test strips, is there a better way???

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by e_joyner, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. e_joyner

    e_joyner Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Location:
    Columbia SC
    Just a general question for all you printing gurus. What is the most effective way to arrive at exposure times when enlarging? I shoot 35mm (if that makes any difference), and use the old test strip method. Since I dropped and broke my enlarging timer, was curious about the ones I saw on the RH Designs website,( i.e. Analyzer Pro). I can't help but feel I'm wasting my paper by cutting it up in all those strips! I don't want to spend more money on something that is really unnecessary. Should I consider the fancy one with the exposure meter or continue with test strips???

    Thanks in advance for your advice!
    ~edye

    p.s. I do like the simplicity of the analog timers, like the Gralab.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,940
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Well, as you get more settled, use the same film type for a long period of time, enlarge to standard sizes, get more control over the process of exposure and film development, you'll find that your exposure times become more consistent, so you can often print without a test strip, or you'll maybe do a test strip for one exposure on a roll and then arrive at a standard time at least for the first proof with all the other exposures.

    I've tried doing B&W using one channel of a color analyzer and just found it not terribly accurate. Maybe if I had worked more with it, I could have improved the technique, but test strips are simple and informative, and you can even dry them in a microwave oven to check for drydown effects with fiber based paper.
     
  3. juan

    juan Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,745
    Joined:
    May 7, 2003
    Location:
    St. Simons I
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I gave up on test strips long ago - they usually don't contain enough information. I use full sheets and simply make my best guess at exposure. If the test exposure looks too light, I make one about 25% longer. If the second one is too dark (as it usually is) I interpolate with the third.

    If you have reached to point of having rather consistent negatives, this method works very well.
    juan
     
  4. AndrewH

    AndrewH Member

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    May 27, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    They make a scale that has steps in it and you can lay it on your paper and it gives you a rough estimate of your printing time.
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I still do test strips - or should I say: I do test strips again.

    I never use less than half a sheet, and place it where there are consistent key areas across the sheet. I do the exposure in half-stops: 2,3,4,6,8,11,16,22,32 seconds or parts of this scale. This is in addition to measuring key areas with my Ilford EM10 meter, I find that the combination also gives me a fair idea of the effect of burning/dodging.

    I then make a test print, with burning determined from test strip and experience. This is usually close enough that the next one is a final print with only very minor adjustments.

    MF film developed in non-staining developer I go straight from metering to test print and final. But that's because I know that enlarger/film combination so well that I really only have to adjust for which paper I'm using...
     
  6. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I'll start with a programmed channel on the ColorStar 3000 analyzer. From there it is an aesthetic decision. I may go lighter, less contrast, wherever.

    I've found the analyzer to be consistent and accurate ... but, - as is the case with any exposure meter, not a be-all, end-all panacea, just a good place to start.
     
  7. DrPhil

    DrPhil Member

    Messages:
    169
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2003
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I too have always wondered if there was an easier way. I've always done test strips that ranged from 1/4 width to a full sheet depending on the negative. I too have been tempted by the heiland splitgrade and the Analyser Pro. Since the Heiland doesn't fit my enlarger I purchased an Analyser pro. Even if I don't like the analyser, the f-stop printing for test strips will be wonderful. I think that in reality it is just another tool in my printing toolbox. I'll let you know in a couple of days when everything is all set up.
     
  8. jtsatterlee

    jtsatterlee Member

    Messages:
    111
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    edye-

    i dont print a test strip of the image, i print a test strip to find my base enlarging time (minumum time for maximum black). i suggest checking out: Fred Picker Zone VI Workshop

    a lot of good information on the basics of negative and print exposure, just note the book quality does not do the images justice, but the info is great.

    jts
     
  9. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,842
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Location:
    Rotterdam, T
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have used the Analyser Pro for almost a year now and I must say it works a treat. Worth looking at!
     
  10. happysnapper

    happysnapper Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Location:
    Lafayette, C
    I have used the Kodak Print projection years ago. It has been a long time though. Does anyone make paper that is specifically designed for test strips or do you still have to make your own?

    Ray
     
  11. e_joyner

    e_joyner Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Location:
    Columbia SC
    Thanks everybody! I see I have a lot of options, and even more to learn.:D I appreciate the insight...I'm really going to like this place! I've learned more in the last few days than I have in months!!! You guys are awesome!

