Minimizing wasted paper when printing large

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by tkamiya, Nov 19, 2012.

1. tkamiyaMember

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I'm starting to print bigger.

Started from 8x10 and now I am printing 11x14 more. In a week or so, I will be printing 16x20, I hope.

Here's a question for those who have experiences in printing big. How do you minimize waste in paper? I can print 8x10 and get adjustment and contrast right, but when I scale up to 11x14, pure mathematical calculation doesn't do it. Contrast looks different and the overall impression of the print isn't the same - beyond the size difference. I find I need to bump up the contrast 1/4 grade or so, and lighten the print slightly to get the "same" print. I'm expecting, by going to 16x20, the difference will be greater.

In short, I can practice on 8x10 but I will have to go through few trials on 16x20 as well.

Are there any tricks and tips on minimizing waste on large (and expensive) paper?

To start, I'm going to use Pearl RC paper.

2. JBrunnerModeratorStaff MemberModerator

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I set up for 11x14 and then use smaller paper placed in a representative area to get things dialed as close as I can. After that I might use one, maybe two sheets of 11x14 to get it dead on, mostly to figure the dodging and burning.

3. Stephanie BrimMember

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Put the head up where you need it for the 16x20 but do a step wedge, as usual, on 8x10 in an area that gives you a good range of tones?

I can't think of anything else right now that could help.

4. polyglotMember

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Contrast can appear lower in larger prints inspected closely, which can fool you. Printing a step-wedge will prove that the contrast doesn't really change unless your enlarger is a bit dim and you get into reciprocity failure of the larger paper.

Using an enlarger meter will allow you to adjust the exposure correctly for the change in enlarger height and obtain a tonally equal print... but you might still want to bump the contrast anyway, i.e. deliberately interpret the prints differently at different sizes. I've been leaving it alone.

I buy identical papers in both 8x10 and 16x20, do my test-strips and dodge/burn experiments at 8x10. I know for a couple of pairs of enlarger heights what the exposure bump required is so that once I have the 8x10 down, I can go straight to the larger paper with no further testing or wastage.

5. michael_rSubscriber

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tkamiya, you might want to try John Sexton's "puzzle pieces" approach. It can be used at any size but it seems to me it could be particularly helpful if the goal is to fine tune a larger size based on a satisfactory smaller print. It is the way he prefers to figure out where to burn and dodge etc once he's got a reasonable base exposure.

6. tkamiyaMember

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sounds like a workable idea....

7. brian steinbergerSubscriber

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I'm surprised that no one mentioned the test strip printer that is showed in Way Beyond Monochrome editions 1 and 2. This is a fantastic way to save paper! I made one years ago and love it. Its not suitable for every negative but I find it useful for most.

Regarding using smaller size paper to make test strips for larger sizes I just don't trust it. If I'm printing 11x14 I will take a piece of 11x14 from that batch I'm going to make the final print on and cut it up into smaller pieces to make tests. If you do the math the sq inches of paper is all equal so there is no point (economy wise) really in trying to use 5x7 paper for tests then use 11x14 or 16x20 to make the print. I have tried using 5x7 paper for tests then final print on 11x14 and sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't. I think you almost have to purchase both size papers at the same time, or hope they were produced about the same time... etc.

So my recommendation is to cut up whatever size paper you're printing on for your final for the test strips. You can get alot of 5x7 pieces out of a 16x20 sheet!!

8. brian steinbergerSubscriber

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Also as for judging contrast, it is tough sometimes to translate a successful print you made on 8x10 to 11x14 or larger. Different dodging and burning may be needed where it wasn't in the smaller size. I used to try to make a final on 8x10 then simply translate up to a larger size and what I've recently discovered is I just end up re-discovering the negative again and end up doing everything from the beginning anyway. So what I do now is if I want to print to 11x14 I just go to the darkroom and start at the size. Saves me time in the end.

9. Dan HendersonMember

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I often begin with an 8x10 print even when I know I will ultimately print it larger. My experience echoes those above: it is more than just doing the math. So, as Brian says, I also use small pieces of the same paper that I intend to make the large print on, and pretty much start over with new test strips. My precious RH Designs timer automatically scales up the dodges and burns that were worked out for the small print, and those are usually pretty close.

