Paper and Paper Developer
I've just started making my own prints over the past couple of days. The film is HP5 developed in DDX. The paper is "Work" and the paper developer is Eukobrom (both made by Tetenal) so essentially I'm using Ilford materials for the film stage and Tetenal materials for the printing stage. I've been using an excellent book called Way Beyond Monochrome as my instruction manual and have got acceptable results.
What I have noticed is that while one is often advised to learn with one film and developer combination, less stress seems to be attached to choice of paper and paper developer. Is there any particular reason for this? My instinct is to switch to Ilford products for the printing stage too as I am guessing that a firm would try to ensure that all its products harmonise well with each other. Am I correct in this assumption? What Ilford paper and developer do you recommend? Or are there better choices to be made?
In order to maximize the potential of our materials, we have to reverse the process.
It all starts with your paper and paper developer. Together they have certain characteristics, same as film and its developer does. You pick a paper, or two, that you really like the color, surface, contrast, etc of, and pick a developer that you like to work with.
Once you have this, those are almost like constants in your system. You can of course use variable contrast filtration, and you can dilute your developer, to change those characteristics, but the point is to know what to expect from your chosen materials.
Then when you expose and process your film, you basically tune those variable to what your paper is capable of. You can either do some testing with expensive equipment, or you can rely on your eyes. The idea here is to print your negatives often to learn how to best expose and develop them to suit your paper and its developer.
Take a roll of your film, and expose it in normal contrast, at say 200, 250, 320, 400, and 500. Develop normally. Print those negatives at Grade 2 to see where you get the amount of shadow detail that you think is necessary, figure out what speed you shot that negative at, and use that as your exposure index (EI) for normal contrast shooting. Shoot another roll at that speed in normal contrast, cut the roll in thirds, and develop one third at a time. Print the negatives (again at Grade 2) and judge from the prints whether you need more or less contrast. If you need less contrast, decrease film developing time, if you need more, increase film developing time.
The idea around printing at Grade 2 is that it's in the middle of the variable contrast range from 00 to 5. You now have latitude +/- a full three contrast grades taking into account variations in exposure between different negatives on roll film.
You tune the film to fit the paper. Once you learn that, you will easily be able to learn how to deal with high contrast lighting, and low contrast lighting, and get consistent negatives that print with ease, and with minimal paper waste.
And, if you ever get the hankering to try a different paper, you will have laid the groundwork for how to adapt to its characteristics easily.
It doesn't matter who makes the film and who makes the paper. Ultimately it's what YOU like that's going to fit well together. If you learn how to tune your negs to the paper, just about any paper is going to give wonderful results.
Hope that helps.
Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 10-06-2011 at 11:16 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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Less is usually made of the paper and print developer choice for the following reasons:
1. You've usually only got one chance to make a negative, while you can print it as many times as you wish, with as many different papers or paper developers as you want depending on the look, print color etc you are after.
2. Related to (1), often much of the control work at the printing stage is during exposure (under the the enlarger) rather than altering things like contrast with print development. This is an oversimplification of course, but generally you have less control over contrast in print development than you do in negative development. Development can make a big difference in negative contrast, so that is the process you really have to get nailed down if you want to be sure you always have the information you want in the negative. The print is an interpretation of the negative so you have more flexibility to try different things without risk.
3. The negative is (usually) being enlarged. The print is not. So in choosing your film and film developer decisions have to be made about things like sharpness and graininess, which will show in the print as the image is enlarged. In addition, how you use your particular film developer can also affect these things (development time, temperature, agitation etc). The print is the final stage and the paper is not enlarged. So things like grain and sharpness in the paper do not really matter. From that perspective there is no point in arguing over something like whether say Ilford MGIV paper is grainier than another paper, or whether Dektol is a grainier paper developer than LPD. It is a non issue, whereas with films and film developers there can be big differences.
Paper choice should not be taken lightly though, of course. Different papers can have very different looks. Gradation can be different, as well as print color (paper tint, emulsion characteristics). Then there are other qualities to consider, like how different papers respond to various toning processes. They are often very different. The choice of paper developer has an impact on these qualities as well. But again, you have the option of playing around with different papers and print developers for any given negative. You can only make the negative once.
Priceless advice from Thomas. It takes a little work in the beginning but it eliminates all frustrations and waste later. A happy negative that fits the paper, makes for enjoyable time in the darkroom. Once you have established that, of course feel free to break every rule and let creativity go where it may take you.
Thank you very much for the replies. I shall set aside a day to do the tests and see what I come up with.
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Great advice all around.
No matter what you do, you will get printable negatives almost immediately. Controlling the process and aiming the negative to paper will just give you more printable negatives more often. Pretty soon it is like a tsunami. At first you print a few negatives per session because they can be printed. Later you only have a few unprintable negatives per session and you have to be selective what you print.
Mostly my prints used ilford graded paper G3 in d72 1+2, sometimes I used seagull and ilford MG IV, that's a great combination for me