Selenium toning prints + printing lighter

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by rjas, Oct 18, 2006.

  1. rjas

    rjas Member

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    I've read references that selenium toner deepens blacks but also increases contrast. Does everybody print lighter and at a lower contrast grade when going to selenium toner? I've seen that people sometimes selenium tone prints days and even weeks after making them and that makes me wonder how they know what the final print will look like? It seems like the only way is to make a bunch of different prints at varying exposures and then toning and taking the best one, but that seems like a waste of paper and time and you'll always settle for a print that isn't as good as it could be.

    Is there a certain formula for knowing how much lighter to print or how much lower your contrast grade should be when you know your going to tone in selenium, kind of like a dry down compensation?
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It all depends on the paper, I'm afraid. One paper I use has to be printed very dull and lifeless, then opens up wonderfully in selenium toner and gives brilliant highlights and deep, velvety blacks. Another seems to loose a little density and contrast...
     
  3. don sigl

    don sigl Member

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    I don't use selenium much, but have in the past. my experience is that it (in general) will darken prints, there is some control of this based on toner concentration, and paper type. The reality is that the toning process has some variance built into it. If you want to be more accurate, you could make a bunch of test strips of an image, and tone to each strip at a different time. You could then quick wash and dry them. Look at them under the light source of your choosing and make the judgement call.
    I tone all my prints (I use Nelsons gold toner), this is the method I use. Even the, there is always some variation from print to print.
    (Nelsons, BTW will make increase contrast by darkening the blacks, but will have an increasing bleaching affect on the midtones and highlights based on time in the toner. Go figure).
     
  4. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    You just need to experiment and use experience. The reason being that every image is different and I personally can't tell which version is best until they are finished. So, I print several versions taking 5% exposure time off successive "final" prints. I don't think you need to lower contrast.

    Jon
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2006
  5. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Since selenium can be counted upon to darken blacks you need to be careful not to print your blacks overly dark.
     
  6. rjas

    rjas Member

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    Thanks!
     
  7. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Toner also changes the image tone (aha!) of papers. I've been printing on Nuance graded paper recently and found out that while toner (KRST 1+19) did not add much contrast to my print, it could alter the tone significantly, from cold to neutral to warm, as time of toning increases. I find that a warm tone photo has less apparent contrast than a neutral one, so that it makes it a little softer.
     
  8. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    Do what I did. I made prints with stepwedges, then I tone different ways and reference to the base print.
     
  9. rjas

    rjas Member

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    Can you elaborate?
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I have found that selenium only seems to affect the dark tones. I do not make any density adjustments for selinum toning. A slight kick in the blacks for me is a good thing, I have never seen selenium muddy down the shadows.
    When printing with papers to Sepia tone, there are those who make the print slightly darker and flatter to compensate for the bleaching effect of Part A.
    I do not change the print very much as I use a very diluted bleach A and then tone with part B. As well I then Selenium on top of this.
    I believe that the Sepia toner protects the highlights and midtones and the selenium protects the shadows for greater permance. *Tim Rudman may want to jump in here*
    The combination of light sepia and strong selenium on a cold tone paper is one of my favorite looks .
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree. Selenium can extend the shadows, so they get darker proportionally and shadow separation improves.
     
  12. ScottH

    ScottH Member

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    I don't change anything with my primary papers, Ilford MG FB & RC. In fact, I primarily tone for the slight changes in image warmth, as these papers (esp. the RC) tend to have a slightly green look. Complete selenuim toning shifts it toward a slight plum color. As David above references, it also enhances the shadows for better separation. As others have mentioned, I think this is paper specific, so a bit of experimentation would be in order to get a feel for the combination.
     
  13. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    In my experience it is very dependent on dilution and time. Early on I used low dilution and long times (10 mins) and got the pronounced eggplant colour tones and "better" shadow separation. Now I do not "anticipate" for final print but use highly diluted selenium for 2-3 minutes primarily for permanence and very, very subtle changes in blacks only.
     
  14. Tach

    Tach Member

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    Depends on the paper, I'm afraid. Agfa MCP tones VERY fast and hard (and beautifully). You gain a full paper grade or more, as shadows deepen and highlights stay put.

    Yes, I do print a lower contrast prints to be selenium toned (and selenium tone prints lacking in contrast :wink: )

    Ilford MGIV, on the other hand... Sometimes i feel like using a blowtorch on the selenium tray while using it...
     
  15. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I might recommend Tim Rudman's book on toning. It describes in great detail about the process and things to notice and to look out for.

    The Photographer's Toning Book: The Definitive Guide

    This can be had from Amazon for $20US and is worth every penny of investment.
     
  16. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    I use my Stoffers TP4x5 step wedge, printed on the paper of choice. Expose the 4x5 step wedge to have minimum exposure for Dmax in step one. I make about 10 at a time, so I can have some for test later. By doing it that way, you have some for later test, and your comparison to the untoned standard will be more valid. I also have tim Rudmans book and find it indispensable.
     
