How to get blacker blacks?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by stradibarrius, Jan 26, 2010.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Here is a scan of a shot made witha Mamiya M645.
    There are several issues I feel I need to work on but starting with the first one...how to get blacker blacks?
    I used Ilford Multigrade IV RC paper with a Ilford 3.5 contrast filter, 14 sec. exposure. Dektol as the developer for 3 min.
    My enlarger is a Burleigh Brooks 670 that no one seems to have heard of before. I used a Fujinon f/5.8 90mm lens.

    I tried using a #4 contrast but the print actually turned out lighter. I also increased the exposer time and the result was just darker not blacker blacks.

    My wet print experience is limited so I am in the beginner learning curve.

    Is this a paper choice or a developer choice issue?

    When I scanned the negative and made a digital print, I was able to get blacks I liked.
    I also attached the digital scan of the negative.

    Before anybody goes nuts, I am trying to learn to print in the darkroom not discuss the digtal print. I only post it as reference to the blacks.
     

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  2. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    The obvious difference in the two thumbnails is contrast. I suspect there is not as much separation in the tones in the negative but you were able to correct with the software. The issue is with the negative not the filter. If the negative is important to you try printing for the shadows and dodge or bleaching the highlights that are too muddy.
     
  3. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    I could be wrong but I think you need less lighting on the car when you take the photo. That would create a darker image.
     
  4. bill spears

    bill spears Member

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    I would say the blacks in the silver print are ok. The problem is the midtones (which look muddy and compressed) and the highlights which don't have enough sparkle. The problem could also lie with the film exposure/development as much as the printing.
    I would try to print it a little lighter (less exposure under the enlarger) and on a very hard grade, poss 5.

    Selenium toning the neg can sometimes help with separating the tones in the print and perhaps give half a grade more contrast.
    Also make sure your paper developer is not exhausted
     
  5. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Try making a max black test strip through the clear film between two negatives. That will show the maximum black of which your paper and paper developer combination are possible. Then you can either expose the negative for the min/max time and see how the high tones fall; or you can expose for the correct detailed high tones (say the headlight) and see how the low tones fall compared to your max black test strip as a comparison.
     
  6. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I disagree with less light. I don't know how you metered the subject or developed the film. It is a contrast issue according to the thumbnails as I mentioned. All the highlights in the digital print are brighter. A #4 filter should produce a contrasty print with a properly exposed and processed negative. The colors of the car although possibly different in the the fender and the hood may be of similar value and if that is the case they would print close tones of gray. Light meters read either reflected light or if capable incident light (light falling on the subject). When reading reflected light the meter generally reads the subject as 18% reflectance. For example a reading off a white horse and one off a black horse would result in prints of two gray horses. Negative contrast can be influenced by development time and/or the developer used.
     
  7. John Irvine

    John Irvine Member

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    I've found this advice from Zathras in a post by photomem on 11/10/09 in the B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry forum, and echoed above to be helpful in situations like yours.

    "Use the exposure time to favor the highlights. Once you have the highlights where you want them, look at the darker ares of the print. If the blacks are not right, change the contrast grade or filter to get them where you want them. Do not use exposure to bring in the blacks. If the highlights look good but the blacks look weak, increase the contrast. If the highlights look good but the blacks are too dark, decrease the contrast. Don't forget to make a new test print if you change the contrast. Again, adjust the exposure to favor the highlights, letting the blacks be determined by the contrast grade or filter that you use."
     
  8. Stan160

    Stan160 Member

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    If you are using multigrade filters, G4-5 need twice the exposure of G00-G3.5, which explains why your G4 print looked lighter than G3.

    Ian
     
  9. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Just talking about the maximum black, a paper is only capable of going so black. You might try using a stronger dilution for your dektol or you might try using Ansco 130 to get maximum black density. A warm tone fiber paper will have a blacker black probably.
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    First off--if you are using Ilford MG filters, #4 and higher need one stop more enlarging exposure than #3.5 and lower.

    It looks like your wet print doesn't have as much contrast as you want in general. You aren't getting the sparkling whites or the deep blacks you have in the neg scan, but you'll notice that you do have more detail in those areas in the wet print, so the task is going to be to spread those tones out over the range that the paper is capable of rendering.

    I'd start with a grade 3 filter and try to make a print with sparkling highlights. Make a test strip along the chrome bumper to find the best exposure to give you a little detail in that area, but retain the sparkle, and note that other factors like light leaks in the darkroom and an unsafe safelight will cost you at the sparkle end of the spectrum.

    Now if your blacks are hazy instead of solid, try maintaining the same relative exposure (meaning that if you go up to grade 4 or 5, you need to double the exposure time or open the lens one stop) while increasing the contrast, and that will give you better blacks without losing the highlights.

