Lack of contrast: How to avoid?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Andy K, Jan 19, 2005.

  1. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Although I have been photographing for thirty years or so, I have only been developing my own film for a few months. Recently I have noticed a lot of my negatives seem to lack contrast.

    My usual method is to follow the film makers directions regarding agitation ie. for Ilford films agitate for the first minute and then ten seconds a minute thereafter and because I use Rodinal I follow Agfa's recommended development times for various film speeds.

    I always have developer, stop, fixer and rinse washes at exactly 68 degrees. I use Rodinal 1+50, Jessops Econostop stop bath at 1+4 and Jessops Econofix also at 1+4. Recently I have been using Ilford Rapid Fixer. With the same slightly 'muddy' results.

    However, after my recent foray into night photography and using a partial stand development technique I have noticed those negs have fantastic contrast. (developed for 15 minutes, agitated the first minute then 10 seconds a minute for six minutes then stood for eight minutes).

    So where am I going wrong with the other negs? Am I agitating too much or too little? Or could it be something else i am doing? (by agitation I mean tilting the tank at about a 60degree tilt in a circular rotation, put a desert spoon in a coffee mug and run its stem round the rim and you'll get the motion I mean)

    It is also a possibility the metering is off in my camera, but I have had the same muddy look (see attachment for what I mean by 'muddy') from my Praktica BX20, Olympus OM10 and Voigtlander Vito CLR, so I figure the problem must be somewhere in my developing technique.
     
  2. argus

    argus Member

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    My agitation technique is slightly different:

    I help my tank to make salto, 4 times in 10 secs. i.e. I turn is completely upside down and my negatives are rather good
    Maybe your running a spoon in the coffee mug is inadequate?

    G
     
  3. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    For day shots I wouldn't use semi-stand development. Develop the ordinary way is my advice
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Thanks guys.

    I tried inverting the tank but I usually only develop one film at a time, according to the tank instructions I should only use 350ml if developing one 35mm film which means the tank is only half full, and it seems strange to invert because i would effectively be removing the film from the developer? My negs came out with what looked like 'tide marks' or water marks along the length of the film when using inversion. (see attachment)
     
  5. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Andy I always mix enough soup to fill the tank, even though mine will take two rolls and I usually only put one in at a time. That way I know the dilution is the same every time and also my negs are always in contact will the solution. I know that wastes a little but the negs are the most important for me.

    My invertion is the full 180 degs and then back to vertical. Invert for full 30 seconds or even the first minute depending on the contrast I want, followed by one invertion every 30 seconds.
     
  6. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Thanks Tony. Do you mean 'full to the brim' or full to tank instructions, ie enough to submerge both reels?
     
  7. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Andy yes enough to fill to overflow and a little left in the jug.
     
  8. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I do it the same way...and you do not waste anything if it gives you great negs :tongue:
    I do not fill the tank btw, but use the suggested amount.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2005
  9. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Andy I've just had a look at my tank and for 35mm it says 375cc for one roll or 650cc for two rolls - I alway mix the dilution for 1000ml of water and that fills the tank, with as I say just a tad left in the jug.
     
  10. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Ok, I think I'm almost there! So far we have:

    When shooting, reduce exposure for better contrast.
    Invert when developing instead of tilting.

    One last thing (and this may be a total bozo question but please bear with me!)

    less agitation = less contrast and more agitation = more contrast?
    less development time = less contrast and more development time = more contrast?

    I know these are basic things, I just need the clarification!
     
  11. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Yep you got it in one or is it two :D Ask all the "bozo" questions you want I do and have learned much more here that way. Better an educated bozo than a real thicko :wink:
     
  12. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Excellent! Thanks folks, to quote one of our colonial friends 'Ya gotta love APUG!!'

    I think for daylight shooting I am going to stop trusting in camera metering. Having had the same muddy results from both the Praktica BX20 and the Olympus OM10, but less frequently from cameras with no meter, I think it's time to set both to fully manual (instead of shutter priority) and use my light meter a bit more!
     
  13. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    If you have a meter in your camera, and a hand held meter, use both to meter the same scene and compare the difference. If your more consistant with the hand held, add the difference to your TTL and it may help.I also find Rodinal is sometimes not the best dev. for film exposed to low contrast conditions. (please forgive me Father Morten) Check out the footnotes on http://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.html I looked at Rodinal with all films and some have foot notes pretaining to low contrast conditions. Looks like it is not just time and dilution, but ISO rating when exposing, as well.
     
