Split Grade Printing vs. Photoshop Shadows/Hilights Control

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Worker 11811, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Not a question about digital, per se, but a question on how to relate the digital thing which I know fairly well to the analog thing I want to learn.

    I've been studying split grade printing and have experimented with it a couple-few times. Now, I want to wrap my brain around it and start using it for real.

    There's always some relationship between the way Photoshop works and the way real photography works. Since I know the digital, it make sense to me to work backwards and put what I understand into context in the darkroom. So, it seems to me that split grade printing in the darkroom has some similarities in Photoshop.

    Let's say I have scanned a black and white negative into my computer and I am editing it digitally. One of the first things I do is go to the IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > SHADOW/HIGHLIGHT control then expand/contract my shadows and my highlights to make the overall contrast of the picture the way I want.

    In the darkroom, using split grade, I would print either the shadows or the highlights the way I want them to look then make a second exposure to burn in the highlights or the shadows the way I want. (Either start with the shadows first or the highlights first then work up the other.)

    One of the problems that you can encounter with single grade contrast printing is that you can end up on a merry-go-round where you fix the exposure the way you want then, when you go to tweak the contrast and you have to reset your exposure. Around and around you go.

    I got off that merry-go-round in the digital world by using the Shadow/Highlight control. It seems to me that split grade printing would get me out of that same vicious cycle in the darkroom as well.

    Am I on the right track or am I just spinning in the sand?
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Split grade printing offers a lot of possibility beyond what you describe as your method in evil-shop.

    You can dodge or burn in at all of the contrast grades you use to make your final print, for example. This offers a level of control that is similar to dodging and burning shadows, mid-tones, or highlights in the unspeakable software :smile:

    If I were you, I would just dive into it and learn how to develop negatives so that they suit your chosen paper and paper developer combination. That will prevent you from needing to use split grade printing for the most part. (Most of my negatives print well at about Grade 2.5 without much need for adjustments; no vicious cycles here). It will also save you a lot of paper and frustration. It takes a while to learn, but to make that correlation between the paper and paper developer you use and how the negative needs to be is so vital and important. Once you have learned that you will likely be thinking about photography in terms different from digital photography.

    Good luck.
     
  3. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    As I understand split grade printing, if you do aren't dodging and burning during the hard and soft exposures, it is 100% equivalent to printing at with a single exposure at some specific grade. I'm not saying that split grade printing like that isn't a useful tool; it is. It can be very useful to find a grade you want to print the picture at. But if you want to access additional control over it, you'll need to dodge/burn during the hard and/or soft exposures.

    As I understand the Photoshop tool that you refer to, it is NOT like the simple version of split grade printing. It's more like altering the contrast/exposure of just the shadows or highlights individually, which sounds like dodging or burning in during one of the exposures while split grade printing.
     
  4. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Like Thomas and Tim said, it's not quite the same thing. I started to really understand split grade printing and multigrade paper overall once I read and reread the Ilford paper on contrast filters and their paper. It's worth doing. I can't find it right now on their site, but I think a copy comes in the box with their paper.
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I work to get the negatives right for a scene, then I don't have to make compromises in highlights/shadow or mess with split grade printing. I still like multigrade paper though for fine tuning contrast.

    Some people use zone system to get the negatives right. I use different developers for different types of scenes. Pyrocat-HD makes negatives with awesome shadow detail and for general purposes. PMK (and caffenol-C) makes negatives with awesome highlight detail and for general high contrast scenes. I like Xtol for artifically lit and normal contrast (shady) uses. MF and LF make it easier to match a developer to a scene since it's easy to use a roll of 12 photos at a location or a couple sheets of LF. Not so practical with a 36exp 35mm.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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  7. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I am working on my film development. Some days are better than others but consistency is hard to achieve when you work in isolation like I do.
    I'll get there. It'll just take longer. Sometimes that can pay off. One often learns more from mistakes than success.

    I'm not using the computer instead of the enlarger. I'm just saying that I have been having success with Photoshop and I'm trying to parallel what I know from one into the other.
    The way I learn things often seems to be different than others learn. When I think of this parallel, I don't think it holds true in all cases but it seems that the shadow/highlight control has a similar effect to split grade printing which can be used as a guide in learning. Maybe the parallel isn't exactly true but it might be close enough to learn from.

    I'm still reading, thinking and experimenting with split grades. I like what I've seen so far but I'm still learning. This will just take time, as always.
     
  8. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Not when you for example;

    Want the sky to have maximum tonal range on paper from full black to white in just the sky section, and the foreground also using maximum tonal range. Rather than just a bright low contrast sky and a dark low contrast foreground! etc etc etc.
     
