Printing glass negatives
I might get a change to print some old glass negatives.
Is this in any way wise to get involved in such job anyway?
I have not yet seen those negs and cannot tell anything about
their quality or condition. What could be the major problems
in printing those negs? I don't have a clue where to begin in printing
those negs. How much do they differ from printing ordinary negs?
years ago i printed a large batch for a friend who bought some at an auction.
the biggest issues was finding a negative carrier to use with the glass negatives. I was using a beseler 45 and the negative carrier is hinged, which wasn't a good thing to use with the glass plates as they are much thicker than film.
I ended up using an omega 4x5 carrier that was a hinged version and it worked fine.
I found them no different than any other negative,
First thing, they're very fragile, being made of glass, obviously. Then, if they have any historical value, you might want to be extra careful. Wear cotton gloves at all times, never touch the emulsion surface, don't rub anything to remove the dust.
In terms of printing, depending on the era, contrast will be a very important issue.
If you have really old plates, i.e. mid-19th century, those will be collodion negatives, and require papers able to handle a lot of contrast. POP (printing out paper) is probably your best bet. Contact printing is the only way to go. Collodion is also flamable, so stay away from any direct heat with those.
More modern plates may have less contrast, but still require quite a low grade of paper. Getting your hands on some Azo might be worthwhile. At any rate, make a test by contact printing them on normal enlarging paper, a see whether you have blown highlights and/or lack of shadow details.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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I would suggest contact printing them
I contact print them by replacing the glass in the printing frame with the glass negative. This eliminates stress on the negatives. If you can get some Azo use that. If not, most glass plates do very well on kallitype.
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I had to make enlarge prints from some 8x10 and 5x7 glass negs. What was nice about them was that they were I guess pyro negs and they printed so beautiful! I mean one or two tests and I was done. Damn nice.
I used a 10x10 glass neg carrier. The bottom half. Rested the neg on and slide the carrier into the enlarger. It worked just fine. No newtons or anything.
Of course, pay real attention to the edges and don't drop it!
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At the Oregon Historical Society, our head photographer prints glass negatives all the time. He uses a really old 8x10" enlarger (originally built to handle glass plates) that is converted to a modern cold-light diffusion light source. Everything is printed on Ilford multigrade paper. Paper developer is Dektol or the equivalent. He makes excellent exhibition prints. He also makes contact prints using the same paper and chemicals. No problem at all -- have fun! Old negs can make beautiful prints, as Robert said above. (Hi, Robert!)
When I worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (1970 - 1972), I printed a lot of wet collodion negatives. As "mhv" says, people depended on the self-masking effect of contact printing on POP to control contrast, which is high by modern standards, but the main problem I had was that the photographers of the 1860s did not (as is often stated) have an instinct for correct exposure but instead overexposed like crazy. Most of the old plates were so dense that you could not tell what the subject was by looking but only by making a contact print (exposing for 5 or 10 minutes instead of the 5 or 10 seconds needed for a modern film neg). The overexposure was so heavy that it detracted from sharpness even on a contact print. The reason for this, I am sure, was lack of skill; as I understand it, you can control the density of a collodion neg by varying development, and there are of course well-recognized reducers to combat excess density. If you take the job, let's hope your negs are of better quality! More modern plates exposed and processed to allow enlargement are of course nowhere near as much of a problem and should print fine on modern paper.
Originally Posted by mhv
Thanks for everybody for the input! I will let you know how it went if I get the job.
I tried to print an old 4x5 glass negative of my grandparents that was in poor shape. My attempts to print it conventionally on my Omega enlarger were a failure. I had better luck scanning the negative and then fixing it in Photoshop.