Sily question: Properly exposed and developed negatives
I've been experimenting with my development process and I can't tell if I'm doing anything right or not.
I don't know if my eyes are screwed or what but I've heard and read that a properly exposed negative has both visible shadow details and highlight details.
I can't really see anything on the negative. I believe this comes from experience, yes?
Quite recently, I was given the chance to make some proof sheets and realized that most of my negatives are slightly-dark. How does a 'correct' (average) proof sheet look like? Slightly bright? Very neutral gray?
I would recommend reading 'The Zone VI Workshop' by Fred Picker. It will concisely show you how to make a 'proper proof' and adjust your exposure and development to produce negatives of high quality.
It doesn't matter if you're interested in the Zone system. The book will help you make your evaluations.
You cannot generalize that much IMO. Proper (or "ideal," to use my preferred term) exposure and development can vary wildly from shot to shot. An ideally exposed and developed negative is a negative that lets you fairly easily make the print you want. So, step number one in judging a negative is to have an aesthetic opinion about what your picture should look like in the end. Once you have these visual criteria set, then you can adjust the technical parameters to meet them. The latter is the easy part; anyone and their dog can learn technique with time and practice. As for learning to know what you want, you just may never do so, and if you do, you might find that it changes.
If you want to know what a "textbook" negative should look like, I would look in a textbook like "Photography" by London and Upton. There are usually descriptions with pictures in photo textbooks. At least one should be available at your local library.
I don't think that anything but the finer points of reading a negative come with experience. One can see most of what is there in the thin parts and the thick parts even as a beginner. Learning exactly what it will print like takes a little experience printing, but you should get the general idea (i.e. it's the opposite of what you will get on the print) without too much trouble.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 02-13-2011 at 04:24 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
Alternatively, you can also start with Barry Thornton┤s "NoZone-System":
If your current proof sheets are all "slightly-dark," you may just be incorrectly exposing the proof sheet!
A simple way to evaluate you negatives is to make what is called a "proper proof." Contact print your negatives so that a clear area (or a clear, but developed and fixed piece of film) with the minimum exposure to give you a good black. This means making several contact prints at different exposures and evaluating them to decide which exposure you want to use for your "good black." Keep in mind, this good black should not be maximum paper black, but it should be close.
Once you have the exposure for your good black (f-stop, time, light intensity, enlarger head height, etc.), then use this to contact print other negatives from the same film.
If your negatives lack shadow detail, increase exposure. If your shadow values are all too light (i.e., gray and not black) but the film edges are printing to your "good black," decrease exposure (be careful not to use the highlight areas to evaluate proper exposure).
Once your shadows are correct, check the highlights. If they are generally too contrasty, reduce development. If generally not contrasty enough, increase development. Keep in mind, especially if you are shooting roll film, that you should be adjusting contrast by changing paper grade. Only if 80% of your negatives fall into the too contrasty or not contrasty enough categories should you be making development changes.
The above is a simple summary of what the previous poster was referring to.
Best and good luck,
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You can't really tell much about highlight detail examining negatives. Severe overexposure can only really be diagnosed during printing. Otherwise, the ability to picking out under-exposure and under-development can be learned easily on the light table.
Originally Posted by Yoricko
Proof sheets may, or may-not tell you anything about exposure. It depends on the exposure conditions of the proof sheet.
Last edited by JS MD; 02-13-2011 at 08:40 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I suggest finding a Kodak Black & White Darkroom Dataguide. They are usually very cheap on the used market.
This sight might also be of help: http://www.ephotozine.com/article/as...negatives-4682