  9. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have a completely different take on split grade printing than other writers here, in that I use split grading for every negative that I print (except lith prints, which establish highlights and shadows in a different way.) The reason that I learned to split grade is what you described: I would get the exposure right, then change filters to improve the contrast, which changed the exposure, etc. etc. I felt that I was chasing my tail around the darkroom. I know that paper/filter manufacturers say that most filters block the same amount of light, but that was not my experience.

    I am someone who works better by following routines for the craft part of photography. So it made sense for me to develop and refine my split grade routine, and use it every time, regardless of negative quality. I pin down my highlight exposure with a green filter, and then stretch the contrast out like a rubber band with the blue filter to get the shadows I need. Far from "messing about" or "needing" to split grade to salvage a poorly exposed and/or developed negative as others have described, I can get to a properly exposed straight print with the contrast that I want quickly and with minimum waste of paper, more efficiently than I could with single filter printing. Then I figure out the burns I need through the highlight filter, and the dodges with the shadow filter.

    I am not advocating split grade printing for everyone. People produce wonderful prints with single filters. Mine are best when split graded, and you'd have a fight on your hands if you tried to take my green and blue filters away from me.
     
  10. RPippin

    RPippin Subscriber

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    I'm going to offer something out of left field here. Pick up some grade 2 and grade 3 paper and try printing on that, with dodge and burn where needed. I printed with VC paper for a couple of years before I tried graded papers, and when I started using graded papers all my prints with VC looked a little flat in comparison. It was obvious where my problems were with VC paper when I looked at my graded paper prints. I also did a workshop with Per Volquartz, which I highly recommend, and saw how rubbing in the shadows in the developer with finger tips, and doing the same with the highlights in the fixer brought out more details. I don't know any function in photoshop that duplicates two bath development or rubbing in areas. There isn't any function in photoshop to duplicate selective bleaching either. Bottom line for me anyway is printing with either VC or graded paper can be a lifetime of learning since there are so many variables. Get your hands in it, with latex gloves of course, and try out some of the suggestions from people with lots more experience than yours or mine, and have fun with it.
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I feel I am pretty competent with enlarger printing and PS printing.

    Split printing can be very much like PS work, they designed PS using enlarger terminology and methods.
    You will need to print many thousands of split prints to gain the confidence of mimicking the moves available in PS.

    But why bother, if you like enlarger prints and have the setup dive in and make a thousand prints.
    If you feel it is too difficult then stick with PS and buy a good printer.

    I do both, my enlargers are in the next room from where I am typing right now, and an 24 inch Epson printer is within hands reach.

    I like both worlds as I suggest most on this site would admit too if pressured.
    I think split printing is more like painting in selected curve shapes in PS .
    The highlight Shadow command is much like flashing and should be only used in moderation.
    Channel Blending and other methods will give you tremendous control that I am envious of when printing on the enlarger but, there is nothing better IMHO than working in the soft light, heavy rock cranking and two enlargers full of negs.
    Working on a computer and printing just dosen't give me the same feel , therefore I will never give up the darkroom , well at least for another 30 years.





     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Exactly. That would be one of those times where split grade printing would be useful.
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The relationships you are trying to control are set first and foremost in the negative. Printing methods can help bring that to fruition, but your authorship in the exposure and developing cycle is the foundation, and sets the parameters of what is possible even for a skilled printer. Look at your negatives for the answers you seek may be there more than anywhere else.
     
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  15. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Sounds like HDR done wrong.

    Don't let this sound like I'm bragging about what I do or my technique. I'm not that way; I just want to share how it is possible with an example. Ezzie has posted similarly nice snow texture, which I am convinced is more challenging than just sky texture.

    Have a sky with bright cloud detail AND a foreground with the shaded side of wet dark rocks (such as shooting into the sun) with good shadow detail in the foreground is not a problem. I did this with TMY2 film, orange filter, PMK developer.

    The filter choice controls the tones in the sky, no filter would mean a sky of entirely highlights. Unless it's a gray sky, I feel sorta naked going shooting B&W and not having the option of a filter.

    The film & developer managed the scene contrast. TMY2 has a massive range that just needs care to be wrung out. I printed it normally. If I have time, I'll scan in a bit of the large print to share.

    Here's a scene off the same roll, same lighting conditions. Look; nice detail in the sunny snow highlights. Nice detail in the black hat and pants. This is the type of day you go outside squinting because of the bright sun and snow. Keep in mind our monitors don't show the detail as nicely as silver prints. This was with a $200 Rolleiflex automat something with the 75mm tessar and orange filter.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I'm having trouble (and have been) wrapping my head around this as well. The Les McLean page made me wonder if the exact same result couldn't be had with one contrast grade, like what Tim says, but perhaps his example (the car handle...:sleeping:) isn't the best negative to demonstrate the utility of this method.

