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  1. #1

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    Increase Sharpness, all variables

    I am fairly new in color processing so bear with me. I've done B&W for a little enough while. I am now processing C-41 and printing RA-4 at home with all Kodak Chemicals. I shoot 35mm film exclusively.
    I fairly have some basics , but I'd like to know more in depth all the variables from A to Z to account for to get a very sharp print with good contrast. I know this is a broad subject, but I'd like to sumarize to make sure I have done all I can to get a very sharp print , short of coming close to Digital Prints, that is what I am familiar with. My early attempts to print something close to the quality of digital are far off of course.

    I know some of the things that will influence sharpness and contrast are; the film used wth low ISO speed, lighting conditions when shooting, etc. but from the processing and printing perspective: what are the things to consider and work on to get a very sharp print with intense contrast. I have been printing in expired but frozen Endura Paper and wanted to try Fuji Crystal Type C , but that is not existing.

    thanks for the tips and insight,

  2. #2
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    What you seem to know from "sharp" digital prints are algorithmic ways to boost perceived sharpness at the expense of image detail. If you are willing to go through the effort, you can do unsharp masking in the dark room, that's actually where this technique has been invented and named.

    Apart from that, make a sharp color negative (decent lens stopped down a bit, good focusing and sufficient DOF, sturdy tripod, and so on, you know the drill), use a good enlarger with proper technique and your image should look reasonably sharp.
    Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.

  3. #3

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    1) get a good grain magnifier and use it,
    2) clean enlarging lens, filters, condensers, and all parts of the optical pathway,
    3) ensure that the paper is held flat against the baseboard,
    4) ensure all enlarger parts are aligned properly and parallel,
    5) stop down lens to f8 --> f11 when printing.
    testing...

  4. #4
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    Not a printer, but I would say, master the "black point" and the "white point" in an analogue print as you would in a digital print.
    Black point and white point (especially black point) are fundamental in getting a pleasant and realistic contrast.

    With a normal subject, a subject having at least a very tiny amount of very dark details, push that tiny amount to pure black, "bring it to black".
    A shade in a house entrance, a blade of shade under a door, the shades under parked cars, the deepest shade of the bushes... you must actually "lose" the very last bit of shadow detail so that you can have some small (even 0.1% or 0.01%) of the surface of your picture as real pure black. Your eyes will find that 0.01% of the image which is pure black and will "set" something on that black which will make the image appear having a realistic contrast.

    With most subject that is very important for the final result. Failure to do so will result in flat colours and a dull image, regardless of how contrasty was your negative, or the paper you printed on. Contrast is perceived in the human mind, which has to "peg" a realistic black point (and a white point, but I think that's less important generally) to find the image realistic.

    That's my experience, YMMV.
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

  5. #5
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Glossy paper will result in prints that appear "sharper" than matte surface paper.

    And at the risk of repeating myself, here is a re-post of something I've posted earlier about sharpness:

    For some musings on "sharpness", see post #28 on this thread: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum37/1...ta-3200-a.html

    Here is a direct link: www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1426106
    Matt

    “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

  6. #6

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    Sharpness

    This is a subject that over the years has probably raised more questions than answers. Firstly make sure that you negatives are sharp! It is a fact that more images are spoiled by poor handling of the camera than bad focussing or exposure. Use a tripod wherever you can and when you cannot, use a shutter speed with a value of more than the focal length of the lens. E.G. With a 50mm lens the shutter speed should be no less than 1/60th. With a 100mm lens, not less than 1/125th.

    In the enlarger with 35mm there are usually glassless carriers. These are crap! Single sided glass carriers are the best.

    When you focus with a negative in the enlarger using a glassless carrier and get it bitingly sharp by using a grain focussing device. Then go away to get the piece of paper by the time you are ready to start, the residual heat from the lamp will have warped the film and knocked it out of focus. This is one of the facts of life. The warp is always upwards so the single sided glass carrier stops this

    If you cannot get a single or double sided carrier,the easiest way around it is to focus the negative, leave for a couple of minutes with the light on whilst you get the paper ready and then re-focus. Once you are happy turn the lamp off and put your paper in the frame and expose normally so the negative doesn't have a chance to cool and warp back to the original shape..

    If you are using Kodak paper, stick with it whilst you can. FUJI is on a very thin base and will crease easily. I find that I cannot get the depth of colour from FUJI paper as I can with Kodak
    Last edited by BMbikerider; 03-02-2013 at 04:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7

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    Thank you guys, these are all good advises. I will try get a single sided glass carrier , but I am not sure my Beseler 23-CII-XL has this accesory. Besides the Dichro head, I also have a condenser head. I was told by an engineer I could get a more contrasty print by using a condenser head, and in fact I found that is the case. (at the expense of a few specs of dust that show). Now when I say sharp, I also mean the level of detail I can perceive. Having worked my way down from Digital, where I can actually see the texture of a person's skin (magnificent detail reproduction) , I am not sure if this is a dream on optical printing, at least with 35mm which is all I can do.

  8. #8
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BMbikerider View Post
    In the enlarger with 35mm there are usually glassless carriers. These are crap! Single sided glass carriers are the best.

    When you focus with a negative in the enlarger using a glassless carrier and get it bitingly sharp by using a grain focussing device. Then go away to get the piece of paper by the time you are ready to start, the residual heat from the lamp will have warped the film and knocked it out of focus. This is one of the facts of life. The warp is always upwards so the single sided glass carrier stops this

    If you cannot get a single or double sided carrier,the easiest way around it is to focus the negative, leave for a couple of minutes with the light on whilst you get the paper ready and then re-focus. Once you are happy turn the lamp off and put your paper in the frame and expose normally so the negative doesn't have a chance to cool and warp back to the original shape.
    Thank you, you have made an important point.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  9. #9
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhalcong View Post
    Thank you guys, these are all good advises. I will try get a single sided glass carrier , but I am not sure my Beseler 23-CII-XL has this accesory. Besides the Dichro head, I also have a condenser head. I was told by an engineer I could get a more contrasty print by using a condenser head, and in fact I found that is the case. (at the expense of a few specs of dust that show). Now when I say sharp, I also mean the level of detail I can perceive. Having worked my way down from Digital, where I can actually see the texture of a person's skin (magnificent detail reproduction) , I am not sure if this is a dream on optical printing, at least with 35mm which is all I can do.
    With good equipment and technique, you will be able to resolve more detail when you print 35mm optically, then when you use mainstream digital equipment.

    Top end ($$$$+) digital equipment may require a different comparison.

    The difference is that, without the artificial increase of accutance that is available to you through digital means, that additional detail may be less obvious to you in your optical print unless you magnify the results.

    The appearance of sharpness is highly subjective, and mostly a result of edge contrast or accutance. The resolution of actual detail has a moderately small effect on the appearance of sharpness. In some circumstances, an increase in resolution will result in a decrease in the appearance of sharpness.

    A condenser enlarger will help accentuate edge contrast/accutance. A point source enlarger will help even more (but I wouldn't recommend them for general purpose use).

    You can also use unsharp masking in an optical workflow, but I wouldn't recommend that except for special negatives.
    Matt

    “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

  10. #10

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    I think I want to give the unsharp mask technique a try. Can the materials still be bought today ? What do I need ?

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