I note you are a 35mm user; I suspect that doing USM on 35mm sized originals might be challenging.
Originally Posted by lhalcong
I wrote an article for a magazine back in 2004 explaining unsharp masking which can be found at: http://www.frontiernet.net/~fshippey...s/article4.pdf - yes, it's about digital USM, but I explain it in terms of the analog steps that must be taken. Note that it references the original article on the subject by J. Yule (PHOT. J., 84, 321 (1944))
Seems to me the easiest thing to do would be to dump the 35mm and start shooting MF... Mamiya 7 or a Hasselblad or a Rolleiflex. I am pretty sure you will see a great improvement in sharpness.
I would suggest you take the other steps before diving into unsharp masking. For one, in 35mm it will be a real challenge due to the size of the negative. More importantly, if the negative you are working with isn't sharp due to operator faults, unsharp masking isn't going to be a magic bullet. I would say that properly done, it will give already sharp negatives an additional bite, but it won't focus your out of focus, blurry negative.
Originally Posted by lhalcong
If you aren't already getting tack sharp negatives from your camera, start with your technique, as identified above. Those must come first in any pursuit of image quality.
As others have pointed out, digital images give a heightened sense of sharpness due to the nature of image formation in the digital realm. This sharpness does not necessarily equate to resolution or, especially, overall image quality. Whenever I share a color film-based image, even if scanned and shown only on the web, I notice feedback I don't see with digital images posted the same way. Usually the feedback is along the lines of "amazing colors, how did you do that?"
Sharpness is not your only goal in pursuing image quality, and it is not a simply the case that additional sharpening means better image. Typically the opposite, actually.
Absolutely. But there's a learning curve to masking, just like any other skill. To do it right you need
matched masking punches and contact frames. You tape your original to an appropriate sheet film like
FP4. After that, there are a LOT of details you need to learn, which I won't bother explaining unless you
are serious. Often an enlarged 35mm color neg will benefit from a contrast-increase mask, which involves a black and white interpositive first. Do you really enjoy darkroom work?? You get what you give - invest the time into the learning curve, and you'll never look back. Right now, I know someone
selling off a full set of Condit 4x5 registration gear, if you're interested. Expect to pay about what you would for a top-end lens. Otherwise, you can experiement with something like an old Gepe slide registration punch and matching registration mounts, or just register masks manually over a lightbox to see if this is for you or not. There are also a couple of folks making basic masking gear new, though the
Condit equip was the best.
Add to this answer:
Originally Posted by BMbikerider
1. use mirror lockup
2. photograph at the prime f-stop opening of the lens
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Start with a sharp negative. All the darkroom work in the world won't sharpen a blurry negative. Unsharp masking when working in color is better thought of as contrast reducing unless you are going to go through multiple steps to get a negative mask (or develop the mask as a postive, but doing that well is quite a challenge). The reason is that high contrast color paper is not dramatically different from normal contrast. In B&W you can use an unsharp mask to bring up shadow detail and then print witha high contrast filter to make the photo appear sharper. Of course, you can use an use an unsharp mask to dodge the shadows while priting the highlights darker than normal This might give you a sharper look with the right image.
My suggestion is to start with a tripod. ;>)
Things appear sharper when having higher contrast. Masking can also improve edge effect. When printing color negs there is only so much you can do with paper choice. There's nothing equivalent to
VC paper as in printing black and white. You can pick a somewhat more contrasy film to begin with, like
Ektar, or move up in format. But color masking is somewhat more involved than simple black and white
unsharp masking, simply because you have to understand how the colors are themselves are affected.
You have to commit to it. And it's a pain in the butt if you don't have good registration gear. But masking is a wonderful asset to your tool kit.
thank you everyone for your answers.
Drew, I do this mostly as a hubby. Although I am a serious hubbiest and I love photography with a passion, I don't want to invest beyond my limits. My finances do not allow me to move up the format. I need to stick with 35mm. I've been doing digital for a while and a couple of actual jobs if I've done, I did them in Digital. The Darkroom is a huge curiosity to experiment what I feel was truly photography and evolution of it. (I am sure that's a debatable subject). It is something I never had the chance to experiment before. I am loving it and enjoying it quite as much. Going back to the original subject, I do have to keep it low budget. I like learning all these techniques mostly for the reasons I mentioned above. I've been buying all used stuff through ebay. I dont want to take up your time unless you already have it writted down, the links here noted plus the advise are good enough. This website has been a wealth of information and this is a nice community of people willing to help.
I must note that all the techniques on camera I use do render quite sharp negatives, I have the ability to scan and print on a Epson printer. Of course when I compare the two prints , the Digital vs. the Analog. The Digital wins every time. But that's mostly because I am new to print in color in the darkroom. I am sure as I improve the techniques , they could come closer but I doubt that could arrive to digital. (35mm). That's why I like asking all these questions. I just love to learn. I am very serious but it remains a hubby.
thank you guys.
Ihalcong, what enlarging lens are you using? For highest quality, a six-element lens is best.
MattKing has the best philosophy and tech advise, and the other posters make valid points.
Don't forget, color film and paper with three layers will never be as sharp as B&W. Make great images, screw the sharpness (or psychological allusions of the same.)