Printing Exposure Control

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by cliveh, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    When printing I often find that control of exposure time/intensity is much more important than contrast control and where possible I print without any contrast filtration. Do APUG members find that fine tuning contrast can sometimes be a distraction to exposure control?
     
  2. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Not for this member.
     
  3. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    Exposure time and intensity are both closely controlled by the timer and lens respectively. With VC papers once you find your exposure for your highlights you use contrast to control your blacks. I'm a bit confused as to what you're asking.
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    If I keep my #2 filter in the filter drawer and just rely on a single exposure, I can get a photograph where it would be passable IF they came from a one-hour photo place. Many non-photographer people thinks those are good photographs.

    But I am not satisfied with that. Why would aim so low... My role models are not one hour machines but they are fine art photographers that will turn out stunning work.

    For that, careful use of base exposure with proper contrast grade and exposure time, multiple dodging and burning using same or different grade contrast filters, and even different paper textures. Bleaching and toning may be required. This is especially true when what I saw and what I visualized isn't exactly the same.

    None of them are distractions. None of them are unnecessary - to me and for me to get closer to what I am looking to create. I sometimes spend half a box of paper trying to get what I want. (and still not get it) Grrrr....

    I wonder what OP is looking for. He once said dodging and burning isn't necessary. Now he says contrast control isn't necessary. Can you explain a bit about your goals and motives??
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I am not saying contrast control isn't necessary, or any of the other controls you mention. I am saying, for me, if I am using contrast control, I sometimes find that fine tuning this can sometimes be a distraction, when the solution I am looking for is fine tuning exposure.
     
  6. Rick Jones

    Rick Jones Subscriber

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    I too find that what appears to be a contrast problem can really turn out to be an exposure problem. As a result I work very hard at nailing the exposure before reaching for different filtration.
     
  7. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    It is not a distraction. It is a necessary variable to manage when trying to achieve the print you see in your mind. Also, it is not just total contrast, but local contrast which is just as important.

    Try to approach things methodically. Try to get some good mid-highlight tones with a basic exposure time and adjust from there. There are no constants, but it's a place to start.
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    In that case, yes it is. You change one and the other has to be done all over again. What you are looking for is a split printing technique where you lay down the highlight, then shadow. Our own Ralph has a chapter in his book "Way Beyond Monochrome II".

    I do not use this method in my own darkroom.

    Doing it the old fashion way, you do get a feel for it though. You will be able to say, "if it look like this #2 at 10 seconds, let's try #2.5 at 9 seconds and see...." and get it pretty much right.
     
  9. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear cliveh,

    I admit to having gotten lost that way, particularly when I've been rushing unnecessarily.

    Neal Wydra
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I too have found that contrast adjustments can be a real distraction.

    I fact I've started going back to some old negatives and printing them darker at grade 2 (no filtration) and have been pleasantly surprised.

    It hasn't worked in every case but for a high percentage of shots a significant improvement was available.

    I been trying to figure out why my subject in a darker photo can look "brighter". My working theory right now is that B&W is an abstract medium and that stronger/more black (less shadow detail) provides a better foundation for our eyes/brain to see the midtones and highlights.

    Placing say a skin tone at a specific brightness on paper doesn't seem to be as important as getting a good visual foundation (within certain limits). Like walking into a darker room my eyes just seem to adjust to many darker prints.

    This seems to be born out by the works of Karsh and Hurrell that I've seen.
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Over time, if you are processing your own film and not jumping all over looking for a silver bullet, your starting packs for certain magnifications will start being apparent. I look at the neg, consider the lighting of the original scene, then with a bit of history remember the last time I made a print of this type of neg/scene I was at x filter and y time with the lens stopped down two stops. I start there.

    I encourage you to look at the negative on a light box and study the neg on an enlarger and with practice all this stuff becomes pretty easy. As all will agree, standardize a bit so you are repeating each time you come into the darkroom.
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    that's what dodging and burning is all abot
     
  13. RalphLambrecht

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    ...and don't waste any time looking for that silver bullet either, because there isn'tone.
     
