My printing until recently amounted to what others have indicated.
More recently, however, I have taken to printing at a contrast grade 1/2 to 1 grade higher then what the negative would normally be printed. I then do a test strip that provides me the shadow tonal values that I want and preflash the paper to compress the overall contrast range. This provides greater local contrast in the print and makes the print "glow".
The alternative to this is to prepare shadow value masks from lith film. In that method, I do a test strip to determine my highlight tonal scale then I mask the negative in the first exposure to hold shadow values back and then burn them down to the appropriate value in a second exposure using the second mask of the set.
Both methods work to provide greater local contrast while compressing overall contrast. Which is better? That depends on the subject matter and the presentation that the photographer wants. Sometimes a print needs greater highlight separation at the loss of some of the shadow separation and sometimes a print needs greater shadow separation at the loss of some highlight separation. The use of these two methods will allow the photographer the choice of which presentation to use.
There is no doubt that these methods will give greater print vibrancy due to greater local contrast.
I'm feel really uncertain at this point, becouse I've printed on MG papers only few tens' of prints. The amount of possibilities you can choose from it is enermous. I afraid it would take some time and lot of bad prints to take sense for what filter could be the best for that or another print... Yesterday I printed first time with 0 filter and was amazed how rich gray scale it can produce...
Gennerally I think question of contrast is - in some and sometimes relatively wide range - question of taste and there is nothing as "the best solution", or not "the best solution for everybody". But that is maybe more about my current uncertainty then about the facts... jk
Hello - I'm new to this forum (about 10mins old) but I read this question with a bit of interest since it's a prblem I've had recently as well. I have been trying a method of assessing correct contrast which seems to work very well on many of my negs. It goes ...
First print for the highlights on a very low grade contrast filter (1 or less). Ignore all shadows (I know it's hard to do). When you have the correct print exposure/paper combination to give the highlights you want in the final print, then look at the shadows. Are they clean with good density, or 'muddy'? If muddy, then try a higher contrast filter. Check the shadows again - clean/dense or muddy. Keep going until you have the look in the shadows that you want without too much loss of detail there.
Only rule - never change exposure time and filter at the same time (the old don't change two variables at once rule) it will throw all your hard work out the window! and practice (until the Zen thinking takes over!!!) :?
John McCallum's approach sounds very close to split grade printing, which I have recently found to be of great assistance in reaching a good starting point print 3 sheets into the process. John hasn't said that the second high contrast exposure is made as an incremental series of timings on top of the low contrast one, but this works for me.
Ross (a member for 5 minutes!!)
Marc-I believe anyone interested in making the best possible print uses a lot of paper but I have never thought of it as wasting paper. It's just part of an inevitable process. For me the first step is determining the proper exposure for a key area in the print at a relatively low contrast (2 or 2 1/2 filter). Something that has been a great help to me is a test stripper which enables me to make six different exposures of the exact same area on the print. I then make an unmanipulated work print and start the process of considering how to make improvements with burning ( seldom use dodging) and changes in contrast. Maybe I too waste a lot of paper but it sure is fun!
I think you'll find a good range of techniques used by the folks on APUG. Some use densitometers, and are devotees of the Phil Davis BTZS system, which certainly makes sense if you're printing platinum, with its very high material costs. Others develop by inspection and print until it looks right. The densitometer approach is probably the most accurate, but seems like a huge learning curve when the "experiential" approaches will probably get you close enough.
For a normal negative, I usually print one picture at grade 2 and another at grade 3. Once I pick the appropriate contrast grade (even with VC paper), I then do my fine tuning from there.
The way I get burned, even to this day, is with print drydown. I end up printing several variations and picking the print I like after they dry. Not very professional.
Anyone want to buy about 1000 pounds of exposed, soggy, partially fixed VCFB?
in my practice there is split print. u can do everything with it. simply everything. read more about the split method, and with time it will be the best thing and the most creative and rewarding.
about the test strips - with all the respect to the all analyzers (which are a great tools mostly), i think there is no substitution to test strips. there u can see really how the things look like and how u would prefer them. what analyzer can do, i can do it intuitivly. yes, not so scientifically acuratly - but i dont really want to print scientifically. i want to see, to sense, to have the vissual dialog with the test papers.
I have been advised to try split printing, at first 2 filter followed by 5 filter. How does one know when to stop the #2 and go to the #5? Or which ever filter grade preferable?
I start with grade 2 and an educated guess as to the proper exposure. I always use a metronome when printing. After I've pinned down the highlights, I judge contrast and then make the decision which way to adjust it and by how much. I use Michael Smith's "outflanking" approach in tweaking all variables, which not only tells me the optimal overall exposure quickly but gives me most of the dodging and burning information along the way. This technique enables me to arrive at the print I want using the fewest sheets of paper, almost never more than 5. Furthermore, once I have the times down for a given negative, the prints are repeatably identical no matter how many I'm printing. This method applies to enlargements as well as contact prints, and on any paper no matter what I develop it in.