Under exposure/under development

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by cliveh, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Over many years I have seen many films developed by others and students and I have noticed that under exposure/under development is far more prevalent than the opposite. This maybe because I live in Northern Europe, but I have noticed the use of Magenta in darkrooms seems to be 80% more in use than yellow when correcting contrast. Do others have a similar experience and if so, what does this say about our general exposure and development?
     
  2. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    Slight underdevelopment is frequently recommended because it minimizes grain.
     
  3. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Yeah, I think there's the intuition there at least that underdevelopment is advantageous, but counter-intuitively, most black and white newbies like deep shadows too - not realising there's a right and wrong way to achieve it. But in all fairness, you'll mostly see over-expansion on Flickr for instance, just as much in colour as b&w.
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I suppose a better question relating to this point, is how many members of APUG who use multigrade paper find that they use magenta more often than yellow?
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Some schools replenish their film developers. I remember my school always had under replenished film developer in the darkroom. The lab person takes a guess how many rolls were ran through the developer to figure how much replenisher to add. That could be a reason from my experience.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    My 35mm negatives almost invariably print well at Grade 2.5 or 3. My 120 negatives are the same way but Grade 2 usually.
    Then I sometimes use some Grade 4 or 4.5 to burn in interesting details to locally increase contrast, or I might use Grade 1 to tone down a difficult highlight.

    But one of the founding principles of silver gelatin photography is that you are best off making sure that you are familiar with how your paper and paper developer behaves before you develop negatives. The negatives are necessarily exposed and developed such that they fit the paper and paper developer combination as well as possible. That way there is a lot more room for getting creative with low and high contrast filters, rather than using them to save your ass. If you process your negatives to have intentionally low contrast, and you have to print at Grade 4 or 4.5 in order to get a decent work print, but find that you would like even more contrast to become a nice final print - well, then you're basically screwed. Sure you can play with negative intensification and high contrast paper developers, but that is making it very difficult for yourself.

    I claim that unless you learn how to process your film so that the negatives print well, without darkroom gymnastics, at medium contrast filtration, then you're never going to eke out the maximum performance from your materials. This is a basic concept within silver halide photography that gives a solid foundation to develop and expand from. It should be some a lesson that's mandatory for darkroom students to learn, that the lens, film, film developer, filters, paper, paper developers, agitation, temperature control, etc etc is a system, where the final result is something borne out of optimizing the performance of all the pieces so they fit together nicely.
     
  7. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    It's easier to end up with underexposed/underdeveloped.

    In northern climates, things cool off quickly and developer weaker.
    It's easy to forget or get distracted in agitation cycles.
    It's easier to underexpose as a choice rather than get motion blur
    You get more grades/flexibility if needed when printing by underexposing.
    scanning tends to work better with underexposed rather than bulletproofed overexposed.
     
  8. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I purposely target my negatives to print well at at Grades 3 to 4. If I miss and need more contrast I can head up to 5. I RARELY print below 3. In order to achieve this I OVERexpose and UNDERdevelop.

    I do this because I believe Ilford MG Warmtone fiber paper looks it's best at the higher grades. The negatives are also fairly easy to print.

    I will burn with Higher or Lower grades as needed.
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Member

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    well. looking at negatives from workshop participants, my experience is different. i mostly seeunder exposed and overdeveloped negatives. the reason i think isthat people like to think that their films are faster than they are,and just in case they aren't, a little more time in the developer will help to get the missing density. we all know , it aint so, but some haven't gotten there yet:munch:
     
  10. henry finley

    henry finley Member

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    My personal opinion is that the technicians at Eastman Kodak Company have a long history of being second-to-none on finding those points of perfection in EVERYTHING. Knowing this, I do as they do, and I know it's as good as it gets.
     
