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  1. #1

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    Judging Negatives

    From browsing the forum, it seems that the skilled people here have ways of judging the success of their negative development besides printing (or scanning). I read about negative density but have not read anyway that this is measured. Can someone explain this in a bit more detail? Now that I look at my two rolls of film developed, I think that they might be a bit "thin", but really am not sure. I have to wait 1 more week to get scans done. I can neither print or scan them at home, so am not certain of my success. I'm going to do one more roll tomorrow, and then await the results. I'm wondering about what negative density is and how it is measured so that in future, I can judge my results more methodically then just eyeballing them.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    With experience, you'll know by eye if the negatives are good or not. If you want precision confirmation of your negative's quality, get a densitometer and then you can quantifiably measure the range of density from your deepest shadows to the brightest highlights. Being able to quantify the density range on your negatives by itself doesn't have meaning - different printing processes require different density ranges so what may look good for a silver gelatin print will be weak for a salt print, or too contrasty for a cyanotype.

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    OK, maybe what I was thinking is wrong. I just think my negatives are a bit thin. I know I should be patient and wait for the scans, but it is hard. I'm reasonably confident that my developing temperatures are OK, and certainly my times are well controlled. I made my D-76 dilution in the lab at work, so that should be OK.

    Should I add more time to my development stage? I have one more practice roll left. Nothing critical on it.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

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    The best way to see if a negative is any good is to print it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Tapscott. View Post
    The best way to see if a negative is any good is to print it.
    Yes, I know that. I knew that 30 years ago. I wasnt asking for the best way, I was asking for OTHER ways.

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    If you have an iphone, this is a good way to quickly check your negatives.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RattyMouse View Post
    Yes, I know that. I knew that 30 years ago. I wasnt asking for the best way, I was asking for OTHER ways.
    Experience.
    I have never quite got to grips with judging a negative just by looking at it, but I reckon that those who print professionally for other photographers can tell if it has been exposed and developed properly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael W View Post
    If you have an iphone, this is a good way to quickly check your negatives.
    Interesting! But I only have an old iPod touch, and the camera on that is far worse than that on an iPhone.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Tapscott. View Post
    Experience.
    I have never quite got to grips with judging a negative just by looking at it, but I reckon that those who print professionally for other photographers can tell if it has been exposed and developed properly.
    OK, I dont have experience, but I have a boat load of professionally run negatives. If I want "thicker" negatives, should I develop longer and if so how much longer? I have a test roll that I can use for experimenting.

    Thanks!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RattyMouse View Post
    OK, maybe what I was thinking is wrong. I just think my negatives are a bit thin. I know I should be patient and wait for the scans, but it is hard. I'm reasonably confident that my developing temperatures are OK, and certainly my times are well controlled. I made my D-76 dilution in the lab at work, so that should be OK.

    Should I add more time to my development stage? I have one more practice roll left. Nothing critical on it.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
    You can and will learn to judge negatives.

    What happens is that when certain negatives give you good prints from an enlarger or a contact, and others don't, you look for the differences to see why. You start understanding the reference points. Having no enlarger or prints to reference means having no clue or way to even figure that out. (I will address scanning in a moment.)

    When I first started developing film I had the same want as you, so I adjusted blind and I got prettier looking negatives, more like slides. Later, when I did start printing I found I had made my life tougher with the adjustments I had made.

    In your case, where you appear to be sending them out for scanning, you will find that there will be a significant range of exposure and development possibilities that the scanning system will allow.

    That system, both the people and the software, very normally will take whatever you give them and adapt/adjust without telling you. The system may not give you the feedback you need to expose or develop better. To get the info you need you will need to talk with them and learn to ask the right questions of those who scan your work.

    This may take some experimentation with you providing test rolls with more or less exposure and more or less development so that you can find your limits and sweet spots.

    Adding extra development for your next roll, say the next step up on the instruction sheet, probably won't hurt, the system will probably just deal with it. If one scan is better than the other you will need to ask them why and see if they can fix the bad one before you can understand.
    Last edited by markbarendt; 01-04-2014 at 04:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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