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  1. #1
    craigclu's Avatar
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    Maximum black printing basis

    I've used many approaches over the years for determining contrast and printing times when enlarging. Split grade has seemed like an interesting and effective solution and the little I've played with it has shown that it also has potential for me.

    A few months back, I purchased an analyzer/timer system by Labex/Wallner as it seemed a good solution to my wanted upgrade from my simple comparator and desire for a digital timer. The system is surprisingly capable and its densitometer mode agrees with my trusted Macbeth so that I feel I can use them interchangeably, depending upon what I'm up to. My post is to the question of using a maximum black basis for setting print times. The Wallner has an indexing mode that allows me to pretest a paper batch, determine the maximum black setting for that batch/type and the timer will then take the projected point that I'm analyzing and adjust the direct-read time shown to produce maximum black on that paper. I feel that I have quickly adapted to this system and that I can nail a 95% correct print on the first try quite consistently. The threads I've found in here (especially regarding split grade) seem very centered upon highlight control and this has been a general way of functioning for me in the past, too. Sometimes I use the analyzer to calculate the tonal range of a negative but usually use experience to determine contrast grades or filters. I've been pleasantly surprised at the usability of this system and the flexibility it allows in switching papers during a printing session. Does anyone else function off of max black? I didn't find any threads on this in here.... if there is, I'm sorry for starting another!

  2. #2
    Ole
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    I used to use the maximum black method, but have dropped it in favour of something which always works.

    There are wonderful papers which seem to never reach maximum black, including Bergger Fine Art "Portrait". I now print for the highlights, and adjust the contrast with filters, developer and/or toning to get sufficient blacks.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  3. #3

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    Maximum black is not a good measure

    For printing continuous tone negatives trying to have a maximum black in a print is likely to produce poor prints with loss of visibility of shadow detail. It is, in my opinion, much better to achieve sufficient black and whiteness in the print for the intended viewing condition. Expose for the white and choose filter or paper grade to get things just dark enough to be convincing.

  4. #4

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    I used it for production work when all that was important to the client was getting all of the info from the negative. It is a quick and dirty proceedure used to print the maximum amount of negatives in the shortest amount of time. I never used it for exhibition prints. For that there was actually work involved, and depended a lot on the type of paper being used.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by craigclu
    Does anyone else function off of max black?
    I think the minimum exposure for maximum black method as
    valid a method as any. Of course any one who has studied step
    wedge prints will soon see that there is a max black and a max
    black minus and perhaps a max black minus minus.

    I'd likely use another method if a scene had no blacks. Dan

  6. #6

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    I look at the print and see if I like it. I tried a maximum black method, and the prints looked lousy. Not all my negs HAVE max black in them. When I printed for it, the prints either were too dark or too contrasty. Awful, in either case. When I just used the exposure to get max black for that paper, the neg had to be perfectly exposed and developed to look good. Which, of course, negs never are.

  7. #7
    Stephen Benskin's Avatar
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    Just like metering technique and the approach to film exposure, printing should be on a case by case basis. What you want out of the image should dictate how the process is utilized and not some rigid system. Begin with a thorough understanding of the different theories and systems associated with photography and apply the parts that are necessary for a given condition. Be flexible, analytical, and smart.

  8. #8
    craigclu's Avatar
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    My instincts about this were exactly as the replies have been running. I was very surprised at how quickly the method became quite intuitive. I've been running some experiments with various film/developer combos over the last year, so perhaps I've appreciated a relatively "null" starting point when I get into the darkroom. I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well the other tones fall into place when getting the minimum exposure for black calculated. Also, the bulk of the printing I've been primarily doing has been high volume (for me!) event projects, such as large numbers of 8X10's for lobby pix for local theater productions (typically from dress rehearsal to lobby in a day for opening night).

    Even for more serious printing, I'm glad to be "almost" right on my first attempt and I find I'm needing to rely on test strips very little, except for extremely challenging negatives. The Wallner allows me to set my standard 12 seconds (you can use almost any time as an initial standard) on it, take a reading of a very small spot (about 1/8"), set the index of the paper being used and it will then adjust the time to compensate for the materials and transmission. When switching from MGFB to Warmtone to Forte for instance, the index gets me right on the mark. The initial index is found by printing a projected step wedge, determining the max black step, rereading the projected wedge at the point determined and dialing the index until it matches the 12 second mark. It then calculates the adjusted time, I can write the index on the paper box and it seems very repeatable from session to session. I'm using a Dimezone-S/Ascorbate based developer that behaves very well with the papers I'm currently using so it could be that I've got the right combinations for me that I've settled into and that could be part of the predictable results I'm seeing.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dancqu
    Of course any one who has studied step
    wedge prints will soon see that there is a max black and a max
    black minus and perhaps a max black minus minus.
    OK - I'll bite. What in the hell does that statement mean? And please be as technical in your reply as you wish - I can take it.

    Kirk - www.keyesphoto.com

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
    OK - I'll bite. What in the hell does
    that statement mean?
    The 21 step, 1/2 stop/step, step tablet has at start a
    fb+f nominal density of .05. The next two are .20 and .35.
    Say those three steps produce print densities of 2.15, 2.12,
    and 2.06. Visually step 1 and 2 appear the same while step
    3 is, on close examination in good light, a tad lighter.

    When all is said and done, print results will determine
    how black is black enough. Max Black may be determined
    by an exposure through the fb+f. That exposure is the Min.
    Exp. for Max Black for all a roll. That should do for the case
    of no black in the scene. I consider it a ballpark amount. Dan

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