    So then, Athiril's comment makes sense as well and I have a negative that matches his example quite closely; a wedding portrait taken in the shade of a buildilng, while the background is sun drenched. There is a huge discrepancy between the two areas, but I want them to fit on the paper nicely, showing all the detail that's present in the negative in the print.
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Chris

    Splitting allows you to work a bit of magic that a single filter does not allow you to do.

    Think this way , You are laying tone down multiple hits on a piece of paper.
    the softer filter allows you to bring in as much detail in the highlight region without burning in. This first exposure gives soft delicate highlights with info.

    the second exposure or laydown of tone with an aggressive filter # 5 only addresses the lower end so you can put the type of blacks in that you want.

    the third and or fourth exposures or laydown of tone, addresses local contrast ie using a burn with the 5 filter will darken anything black in the highlight regions which allows the eye to see contrast.
    A fourth hit of 00 filter could address leaving some tone that separates the paper white and skys or very light areas.

    Split printing is not trying to do this by coming to a certain filter # with combining ... but rather using the vario contrast emulsion with an appropriate filter and maximising the laydown of tone.
    Its all about looking at the original scene, seeing what you got on the neg, and figuring out how well to bring out the image you envision.

    Bob

     
  18. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    It's possible to make your own graduated filters although time consuming. Clear Cokin or Lee 4x4 polycarbonate filters can be dyed in heated Rit dyes. Gradually dunking them in the dye until you have the desired result. I have made yellow to clear and orange to clear ones so you can filter the sky and not the foreground. Best to bracket the exposures but usually you can compensate for the 1-2 stop difference when printing and tweak with split printing if so desire.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  19. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Bob, thank you very much. I think I understand it better now. Basically, the low contrast exposure that gives you good highlights will not lay down a rich black, and vise versa, a high contrast exposure that gives you rich blacks produce nothing but white in the highlight region.

    So in this way, you can attack it from both sides, so to speak?
     
  20. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Yes , you are able to control the blacks and highlights to a much greater degree.
    I do not use a 0 and 5 split. rather 1 and 5, I do not like the results of the 0 filter.
    I think Ralph L had a post regarding Ilford Warmtone and 0 filter and my practical results confirm his thoughts or
    observation.
    I would rather start a little but up the contrast filter range than starting with 0 filter like most people do.

     
  21. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    The roadblock in my head was, "Won't the 2nd (grade 5) exposure destroy what I just did with the 1st?". But I guess you're taking the highlight tonalities out of play by using the extremely short scale of the grade 5 emulsion.

    Great... time to put it into practice now.
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Chris, I think you will enjoy the level of control you get, especially with difficult negatives.

    I'd like to add that sometimes you can use a third, or even a fourth exposure, all at different grades, to accentuate various aspects of a print, but I only use that in extreme cases where a Grade 5 exposure might be too much, but I still want to beef up the contrast a little, so I might use a Grade 3.5 or 4, or something along those lines, for the third exposure. Grade 1 and 5 will get you a long way for sure, though.

    Have fun!
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    you can also use the filtered light to "burn in" instead of using it as a whole exposure ...
    dodge areas out with a lower grade ( or no filter ) and burn it in with a higher one ( or visa versa ) ...

    the best thing to do is experiment and see what works for you ...
     
  24. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    What jnanian just said.

    It is quite liberating to be able to approach both exposure and contrast individually for each dodge and burn.
     
  25. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    In Photoshop terms you are dodging and burning with softlight. Also using the red ruby function with opacity to limit how you do it in each area.
    Its funny how Adobe stole all our darkroom secrets and tricks.

    I think the ability to control local contrast is the real winning aspect of split printing.
    There has always been the group that love graded paper and their argument is when you compare a grade 2 VC paper to a 2 graded the graded looks better.
    No argument from me I understand this reality, but introduce split printing into the equation and I buy Ilford Warmtone for this reason.

    I do remember the days of trying to bring in local detail in the high or low ends and always a difficult choice which end to work on. Two developers, soft and hard was used, hot water, hot developer, contrast masking on the negative, were all methods of improving the print.
    But I remember the crappy burned in highlights and all the hot water rubbing to try to bring in some sort of tone so IMO the VC paper and good split printing wins the day. The highlights were always soft due to the massive overexposure to get detail, or the shadows were blocked up .
    If the negative is perfect for the grade you want then all bets are off, for the life of me I have never met or seen a photographer who can honestly claim they can do it , unless of course they are only shooting the same Rock, same Tree, or same Waterfall.:munch:


     
  26. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    As it was once explained to me, the soft filter affects the highlights to a large degree, and the shadows to a small degree. The hard filter affects the highlights very little if at all, and the the shadows to a great degree. In my mind a bungee cord is the best metaphor: you can "pin down" the highlights where you want them, then "stretch out" the shadows to get the contrast that you need without moving the highlights back up the scale.