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  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Well there are two main ways I do single-exposure multigrade printing with a filter set that pivots on a middle gray.

    A) Start with low contrast print. Get your overall exposure, then ramp up the contrast to get the whites and blacks appropriate. The advantage here is that you get to see all the information on the negative right away. The disadvantage with this method is that your latitude for the initial exposure on the low contrast filtration is very wide. Therefore, as you ramp up the contrast, your printing time will likely change to some extent (because the exposure latitude at higher contrast filtration is very small).

    B) Start with high contrast print and get your overall exposure. Then ramp down the contrast to get detail in the blacks and whites. The advantage here is that you won't have any exposure change as you ramp down the contrast. The disadvantage is that you don't get to see the full information on the negative at the start. Of course it is all there when you look at the negative.
     
  16. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi Cliveh,

    I hope you were able to find clarity from the excellent suggestions in this thread.

    I find my clarity by using single graded papers. It is a clear decision for me whether the negative will require a Grade 2 or Grade 3 paper. You could apply this concept to MultiGrade papers by "deciding" to use certain grade filters.

    The rest of my decisions are time. I find clarity in time decisions by using one-third f/stop printing increments for my test strips.

    I don't expect the print to look good on one exposure. Different subject areas look better on certain patches of the test strip. That's how I determine burn and dodge times.

    I will choose odd times when I see a subject is too dark on one test patch and too light on the adjacent one. I try not to demand finer tone changes than I can control given my normal process variations. If in doubt, I burn blacks longer and dodge whites more. I can tell under safelight if my highlights are muddied, so I will reprint immediately if I see that.

    I have decided not to incorporate the finer print controls of split-grade printing or masking at this time. But I believe those techniques can deliver significant quality improvement and encourage you to explore them if you wish.
     
  17. CPorter

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    The enlarging exposure time is the key to the print highlights, but that exposure time may not always serve the global and/or local contrast equally well. Having said that, I do believe one can become distracted----------------set the exposure time by the desired highlight, then work on contrast. It has been said already, a too drastic change in contrast with VC filtration can affect the initial exposure time for the highlight. With single filters (an Ilford set with Ilford VC paper for example), the exposure time is stated, I believe, to be constant up to a #3 filter, going to #4 or #5, will require you to do another test for exposure time for the desired high value.

    How often does the fine tuned enlarging exposure for your highlight also provide the best exposure "solution" for the overall density and contrast of the print itself? IMO, not often, primarily because the negative is rarely perfect enough to satisfy the aesthetic visualization of the final print.

    But, the negative can be perfect enough to allow much freedom of exploration of both the final density and contrast of the desired print. Therefore, the need for contrast control is essential through, dodge and burn, paper developer, toning, and VC filtration if using VC paper.

    Like many, I prefer to work up in contrast incrementally when starting from a very low contrast work print, it's where the fun is, IMO, especially when working with a well made negative that permits that exploration. And I always settle on one filtration setting to define the global print contast as I do not prefer to split print.
     
  18. MattKing

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    I would really recommend using a #2 filter instead of using no filter.

    Other than that, I agree that exposure is critical.

    But then, I usually base my exposure and contrast determinations for my main exposure on important mid-tones, rather than highlights or shadows.
     
  19. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    What I haven't seen mentioned here is the fact that the toe and shoulder areas of the print (the highlights and the shadow areas, respectively) have inherently less contrast than the mid-tones. Increasing exposure somewhat moves the part of the print that was previously in the toe more toward the mid-tones, thereby increasing the separation (read contrast) in that area. The converse is true for shadows: giving less exposure will move them toward the middle, thereby increasing contrast. And, the opposite is true, one can reduce shadow and highlight contrast by increasing and reducing exposure, respectively. So, especially in these critical areas of the print, exposure changes effect contrast changes. Balancing a print this way, in addition to the basic choices we make for overall contrast, coupled with effective dodging and burning is what it's all about.