I was fortunate enough to spend a day in the darkroom with Les McLean one time. I thought it was kind of crazy when he told me that he pretty much starts from scratch each time he reprints a negative, but I (wisely, I think) kept my counsel. What he said makes more sense now.

10. brian steinbergerSubscriber

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Thanks for that post Dan. This makes sense, there are too many variables between printing sessions that can change the results. Developer age, developer temperature, dilution, paper age, different emulsion, enlarger bulb age, different enlarging lenses.. etc. Notes from a printing session just get us close in the future but I believe ultimately each time we begin to print a negative again we still have to find the correct contrast and exposure for our given variables.

11. piu58Member

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I always work out my exposure plan with smaller paper. I use multi contrast for this even if I plan to make the real (large) print on fixed contrast.
To get from small to large paper I don't use any mathematics. That does not work for me, the remaining differences are too large. One or two test strips form the real paper and I have brightness and contrast there where it is in the smaller.
It helps very much if you count burning and dodging times not in seconds but in fractions of a stop. I think in third stops, that is my base unit.

Another hint: Way Beyond Monochrome recommends controlling contrast and exposure time from the beginning looking at the highlights. This makes sense: Highlights are more important than shadows. But if you change contrast the exposure time changes too (to a large amount) and you start from the beginning with your test strips. I always make the first steps with the minimal time for maximal black or in the near of it. That is in effect looking at the shadows first. If you change contrast this time remains nearly the same which makes the life with text strips much easier. If you in the near of the final exposure plan you have to look at the shadows of course. Change of the contrast should not be an issue then.

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12. RedSunMember

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If you want it fast and do not waste paper, get a enlarger meter or analyzer. The basic ones, like Ilford EM10, can give you reading on density. The more advanced ones (like RH Design (?) or Jobo Colorline), after calibration, can analyze the negative from several readings. Then it recommend the correct exposure time, grade of the paper, and color filter setting for VC papers.

Then you can test print the most important part of the photo before you commit the large paper.

This saves a lot of time and paper.

13. Doremus ScudderMember

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Call me old-fashioned...

I proof everything. A contact print on grade 2 gives you a ton of information regarding contrast, exposure and possible print manipulations. Being able to look at the proof and come up with a contrast grade that is correct alone saves you lots of paper.

If you already have a smaller print of the one you want to print larger, and have kept good printing records, you have even more information and can use that as a starting point. Experience will tell you what things you usually have to do when going larger: a bit more contrast, printing down or burning down some highlight areas, dodging up a featureless shadow, etc., etc.

I always start with a simple test strip to find my basic exposure (based on the highlights) regardless. If I have a print already, I have a good idea of the contrast I want. If not, I base the starting contrast on the proof I have. If there are areas of obvious dodging/burning, I might make another test strip or two to arrive at a starting point for the dodging/burning. I then just make a print, full size, and spend some time in front of it figuring out my next move(s).

My maxim is, "waste time, not paper." I dry the print down, tack it up on the white board and sit, with paper and pencil in hand sketching out the scheme for the next print. This includes changes in exposure, dodging, burning, etc. If I need to switch contrast grades, however, I'll make a new test strip (or set of strips) and make another full-size print on the right contrast paper/setting and set about deciding what to do next with it. I spend a lot of time doing this. It is surprising how many things occur to me simply by spending 20 minutes or so living with the image.

I then make another full size print which includes all the refinements I have planned. If I'm lucky and my time planning has not been wasted, I have a much better print on the second sheet. The process of looking and planning gets reiterated till I have a print that I think sings. If It won't sing after several tries, or I hit a dead end, I'll move on to another negative, but usually I've selected a negative that has potential from the proofs.

So, in the worst case, I've changed contrast a couple of times, used up a couple of prints to get dodging and burning down and by the time I get to a final print I've used up a few test strips and 4-6 sheets of paper. I then make a run of several prints; three to five depending on the difficulty of making the print. In the end, I have as many or more final exhibition prints as the number of sheets I used refining. That comes out to roughly one finished print for every two sheets of paper. Economical enough for me.

I spend all that money that others spend on enlarging meters and fancy timers on paper. I print with a footswitch and a metronome.

Best,

Doremus

15. brian steinbergerSubscriber

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Excellent post!!

