A man after my own heart. When in doubt, give it more exposure.
Something I learned Friday night. I hope this encourages you.
This part doesn't matter, but for background: I print on Grade 2 and Grade 3 papers. If I need other grades I use MG. I use 4x5 and develop film as needed to fit between Grade 2 and Grade 3.
This is what matters: You can put a number 2 filter on your enlarger and make a commitment to stick with it. That is just as good as using graded paper.
The rest is just illustration of a possible approach:
Make a print on filter number 2. If it is too flat, feed that fact back into your film developing time. Develop your next roll of film longer.
For this print, go ahead and change to a number 3 or 4 filter and make a satisfying print. Remember you are working off a negative that could have been better. So if it is a little hard to control the time, don't be discouraged. Remember that a better negative will be easier to work with in the darkroom.
When you have to print on higher grades, it is harder to control base time, burning and dodging because time tolerances are tighter. Sure, you can nail down your times within a couple of seconds. But you shouldn't start out that way. You should start out trying to make things easier.
It is way more fun to spend 8, 10 or 14 seconds dodging and having a gradual effect on results.
Last Friday I did the craziest thing. Printing an ice scene with a Grade 2 paper. I dodged an icicle and burned in mossy shadows.
Even though the actions I took would have been unnecessary on Grade 3, I resisted the urge to switch paper. The result is closer to what I imagine ice should look like than I have gotten before. I don't think I ever imagined I would dodge a highlight.
All the talk about split grade printing and matching the paper to the film is beyond the requirements of a beginner. Maybe in a couple of years it will become useful. Follow Simon's advice. Modern variable contrast papers like Multigrade are truly marvelous and are top notch learning tools. Many photographers use them for exhibition prints. I would recommend sticking to one brand until you get the knack of making a good print. Lower cost papers, such as those available from Freestyle, are quite adequate for learning. But there may be some advantage to using a professional grade material like Multigrade. (One obvious advantage is wide availability; another is consistency.) I would recommend using RC paper to start. It's much easier to handle.
Matching the negative to the paper is something to aspire to, regardless at what stage you're at. As a matter of fact by getting negative contrast right, everything else becomes infinitely easier.
When I teach new photographers how to print, we start with picking a paper and developer. It is there where it all begins.
Then we start to process negatives where we start by heavily bracketing exposures until we find something that gives great shadows at Grade 2.
Then we learn how to alter developing time to get a full and nice tone spectrum all the way to the lightest highlights.
And guess what, after a few rolls of shooting, developing, and printing all of them have learned quickly how to make a good solid exposure that they know will print well. Easy peasy. It isn't hard to get to a point where you can focus on the pictures. It just takes some focused effort.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Without detracting from your main message (which I think could be summed up "let's keep it simple for beginners") - I want to point out that Grade 2 is an easy target to shoot for. I wished I had picked on that target sooner.
Originally Posted by nworth
I'm not talking about "hitting" that target exactly, not every print will fit Grade 2. I used to freak out trying to get my head around how photographers ever achieved an exact fit.
Naah, you don't even have to get close. It's just good to have a goal in mind that you can tell for sure that you went over or under.
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Just one further wrinkle .
If you are going to choose a contrast grade or contrast filter to aim at, and you are shooting and printing 35mm, you may prefer to aim toward a slightly harder grade/filter (2 1/2 or 3). Especially if you are shooting higher speed films (400 ISO and up).
It can help to minimize grain.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Thanks, I will pick up VC paper with a set of contrast filters and experiment with filter 2 and 3 on 10x15cm paper. Hopefully, I can understand the difference.
I have condenser type enlarger, does this have any influence on the choice of papers?
OM-1n: Do I need to own a Leica?
Rolleicord Va: Humble.
Agfa Isolette III: Amazingly simple, yet it produces outstanding negatives.
Your condenser enlarger will not change your choice of papers, but it will cause you to develop a bit less to hit grade 2. In other words condenser enlargers make negatives look a bit harder than they really are to the paper. So maybe back off 15% on your starting development times.
Originally Posted by baachitraka
Don't worry, you'll readily see the differences between grades 2 and 3, and others. With too low a grade number, contrast is less, so blacks are not black but shades of gray. With too high a grade, contrast is more, so you get blacker blacks, and less of a smooth transition between black and white.
One useful rule of thumb for MG paper and filter sets is "time for the whites, filters for the blacks". That is, establish the best exposure time to get the right detail and creaminess in your highlights and anchor to that time and then go up or down in filters to achieve the best shadow detail or punchiness in the blacks. So, with your first test prints focus only on the highlights. Once you have that right you have the right exposure time. Only after that should you start altering contrast with the graded filters.
I believe this holds for all filters up to and including grade 3.5. I recall with grade 4 and above exposure time needs to be increased, approximately doubled, but I rarely need to be printing on grade 4 or above.