    To possibly help the OP and others here who have expressed frustration at getting "lost" somewhere between exposure and contrast adjustments: First, we all have been there (and still fall into the cracks occasionally!). Maybe my experience and method will help others streamline their printing.

    I find that staying with one contrast for a while and dealing with exposure changes first helps me a lot. I, like Bill, use graded papers primarily, but the same strategy works fine with VC papers as well. I determine my starting contrast from my contact proofs. (Actually, I indicate intended paper grade on my exposure record at the time of exposure, and it works out in most cases). Then, I make a test strip, concentrating on the highlights and the separation and tonalities I want there in order to determine starting exposure. I then make a straight print at that exposure and evaluate it for overall contrast and exposure. Unless the contrast is way out the window, I adjust the exposure by small increments to arrive at the best print. I incorporate dodging and burning at this point, seeing what does what in that department as well. I'll tweak development time and dilution (maybe add some restrainer or carbonate) also, all to try to get an optimum print from the chosen contrast grade.

    Only after it is really apparent that the chosen contrast grade will not work do I decide to change contrast. For me, this is by switching to a different paper grade, choosing a different paper with inherently different characteristics, or changing development schemes (softer developer, etc.), but it really is just a "change in contrast" however one wants to achieve it. When I use VC papers, I do essentially the same thing, changing contrast only after I've really determined that my starting contrast won't work.

    I then start over from the the top: make a new test-strip and determine a new starting exposure for the new contrast print. This may seem to be more work than necessary, but I find that in the long run it saves time and materials. Remember, the critical highlights will NOT be the same with a new contrast, either in exposure or in rendering, and you really need to find the exposure for these before dealing with everything else. I then refine exposure, dodging and burning, etc. as before. Sometimes it takes three of these "start-overs" to find the right contrast for a print, but usually it is only one or two.

    After that, it boils down to refining the print manipulations and making purely subjective, and more artistic decisions. Sometimes, I'll like a print at more than one contrast/exposure... but that's another discussion.

    In a nutshell, I think it's better to stick with one contrast first (as long as it is in the ballpark), make your best print and then refine contrast as desired, not seesaw between changes in exposure and contrast: maximizing two variables at the same time is just too time-consuming.

    Hope this helps,

    Best,

    Doremus

    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Why?
     
  21. RalphLambrecht

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    itcanbecomea distrctionwhenonefeelsforcedtojump back and forth between exposure and contrst corrections the best approach is to ignorecontrst at firstan d concentrate on finetunin high light eposue alone then turn the attention to the shadows and finetune contrst
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Good stuff Doremus.
     
  23. Bill Burk

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    If you use a #2 filter to start then the next filter is the next grade.

    If you use no filter, then find you need to go up or down a grade, what filter do you pick, and what is the exposure change?

    (If you know the answer to that - or have worked it out - great. But this used to bug me... I didn't really know how far the next step or what exposure it would take.)
     
  24. markbarendt

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    Actually use VC paper and the recommendations included with the paper.

    Color head on the enlarger so I can dial in whatever grade I please.

    I use a Beseler PM2L to set exposure time, I can actually watch the needle move from the normal time to the new time as I dial in the filters.

    The PM2L's biggest problem in finding the time is me. :laugh:
     
  25. MattKing

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    Bill has it right.

    Also, when you use the #2 filter for an exposure, and then decide that a #2.5 filter would be better, you will be able to use an exposure time with the #2.5 filter that is either the same or very close to the same as the exposure time you used with the #2 filter.

    It also helps to systemize your process - if you have a workflow that always deals with contrast filtration, you will be much less likely to forget to use the filtration when you mean to do so.
     
  26. CPorter

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    Pardon me if I misunderstand your meaning, but it seems you are suggesing that the filter # is equal to a contrast grade. There is no real correlation between a single VC filter and an ISO Range Number. Generally, the higher the filter #, then the higher the apparent contrast. But, it is possible for two filters to produce the same, or very near the same contrast i.e., ISO Range Number, given the particular paper, light source, and developer.