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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Miami, Florida

    Constrast Mask, how to ?

    In a previous thread I was recommended using contrast mask for the shadows in order to burn in some nasty highlights in portrait face and bring them to a manageable level. (little white girl). This is 35mm film. How do you do this in today's market. I believe there is no masking film availability anymore... and even if found 8x10 sheets are cost prohibity for me.

    By the way, I never done this either way...


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Montreal, Canada
    Multi Format
    For portraiture I suspect you can accomplish most if not all of what you need to do with careful burning and dodging with different filters. You might want to try that before getting into more complicated techniques - particularly contrast masking which can require registration equipment. Paper plane localized flashing can sometimes also help too. Best to start simple first and go from there. Masking is really most useful when there are complex shapes and difficult areas which cannot be burned/dodged by hand.

    There are films in 35mm size and 4x5 size that you can use for masking. If you've never done masking, I suggest starting out with kits or articles from people like Lynn Radeka or Howard Bond. Radeka's kit is good for getting started and learning some of the basics (you don't have to buy the carriers and stuff, just start with the written material). There are also workshops by John Sexton and others.

    35mm masking is not easy to do but is doable as a last resort - with some equipment, practice and experimentation (all masking requires experimentation and there is a fair amount of trial and error involved). Radeka's written materials will also explain some other options for 35mm (paper plane masking etc.).

    If you need to burn and dodge broader areas and/or areas that are a little less "geometrically" defined, before getting into silver masking you might first want to try some simpler but very effective approaches such as selective masking, pencil shade masking etc. Alan Ross offers some excellent instruction materials on these techniques. As with silver masking, the smaller the film format, the harder it is to do. 35mm would be quite tricky.

    Just because you have some nasty highlights doesn't mean you need to resort to masking. You'd be surprised how far you can go with careful burning and dodging with multiple filters.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 05-18-2013 at 01:24 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: typos

  3. #3
    MattKing's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Delta, British Columbia, Canada
    Multi Format
    T-Max 100 developed appropriately will work fine as a masking film.

    Try really dilute HC110

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Chicago, Western Suburbs
    4x5 Format
    Dear lhalcong,

    Contrast masking is not as hard to do as it might seem. It is, however, a good deal of work. As noted by Matt, TMX works very well and I find that using 4x5 sheet film is easiest. Essentially, you need to separate the mask from the negative using a sheet of glass so that the mask is (as the name says) unsharp. You can then align the mask and negative using a loupe on a light board and hold them together with some 3M magic tape.

    Purchase Post Exposure for a very good description of the process. It is a book you should have in your library anyway.

    Good luck,

    Neal Wydra



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