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  1. #1

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    Film Dynamic range vs. print paper Dynamic range

    Dear all,

    this is propably a noobs question...

    My negatives have a much higher dynamic range than I can print. This is particularly true if the negative holds unevenly lit areas. Although both highlights and shadows have excellent tone separation in the negative, it fails to translate to the paper.

    Does this make sense?

    Can I compensate this at shooting? Like shooting at N-1 and developing at N.
    Should I always pre-flash my paper, when local burning is not enough?

    Thanks.

    Joao

  2. #2

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    Lots of options depending on what kind of print you want. They can of course be combined.

    -Reduce contrast in the negatives to better match the paper
    -Reduce paper grade/contrast to better match the negatives
    -More burning and dodging (sometimes you need to do a lot of this, and that's ok)
    -Burning and dodging with multiple filter grades
    -Various types of masking (more complicated)

    Most people prefer to start by controlling the negative first, though this does not necessarily mean it has to be compressed enough to "match" the paper.

    I would not suggest pre-flashing the paper. It is sometimes helpful but best done locally, rather than just flashing the entire sheet of paper. It flattens local contrast.

    Also note the tonal range of the emulsion on the paper is not actually short. The reason it appears much shorter than the negative range is because you are viewing the print by reflected light, rather than transmitted light. You can demonstrate this to yourself by viewing a wet print with bright light behind it. You'll be able to see shadow and highlight detail that is not normally visible. Not that this helps when making prints. It's just interesting to know.

  3. #3

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    If you understand burning and dodging then it will be easier.

    Advanced printing techniques using multigrade paper uses different filtration values for different selected areas which is actually a lot easier than you think once you understand the principal, but this may take several attempts and tests to get the optimum grade/exposure for a particular area.
    For example a high contrast area printed using a grade 2 filtration may be better 'burnt in' using a Grade 1 filter, conversely, an area that has little contrast may benefit with a filter of a higher value to give it 'some bite' With 'dodging' I generally find that the same filtration used for the main part of the print usually suffices.

    I try to avoid this problem from the start by rating a film less than the stated ISO and reducing the development time, this gives me a negative with lower contrast which I can always boos if needed. As a bonus I find that the grain can be reduced as well.

  4. #4

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    Your question is usually discussed in detail in books on the zone system. In particular how to fit the dynamic range of a negative to the range of the paper. This is really something that all photographers who desire good prints should understand.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by BMbikerider View Post
    If you understand burning and dodging then it will be easier.

    Advanced printing techniques using multigrade paper uses different filtration values for different selected areas which is actually a lot easier than you think once you understand the principal, but this may take several attempts and tests to get the optimum grade/exposure for a particular area.
    For example a high contrast area printed using a grade 2 filtration may be better 'burnt in' using a Grade 1 filter, conversely, an area that has little contrast may benefit with a filter of a higher value to give it 'some bite' With 'dodging' I generally find that the same filtration used for the main part of the print usually suffices.

    I try to avoid this problem from the start by rating a film less than the stated ISO and reducing the development time, this gives me a negative with lower contrast which I can always boos if needed. As a bonus I find that the grain can be reduced as well.
    For instance shooting a 100 ISO at 50 and then develop at 50 will reduce contrast in the negative?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by jsimoespedro View Post
    For instance shooting a 100 ISO at 50 and then develop at 50 will reduce contrast in the negative?
    Yes.

  7. #7

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    Reduced development is what reduces contrast in the negative. The reason people often rate the film at a lower exposure index when planning for reduced development, is that reducing development on its own can result in a loss of film speed and shadow detail. This is true particularly when development/contrast is significantly reduced. By giving the film some extra exposure you give more support to the shadows so that they are not lost when you give reduced development.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    Also note the tonal range of the emulsion on the paper is not actually short. The reason it appears much shorter than the negative range is because you are viewing the print by reflected light...
    I have to disagree - since prints ARE always viewed by reflected lights, the apparent tonal range IS the actual tonal range. The highest reflection densities I've ever seen on photo prints are about 2.40 (I know that PE likes to state lower numbers, but I've seen plenty of RA-4 media reach this.) I believe this maximum density is always limited by surface reflection, following the same laws as reflection from a glass lens. This unwanted reflection ultimately limits how dark a print can get.

    From what I've seen, photo papers have densities from about 0.10 (white paper) to 2.40, for a maximum net range of about 2.30. This is a range of about 200:1, in photographer terms, about 7-8 f-stops equivalent (an f-stop is about 0.30 density units). In reality, the situation is a bit worse, because we often see further reflections in the print (for example, try to hold a glossy black print so you can't see ANY reflection).

    Any way you look at it, a negative film can easily hold much more greater tonal range than a paper print. So trying to fit the important parts of the scene onto paper is an important, and perhaps the most difficult part of the craft.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    Reduced development is what reduces contrast in the negative. The reason people often rate the film at a lower exposure index when planning for reduced development, is that reducing development on its own can result in a loss of film speed and shadow detail. This is true particularly when development/contrast is significantly reduced. By giving the film some extra exposure you give more support to the shadows so that they are not lost when you give reduced development.
    Good explanation.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Bill View Post
    I have to disagree - since prints ARE always viewed by reflected lights, the apparent tonal range IS the actual tonal range. The highest reflection densities I've ever seen on photo prints are about 2.40 (I know that PE likes to state lower numbers, but I've seen plenty of RA-4 media reach this.) I believe this maximum density is always limited by surface reflection, following the same laws as reflection from a glass lens. This unwanted reflection ultimately limits how dark a print can get.

    From what I've seen, photo papers have densities from about 0.10 (white paper) to 2.40, for a maximum net range of about 2.30. This is a range of about 200:1, in photographer terms, about 7-8 f-stops equivalent (an f-stop is about 0.30 density units). In reality, the situation is a bit worse, because we often see further reflections in the print (for example, try to hold a glossy black print so you can't see ANY reflection).

    Any way you look at it, a negative film can easily hold much more greater tonal range than a paper print. So trying to fit the important parts of the scene onto paper is an important, and perhaps the most difficult part of the craft.
    You should have snipped the entire paragraph. I completely agree. That's why I said "not that this helps when making prints". I just thought it was useful info.

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