  17. tim rudman

    tim rudman Member

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    I agree with Bob that the combo of Selenium and sepia can be particulary beautiful, but the results do vary with different papers. Some papers, like Multigrade IV, show an initial cooling off of shadows which contrasts beautifully with a warming of highlights in sepia after just a brief bleach, giving a duo-tone effect. Others papers that shift tone markedly to brown in Selenium will give quite a different look when split sepia toned to the highlights - the difference between the two browns being less obvious.

    Selenium works most obviously in the shadow tones at first and will increase their density (DMax). This has the effect of raising contrast by giving deeper blacks - highlights staying put. It will also cause a colour shift that varies a LOT with different papers.
    Longer Selenium toning will show the colour shift moving up through the tones and eventually it will reach the light tones if toned long enough.
    Prolonged selenium toning will also eventually, after the initial rise, cause a fall in Dmax again.

    Sepia, on the other hand, tones the areas affected by the bleach stage. This is initially seen in the highlights and a short bleach stage will allow sepia toning only to light tones. A longer bleach will allow toning of light and mid tones and a still longer bleach will allow sepia toning of all tones - but with some papers the blacks can take a long time to go. They always will though, given enough time and strong enough bleach.

    Re your question about compensating in the printing - it depends on a number of things: ...
    How much the image can stand in increased contrast, which can be quite modest. This is often not necessary to compensate for, as it may only affect the deepest blacks. If there are important deep near blacks they might become harder to see if they darken though.
    It also depends on the paper, as others have pointed out. And it depends on how long you tone for, as it is progressive (but see above).
    It is my experience too that it may depend (more or less - according to paper) on the strength of the selenium as it may behave differently when very strong to when very weak (for example).
    Tim
     
  18. rjas

    rjas Member

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    Great responses, so helpful. Thanks

    so far I've found that I don't need to decrease contrast in the print at all. The added kick in the blacks is welcome in most all of my prints. Exposure might need to be reduced a bit but it seems to be a print by print basis depending on how much of my print is made up of shadows. A print with great highlights and midtones but weak shadows came out sparkling after a 3 minute dunk in selenium at 1:9. after using it this first time, I'm pretty sure that i'm going to selenium tone all prints even slightly to at least get rid of the green cast and deepen the shadows.
     
  19. jecurcio

    jecurcio Member

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    I agree with Tim Rudman's comments #17 regarding deeper black => greater contrast, selenium leaving highlights unaffected. To the original post #1 I'd reply as a rule of thumb -- print so it looks fine wet, then back off exposure 10%, and you'll be in the ball park.

    For what it's worth as a baseline, I print portraits coldlight on Galerie #3 glossy and develop in Dektol 1:1 for 5 min. When I find the contrast I like shining up at me from the water bath I follow my teacher's excellent advice and back off exposure 10% to allow for effects of both selenium toning (Kodak Rapid diluted 1:8 for 5 minutes) + drydown. (And just to be on the safe side, because sometimes a 15% or greater allowance is needed, I dry down a test print in the microwave oven I keep in my darkroom for the purpose -- an Ansel Adams' suggestion, I think -- and examine the result in a good viewing light, before I'm comfortable dumping chemistry and washing up!)
     
  20. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I was thinking along those exact lines as I read through the replies. With the papers I use, the shadows, even some very deep shadows, can separate out very nicely without much of a noticeable effect on the mid tones and highlights.
     
  21. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I agree with Bob - this treatment produces a nice sense of depth in the print that I haven't been able to get otherwise.

    - Randy
     
  22. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    OK. I've got it figured. Nelson's is a hypo-alum
    toner minus the alum. So it's a hypo toner. The
    little silver added is typical of hypo-alum toners.
    As with hypo-alum toners it's inclusion is to
    retard the bleaching effect.

    The gold acts as a catalyst. Bath temperatures
    run 15 to 20 degrees below those of hypo-alum.
    So, no alum needed. The minute amount of gold
    present, directly and indirectly, alters the color.
    In essence Nelson's is a sulfide toner. As such
    there should be no doubt as to the archival
    quality of your prints.

    Your's is off-the-shelf or Home-Brew?
    No matter the amount of silver added at
    start or the amount leached into the solution,
    bleaching may need to be lived with. Have you
    tried it at room temperature? Although slow, one
    hour, it is reported to work. Dan
     
  23. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Good point. I find that toning can have a huge impact, and it's often hard to predict exactly what will happen when toning at a later time.

    I went for an all alkaline process where I can go; developer, water stop, first fix (in my case TF-3), second fix (TF-3 again), and then straight into the selenium toner. A finished wet print in around 7 or 8 minutes. It's so convenient I even selenium tone test strips when I'm getting close to making big decisions.

    Murray