I rarely do proof sheets myself as time in the darkroom is at a premium. I'm not saying don't do them, as they are a great tool and can really help.
If I don't have a proof sheet, usually I'll hold the neg sheets against the window, or a lamp shade (with the light on of course). Study them close and pick the ones that look good subject wise. Then break out the loupe or lens (great tip that) and look at those ones. No point in louping at the ones your unlikely to print anyway.
Look for the usual suspects. Sharpness, detail in shadow/highlights, distracting objects in fore/background, motion/coffee shakes blur. But of course you already know all that.My favourite is the branches growing out of peoples heads
Once you narrow it down, do a couple of quick and dirty prints (from each neg picked) that you can assess and mark up with a grease pencil.
Last edited by rogueish; 06-09-2005 at 06:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: to finish that sentence.
I dont do proofs often as I used to do mainly LF. Now I still do LF, but much more 120 and 35mm and will do contaccts sheets again at a low grade when I have big batches to do and the faff is worth it.
However, The fastest way is to have a decent light box and loupe. You can lay out the negs in their sleeves, find the best compositions (as you would on a contact sheet, onlt negative and backlit!), then check for exposure....is there shadow detail where I want it....how are the highlights? It does not take long to get instinctive with the exposure/contrast assessment bit. That said, if the best image has technical issues, I just bloody mindedly make sure I print it well, assuming the gain is worth the pain! VC materials leave us with few excuses tho it is sometimes a battle! I dont have volume to worry about tho, so of course if you do, pre-flashing etc may not be viable.....
I’ll start by saying that I shoot strictly 4 x 5 landscapes. The process is a bit less cluttered than 35mm simply because there are fewer choices. Anyway, the process begins with the taking of the picture. I take 2 of every shot. That is, if I select a given f and speed I shoot 2, if I then make a change in the settings, I take 2. During development I separate negs into A and B piles by shoot. Develop the A’s and look at them wet. Do I have the contrast I want, is the density there, detail in the highlights. I make any necessary adjustments to development for group B and proceed.
I organize my work by shot. That is to say all negatives of a given shoot (subject) are filed together. I place those negs in sheets that hold 4 per page.
The sheet of negs go directly on a light table where with a 3x loop I inspect them for focus and movement issues. I am looking for crisp clean subject matter. Then I am looking for detail in the highlights and shadows.
If I find one I like it is separated from the pack and placed in its own holder. This neg is then printed as if to make an 8 x 10, but I use 5 x 7 paper of the type the final print would be made on. This print is made with parameters that allow detail in the shadows and highlights that I believe to be important. The 5 x 7 is positioned to capture the main area of interest. If obvious changes need to be made to this print I make them right then. The prints are finished for each subject I shot that day and allowed to dry over night.
I will also ad that very detailed information has been recorded for each neg exposed, and each print made, it’s all filed with the negs and prints of a given subject.
The next morning I examine the “test” prints. Is there a worthy image there, could manipulation help the print, etc. I make notes on the results, and move on.
When I am ready I can go into the lab, pull a file on a subject, see the test image and the settings required to make it, setup and go.
This method allows me to review at my leisure the images I have created, show others, get their input, and determine the worthiness of a given image before going in to make any kind of final print.
As for a final print, I can go in set up as mentioned and start right off. The image I create is always hung on the wall for a week for mine and other family members review. Comments noted, and a reprint created from that critique. Similar to proof reading a paper you might write.
This process works very well for me.
A very good topic. I've enjoyed reading the responses.
Fortunately(???) for me, I am quite nearsighted so I first scan the roll with my glasses off. After that, I put them back on and use an inexpensive loupe (8x, I think). In terms of which ones I choose, the ones that interest me most in terms of subject and composition (assuming they aren't out of focus<g>). Unfortunately for the terms of your question, I do often scan multiples of bracketed exposures or varying DOF.
