www.rhdesigns.co.uk/darkroom/Analyser_Pro_UM_v64.pdf
     
  5. TheVDM

    TheVDM Member

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    Ok,

    by using a combination of the magenta filters and increasing the exposure times by a fair ammount I have now produced some prints with a much better contrast range which has vastly improved the quality of the prints.

    Many thanks for the advice, I just need to spend some more time trying to perfect the art.

    The Analyser pro looks quite interesting, would save a fair ammount of paper too!

    Regards
    Jim
     
  6. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    First thing I would recommend you do before spending money on anything else or chasing after magic bullets is to change the lamp in the enlarger head. These things age and over time the quality of the light changes - The working life can be as short as 25 hours on some lamps !

    I struggled to get decent prints when I had an LPL C7700, and even although the lamp put out plenty of light, it got replaced. After that, the prints had much more contrast and the paper wastage went down considerably. It is also worth using fresh developer rather than trying to reuse a batch mixed from the previous evening.
     
  7. TheVDM

    TheVDM Member

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    Hi, thanks for the sugestion, the bulb on mine appears to be ok but as it was a second hand enlarger I know nothing of its history, perhaps a replacement bulb might be in order.

    I am due to place an order with ag at some point soon so will add one on for the extra fiver (would be worth having a spare anyway).

    As for the analyser although they look quite interesting I would like to learn to judge the exposure by instinct first, kind of like learning to use a camera on full manual which is a usefull thing to learn. Also with some recent editions in the lens bag I havent got too much cash spare!

    Regards
    Jim
     
  8. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    The Analyser Pro is a very nice piece of kit, but it is only an aid in getting good prints - I managed to get by without one since setting up a darkroom. Having purchased one recently, the waste has gone down a little, but the bin is still full of crap and rejects.
     
  9. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Have a look at Ralph Lambrecht's site "Darkroom Magic" He gives a set of filtrations(Y&M) for Ilford and Agfa paper and a table of compensatory times( in stops) for changing from one grade of contrast to another. He also helpfully gives a chart which converts stops to times as well.The dual filtrations used do not give full exposure compensation when changing grades although they are close.

    pentaxuser
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    If you are using graded paper, make sure the lens is free from haze and dirt and make sure you develop you negatives about 20% more than what you would if using a condenser head. The prints look 'flat' on grade 5 paper?
    If you are using multigrade paper, most come with a chart showing starting points for combinations of yellow and magenta filtration.
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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  12. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    TheVDM,

    It depends on the type of paper you are using, but Ilford gives an excellent guide to contrast, as well as how to use color heads for black and white printing here:

    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/2010628932591755.pdf

    You'll see they provide suggested settings for color heads made by a wide variety of manufacturers, including Paterson, on page 3.
     
  13. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    haven't seen what it looks like in the darkroom there BUT---first things first--eliminate ALL light leaks--protect the paper from too much safelight illumination...use fresh, strong developer...make sure you have a quality lens that is clean (another source of flare)...check that your safelight IS safe for the paper you are using
     
  14. TheVDM

    TheVDM Member

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    Hi,

    There are some useful links cropping up with some very interesting information.

    Johnielvis, my darkroom is currently being built and dismantled in the bathroom as and when required, I have been careful with light leak (using lots og Gorilla tape), a sheet of ply and lots of light proof fabric to cover the window. Once I finish patching things up I turn all the lights off and wait for my eyes to adjust and then patch up any leaks.

    I will inspect the lens when I get home and give it a clean if necessary, the safe light is appropriate for the paper but thinking about it, it is sometimes within 4 feet of the paper instead of the recommended 6 feet so I will try shifting it back a bit too.

    Thank you all for your sugestions, hopefully if all goes well on Wednesday I will be taking A-Level photography at college this year which will no doubt help me out.

    Many Thanks
    Jim