  11. henry finley

    henry finley Member

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    Mr Lambrecht, you are one of the several posters I've come to sit up and take a little respect for just on sight. Regards, sir. HTF
     
  12. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The goal for 35mm film to minimize grain is the thinnest possible negative that still has good shadow detail. Such a negative would be slightly underdeveloped and printed on grade 3 paper.
     
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    But this type of negative would probably suit a condenser rather than a diffuser.
     
  14. CPorter

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    I would have to agree with Ralph at least pertaining to myself up until several years ago when I finally learned how to put it all together. But with regard to printing and becoming satisfied with my filtration I was using, It wasn't until I learned to determine the relative ISO range number with a given filtration setting on my LPL with my paper developer and toner that I really could appreciate the actual filtration setting being used and how it related to my negatives. I learned how to determine it here, it's a visual method, but a very good one IMO, would love to do it with a reflection densitometer and the paper curve, but it certainly is not necessary. Bottom line is that a #2 filter, for example, may not at all provide a grade 2 contrast, my attachment shows the contrast grades I can reasonably expect with my LPL settings after a single darkroom session of 30 minutes or less. I only mention this because understanding the actual contrast grade one is getting given paper, paper developer, enlarger light source, and toner is hugely beneficial to understanding your own negative development, IMO.
     

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  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    If you have a diffusion enlarger then you would still print on grade 3 but develop to a higher CI than those who use a condensor enlarger. But everyone still uses grade 3 to minimize grain for their negatives.
     
  16. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    If I am using a #2 or 2.5 I am happy.
    You are really screwed up (or a photojournalist) if you have to reach for the 3,4,or 5. (and if it makes you happy I am happy)... I spent the first 3 year of my career reaching for 3 and beyond.//

    The underexposure is usually because people don't understand how your in-camera meter sees, or consider what part of the photo they want in mid tones. You really learn how to see when you start successfully using a hand-held meter, and understand what values in a photo various intensities of light fall in a sceen outdoors, or a portrait in the studio.

    Bad exposures cannot be "fixed" in the develop-tank. They can be remedied to an extent.....thick is better than thin when it comes to a printable negative.

    I coaxed a decent print out of a 5 stop overexposed portrait when the aperture broke in a 35mm f1.4 Nikkor that I thought was stopping down to f8.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  17. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Here in the African summer, I have to watch out for over-developed negs! My developer can easily pick up 2 degC during a 5 min developing time. Our ambient temperatures in the late afternoon / early evening can be around 30-32 degC, and the cold tap water is around 28. To make a cold water bath is schlep, but it is the only way to stay around 20 or 24.

    It is possible that your observation of thin negatives has more to do with under-exposing the film than with under-development. But it could also be that novices don't get the subtle parts of development quite right, e.g. agitation technique, ensuring freshness of the developer (easy to accidentally oxidise a batch of developer), temperature control etc. How far the negatives are off should be an indication of what went wrong. If it is a stop or so, then probably blame the camera light meter. But if it is way off, two or more stops, and inconsistent, then it is probably the result of development difficulty. I learned developing films by watching an experienced guy doing it. It would be great if you could offer those novices a demonstration. It will definitely help them. One thing you could try (at their expense) is to expose two rolls of film identically, then develop one yourself and let them develop the other. I always keep one or two rolls of bulk film in a loader for such exercises, and load 10-12 frames at a time.
     
  18. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Gerald makes a good point above, but I also want to add that sometimes processing films to achieve successful printing with grades 2 or less is an advantage. I'm thinking specifically of large format photography and various large format enlarger light sources I have encountered that are uneven. The higher grade you print with, the more you see the unevenness in the prints and the harder it is to dodge and burn it correct.
     
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  19. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    It's also easy to underexpose when you learned on an old mechanical camera that had slower than the number shutter speeds. It all worked perfectly without you realizing you were exposing more than you dialed in, so when you go to a newer, right on speed electronic camera, you underexposed without realizing it for awhile. Though I did learn to print those underexposed negs before moving on to exposing better.