Pretty confused with the choice of printing paper.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by baachitraka, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I am an absolute beginner in printing, what confuses me right now is how to achieve the tonal ranges with graded paper and Variable Contrast paper.

    I was watching some videos and learned that

    - Split-grade printing is one method to achieve the full-tonal range with Variable Contrast papers.

    Now, if I choose not to go with Variable contrast papers how can I achieve the tonal range with graded(0-5) papers.
     
  2. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Baachitraka,

    Firstly, PM me your home address and I will send you the MULTIGRADE Printing manual that will help.

    Variable contrast papers, both FB and RC are the easiest to use, especially if your are looking for a full range of contrast grades, as in graded paper virtually no grade 0 or grade 5 is now made.

    Also, if you are just starting out, no paper on earth can make up for a bad neg...work to get a negative to print at grade 2 or grade 3 first...

    Simon. ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  3. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    With graded papers, you have to choose the box with the right grade of paper for a certain negative. And if it still doesn't look good, you will have to use different developer combinations or a water bath to achieve "inbetween grades". I am not sure if there are any graded papers left that has the full range (0-5) - I think the most you can get nowadays is grade 2 and 3. In this case you will have to expose and develop the negatives to match the paper grade.

    Start off with evenly exposed rolls of film, carefully developed and you will find they print with grade 2 or 3 quite easily. That's my experience anyway. What film or developer you use is of little importance, as long as you stick with the combination for a while to get the basics down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2011
  4. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    Simon, I would wager that there are a bunch of people here that would be interested in that PDF myself included. Would it be possible to make it available to the masses?
     
  5. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    ...that means, I must fully know about my negatives(density/densitometry) if I choose the graded paper for printing. Sounds complicated, if it is true.
     
  6. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    No, you don't need a densitometer, but you have to match the paper to the negative, by trial and error (which is the same procedure as with the variable papers but you do that with just one box of paper).

    I think people who use graded papers are either old coots (just kidding!) or use large format cameras where you can develop each negative individually, compared to a roll of film which has to be "averaged" in the developing stage, if you see what I mean.
     
  7. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I think, I will stick to Split-grade printing with VC papers.
     
  8. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Guitstik,

    We cannot do a PDF as we obviously honour photographers copyright which was for 'book' publication. and they illustrate the various effects of grade changes and are integral to the book, If you want to PM me your address I will happily post you a copy.

    Simon. ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :

    ILG
     
  9. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I would to receive a copy too, but would like to send you my address as a private message. Is that okay?
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Split grade printing is a technique that isn't exactly for beginners. You are actually better off learning how to target a single grade of paper contrast in your film development.
    It isn't that hard to do, and you will learn a lot more about correct film contrast and film development, which ultimately will make your split grade prints look even better - when you get around to it.

    I can tell you from experience that I'm very surprised just how many of my negatives to my fairly high standards with just a single grade filter in the enlarger.

    I don't wish to discourage you, but doing split grade printing without knowing single grade printing is a bit like learning to swim before knowing you can float.

    Either way, have fun!

    - Thomas
     
  11. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Hi,
    I would be careful about putting too much store in this statement. The best way is to try to create a negative with the full tonal range first. Split grade does not always produce the most pleasing results for some subjects. I usually only use split grade printing when I have a thin negative or in scenes with an extreme contrast range. There is no one right answer as you can well imagine. I would not try to master split grade printing before being able to be confident to make a good negative and make a great print with a grade 2 filter on multigrade paper. Choose one MG paper and use it for a while, limit the variables for starters and practice a lot! Good luck.
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Have to agree with Thomas and Tony, while split grade printing can be useful it's only one of many approaches and as Simon says getting the negatives right is the most important factor, do that and printing is easy.

    The Ilford Multigrade publication is an excellent starting point.

    Ian
     
  13. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Testing film is not terribly complicated and you can have someone else do it, if you wish. It would be the single best investment you can make when relation to printing. You pick a couple of emulsions, do it once, and you're done. Once you can shoot those rolls to comfortably fit on grade 2/3 paper, you can have plenty of fun in the darkroom instead of fighting with poor negatives. That leaves time (and money) to be creative and interpretative (via split grade, etc) instead of correcting mistakes.
     
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  15. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    To get started, keep it simple. Get some regular variable contrast paper and a set of filters. Use single grades of filters to get the look you want through experimentation. The book that Simon refers to is excellent, but so it Tim Rudmans Master Printing book and a bunch of others. Split printing certainly works, but so does using single grades for a given exposure. I think most advanced printers use some combination of both. Honestly, if you can pick a single correct contrast that works well for the entire image, you will 90% of the way there.
     
  16. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    I'm an old coot and grew up using graded papers. You develope methods of burning n dodging to make up for a lousey negative to get that range of tones you are looking for... a real PIA if you have lousey negatives. You generally start with a G2 or G3 paper, cojnsidfered as normal papers. The G4 n G5 are very contrasty papers, below grades are soft les contrasty papers. When negatives are good, you still have to do some darkroom magic but it is very minimal to get waht you are looking for.

