My test prints are so-o-o dark!

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by PVia, Oct 20, 2007.

  1. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Hi all...

    First, thanks to everyone for helping me along so far in my first printing endeavors...

    I've printed a few negs with good contrast successfully at grades 3-3.5 (dual filtration dichroic head), at f11 for 6-7 sec with my head on the LOW light setting. I'm printing small enlargements from 6x7 negs on 5x7 Ilford VC RC Satin paper.

    When making my test strips today for a flat negative, I tried using f16 to lengthen my exposure times and print a test strip from 2-10 seconds with grade 0. (I was entertaining the idea of trying some sort of split grade method). The test strips were almost all black. Tried grade 1, very dark and muddy, basically unusable.

    I kept experimenting (mindlessly, I might add) and using my instincts just to see what would happen. I got a decent print but still very middling contrast by exposing 2 sec at grade 3.5 and 4 sec at gr 5 all at f16.

    Now, regardless of my lame methods and results, I am still wondering about these exposure times. I mean, to get into the 10-20sec range I'd have to stop down to f22...and I'm already set to LOW light on my head.

    What am I doing wrong?

    PS...paper and chems are all fresh, just bought and mixed fresh at the session. Temps for all chems were fine as well...
     
  2. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Using too short a focal length lens. I use a 105mm
    for same size negatives. For those small prints use
    as long a lens as your enlarger will take.

    What lens are you now using? Dan
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The small enlargements are part of it but unless the negatives are really thin I wouldn't expect times that short. So my guess is negatives are thin. Which enlarger is this?

    If the head can accept sheet filters you could try placing some ND filter material in there.
     
  4. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I don't think you are doing anything wrong, I would expect to have to stop down to f22 or f32 to make a 5x7 print. Why do you consider that be a problem?
     
  5. HMFriedman

    HMFriedman Member

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    I agree with a previous post suggesting that your negatives might be too thin. Maybe it's time to start thinking about whether you're giving the negative sufficient exposure, your negative development, and the density of the negatives.

    Looking at the negatives in front of a light, you should be able to see good details in most of the shadows (very small if any areas of negative that are as transparent as the unexposed film edge), and the dark areas of the negative should almost completely obscure print if you lay it on a book or newspaper.
     
  6. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Been there!

    Having not printed in the previous twenty or so years, I was surprised by the rather short exposures I came up with on my first recent session. Part of it may be due to having used a rather crude homemade enlarger in the past. But also, a 5x5 inch or so test print is only a 2.5x or so enlargement from a 6x6 frame (much earlier work was 35mm). I finally splurged on a 2-stop ND filter which works out pretty nicely. And it fits my 50, 80 and 105 Nikkors, so I'm covered. I find it vaguely handy that an 11x11 print with the ND filter off is right in the ballpark exposure-wise with a 5x5 print and filter on (not 100%, but a good first cut).

    DaveT
     
  7. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    A 5x7" print from a 6x7cm negative is not a lot of enlargement and short times at small apertures are to be expected (though under 2 seconds is a bit short!). Stop down to whatever your lens will allow - why not? Some will argue about diffraction but frankly, if you can't see it, it's not there as far as I am concerned - so try it and see.

    It may be that your negative is very thin - you say it is flat so it could well be that it is simply badly overexposed in which case it is never likely to make a decent print so forget it and move on. Trying to produce a silk purse from a sow's ear is an exercise in frustration (believe me, this is a subject I know about :wink: )and your efforts are probably better spent on getting a good print from a good negative.

    BTW, changing grade will not effect times much - and there is no point in doing so even if it does. As a general principle you find the best exposure time to get good highlight detail and bright whites where appropriate and then choose the grade to get good shadow detail and a good solid black (again, where appropriate). This is the mantra: "expose for the highlights, grade for the shadows". It does not apply in all cases, but will get you in the ball-park 90% or more of the time.

    Have fun, Bob.
     
  8. lee

    lee Member

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    if your negs are flat you would be better using a much higher filter than a grade 0 maybe like a 4 or 5 even.

    stop down way past f/16 make a test strip see where it goes.

    lee\c
     
  9. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'd go with the advice from DWThomas and Bob F. If your negative is thin, then you won't get a good print from it. If your negative is not thin, then you should invest in a neutral density (ND) filter for your enlarger. Trying to adjust the exposure time by playing with contrast won't get good results. (A partial exception: If you've got a color enlarger with color filtration dials, you can try adding significant amounts of both magenta and yellow filtration. This will have the same effect as adding ND filtration.)

    More generally, I don't know if today's B&W enlarging papers are significantly faster than those of a decade or two ago, but I'm pretty sure that color papers are faster than they used to be. When I print in color, particularly at sizes smaller than 8x10, I routinely have to add significant amounts of cyan, magenta, and yellow filtration to get reasonable exposure times. If B&W papers are faster than they used to be, then it wouldn't surprise me if you'd need to use the same trick. (Cyan filtration will have no effect on most B&W papers, though.)

