Contrast control for printing with graded paper
I want to indulge myself in using graded paper instead of multi grade paper, but I have to admit I am a lousy shooter, or I shoot the way before a meter was invented. I do my own developing but I don't really use the zone system, i.e. by controlling the constrast by developing. My routine for 135 is to use Tri-X with HC110H using semi stand agitation for 21 mins. It normally land me at Grade 3 or 30M with my Durst color head. I tried normal agitation with HC110 H, but the tonality is not something I like. For paper development, I am currently using Dektol, for most other commercial product is out of reach at my location (Hong Kong). I am happy to use a homebrew formula anytime, as I have experience in working with chemicals myself, and know the sources well. So, the question is, where should I increase the contrast? Toning the negative, using a different agitation regiment, use a different paper developer, or simply, don't jump the ship all together.
Another question is, anyone savaged an un der-exposed negative that was developed by Pyrocat-HD? I tried selenium, not only it did not work, leave alone that the tanning of the film is reversed slightly.
Dektol is a good developer for more contrast, try longer devel. times. I've allways used a condenser enlarger with my graded papers no problems with contrast. Now I have a cold lit I need more contrast so I changed my film speed and development times. If there is no detail in the neg you are going to have to re shoot.
Paper is normally developed to completion, because of this contrast increases are hard to come by and more development often leads to less contrast as midtones darken and highlights fog.
Lowering contrast can be done by the old 'overexpose/underdevelop' regime used for film. Special 'low contrast' developers are really slow-working developers - if you leave the paper in long enough (6 - 10 minutes) the results will be identical to Dektol, though some are slow and weak enough they produce changes to image color and so contrast comparisons to Dektol don't apply. The reason for using a slow developer is that if you pull a print from Dektol at 30 seconds the print will be mottled. With a slow developer the 30-second Dektol point is reached in 2 - 3 minutes and so development is even.
An alternative to soft working developers is to use a water bath technique. Rather than overexpose/underdevelop the contrast is controlled by letting the print soak in water so the highlights have a chance to develop fully, the shadows stop developing in the water bath as the carry-over developer is depleted quickly. See Ansel Adams 'The Print' for more detail on the technique.
You could flash the paper before placing negative in enlarger. This will enable highlights to have more detail while not noticeably increasing shadows.
Are you overlooking the obvious, a higher grade of paper?
Originally Posted by agraveman
Contrast may be varied up to a full grade or better by
using the correct developers. Beer's with it's varying
composition is one contrast control developer and
A. Adams version of Ansco 130 is another.
As a starting point Dektol yields contrasty results while
Ansco 120 yields low contrast. Papers them selfs vary
in their actual contrast no matter how they've
been taged. Dan
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I would go with Dan on this, and use Beer's developer. Depending on the paper, it will normally allow half a grade of contrast variation above and below the papers normal grade (sometimes a little more). I use one-tray processing, so it is easy to have a couple of grades of the Beer's made up if I feel I might need the flexibility.
You can also use a high grade paper, and modify the low-, and middle-tone contrast using a technique called Latent Image Bleaching.
As to salvaging a negative using toning. Toning with selenium, or with sepia, is a good way to increase contrast in a properly exposed negative, but is unlikely to be successful with an underexposed negative. You will increase the density in the highlights and middle tones, but if there is no exposure in the shadow areas, there will be no silver to tone.
As the negative you were trying to salvage had been developed in Pyrocat HD, had you tried printing it, or did it just look thin? Negative density can be misleading with Pyro developers, as the stain contributes quite a bit to the exposure density, but is not very apparent to the eye.
"You don't need eyes to see, you need vision" - Maxi Jazz