Or something like this - the pictures are self-explanatory....
Very easy to make: I built this after using a cardboard version for several months. It annoyed me that I had to tape it (cardboard version) to the surface in order to prevent movement... So finally I made this - a more permanent and rigid/stable solution.
"Training the intuition." I like that. When that training sinks in, the entire photographic process becomes intuitive, and one develops what E. Weston labelled "seeing photographically."
The key, whether merely in printing, is getting to know the entire process intuitively. Just like long-term couples can finish each others sentences, the photographer with completely trained intuition sees (feels?) the photograph from first visualization to the final print.
This is best done by using one camera, one film, one developer, one enlarger, one paper, one paper developer until one achieves E. Weston's stated goal--the ability to "see photographically." AND, in keeping with this thread, printing with a base exposure suitable to the specific part of the negative the photographer chooses to make the benchmark exposure is an important part of that goal. I choose minimum exposure through clear film for max black as my baseline.
Some good advice here (both for making the test-strip) and for what I want to achieve. I have only been doing d/room for a month and have to admit that I am clinging to the test strips like a baby's blanket.
That being said, it frustrates the living heck out of me. Its so tedious and time consuming! I'm sure, after a while, I will learn to trust my instincts more!
The process I use is a hybrid of those described. I cut up an 8x10 into strips and do them one at a time modifying the exposure and contrast as needed looking at the whites and the blacks. I know more or less what the contrast and exposure will be so this gives me a chance to fine tune specific areas of the photograph. They also help to figure out the appropriate burns needed.
Make a print that you think is just right. Make two more, only changing the exposure, keeping everything else the same. On one, give it 1/2 as much exposure. On the other, give it twice as much. Keep these for reference.
Excellent advice - tack them to the wall of the darkroom and use them every printing session.
Another good aid to intuition is to make a test strip at say, 1/2 stop intervals - spanning white to black - with no negative in the enlarger. It shows how each tone will shift with a 1/2 stop change. For normal grade paper 1/2 stop is about one zone system zone in tone [oooh, sorry about that]. You can see a 1/2 stop change doesn't do much in the highlights or deep shadows but does make quite an impact in the mid grays: a thing to keep in mind when deciding how much to burn or dodge. More info
to ad to n icholas suggestion, make an 8x10 print of a stouffer 21 step wedge. each step is 1/2 stop apart.
we use this at school all the time. years ago , i began using fstops as a way to determine burning and doging, didn't realize at the time there was a timer that would do the same thing. However, we can't afford 12 of those so i have just stuck with the same method.
This is probably a stupid question but I need to understand this instinctive printing. Do those who print by instincts (and not do a test strip) always develop the paper at the same time or does the time in developer very according to what they see as it develops?