    Oh, one other idea: Try opening your enlarger, checking the bulb, and seeing what the manual says about bulbs. If you bought the enlarger secondhand, it's possible that the previous owner stuck a too-bright bulb in it. Swapping out that bulb for the recommended one would probably help. Even if the bulb is the recommended one, using a lower-wattage bulb would presumably increase the exposure times.
     
  10. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Thanks, all...

    Dan, the lens is an 80mm Componon-S...

    Dave, I just always thought that it wasn't that great to have the lens stopped down that much...

    All, the neg is on the thin side but not anywhere near my nearly clear ones that are super low light and pushed...although there isn't a really dark or light on it...

    Bob...your silk purse from sow's ear is probably a good suggestion, just to move on...

    I guess I'll try another lens, the next size up I have is 135mm, but most likely I'd have to make the best print I can and then do some d&b and possibly a little toning or bleaching depending on the final print result...

    I remember Jean Loupp Sieff saying his negs were so thin you could barely see anything on them, and yet his prints were so wonderful and full of atmosphere...

    Thank you all so much for all the advice and comments. It it so appreciated by this fledgling printer. I will say that it is so much fun to actually print this way and to learn, as opposed to the "other" thing I was doing with my negs... ;-) It's so addictive to be in the darkroom...
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For the same enlargement factor, at the same aperture, any lens of any focal length will produce the same exposure time. That's not the issue, though you might want a longer lens if your current lens doesn't cover the format adequately (i.e., if you're getting dark or unsharp corners).

    I'd agree with those who say there is nothing unusual about your results, the neg is probably thin and will need a higher contrast grade, and use a smaller aperture to increase exposure time. Indeed, it's not optimal, but it sounds like the print isn't at the stage where diffraction is anywhere close to the main problem. When it gets to that stage, then you might worry about enlarging at the optimal aperture of the enlarging lens, presuming the enlarger is aligned properly.
     
  12. PVia

    PVia Member

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    OK, David...on the lens size question. I'm getting no falloff in the corners or edges. My 80mm goes to f22 but my 135mm goes to f45...hmm..

    I guess it's f22, then. I'm just not hitting a good black and good white on this neg. I know I'm trying to salvage a pig's ear here, but I wish I could make a slightly more extreme contrast, maybe with a separate gr 5 filter, rather than the dichroic. I figure if I can put the time in to get a pretty decent print, I can remember this info and have a good base to work from next time I'm faced with a neg like this...
     
  13. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    If you're switching grades make sure you're using the filtration settings that do not result in a change in sensitivity. This is usually given as a table with your paper - might be called the "dual filtration" settings.

    Oh wait, you said that already. Dunno then.
     
  14. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    You can dial in equal amounts of all three colors on your dichroic to create neutral density then add however much more to the appropriate colors to get the desired contrast grade.
     
  15. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    I'd think easy enough to test. With the 135mm the
    enlarger will need to be cranked up quite a bit. Likely
    has to do with the inverse law concerning distance of
    projection. I like working with a longer lens when making
    small prints; more clearance under the head. Dan
     
  16. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    I suggest trying the 135mm at f45. If that gives you times that allow you to do some test strips (ranging from too-light to too-dark) then you will be better able to get a handle on the true quality of the negative because you will be able to select a close-to-optimum exposure. Then you can home in on a contrast grade.
     
  17. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Yes...I could hardly get enough clearance for the grain magnifier!
     
  18. PVia

    PVia Member

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    So, Gary...if I dial in all 3 at 25, and the chart says to use 15Y 25M, it would be 25C, 40Y, 50M ?
     
  19. PVia

    PVia Member

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    This sounds like a great idea...I'll try that this week.

    Thanks!
     
  20. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    You got it. You might need more than 25 ND added but its hard to tell with print materials that are not panchromatic.
     
  21. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Gary,

    I'll measure the light output with my incident meter and keep it for reference. It's probably a handy chart to have around anyway...
     
  22. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    I've given it some thought and now believe the
    above statement the more likely correct. Two other
    non-related matters were considered in making my
    first statement.

    One; point light sources and the inverse square law
    came to mind. Two; years ago I went from a 75mm to
    a 105 when working close to the base board. More room
    to work but had thought my exposure times longer
    without actually testing. Dan
     
  23. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Yes, although cyan filtration is irrelevant to most B&W paper, at least in theory, so you could do 25C/40Y/50M, 0C/40Y/50M, or 100C/40Y/50M and they'd all print the same. Remember, cyan is "minus red," and since most B&W papers are (nearly) insensitive to red, adjusting the cyan filtration will have no effect. Again, this is in theory. In practice, there might be a tiny effect, particularly if your cyan filter blocks any non-red light. I did some tests once and found no effect with Agfa MCP310RC paper and my enlarger, but it's an oddball Philips PCS130 with PCS150 controller, which uses separate red, green, and blue lights rather than a white light with cyan, magenta, and yellow filters.