16. piu58Member

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> I spend all that money that others spend on enlarging meters and fancy timers on paper. I print with a footswitch and a metronome.

That is a very important point.

17. RedSunMember

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It is just funny that someone with 20-year experience would tell the newcomers that you do not need any meters to help, and waste your time, not paper. How a new guy can do that??

Enlarger meters are good devices to help the new guys to start. And help them to understand the different grades of paper and how to set the filters for VC printing. Also, without test prints, I do not know what they can do? So just take a pencil and ruler and think and think??

No flame here, but you'll need to put your feet in the OP's shoes.

18. michael_rSubscriber

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I disagree. I think for a newcomer it is best to learn to print using your eyes. Take the basics from a good book, and then practice and work.

Actually I think that is the best way regardless of skill/experience level so I'm with Doremus 100%. No need for enlarging meters, special timers, weirdo timing and estimation gimicks (developed by people to sell books) and other gizmos. Be methodical with a logical progression from test strips through work prints to final prints. If it takes more paper, so be it. You'll learn more too.

19. MattKingSubscriber

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Something like an Ilford EM-10 is handy for standardizing your starting point - making sure that the light intensity you start with is similar/identical for each negative.

I use it most without a negative in the carrier.

20. Dan HendersonMember

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I have to disagree with this as well. There is a lot to be said for learning to make and then judge good test strips and learning what a proper proof print can tell you. I suspect a new guy (or gal) probably needs to waste as much paper as time. When you get better at printing you probably waste less paper.

I have an Ilford EM10 and for the life of me I can't remember when it has actually helped me make a better print. I have a fancy timer as well but it is a convenience I permitted myself to indulge in. I could print just as well without it.

21. nworthSubscriber

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On easel photometers are an excellent tool, but not an absolute requirement.

You can print 11X14s directly without going totally broke, but the next step gets really expensive and awkward. When you go big, start small. Make a good 8X10, and determine the right contrast settings and the dodge/burn routine. If you are going to process the 16X20 or larger in a drum, use a drum and the same solutions to process the 8X10 so that all parameters are as close to the same as possible. If you have an on easel photometer, measure the light in some key area. Raise the enlarger head to the height required for the final print. If you used a photometer, read the same key area again and adjust the f/ stop to give the same exposure, if possible. Otherwise adjust the exposure as needed, making a test strip if necessary. Choose a key area of the print and make another 8X10. Adjust exposure and contrast as needed until an 8X10 of the key section is right. Then make the full sized enlargement, with the dodging and burning you established for your good 8X10 (adjusted for any change in exposure time). As noted above, reciprocity takes its toll, and you often do have to adjust time and contrast for the larger size.

22. tkamiyaMember

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Is it possible to make a generalized statement, say if I am going larger and have a mathematically derived exposure time dodge/burn time, and a given contrast, which direction I will likely need to adjust?

With my very limited experience, larger I went, I had to increase the contrast and reduce the exposure. I did this with a fairly low key image and spent significant amount of time and material to arrive at this "conclusion."

23. RedSunMember

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Search the web and read the article written by Paul Butzi. It is a good way to understand the BW printing and contrast control. But to me, it is too much work. I use the analyzer to do the calibration for me and it works well.

This saves me time and paper.

24. nworthSubscriber

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If you adjust the f/stop to give the same light level, the exposure time and contrast should remain the same. Going from 8X10 to 16X20 requires opening up two stops. The required exposure is proportional to the area of the print. If you have to increase the exposure time, you may have to adjust the exposure for reciprocity. How much depends on the paper, and none may be needed. You can check this by making a small test print from a portion of the larger sized image. Dodge and burn times will increase in proportion to the increase in overall exposure time. Contrast usually doesn't change with exposure, but it may. You just have to check. Some lenses, enlargers, and darkrooms (due to light splatter) have enough flare so that contrast gets reduced when making big enlargements. You just have to experiment to tell if it will happen to you and how much correction is needed. It may vary from negative to negative, also. It helps to be careful about flare and to try to eliminate bright reflecting surfaces near the easel. Once again, you can usually tell what corrections are needed by making a small print of a portion of the large image.

25. RedSunMember

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Well said.

Also, for B&W, there are some very good book on darkroom practice. I think that is a better way to learn in a systemic way. You can also learn some photographic optics that way.