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  15. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    After a while Andy you will get the feel for the negs. So depending on the conditions you shoot under and the film your using you will change the times and agitation by instinct. Another good reason for processing your own negs rather than letting someone else use them. I still get it wrong occasionally but that's all part of the fun of using negs. Good luck and have to say you nailed those night shots perfectly.
     
  16. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    I think you're worrying too much :smile:

    How do the shots look when printed? If they're missing detail in the shadow's you're underexposing. If the detail is there but the neg is contrasty ask youself what the light was like when the photo was shot ... Contrasty perhaps? If not maybe overdeveloped.

    I find that there is way way to much analysis going on these days, the aim (IMO) is to take a decently exposed interesting photo.

    Zone system begone :smile: I use my eyes, not some method.


    Graham
     
  17. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Graham,

    Look at the difference in these two attachments. I get the muddy look of the first 75% of the time. I want the look of the second all the time! Not that I use any real system other than my own judgement, if the zone system helps me do that (and I am not aware of having used it yet), so be it.
     
  18. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    Agree! A lot of us (myself included) worry too much. Should I rate it a bit lower, develop a bit less, another dilution, another agitation pattern et.al.
    I am about to settle on which films I will use primarily and then use more time on composition and finding interesting places to photograph.
     
  19. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    I think worrying is natural when something is important to us, but I agree that the print is the objective. That said, getting a good neg makes it much easier to get the final print we want. Now it's back to the darkroom for me to nail a print from one of the negs I didn't get the way I wanted it and it's a swine to print it the way I want.
     
  20. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    To up your contrast you can do the following: raise the temp. of your chemistry, agitate more often; agitate more vigorously; increase the amount of developing agent in your developer; develope. longer.


    Remember that exposure controls neg. density and developement controls contrast.

    Change only one variable at a time and don't shoot anything important while your're running your test rolls. Try to find a scene that has it all: whites, black and grays. Experiment! Film is cheap!

    It's hard to use night photos as a judge. They have plenty of contrast already.
     
  21. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    Well A is a bit flat and B has a bit more life.

    What were you trying to make people *feel* when you took that pic?

    As far as I'm concerned, making people feed *something* is the point.


    Anyway, have fun
     
  22. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I'm never trying to make anyone 'feel' anything. I'm just trying to make photographs the best I can. If others then like them too, thats a bonus. I photograph for me, not for others.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2005
  23. Maine-iac

    Maine-iac Member

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    It's always better to fill the tank with developer, even if developing only one reel (in a two-reel tank, I presume). This will prevent streaks on the film.

    The old rule of thumb was expose fully and develop minimally. That doesn't exactly hold true in all circumstances and with all films, but it's a good general rule.

    Try two inversions and a sharp tap on the sink every 30 seconds during development.

    Larry
     
  24. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    Don't misunderstand me, but Some (myself included) spend too much time testing films and developers instead of taking pictures.
    But I worry, too when the film is important to me, and I experiment a lot still. But not as much as I have up until a few month ago. I have tried almost all films on the market and 10 developers...now settling on Rodinal, HC-110 and XTOL (that beast).

    Morten
     
  25. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    well I'm going to disagree with the "fill the tank brigade". None of you must use a Paterson System 4 tank, which basically forces you to leave an air gap, which allows the developer lots of room to move around when you invert the tank. Next time you buy bottle of 100% orange juice, let it sit so all the lumpy bits settle, then turn it upside down a few times and see how it mixes. Have a glass of it then let it settle again. Now turn it upside down... bet it mixes much quicker. Same thing with the developer... sort of. The air gap lets the developer get away from the film and new stuff at the film once you flip it back over. Having said that, there are people that use full tanks and get perfect results, there's people that twirl (Paterson style) and those that use half full tanks and get perfect results. I personally have never used more developer than needed (I do mix about 50ml more than the tank suggests just to be certain it's covering the film), and I've never put a spare reel in my 2 reel tank when developing one roll (I usually want that dry for my next roll)

    My one question for Andy is are these prints or scans?
     
  26. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    At the moment these are negative scans (using an Epson Perfection 2480) with zero correction except resized for upload, I only bought an enlarger on sunday and it has yet to arrive (see here). I did consider it being the scanner, but having seen it scan the night shots perfectly comapared to the day shots, I have dismissed scanner related problems.