    ~edye
     
  12. frank

    frank Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,074
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2002
    Location:
    Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    After years of b+w printing with the same materials and enlarger, I work rather intitively. I make an educated guess at the exposure based on the appearance of the image on the contact sheet. I use ripped up paper about 2 inches square placed on an important area of the photo (eg. a face) throw it in the developer to see what comes up. I usually only have to adjust the exposure by a few seconds to get it right. Then I make a full sheet at that exposure. Then I'll decide if any dodging or burning need to be done (usually burning the edges) and make a second full size print, usually 5by7 or 8by10.

    Getting a new enlarger a year ago set me back on the learning curve for a bit but now I'm almost up to speed again. People have different styles of working; some are meticulous and write enerything down and others like myself are more intuitive. I use photography and darkroom work as therapy and for artisic expression. For me it would be counter-productive to work in an orderly way. With enough experience, you do get to the point of being able to "eyeball" it. I know this would drive the meticulous workers nuts, but it works for me, and that's what photography is all about for me.

    It's kind of like a time some years ago when I joined some friends in throwing darts and having some beers one night a week. For all of us it was just recreation, but when they got really serious and began counting backwards and calculating which numbers to hit near the end of the game to be able to finish efficiently, it stopped being fun for me and became a chore, so I stopped. It would be the same for me and photography. My real job is very regulated and provides me with enough mental stimulation, for recreation I'm looking for a creative outlet and I've found it in photography, doing it the way I'm doing it.
     
  13. jamesiscool

    jamesiscool Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2003
    Location:
    southern cal
    I find that test strip sgive you most of the information you need with the first try. I use a strip about 2 inches wide placed along an important area of the image and use the same 2,4,6,8,10 sec exposure. I have found that gives me enough to make another strip that will allow a good guess at what to print the test print at. A test strip is much less expensive than an analyser and it allows you to see what the densities look like. If you have to be concerned with the cost of paper, then you need to find something else to do. Photography has certain basic costs and if these are too high, then maybe you should take up knitting.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. photomc

    photomc Member

    Messages:
    3,575
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Also use a projection as a general guide, have already found that many of my negatives fall into the same general times and just eyeball it. Not as scientific as an analyser, but much less expensive.

    It really depends on how you work, some prefer to have a measurement to base their times on, others just work their way through without any type of equipment. Which way is best - whatever works for you.

    Just another 2 cents....
     
  16. e_joyner

    e_joyner Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Location:
    Columbia SC
    Really??? Oh my God! I guess I should sell all my equipment and join the quilting bee!!! Seriously James, what the heck was the purpose of that comment? I asked if there were a more efficient way of determining exposure times vs test strips, and guidance in purchasing a new timer. Your opinion they (test strips) are the best way of doing so was sufficient. As a novice, and self-taught darkroom enthusiast, I could be doing a LOT of things that are unnecessary and/or wasteful...just looking for direction, not a lesson in the obvious. Thanks for your input.

    My apologies to everyone for getting a burr under my saddle. I will probably stick with the analog timer and test strip method. Maybe one day I'll be able to guesstimate exposure!:wink: Thanks all for your advice.

    ~edye
     
  17. Dave Mueller

    Dave Mueller Member

    Messages:
    63
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2003
    Location:
    Chalk Hill,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I rarely use more than 1 sheet to make test strips. I cut a sheet into quarters (usually 2" strips). The first one gets 3 expsoures, 1 stop apart (usually 4-8-16). The next one is in third stops including the best full stop (usually 8-10-12 or 10-12-16), with minor adjustments to contrast (VC paper) . A 2"x8" strip is usually long enough to get the darkest shadow and lightest highlight from an 8x10 print. I use a few small magnets to hold the strip to my easel. With some practice, you can usually estimate the exposure and contrast and skip the first strip. This is easier if the whole role is exposed and developed the same.
     
  18. Leon

    Leon Member

    Messages:
    2,075
    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2003
    Location:
    Kent, Englan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I noticed a sharp reduction in the amount of paper i used once i bought my analyser pro - it is superb. I did find myself having to do the additional test strip occasionaly, but much less often than not.

    My advice (for what it's worth) is for you to spend the additional money, I dont think you'll regret it. And dont forget the analyser pro does much more than reduce the need for test strips.

    And, printing is an expensive pastime. Anything that can reduce the cost (after the additional outlay) for people wanting to learn has got to be a good thing ... surely?
     
  19. AndrewH

    AndrewH Member

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    May 27, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    One printing expert suggested using teh whole sheet, but not making stright exposure strip across it. Instead, pick a corner and work away, letting an inch more expose on the longitude and lattitude. This allows you too see the affect of the exposure across more of your frame. As you get more accustomed to this, you will be able to pick the corner piont taht will show you a combination of the more challenging areas of the print (i.e. face and sky, or something like that).
     