    With VC papers it is much easier to adjust for your lousey negatives n achieve the range you want using an assortment of split filtering techniques. AS a beginner, start with VC. You get a full box odf any grade you want by using the appropiate filter. You can experiment with your negatives n make developing / exposure adjustments as you learn the materials. Then as you get better negative that need very little corrections, venture out n try lots of different papers including graded for their unique properties so you can broaden your experiance as well as have a better time doing it without getting frustrated too soon.

    Most of all, have fun playing in the darkroom. It shold be a pleasant experiance for a life time of fun.

    BTW ask an old coot to invite you into his darkroom so you can see how it's done?.. or take a class? Learning this way can save you alot of experimenting in the begining.
     
  17. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Learn how to print by classic means before you mess around with split grade. There isn't anything you can do with split grade that you can't do with regular old graded and timed printing. It isn't a magic bullet, it's a method, and without the basics it is a method that will be more of an impediment to your learning curve than anything else.
     
  18. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    I should have stated this when I posted earlier but I got excited when Simon offered the MG info, selfish of me I know. At this point I would just be rehashing what everyone else has already put forth but here goes anyway.

    I would start by sticking with one film, paper and chem for both. Learn how they produce prints until you start showing improvement and then start experimenting with different papers to improve your prints(assuming your negatives are good). Then try different films but do all of this in stages, one change at a time.

    It might be a good idea of some of the more experienced gives a concise explanation of what a good negative is so that the OP has a better understanding.
     
  19. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    There are probably a few variations on the theme, but I found this page helpful to me, when trying to understand the variables of a negative: http://www.ephotozine.com/article/assessing-negatives-4682

    I have given up on looking at the negatives themselves, I do a contact print with a given time, f/stop and height of the enlarger instead.
     
  20. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    If you have been developing your film correctly then the negatives should print easily on grade 2 or 3 paper (or filter if you are using VC paper). To minimise grain many protographers look for a thinner negative for 35mm which would require grade 3 while MF is fine with grade 2.
     
  21. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A good negative is one that you can't read a newspaper through.:wink:
     
  22. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    A man after my own heart. When in doubt, give it more exposure.
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Something I learned Friday night. I hope this encourages you.

    This part doesn't matter, but for background: I print on Grade 2 and Grade 3 papers. If I need other grades I use MG. I use 4x5 and develop film as needed to fit between Grade 2 and Grade 3.

    This is what matters: You can put a number 2 filter on your enlarger and make a commitment to stick with it. That is just as good as using graded paper.

    The rest is just illustration of a possible approach:

    Make a print on filter number 2. If it is too flat, feed that fact back into your film developing time. Develop your next roll of film longer.

    For this print, go ahead and change to a number 3 or 4 filter and make a satisfying print. Remember you are working off a negative that could have been better. So if it is a little hard to control the time, don't be discouraged. Remember that a better negative will be easier to work with in the darkroom.

    When you have to print on higher grades, it is harder to control base time, burning and dodging because time tolerances are tighter. Sure, you can nail down your times within a couple of seconds. But you shouldn't start out that way. You should start out trying to make things easier.

    It is way more fun to spend 8, 10 or 14 seconds dodging and having a gradual effect on results.

    Last Friday I did the craziest thing. Printing an ice scene with a Grade 2 paper. I dodged an icicle and burned in mossy shadows.

    Even though the actions I took would have been unnecessary on Grade 3, I resisted the urge to switch paper. The result is closer to what I imagine ice should look like than I have gotten before. I don't think I ever imagined I would dodge a highlight.
     
  24. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    All the talk about split grade printing and matching the paper to the film is beyond the requirements of a beginner. Maybe in a couple of years it will become useful. Follow Simon's advice. Modern variable contrast papers like Multigrade are truly marvelous and are top notch learning tools. Many photographers use them for exhibition prints. I would recommend sticking to one brand until you get the knack of making a good print. Lower cost papers, such as those available from Freestyle, are quite adequate for learning. But there may be some advantage to using a professional grade material like Multigrade. (One obvious advantage is wide availability; another is consistency.) I would recommend using RC paper to start. It's much easier to handle.
     
  25. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Matching the negative to the paper is something to aspire to, regardless at what stage you're at. As a matter of fact by getting negative contrast right, everything else becomes infinitely easier.
    When I teach new photographers how to print, we start with picking a paper and developer. It is there where it all begins.
    Then we start to process negatives where we start by heavily bracketing exposures until we find something that gives great shadows at Grade 2.
    Then we learn how to alter developing time to get a full and nice tone spectrum all the way to the lightest highlights.
    And guess what, after a few rolls of shooting, developing, and printing all of them have learned quickly how to make a good solid exposure that they know will print well. Easy peasy. It isn't hard to get to a point where you can focus on the pictures. It just takes some focused effort.
     
  26. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Without detracting from your main message (which I think could be summed up "let's keep it simple for beginners") - I want to point out that Grade 2 is an easy target to shoot for. I wished I had picked on that target sooner.

    I'm not talking about "hitting" that target exactly, not every print will fit Grade 2. I used to freak out trying to get my head around how photographers ever achieved an exact fit.

    Naah, you don't even have to get close. It's just good to have a goal in mind that you can tell for sure that you went over or under.