    Still not enough? You could intensify the negative. 8 minutes in Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner 1:3 will give you about a one zone expansion. I use this technique often to push up the highlights on a flat neg.

    Beyond that you could try printing it darker and bleaching the highlights back.

    Contrast masking will give you even more control over contrast, but that's a more involved process.
     
  11. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    I think print #1 has been overexposed somehow because there aren't any whites - so it's hard to judge that one. I would recommend either less exposure time in the enlarger or less time in the developer. That will give you a better comparison on the amounts of greys available in grade 3.5 versus the amounts of greys available in 4 - which will affect the way you perceive the blacks as well.
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    You want to learn darkroom printing? I suggest, you print John's note and stick it on your darkroom wall. Forget everything else, this is the best advice you'll ever get.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2010
  13. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    John Irvine's post is spot on regarding how to adjust for the proper contrast during a printing session. The only thing it doesn't cover is how black is black on your paper. The advice to do a maximum black test is also good. It is beneficial to know how black your chosen paper can get. One trick I learned long ago is to expose a full sheet of paper to maximum black. Fully process it and keep it in your darkroom. When making prints, cut a small section of the paper and put it in the wash water so it will be wet the same as the paper you are evaluating. When you adjust the contrast as John describes, hold the small scrap of black up to the work print to compare print tones. You easily can tell it the black on your work print is in fact max black for your paper. If it is not, up the contrast a bit.
     
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  15. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Are these the same negative?

    Hi all,

    Is it just me, or is there simply no way these two images can be from the same negative?? :confused:

    It is not just a different crop. Look at the "shadow" at the left side of the scanned and digitally manipulated image, it is not visible in the wet Ilford print.

    It seems to me that these may be from two different negatives, the second taken when a bright sunny spot hit the car... Unless the OP did significant additional manipulations like strong dodging and burning in Photoshop, there is just no way the negatives are the same.

    Here's my variant of the Ilford wet print with Photoshop "enhanced" contrast, notice how it is different from the other image... especially in terms of where the shadows and light spots are.

    Again: these are unlikely to be the same negative... start with the same negative, and you will likely have less trouble replicating the results in the wet darkroom.

    Marco
     

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  16. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Sorry to bend the thread in the d*****l direction a bit, let's keep it at this. The only reason I came up with it is to make sure we have a meaningful discussion here. If the OP confirms that these are from two different negatives, the whole discussion may be pointless.
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Looking at the reflections in the chrome, I think they are from the same negative.
     
  18. bill spears

    bill spears Member

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    Yes I think it's the same neg. The digi print has had alot of work done to it
     
  19. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    There should be more tonal range that can be yielded from the wet print. Like Bill says, the midtones are compressed and more importantly, the whole image is muddy as a result. Exposing for your highlights and adjusting print contrast for the black you want like John, and Ralph stated is the right starting point. I will also say, I've never gotten results I like with Ilford RC paper.... Without starting a flame war, I would suggest a Variable Contrast fiber paper, or better yet, a graded paper to learn with.

    Simplification is the key, and graded paper teaches you to better tailor your negs to the paper you print with. You've been bombarded by many responses and all the ideas are valid, while only a few are truly accurate for you to learn from. It would be interesting to see the neg scanned as a positive to get some better idea on the tonal scale for this image.
     
  20. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Yes it is the same negative. I adjusted the curve, contrast sharpened, dodge and burned in Photoshop. To night I am going to do as John and Ralph suggested and test of MAX BLACK. increase the contast filter and exposure time and see if I start moving in the right direction.
     
  21. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Here is a scan of the negative with nothing done to it other than resizing it for this forum.
     

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  22. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    Looks like this neg 'should' be capable of producing the blacks you want. Try the max black test and expose for the highlights to where that gets you.
     
  23. bill spears

    bill spears Member

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    The straight neg scan looks alot better than the print you made, better shadow detail around the chrome bumper and better separated midtones.

    I think some of the problem could be with the rusting paint on the car bodywork having colours which black and white film can't separate and maybe might have been improved by using a coloured filter, orange maybe.
     
  24. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    If my Dektol was old would that cause the problem you are seeing?
     
  25. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Exhausted Dektol would show a loss of Dmax and contrast, yes.
     
  26. Ponysoldier

    Ponysoldier Member

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    You didn't indicate the time/temp of the print developer but I assume that you allowed the print to develop to completion. I find it worthwhile to produce a "max-black" reference at the beginning of each printing session which is simply left in the water tray as a comparison during the session. Personally I don't use RC papers because of the "veiling" of image blacks but there are plenty of users who apparently have no such issues and there are certainly adequate numbers of beautiful prints made on RC papers to indicate that everyone doesn't have the problem!