The nice thing about B&W multigrade printing is that you can match paper and negative density range by simple trial and error. If the print is gray and flat, increase the contrast. If the print is too contrasty, decrease the contrast. You can easily tell when the paper grade and negative are matched as that will be the best looking print.
Sometimes I wonder if matching your negatives to a certain paper grade is overrated. Most of my negatives require about 2.5-4 paper grade. I have tested in the past for film EI and development quite a few times using a few different methods and in the end simply ended up with dense negatives. I prefer a slightly thinner neg and print it to a higher grade. I find the tonality and grain very nice when I work this way. I think many others on here will agree. As long as your have adequate shadow detail the highlights do not necessarily need to be high up on the end of the neg. I recently started a thread on "Is N+1 really necessary?" and many others agreed that added development to bring a neg up to "optimum" contrast isn't always necessary. Many times I print using split grade printing and when using this technique does it really matter if your negative prints nicely on a grade 2 paper??
I can accept the argument that you can improve qualities of a fine print by working with consistently thinner/flatter negs. For example if your negatives consistently fit Grade 3.
But consistency is the benefit that makes it worthwhile to aim at something and adjust to a target. Whatever that target may be. Then when you miss due to constraints (like a roll of film shot in mixed lighting conditions), you were aiming in the middle and the latitude in both directions absorbs the problem.
So know where the latitude is and aim for the middle.
But a negative that fits Grade 2 is easier to print than one that fits Grade 4, because the times are easier to get right.
I would agree with this in general, if people become to empirical about it. Particularly when working with long luminance ranges, trying to develop the film to target a paper range can be dangerous. Over the years I've stepped back a little from the position of trying to "match" my negatives to paper grades, and find it is better to use negative controls to get all the information I want in the negative, and do the rest with printing controls, rather than try to make every negative fit a certain density range.
Originally Posted by brian steinberger
I can agree with this to some extent. Part of knowing the 'rules' (for the lack of a better word) is knowing when to break them.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
As long as photographers know their materials and what they're capable of, there is no 100% 'correct' way of doing things. The only thing that really matters is that it ends up being an effective print, and sometimes that means we have to get creative with what we do.
Often I feel that the best lessons I've ever learned are those where I screwed up, and I had to either work my a$$ off in the darkroom to get something acceptable, or just reside to the fact that I screwed up. Then I figure out either how to avoid it, or how to use it to my advantage next time.
But in order to know how to break the rules, you have to know what the 'rules' are first. By far, what gives me the least amount of grief in the darkroom is undoubtedly a negative that fits a mid-contrast paper/filter at printing time. That gives me latitude to increase and decrease contrast if need be, and it's a damned good place to be, especially at the start, to be able to control negative contrast to the point that they are easy to print. When a photographer and printer has learned how to make good negatives that print well, by all means branch out and get creative. It only gets better from there. Besides, how would we ever improve ourselves if we didn't seek to explore unknown potential within our materials?
"Make good art!"
- Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
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Basically, I tend to like thick, contrasty negatives that have the maximum density I can print. Basically I like all the info available, as in you can't print what ain't there. Long ago I moved away from trying to expose for a paper and instead I expose for everything that I can get on the negative. With silver, this makes for some interesting printing, and probably not what I would recommend to a beginner, but that's where I evolved to because I "can't print what ain't there". Just an observation, based on all the different advice in this thread. I haven't printed silver in a while, but I think I still remember how. My how isn't someone else' s how, and the advice that I give a beginner is vastly different from what I do myself. I think that would be true of most people who have been printing a while. I think Thomas has one of the last silver prints I made. It doesn't suck too bad.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Last edited by JBrunner; 12-22-2011 at 04:32 PM. Click to view previous post history.