An efficient way of printing
Is there a way to speed up printing process inside a darkroom?
Let me explain: I don't have a personal darkroom so I need to rent one. Obviously it will cost some money (25€ for a 4 hours session) so I'm in the process of finding an efficient way of printing.
I'm not interested in artistic works, I'm only interested in printing photos as memories, much the same way a professional colour lab still does with c41 films.
Now here's what I thought could be interesting:
1) I make a contact proof of the entire roll, exposing to obey the maxium black - minimum time rule;
2) I choose the darkest, the lightest and medium density frames on the contact sheet;
3) I try printing them, assessing the right printing time for each of these frames, the usual way (covering progressively the print with a strip of black paper...);
4) For example: the lightest print requires 6 secs exposure, the darkest 20 secs and the middle 13 secs;
5) Now I mark with a permanent maker a number on the contact sheet frames as following: medium: 0, darkest: +7 and lighest: -7. Now I have deltas for the extremes of exposures;
6) WITHOUT making other test prints I print all the other frames of the roll eyeballing the single exposures just by confronting them with my three extremes. This way I think I can print an entire roll in 2 hours.
Can this procedure work?
Making 'standard proofs' like that is certainly possible. Realize that the dark images on the proof may lack maximum black when printed, as they are underexposed. Depending on your exposure index, though, many of them could print OK depending on how much safety factor you have in your EI.
It certainly can work, and what you've outlined seems sound.
The suggestion I would add, would be to decide on a standard filtration for the proof sheet. If you use something like 1 or 1 1/2 filtration, then you'll be a few steps along in evaluating what the final print exposure should be (highlights) and what you might want for contrast filtration.
Experience will help too.
I suggest adding a bit of editing to the process so you don't have to print a whole roll :-)
In a commercial darkroom with large trays of chemicals you might try a production line approach of exposing all the prints you have decided to do and setting aside in a papersafe. Then move to the processing, placing as many prints into the developer tray as it will hold then moving them to the stop and fix in a batch, returning to the next batch for the developing tray while the previous batch fixes. No problem if each batch spends a bit longer in the fix than required. Quite quickly you will have a full set of prints in the wash tanks and then onto the dryer. If it is an automated dryer like the Ilford it wil take seconds only to completely dry each print.
All the the above of course assumes RC paper and probably 5x7 prints. This would certainly have been do-able in the college darkroom when I was on a B&W processing and printing course.
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Alessandro, yes it is a slight variation of how I work.
The main difference is that I do one good print of one frame first.
Then using the contact sheet I eyeball the exposure difference and using F-Stop printing I expose away, guessing correct exposure.
It works like this:- Say my chosen print is f5.6 ½ grade 3½ at 20 seconds. I evaluate another neg to print and guess that the difference is ½ a stop darker on the contact sheet. I can then run a print by changing either to f/8 or change the time to 15 seconds (in round figures this is close I don’t have the actual time to hand).
This is extremely fast, once you're in the groove.
I find that for doing entire rolls of film, this is a very fast way to operate and as long as the print is within a 1/8th of a stop, or less, of correct density (exposure), then that is good enough for most applications, especially family stuff.
I use RC paper and have a paper dryer, very fast. If I wish to do a real lot of prints I fire up my Durst Printo roller transport paper processor, then I can push unbelievable amounts of prints out.
If you can, use the same enlarger each time, all enlargers with VC or colour heads are slightly different, just like automobiles or motorcycles are all different.
I think you should run a couple of prints through to see how you are travelling at say the 1/3rd and 2/3rd mark of your printing session. This gives you a timely break from the concentration of printing, also allows you to evaluate how you’re travelling, exposure wise.
The Jobo Vario-Format 8x10 easel is perfect for this kind of work. With 35mm negs you can use the 5x8 framing capability, which gives almost perfect proportions to the 35mm format.
Other useful formats on this easel are the 4"x10" panoramic framing and of course the 4"x5" format for 4 different negs printed on the one sheet of paper
Last edited by Mick Fagan; 07-03-2010 at 08:49 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I have a standardized printing process with standard set of negatives, contact sheet, and final print with timing, enlarger height, filtration, and aperture for all of them. In other words, if the neg looks like THIS, and contact sheet looks like THIS, then final print will look like THIS using THIS timing.
I make a proof (contact sheet) using standard enlarger height and aperture opening.
Then compare this contact sheet to standard proof.
Between these, I can guess at how much longer the exposure will have to be to match the density.
Then, I take this exposure increase and guess at final print exposure.
I can come pretty close with this method. It's usually good enough for snap shots. My system assumes my negatives are fairly uniform and cropping isn't extreme. All that will have to be taken into consideration when not - and more often than not, require more experimentation.
It is rare I print more than few frames from a roll though. If that were my goal and having total control over final quality isn't necessity, I probably will use commercial printer. (using C41 process BW films) I tried this before.... it quickly became laborious and not_so_fun, not to mention.... it would have been cheaper having it done by a lab.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
Your idea to spend time making a good dark print, normal print and light print sounds systematic and bound to give you good results.
Can you get your hands on a 21-step Stouffer scale? I put it next to my negatives on each of my contact prints.
With a scale strip on the contact print, it is easy to decide roughly the correct enlarging time.
Look at an important tone, say a rock, in the contact print that needs to be lighter or darker. Find the rock's current tone on the test strip. Then look up or down the scale for the tone you want it to be.
Each step is one-half stop. So if you want the rock to be two steps darker, give one stop more enlarging time.
Assuming you use the same enlarger for contact printing and enlarging and that you keep the head at the same height. A tape-measure is a useful tool to help you keep track of that.
If you don't keep track of the height, the step wedge on the contact print can still help you with relative changes.
I can use the same enlarger (I have a choice to rent three different darkrooms with three different enlargers) and will access to paper drier too.
This is the site of the darkrooms: www.fotografiaparis.it
I'll track notes of: colum height, stop used, filtration needed and time of course.
I'll use mainly Foma RC multicontrast paper (4x5 and 5x7) - specifically Fomaspeed Variant 311 glossy and matte.
Alessandro, I would think about the number 3 darkroom with the autofocus Agfa Varioscop enlarger.
Using an autofocus enlarger is a brilliant way to expedite enlarging, providing it is accurate, they usually are reasonably accurate.
If however you wish to do an especially good print, then checking the focus is a must, but an autofocus enlarger really speeds multiple printing and composing.
I have used one of those enlargers, they look old and unreliable, but by heavens they are fast.
Looks good in there.