Something I do to cut down on the number of tests - I use a long strip, and run it through the image so it goes through the darkest area I'm interested in and lightest area. The stepped exposures run parallel to the long edge of the strip. This will show me the exposures running through all areas, which might require different amounts, and the light area shows how much I need to burn in. Plus the mid ranges give a sense of tonal separation for contrast judgment.
I often run 2 strips of different contrast, same exposure steps, and develop together to save time.
For paper-saving tests when I print 11x14, I size and focus the image using my 11x14 test target, then use an 8x10 sheet of the same paper type placed in a strategic spot of the overall image, held down at the edges however is convenient (usually magnets). The paper doesn't know there's image outside it, and the enlarger doesn't know I'm using the wrong paper size. I guess a strip off an 8x10 sheet would be even more economical.
Either way, if you leave the enlarger head at the same height throughout, and the same paper type, the exposure is going to be the same. Of course, with different paper types, you might be crossing your fingers a touch.
I haven't bought this paper in a while, but I'm sure the price has skyrocketed...£4 + vat per sheet for 11x14!
What price are you paying in the US?
$32 for the 8x10 and
$54 for the 11x14
Both 10 sheets
What I would do (what I do, actually) is to start with an inexpensive paper and make the best prints I can with that paper. Record everything - exposure, f/stop, filtration, dodge and burn times, everything. When I'm ready to use another paper, I first find the correct exposure and filtration for the new paper with test strips. The dodge and burn times, and changes in filtration if needed, for the new paper can then be estimated from my notes for the old paper. The more you do this, the easier it gets. But perhaps this is so obvious that no one felt it needed to be mentioned?
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Great advice Dwane, thank you.
Thanks, good advice, not quite how I do it, but interesting.
1. view neg on light table
2. determine what may be worth printing
3. view selected frame in enlarger
4. adjust enlarger and easel for optimum results
5. use "junk" paper to do initial timing strips and narrow down time, sometimes 5 or 10 sec. difference is all it takes
6. use "good" paper to do trials and calibrate for differences in paper, "paper factor"
7. print one to see how it looks
8. adjust as necessary, repeat 7 & 8 until "right"
9. "factory" printing atleast 3, perhaps 5 prints made
Kodak Duaflex II with kodet lens
N75 N8008s D60
Yashica - D
Only a photographer knows the true value of infinity
Lately what I've been doing is large-ish test strips that I can angle in a way to get the important parts of a frame in, set what for me is an average exposure (f/11 8 seconds), and base filtration on how I believe the negative looked. Usually from this strip I can estimate if I need to +/- a stop (or half or quarter or 1.5) and can adjust contrast. If I'm not positive my new estimate is correct, I'll do another strip, but sometimes one is enough. If dodge/burn is needed, of course one strip is not enough.
I've only been back in the darkroom a little while so I may still hit upon a better method, but since I started doing this, I've been getting significantly fewer mistakes on the full sheets. The only papers I have in 10-pks are 8x10 Polywarmtone FB ( although I have much more than one 10-pk) but I feel comfortable enough in this method now to try it out. (Previously I cut up my Polywarmtone and only printed 5x7s). Last weekend, using much less expensive 8x10 paper (Ilford Cooltone RC), I cut one sheet into 5 test strips, used this method, and got two perfect prints and one nearly-perfect. Not too much paper wasted.