I always work out my exposure plan with smaller paper. I use multi contrast for this even if I plan to make the real (large) print on fixed contrast.
To get from small to large paper I don't use any mathematics. That does not work for me, the remaining differences are too large. One or two test strips form the real paper and I have brightness and contrast there where it is in the smaller.
It helps very much if you count burning and dodging times not in seconds but in fractions of a stop. I think in third stops, that is my base unit.
Another hint: Way Beyond Monochrome recommends controlling contrast and exposure time from the beginning looking at the highlights. This makes sense: Highlights are more important than shadows. But if you change contrast the exposure time changes too (to a large amount) and you start from the beginning with your test strips. I always make the first steps with the minimal time for maximal black or in the near of it. That is in effect looking at the shadows first. If you change contrast this time remains nearly the same which makes the life with text strips much easier. If you in the near of the final exposure plan you have to look at the shadows of course. Change of the contrast should not be an issue then.
If you want it fast and do not waste paper, get a enlarger meter or analyzer. The basic ones, like Ilford EM10, can give you reading on density. The more advanced ones (like RH Design (?) or Jobo Colorline), after calibration, can analyze the negative from several readings. Then it recommend the correct exposure time, grade of the paper, and color filter setting for VC papers.
Then you can test print the most important part of the photo before you commit the large paper.
This saves a lot of time and paper.
Call me old-fashioned...
I proof everything. A contact print on grade 2 gives you a ton of information regarding contrast, exposure and possible print manipulations. Being able to look at the proof and come up with a contrast grade that is correct alone saves you lots of paper.
If you already have a smaller print of the one you want to print larger, and have kept good printing records, you have even more information and can use that as a starting point. Experience will tell you what things you usually have to do when going larger: a bit more contrast, printing down or burning down some highlight areas, dodging up a featureless shadow, etc., etc.
I always start with a simple test strip to find my basic exposure (based on the highlights) regardless. If I have a print already, I have a good idea of the contrast I want. If not, I base the starting contrast on the proof I have. If there are areas of obvious dodging/burning, I might make another test strip or two to arrive at a starting point for the dodging/burning. I then just make a print, full size, and spend some time in front of it figuring out my next move(s).
My maxim is, "waste time, not paper." I dry the print down, tack it up on the white board and sit, with paper and pencil in hand sketching out the scheme for the next print. This includes changes in exposure, dodging, burning, etc. If I need to switch contrast grades, however, I'll make a new test strip (or set of strips) and make another full-size print on the right contrast paper/setting and set about deciding what to do next with it. I spend a lot of time doing this. It is surprising how many things occur to me simply by spending 20 minutes or so living with the image.
I then make another full size print which includes all the refinements I have planned. If I'm lucky and my time planning has not been wasted, I have a much better print on the second sheet. The process of looking and planning gets reiterated till I have a print that I think sings. If It won't sing after several tries, or I hit a dead end, I'll move on to another negative, but usually I've selected a negative that has potential from the proofs.
So, in the worst case, I've changed contrast a couple of times, used up a couple of prints to get dodging and burning down and by the time I get to a final print I've used up a few test strips and 4-6 sheets of paper. I then make a run of several prints; three to five depending on the difficulty of making the print. In the end, I have as many or more final exhibition prints as the number of sheets I used refining. That comes out to roughly one finished print for every two sheets of paper. Economical enough for me.
I spend all that money that others spend on enlarging meters and fancy timers on paper. I print with a footswitch and a metronome.
Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
> I spend all that money that others spend on enlarging meters and fancy timers on paper. I print with a footswitch and a metronome.
That is a very important point.
It is just funny that someone with 20-year experience would tell the newcomers that you do not need any meters to help, and waste your time, not paper. How a new guy can do that??
Enlarger meters are good devices to help the new guys to start. And help them to understand the different grades of paper and how to set the filters for VC printing. Also, without test prints, I do not know what they can do? So just take a pencil and ruler and think and think??
No flame here, but you'll need to put your feet in the OP's shoes.
I disagree. I think for a newcomer it is best to learn to print using your eyes. Take the basics from a good book, and then practice and work.
Actually I think that is the best way regardless of skill/experience level so I'm with Doremus 100%. No need for enlarging meters, special timers, weirdo timing and estimation gimicks (developed by people to sell books) and other gizmos. Be methodical with a logical progression from test strips through work prints to final prints. If it takes more paper, so be it. You'll learn more too.
Something like an Ilford EM-10 is handy for standardizing your starting point - making sure that the light intensity you start with is similar/identical for each negative.
I use it most without a negative in the carrier.
I have to disagree with this as well. There is a lot to be said for learning to make and then judge good test strips and learning what a proper proof print can tell you. I suspect a new guy (or gal) probably needs to waste as much paper as time. When you get better at printing you probably waste less paper.
Originally Posted by RedSun
I have an Ilford EM10 and for the life of me I can't remember when it has actually helped me make a better print. I have a fancy timer as well but it is a convenience I permitted myself to indulge in. I could print just as well without it.
On easel photometers are an excellent tool, but not an absolute requirement.
You can print 11X14s directly without going totally broke, but the next step gets really expensive and awkward. When you go big, start small. Make a good 8X10, and determine the right contrast settings and the dodge/burn routine. If you are going to process the 16X20 or larger in a drum, use a drum and the same solutions to process the 8X10 so that all parameters are as close to the same as possible. If you have an on easel photometer, measure the light in some key area. Raise the enlarger head to the height required for the final print. If you used a photometer, read the same key area again and adjust the f/ stop to give the same exposure, if possible. Otherwise adjust the exposure as needed, making a test strip if necessary. Choose a key area of the print and make another 8X10. Adjust exposure and contrast as needed until an 8X10 of the key section is right. Then make the full sized enlargement, with the dodging and burning you established for your good 8X10 (adjusted for any change in exposure time). As noted above, reciprocity takes its toll, and you often do have to adjust time and contrast for the larger size.