Oh, yeah and if you wanna look like a real pro, you will use bold sweeps of your chinagraph pencil to mark your contact sheets and or neg files. You cant be neat. Amateurs are neat. Pros dont have time to be neat and are too confident to bother
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lol Tom, you should see the state of my contact sheets and neg sleeves I hand into the pro labs! Also with a long list of instructions.
I have discovered that experience is a necessary ingredient for judging negatives. I have shot several thousand sheets of 4x5 since I switched to that format in 87. The overly dense negative is still more appealing to my eye when pulled from the rinse and held up to the light. Experience has taught me that those negatives are disappointing in the enlarger.
Sharpness issues are likewise hard for me to judge on the light table. I am, much to my frustration, frequently disappointed by negatives that look great on the light table - even with a casual investigation with an 8x loupe. Negatives with small areas of unsharp focus or general softness owing to camera movement account for the greatest number of "throwaways". I am learning that if it looks even the least bit soft on the hard edges with an 8x loupe - I might as well save the printing paper. With experience, recognizing this borderline softness has improved.
I contact proof every negative at a grade 0 setting on my enlarger. I check the highlights with a densitometer to ensure they are within limits. I carefully examine each negative and contact print with an 8x loupe for sharpness. I then examine the negative and proof under a magnifying flourescent lamp looking for any disqualifying defects in the negative (a macro examination.) If it survives all of this, I print it.
I use the contact sheets to check composition and facial expressions (if people) but generally, I make my final decisions based on the shadow area details... If someone is wearing a black jacket, I grab the neg that is the darkest but has details... Using a loupe, you can see the fibers in the material or whatever.... Anything other than perfect white on the negative.
That's assuming a three(or 4 or 5) shot bracket, where you have several of the same thing to choose from. If not, Well, just pick what you like... If it looks decent on the contact, I can print it and make something decent... But, I like wasting paper too.....
My work these days is almost all 35mm and the great majority of it is cityscape/landscape and nature. For a loupe I have several choices: My 50mm 1.4 Planar, a 50mm 2.8 enlarging lens and an inexpensive 10x jeweler's loupe. For a light box I use a Aristo coldlight head made to fit a Durst 138/ S-45 turned on its back with the light facing upward....very bright. I use glass carriers. Since I am dealing with subjects that stay put my evaluation of the negative is mainly concerned that any dust motes etc are removed from the negative. I also check for imperfections. I generally take six shots of the same scence from a single tripod location. If I see any defects in the negative I choose a different one. I also closely check the fine detail to make certain that the negative is satisfactory in sharpness and depth of field in case my old tired eyes served me poorly. I tend to work as close to f4 thru f8 with prime lenses. Most commonly f5.6. I am only using prime lenses as I own no zooms.
If the negative passes these inspections then and only then is it printed. A 50mm 1.4 held with the front element facing the eye makes for a very fine loupe and is certainly bright and the magnifiction is sufficient for negative examination.
So for me the important ingredients are a lightbox and a loupe. I make no contact prints and I own no equipment to scan. If I were to have a scanner for 35mm I think than I guess would use a flat bed and scan a whole roll at a time and examine the negatives on the screen. However, I am trying to do my utmost to remain digitally ignorant. It seems to work fine as I have a talent for ignorance.
I am exactly the same way... I see the nicely dense negatives while they are drying and then they look so bland when printed... hence my compunction about contact printing. Once printed, I find that my pictures "speak" to me - - I can't say why I select the ones I do... they just jump out at me. Perhaps because my usual habit is to bracket in 2-stop increments s - - so the right exposure just stands out? If I bracketed in 1-stop increments, then I might have more trouble selecting the right exposure? I don't know.
Originally Posted by blaughn
Now that school is over for my son, I have lost my access to contact prints... he took my negatives to school and did them for me at lunch... and we don't have a darkroom at home. Someone suggested inverting my lightbox on my flatbed scanner and making contact prints digitally... hmmmm...