Print contrast question

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by cepwin, Sep 8, 2012.

  1. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    I did some prints last weekend and noticed the contrast was very poor. When I checked the scan of the negatives they were fine contrast wise. Could this have been caused by worn out developer? Could there been contrast problems covered up by the scanning? Thanks!
     
  2. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    could be:
    fogged paper
    unsafe safelight
    spent developer
     
  3. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Yes
     
  4. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! I can see two possibilities...spent developer or scanning hiding something are my most likely suspects then. I was printing during the day (closed door, lights out, curtain drawn in adjoining room) as I had done before with the same save light I've been using for weeks. I'll have to take a physical look at the negatives and make fresh chemicals. If that doesn't work I'll go onto further investigation. Thanks again.
     
  5. harrygrey382

    harrygrey382 Member

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    that's what I'd be doing firstly, you can normally get a good idea of a negative's contrast by holding it up to the light. I also like to have a known good set of similar scenes to compare to
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    If you develop unexposed paper and it's still white, it's
    Probably not fogged. If you can't get a good black it
    Might be old or exhausted developer.
     
  7. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi cepwin,

    If you want to test your print developer, take a piece of photographic paper - a test strip will do - and expose it under white light for several minutes. Then develop it as normal. If the paper doesn't turn deep black within five minutes, your developer is exhausted or there's something wrong with your process.

    Are the negatives fixed properly? Poorly fixed negatives will cause reduced print contrast.

    Are you using variable contrast (VC) paper? If so, are you using the correct grade filter in the enlarger? Yellow is soft, magenta is hard. If not, you might not achieve a full black in the image. VC papers can give flat results if you use no filter, especially under a diffusion enlarger.

    Are you using a graded paper? If so, are you using the correct grade (see above). Graded papers don't respond to filters but will be contrastier under a condenser enlarger.

    Are you developing the paper for long enough? If not you won't attain a full contrast range. At 21 degrees Celsius you should leave resin-coated paper for at least two minutes and fibre paper for five minutes, and perhaps longer to attain those deep blacks. Likewise don't be tempted to 'pull' your prints before they've fully developed. instead, control the exposure time and intensity properly.

    Is your developer warm enough? Cold developer will not work as quickly as warm developer and you may underdevelop your paper.

    Is the enlarging lens, filter(s) and light path free of foreign material (dust and grease)? Muck and grease on the lens is a common cause of reduced contrast in printmaking.

    Lots of things can reduce print contrast. I hope you discover the cause and don't feel discouraged because we all learn from our mistakes and we all start out making them. :smile:

    Cheers,
    kevs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2012
  8. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Thank you Kevin for you detailed response! I looked at the negatives and they seem OK. I was using VC paper (ilford RC) but I wasn't using any filters....that's how I had been printing. I bought their filters but I have to cut them to fit my enlarger filter tray before I can use them (or can I simply put them in the negative holder with the negative?) I develop for 2 minutes, stop for 30 sec and fix for a minute (as per the instructions on the rapid fix.) The temperature was probably around 75 degrees f which I think is within normal range. I think the enlarger lenses, etc are clean. Even after going though all the additional things you specified it still seems to point back to the chemicals. Thank you again!
     
  9. kevs

    kevs Member

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    No worries; I'm happy to help. It's best not to sandwich the filters with your negatives in the carrier; they'll give you another two surfaces to clean and any scratches or marks on them will show in your prints. The enlarger's negative carrier is designed so the filters are well out of focus when the negative is in focus, so any marks and dust won't show.

    Without a filter, Ilford Multigrade is supposed to work as a Grade 2 paper, but I always had disappointingly flat results working like that. Your mileage may vary though. :smile:

    I'm glad you've nailed the source of your printing problems; it does sound like exhausted developer. 75f is about 21c, which is a good temperature to develop at. The rest of your process sounds fine too. Have fun and happy printmaking. :smile:

    Cheers,
    kevs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2012
  10. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    hi cepwin,
    one culpritis still missing with all the good advise so far. are you a smoker?cigarette smoke on the enlarging lens can severely reduce print contrst. it might be time to clean t and stop smoking!
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Are you using the other filters to increase your contrast or are you sticking with #2 filter for all negs?

    Different negs can require different filters, and you should be using them to see how the filters can be used to match your scenes.
     
  12. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Thanks for the responses. First, no...I don't smoke/never have (I actually don't even like being near someone who's smoking outside) Now I can't be 100% sure about the gentleman I got the enlarger from, from our brief meeting he didn't seem to be a smoker, but I have cleaned the lenses since. I purchases the ilford filters and have yet to use them. Based on Kevin's advice I'll need to trim them to fit the filter holder (they're 3.5x3.5 but the holder is smaller.) I do have Ilford's reference guide (tnx to Ian) and another related book I bought from another APUG member. Plan for today is to remix fresh chemicals...reprint the images that I'm not happy with and if time permits start with the filters. Any tips on trimming them so as not to damage them? I have a very basic paper cutter, regular scissors and some exacto knives but I think I may need a sharp pair of crafting scissors.