I agree. Paul also has a nice article on how to set up a constant exposure/different grade system for use with a color head and VC paper. It's not that hard to do, and it's helped my printing a lot.
Originally Posted by RJS
A good resource to consider is Way Beyond Monochrome by Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse. This has some of the clearest testing methodologies, and explanations thereof, of any text that I know. It's also quite current in processing recommendations. Ralph is member here, and you might want to check out his site.
I've got an AGFA step wedge, 22 steps. I used that first to get a feel for how the EM10 worked. Then I printed a couple of "step wedge images" using a constant 10s exposure time on a couple of papers.
Then I found a nice negative wih a touch more range than "normal". I made one print (on unfiltered MG IV RC, 10s exposure time), and picked aread I called I, II, V and VII.
The next step was to print this same negative at different filtrations, to see what came off it. It turned out that my VII was consistent across filtrations - they always printed the same tone as 10s if the EM-10 gave the same reading (my MF enlarger has a ND wheel, which makes it very easy to adjust illumination).
And then - all my umpteen different papers, same exposure, same processing.
The result is a small stack of prints from the same negative which clearly show the differing highlight and shadow contrasts, the differences in sensitivity (cross-referenced to the original step wedge print and readings), and a by now crumbling piece of paper with a cross-plot of EM-10 readings and print "densities".
Total no. of prints of step wedges: 3.
Total prints made: About 30, but all but 3 were from negatives.
Total number of readings with the EM-10: 30, duly noted down.
Result: A "booklet", a list and a graph.
Papers saved - countless, even in the first few days!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I agree, buy one, they are great, but don't buy it before you understand what it does and why. When you do, they are even better.
Some people steer you away from testing by telling you that photography is an art form, which needs no or little mathematics. Then they tell you to buy a magical device that does all the mathematics in the background, because it will improve your printing beyond your wildest dreams. What gives?
Testing is about understanding materials and processes, and taking control. It makes our work consistent and predictable. Art is conscious creativity. When techniques and processes are not understood, artistic success starts to depend on serendipity and is no longer intenionally conceived.
You can tie a brush to a donkey's tail to get a painting, but it ain't art in my book.