The only two positive aspects that come to mind in printing a thinner negative are printing times and the grain considerations of smaller film formats which has already been mentioned by Eric and myself. These are both valid considerations.
The possible negative aspects are concerned with the characteristic curve of the paper which is exactly opposite of film. If the contrast grade of the negative were too narrow. One would seemingly lump a greater portion of the shoulder and toe film values onto the corresponding opposites of the paper. So, taking this to a ridiculous example for illustration purposes, if one had a three zone contrast range and attempted to spread it onto a six zone paper range the film values would be spread to some degree, but the values would not be the same as if one had developed the film to the six zone contrast range. The tonal range would not be as smoothly represented on the print.
Ideally, in a perfect world...we would take the time to determine the characteristic curve of the film that we were using and in exposure and development decisions we would have the greatest portion of the scene luminescence placed on the straight line portion of the film. We would also determine the characteristic curve of our paper to the extent that we placed the camera negative values on the straighline portion of the papers characteristic curve. When we are successful at accomplishing this, the print will have reached a much greater portion of it's true potential in tonal representation.
Off the top of my pointy head, the risk in a thin (underexposed or underdeveloped) negative would be the loss of details in the shadows. I think most people here prefer a "fat" or dense negative for that reason. Trying to keep my thoughts straight, a thin negative might normally print flat, so you would want to go for a higher contrast paper.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (SteveGangi @ Feb 23 2003, 07:47 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I think most people here prefer a "fat" or dense negative for that reason. Trying to keep my thoughts straight, a thin negative might normally print flat, so you would want to go for a higher contrast paper.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
Thin vs. fat is not the same thing as contrasty vs. soft. The first one is about shifting the caracteristics curve, the second one is about changing it's slope. Although higher densities are usually linked to more contrast, this is not necessarily the case. Fogging, e.g., increases the density while longer development times usually increase contrast, too. A fat negative may print onto the same paper grade as a thin one but requires more exposure time.
Aggie, what is the procedure that you go through in printing?
That question is brilliant enough to have it's own thread. It would be informative to hear everyone's routine.
Your procedure makes a lot of sense. I think that what works for anyone is the proper thing to do. I experience the sense of the proper amount of light visible on the easel, just as you do. I probably would benefit from cutting down 8X10 sheets into strips. I just got used to doing complete sheets for my test strips. I have a black and white densitometer and unless I use it for unsharp mask densities, it sits on the shelf for months.
My procedure follows:
I will usually make a decision early in the printing whether I will use split grade printing or whether I will use single grade printing. More and more of the time I decide to do split grade printing. When I do split grade printing, I will start with a Grade 1 filtration on my enlarger and do a test strip exposure for my upper value value. I will normally give at least a 12 second initial base exposure followed by test strips of 1 1/2 seconds. I try to get an exposure that lies about mid point in the test strips. If it doesn't then I do another test strip. The reason is that the percentage that 1 1/2 seconds represents in relation to 18 seconds, for instance, is quite another percentage when it is compared to 12 seconds. In other words, the margin of error decreases as the total time is increased. I dry this print in the microwave to determine the actual value when drydown is allowed for. Drydown effects all values on a print, but it really is apparent in the upper values.
Once I determine the upper value exposure, I will then do an initial exposure at the upper value time followed by a low value test strip at Grade 5 filtration. I will normally give a 5 second base exposure followed by test strips of 1.5 seconds. Once again, I try for an exposure that lies about half way through the test strips. From this I determine my low value exposure time.
My third test is the high value exposure and filtration followed by my low value exposure and filtration on the same sheet of paper. I process this print and from this I then determine my areas of burning and dodging and whether these must be addressed in the first or second exposure. I refer back to my highlight and shadow test strips to determine an approximate amount of time for burning and dodging.
I then make a final print that is includes all of the times above. I process this, wash it, and allow it to dry.
Sometimes I will make a further determination of whether the print would benefit from either unsharp or sharp masking of the negative. I determine what masking would accomplish. That decision comes after I have made a print, as described above, and allowed it to rest for a couple of days to as much as a week, to see whether I come back to it, how I continue to feel about it, whether my initial impression remains the same. My initial impression is sometimes the one that I stay with. Sometimes I feel quite differently after a period of time.
what I find intriguing is that while Donald starts his split filter grade printing with the value that controls the highlight, I start at the other end and do the shadow value first. Photons are photons and they don't care. I too find that I split print ALL the time now. I have the Aristo VCL 4500 head and I find that getting the proper contrast is much easier that way. Like Donald said, by the third test I am at the work print. I also find that with this method I don't have to burn and dodge as much with larger format negs. With this method I don't begin to know what contrast grade the print is at and I really don't care as long as print sings.
I have two distinct workflows:
1) Softest possible contrast test on the full image. I discovered a few years ago that when I use the whole image and not a strip, I get it better faster. Maybe it's because I notice things in the whole image I don't on a single strip. I don't know.
2) Hardest possible contrast overlaid on the the softest area where densitity was just barely peeking through.
3) Full print with both, no manipulation.
4) Usually there is some adjustment because of the overlain hard and soft values. Often skin is a tad darker than I wanted.
5) Manipulations. Almost always burn the edges just barely, to help keep the eye in my frame. Sometimes burn with hard contrast around the eyes of a portrait to make them appear a bit sharper.
6) Neutol or Ilfobrom (either Agfa or Ilford paper) for two minutes. Stop for a few seconds, fix for about 30 seconds, water hold, fix again, tine only if I want deeper black, but not usually.
7) I always use a metronome. I learned this either from an AA or a Fred Picker video, I can't remember, but I find that counting seconds works better than a light fading to off, and it actually creates a rythm with which to work.
1) Whole sheet, 30 seconds (I have a fixed light in a fixed position, so I find that with a single 30 second exposure I can guess where to go next pretty easily. And I can guess contrast grade since I have to use graded papers for contacting.
2) Whole sheet, new guess, or whole sheet at 30 secs. new contrast, if necessary.
3) Third guess, if necessary. It usually is.
4) Manipulations. I am usually down to this by the fourth sheet, max, unless I guess wrong on contrast grade.
5) Amidol +/- water for 1 minute, stop for as long as I can stand it, fix for as long as I can stand it, water hold, fix again, fix again, tone, wash for 60 minutes.