Wanting more contrast...

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by synj00, May 25, 2009.

  1. synj00

    synj00 Member

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    What would be the recommended way to achieve more contrast? I want some good detail but I also want very deep blacks as well. Are they mutually exclusive?

    I've been using Ilford Delta 400 for forever and D76 1+1 and am just not getting what I want even adjusting for more agitation.

    As a new starting point would you start with a new film, new developer, new metering technique or adjust during printing?
     
  2. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    A higher-contrast developer might help. I find DD-X to make my Tri-X negatives higher contrast.
     
  3. synj00

    synj00 Member

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    Will that give the pretty much the same result as just giving more agitation? I'll research some DD-X thanks!
     
  4. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    The first step is to look at the technical data sheet for your film. The manufacturer usually publishes a graph showing the gamma or contrast index of the film versus developing time for various developers. In general, contrast increases as you increase development. You can probably simply adjust the development time to get the contrast you want. You may have to adjust exposure for the new development time as well, but that adjustment will probably be minor. As a starting point, you might try a 15 percent increase in developing time and see what it does to the negatives. If you need a large increase in contrast for some special purpose, a high contrast developer like D-19 or Dektol could be used.
     
  5. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Good detail specifically with deep blacks require that you have information in the thinnest part of the negative. You may find that you might need to expose at less than 400 iso to get this detail, since the thinnest parts of the neg are more influenced by exposure than developer activity.

    Good detial in the highlights means that you need to have the right amount of development to give enough desnity in the densest parts of the negative to match the contrast range of the photographic paper you are working to print on. While Barry Thornton has passed on, his web site is still alive. Read the barry thornton techniques section article 'the no zone system' for further giudance in fine tuning your exposure and development time. Do not be afraid to deviate from the manufacturers developer time recommendations to find a time that matches your usual development agitation, and any wiredness in your thermomenter, etc.
     
  6. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    As it has been since the creation of photography, it still is today: expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights.

    So, if you want more contrast, develop longer. If you want less shadow detail and thus "very deep blacks" then expose less. It really is that simple.
     
  7. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry9000/4.6.0.167 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102 UP.Link/6.3.0.0.0)

    And as there is more contrast in the lower zones on H&D curves as a general rule of thumb, exposing the film less will produce some more contrast. 18% gray is Zone V but it is much closer tonally to white than black, hence more contrast beneath it and then you print for those highlights.
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    How are you printing? It seems as if you need to adjust your paper grade to match the negative better. If you want whiter whites and blacker blacks then use a higher grade paper. Better yet, use multigrade paper, this will allow you to fine tune the negative/paper density scales so they match better.

    Of course there is LESS contrast in the toe (slope in the toe area is a smaller number) and under exposure gives LESS overall contrast in the negative (smaller density range). So, perhaps your symptoms are related to underexposing your negatives.
     
  9. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    In my experience: efke KB25, rodinal 1+25 = high contrast. Often too high (so I use now rodinal 1+100 for KB25).
     
  10. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    synj00

    I don't see anything wrong with your film or developer. Switching to new materials is rarely the answer. Let us see a sample print. In most cases, the following initial suggestion work the first wonders:

    1. overexpose for 1 stop from box speed (for you EI 200, just do it!)
    2. underdevelop (yes!) by 15% from manufacturer's recommendation

    Now print at grade 2-3! You'll love the results.

    Other things to watch for:

    1. light leaks in the darkroom
    2. safelights too strong
    3. developer concentration too weak
    4. print pulled too early from the developer

    It's not the materials, it's the process!
     
  11. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    In your position I'd hope adjustments in printing would
    do it: Higher contrast paper and/or developer to start.
    The negatives themselves may be upped in contrast
    with a selenium or sulfide treatment. Dan
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Dan

    I believe selenium tone helps a little bit (1/2 grade) but sulfide does nothing for me. Actually, extensive sulfide toning lightly decreases contrast.
     
  13. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I've had good luck in this by increasing my development times - 15% is good advice for that. It's one single thing that I've done recently that has had the biggest effect on my images.

    Quantifying your methods by testing film speeds, dev. etc. is also good advice.
     
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  15. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    Try using D-76 undiluted instead of 1+1 and extending the time. How much contrast do you want?
     
  16. synj00

    synj00 Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I often do find myself just barely getting enough light and I think this may be part of the problem. I'll try shooting to get an extra stop of light and give a bit less development. I'm just not pushing this film as far away from the stock box suggestions yet. I have to do it!! :D
     
  17. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Ralph, thanks for the reminders regarding process. Though I'd like to say I do these things all the time... I won't say I get lazy, but occasionally I'll allow myself in the darkroom when I am neither physically or mentally prepared. :rolleyes:

    Thanks again.

    Cheers,
     
  18. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    So your problem was basically underexposure?? What EI are you rating the film at??
     