  20. glbeas

    glbeas Member

    Messages:
    3,307
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    Location:
    Roswell, Ga.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    One quick note to try out is using the safelight as an extinguishing meter (I think thats the right term). I used to do this before I ever got anything resembling a meter and quite often one sheet was all I needed for an acceptable print.
    Works like this- the safelight stays when the enlarger is on, unlike most setups where it's hooked to the other plug in the timer. The safelight is hung in a permanent location that illuminates the work area evenly at a reasonable level, not too bright or dark. When you put a neg in the enlarger notice when you turn it on the image projected looks blueish in the shadow (clear) areas and red tinted in the highlight (dark) areas at certain aperture settings. This is because those light levels relative to the safelight are higher or lower and look the color of the brighter source. I would fiddle with the aperture until the colors would swim a bit as they balance each other. Using your test strip find a time that works for that light level. Next print do your twiddling and just try a print straightaway and see how it goes. With practice you can judge the exposure quite close using that standard time for the paper you use.
    It can be a little complicated if you are switching from really big prints down to little ones but the big ones you should be making test strips on anyway because of the cost factor for the paper.
     
  21. jamesiscool

    jamesiscool Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2003
    Location:
    southern cal
    I made the comment because of other comments about equipment and testers that cost quite a bit of money and don't give you the value you should have if you are an amateur. Somewhere was a statement that someone doesn't want to waste paper doing test strips. But was looking for an analyzer to do the job hence the cost comparison. The cost of paper is quite low compared to the cost of some of these analyzers. It would be prudent to compare and decide for yourself, which is the best way for "you" to go. Not every answer is aimed at the original person who asked it. So take no offense at the answer.
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The cheapest "analyzer" is the Ilford EM-10. It can usually be bought on eBay for about $10, which won't buy many sheets of paper...

    With a little practice, it can be used to: Estimate exposure, adjust aperture to get same exposure at different enlargement, evaluate contrast, select paper to give desired tone curve.

    Probably more too, but these are the things I use mine for. It has saved me several hundred sheets of paper so far.
     
  23. frank

    frank Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,074
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2002
    Location:
    Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Tell me, when you do a conact sheet of your negs, do you do a test strip to determine the correct exposure? Probably not. You likely have a predetermined time, aperture, and enlarger head height, right? (If you don't, you should.)

    When I make a typical 5x7 or 8x10 enlargement, if the negative exposure is normal, I know the ballpark time and aperture for my enlarger. The only variables are the density of the neg and the actual degree of enlargement, or the degree of cropping, if you will. Once you have determined this by writing down the pertinent data a few times, you can just refer to this info to get you close to the correct exposure. Rip up an 8x10 sheet into 2 inch squares and use one or at most 2 to fine tune. You can even determine whether the contrast grade you are printing with is appropriate.

    But like I said before, everyone has an individual working style. If yours is to refer to a printing meter as opposed to going intuitively with a gut feeling, then by all means buy one of those Ilford printing meters. Some people can't (or rather think they can't) take a photograph without a light meter accurate to 1/10th of a stop that can switch from incident to reflected mode (to 1 dgree) with backlit LCD digital and analogue readouts! To each their own, and more power to them.

    (Sometimes I wish I had me one of those printing meters, especially when making different sizes of the same negative.)
     
  24. happysnapper

    happysnapper Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Location:
    Lafayette, C
    Perhaps jameiscool had a bad day?
     
  25. e_joyner

    e_joyner Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Location:
    Columbia SC
    Yep, just raise the enlarger head, set the aperture, and expose for the same time. That puts it in perspective! Thanks Frank. When I get proficient (or don't have to work for a living anymore) I can see where this will be a benefit. Never enough time to do all I want to do!!! I liked the suggestion of figuring the base time using a clear strip of film. I'm definately going to try it out.

    I've heard of the EM-10, but had forgotten about it. Hmmmm, a new toy. I have too much stuff cluttering things up now! I think I'll go with the less is more attitude.
     
  26. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,417
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2002
    Location:
    Calgary AB,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I take a representative neg out of the neg page, put it in the enlarger, project it onto an 8x10 sheet of paper (old exposed paper, back side), stop the lens down to what looks good. Then I take the neg out and put it back into the neg page. Put page onto new 8x10 sheet and then expose it for the time I had determined gives me max black.

    IMO people should try and start to gain a feel for what looks "right" when they project the image onto the focus sheet rather than always rely on test strips and analyzers. I do the same thing for color and am usually within a couple of seconds of a perfect exposure everytime.

    It amazes me that people will repeat the same things over and over again and learn nothing from it.

    Eric