What am I doing wrong?
I need help. Apparently I am either shooting wrong, or printing wrong, or I'm just not used to looking at MF prints. I have not been able to get a successful print from a MF negative since I first tried MF back in Sept/Oct.
Anything I try to print seems to be very dark, and muddy looking. I don't think my negatives are under exposed because there are clearly images on them. But I can't get anything longer than a 5 sec exposure on them. How are you supposed to burn/dodge in a 5 sec exposure?
Here is what I was trying to do today:
I started off with these negatives. They were developed in XTOL at 72 degrees for the 7 minutes or whatever time is suggested, and fixed in Ilford fixer if I am not mistaken for 4 mins.
(larger photo on flickr)
Negative by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
I first tried negative marked #1 with no contrast filter in 2sec intervals.
TestStrip1 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
The first was too gray I thought, so I added a 3.5 contrast filter, and did another test strip.
TestStrip2 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
My enlarger is an Omega B600 and I was using the 75mm lens at F/8. I didn't really like the idea of a 5sec exposure, but its the only thing near what looked good. So I exposed for 5secs and ended up with this. I dont like how "muddy" it looks especially up around the sign.
Print3 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
I thought maybe it was the negative, so I switched them out and tried a test print with this one. No contrast filter and for this one I used older Kodak Polycontrast III RC paper (it was a freebee and I dont want to ruin anymore new stock.) It says Ilford on the photo, but its a mistake, its Kodak. I thought that this one had blacks and whites, but they only appear around the 2/3 sec exposure. Isn't that extremely too short especially at f8?
TestPrintNocont by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
Here is the uninverted negative scan if it helps.
Negativeuniverted by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
(I'm scanning with our desktop HP printer/copier/scanner so please ignore the quality/dust/inferiority of the scans)
Can anyone advise if its my shooting, printing, or just overall unfamiliarness with MF process. I've never had this much trouble with 35mm printing.
The positives look quite weak and I would suggest it is possibly a combination of under exposure and under development. Look carefully at the numbers and writing on the edge of the film, put there by the manufacturer. Are they grey or black? If grey it shows under development.
It's hard to judge the negatives with scans to the web. The positive image looks a bit underexposed, but the uninverted image looks pretty good. You are getting an awful lot of density for your exposure time. Stopping down to f/16 may help, giving you more time to work. The higher contrast seems to help, which makes me think that the negatives may be underdeveloped, but not by a lot. The uninverted image of the negative doesn't support that, however, and it may or may not be the case. The short exposure time also makes me think that you may have negatives that are too thin to print well - most likely do to underexposure. Try doing some bracketed exposures and develop normally to see if it really is an exposure problem.
Some enlargers have filters/screens that fit in the light path to cut the brightness, they are sometimes hidden in the lamp house.
Also, the sign looks over exposed and the blacks good so try going the other direction on your contrast say grade 1 or even 0.
I suggest running a test to establish your personal ISO for the film/camera you are using. Briefly, cap the lens and click off three frames, take an 18% gray card and in a constant light and at box speed take a meter reading, without really focusing cover the frame with the gray card and no background. Then take exposures starting at +2 stops, +1 1/2, +1,+1/2, as metered, -1/2, -1, -1 1/2, -2. You will now have finished a roll of 12exp's. Develop as per mfg's time and temp for that film. After the film has been processed and dried take one of the unexposed frames and make a test print at an 8x10 enlarger height with your #2 filter if using MG. After the print has been processed washed and dry see at what time you can see a change from black. Then cut nine pieces of unexposed printing paper and mark the on the other side with a pencil to match the exposures for the other negatives. Expose each one for the time you found for the change from black. Process all the same and when dry see which one is closest to the neutral gray. Adjust your ISO accordingly. Shoot another roll of whatever you wish using that ISO and process as usual. You should be able to make a decent print with the #2 filter. You can then tweak as needed for contrast either with filters when printing or when developing the film.
IMO it's best to standardize for each film/developer/paper/etc combo. Then when you want a particular effect or look you have a minimum of variables.
I suspect your negatives are flat and thin. Increase exposure and development and see what happens.
You should also use fresh paper. Kodak RC paper will be several years old and may not be in good condition anymore.
But as others have pointed out, your negatives need attention first. Before you shoot any more important shots, do a film speed and development test.
Bracket a whole roll of film, maybe 3-4 shots exposed at a range of EIs. If you shoot 100 speed film, try at EI 25, EI 50, and EI 100. Develop normally. Then print the negatives with normal filtration (Grade 2) and focus on the ones where you get good shadow detail without trying too hard.
Then shoot a whole roll at the speed at which shadow detail was best, and cut the roll in thirds. Develop one of the thirds, print those negs, again at normal filtration, and focus on the full tonal range of the print. If your highlights are weak and dark you need to develop longer, and if they are very bright and blocked up you need to develop less time. Adjust and develop a second third of your film, and print the negs again.
Once you have established a good compromise between shadow detail and highlight detail - or overall negative contrast, you are in a good position to start using alternative filters and make adjustments, but it's always always better to get your negatives somewhat tuned into what your paper of choice is capable of first. It makes for much easier printing, with a lot less waste (so it becomes more economical and less frustrating = win-win situation).
You want to eliminate as many variables as possiable otherwise, you will really get lost in what is happening.
I would use only fresh, good paper, do not change to something else until you nail down what you need to do. It will be less costly to use good paper because you will find the solution faster. Make small prints or sections of the print if need be.
Follow the advise given here, good luck.
f8?? That would be what I use for very dense negatives to keep things under 2 minutes with 40" prints. How big are you printing. Small prints, like 5"x5" should be fine at f22.
If using a matched set of contrast filters, any test without the filters is just a waste of a test print.
it looks like you are getting a ton of (good) advice ..
i spent half my years with under developed negatives they are a pain to print.
when i enlarge i start off with the lens wide open to focus, and then stop down 3 stops,
whether it is true or not i heard years back that an enlarger lens is optimized about that aperture ...
what developer are you using to print ?
go with something plain vanilla like dektol, it has been around for decades and works well.
use fresh developer and use fresh paper
be generous with your test strips so you see what is going on ...
make sure you agitate your print in the developer ...
and notice when your image starts to appear
with rc paper usually around 20seconds is a good sign fb it is 45 ...
make sure you develop it for 2mins ...