  19. synj00

    synj00 Member

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    Well I don't know if underexposure is the problem *yet*. I'm going to get a few rolls under my belt at shot at 200 and not 400 as I usually do. I've heard lots of fway froolks shoot 1/2 or 1 stop over what the film is rated on the box and it makes perfect sense. Since I'm usually getting thin negatives some overexposure wont hurt and maybe I'll get results closer to what I want. Like I said I think I'm just not pushing the film enough am the recommendations on the box.
     
  20. clayne

    clayne Member

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    If the guy wants more contrast, why are people recommending pulling the film? That will decrease contrast and compress the curve.

    synj00/sull3n: I've seen your photos on flickr. Trust me, you don't need anymore contrast. If, in digital-land, you want to play around with things you can shift the black point around. But as your monochrome stuff is now, I can't see how anymore contrast would be beneficial (however, more exposure would be beneficial [not pulling+underdev, but more actual exposure]).
     
  21. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I have used Delta400 and HP5 for many years and develop in ID11 at their recommended time + 10% at 68 degrees F. I expose with my modified version of the zone system. Take into consideration the scene brightness. Keep the development standard and modify exposure , that way you will only have one variable to contend with. Once you have that down you can go from there with plus or minus developing times. I also print on multigrade paper with the Aristo variable contrast light. With this combination you can vary the contrast of any part or all of the print. Examples of my prints can be viewed in APUG recent portfolios.
     
  22. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Getting blacks on a print is only a function of printing. To get more black, give more exposure to the print. Make sure you are developing prints with fresh developer for 3 minutes.

    Adjust the grade of paper to get the highlights you want.

    After you have the blacks and highlights you want you need to ask - "Am I getting the deep shadow detail I want". If not, then give more exposure to the negative.

    If your highlights look blah, and you can't correct this with paper grade then try increasing the film development time. If your highlights are solid white then decrease development.
     
  23. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Very good advice by both Ralph Lambrecht and Nicholas Lindan.

    You can get almost any contrast you want with Delta 400 & D76. You really need to work your materials to get what you want from them. It really is about the process.
    Agitation affects contrast, time affects it indirectly. More agitation (such as every 30s as opposed to every minute) will increase contrast, but you need to shorten the time so that you don't over develop.

    But you should start with your paper. I've been lucky to have been advised by some outstanding people, and their advice to me is to first figure out what paper you want to print on and what developer to use for that purpose. Make this your standard.
    Then you choose a film, and expose and process it according to your paper's characteristics.
    You want to get your paper selection down first before you do anything else - it's the print that ultimately matters.

    - Thomas
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    In the darkroom, I'm not a friend of the expose-for-the-shadows method and much prefer to expose for the highlights and adjust the shadows with contrast as AA taught us. The reason is simply that the human eye can differentiate highlights about 5-times better than shadows. One can easily see a 1/24 stop difference in the highlights, which is not so easy in the shadows. This means, selecting the right exposure is more reliable from the highlight end. One possible exception is the printing of low-key images. I don't know where this reversed workflow comes from. Does it have to do with darkroom meters, because they are more sensitive to the brighter negative shadows? I don't know, but I'm glad that my RHDesigns equipment supports the regular workflow. Tougher on the meter, but better for me.
     
  25. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    You are quite right, of course.

    I was responding to the OP's complaint of a lack of blacks -- you can always get a deep black.

    A simple complaint can have a complex cause or a very simple cause - I tend to suspect simple causes first, only when they are ruled out is it time to look deeper. Without more information in this case it is hard to pinpoint what is happening.

    I am guessing at what may be going wrong as I haven't had a look at the negative and work prints. I would normally respond to a lack of blacks as a printing issue, though a very low contrast negative can also be the problem - but then the negative should look quite wrong, and I would expect this to be the primary complaint.

    With VC paper there isn't any reason not be able to produce a print that goes from black to white (assuming you want to). Sometimes one gets lost in the highlights and looses track of the other end of the tonal scale, and an excercise of 'turn it on its head and see what happens' can bring things back to reality and show what to do in the shadows.

    The other obvious reason for lack of black is there is no way to get to black given the grade of paper that optimizes the highlight/midtone contrast. The answer then is to burn in the shadows.

    Once the general scheme of things has been settled - paper contrast, dodging/burning, rough paper exposure - then the final exposure determination should be based on highlights, as you have stated.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2009
  26. Stephen Benskin

    Stephen Benskin Member

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    It's also why Loyd Jones proposed the fractional gradient method for speed determination instead of a fixed density point. The separation of tones in the shadows are the decisive factor in determining image quality. A fixed point of density doesn't speak to the local gradient.

    According to Jones, "From the standpoint of tone reproduction theory there seems to be no justification for the adoption of any value of density as a significant criterion of the speed of a photographic negative material. The primary function of the negative material is to record brightness (luminance) differences existing in the scene. Density, per se, has no significance as an indication of the ability of the photographic material to perform this function."