I repeat from a post I made yesterday:
"I have a Saunders Colour Proofing Easel that does four identically cropped 4x5 test prints on the same 8x10 sheet - simple, elegant and no moving parts.
Admittedly it is a bit large, and sometimes a 4"x5" "strip" is awkward for tests, but I find it works really well.
I even have the instructions".
Each strip is exposed for a 1/2 stop more than the preceding one.
If I'm using split contrast printing, I'll use the same procedure for each of the soft contrast and hard contrast filter settings.
I've also used the "accumulating" test strip procedure referred to above.
By the way, if you are having trouble getting even sized strips, I'd suggest just dropping a ruler either on to your paper or the easel blades to serve as a quick guide.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I use a percentage method for making test strips. This is similar to f-stop printing but easier for me and my metronome (no timers for me, I can count seconds and watch my work instead of the timer...). With either percentage or f-stop increments, successive stripes receive the same proportion of exposure increase.
First, I like exposures in the 15-30 second range, so I choose an f-stop that I feel will get me in that range. This is often just a guess, but with papers I use a lot, I know from experience.
Before making the strip, I choose a paper grade for the strip based on the proper proof. If there is any doubt, I choose the lower contrast grade.
I normally use 1/3 to 1/2 a sheet of whatever size paper I'm printing on. Key here is to get a good cross-section of the important tones in the print (and not in areas you think will need dodged or burned). Sometimes I need a whole sheet to accomplish this, but smaller strips usually do the trick. The paper goes into the easel so it is held down on two or three sides to keep the strip from moving.
When exposing the test strip, I progressively cover the strip with a piece of mat board at the prescribed intervals. I count the base exposure, cover a strip with the board and count the next "strip time."
I like 20% strips (even though sometimes the stripes sometimes blend in together making it difficult to find the borders.... In this case, a 30% strip works). I feel it is important to have both definite under- and overexposure on the test strip, so I use a fairly long range of times.
For a roughly 20% test strip, I count as follows:
10 sec (minimum for me and usually markedly underexposed)
+2 (= 12 seconds; a 20% increase in exposure)
+3 (= 15 seconds; a 25% increase in exposure, rounded up from 2.4 sec)
+3 (= 18 seconds; a 20% increase)
+4 (= 22 seconds; about a 22% increase, rounded up from 3.6 sec)
+5 (= 27 seconds; about a 22% increase, rounded up from 4.4 sec)
+6 (= 33 seconds; a bit more than 25%, rounded up from 5.4 sec)
+7 (= 40 seconds; a bit more than 20%, rounded up from 6.6 sec)
This gives me 8 strips between 10 and 40 seconds. The order is easy to memorize (count ten for base exposure then 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) and repeatable.
For a roughly 30% strip I count:
+3 (=13 sec)
+4 (=17 sec)
+5 (=22 sec)
+7 (=29 sec, a bit more than 30%)
+9 (38 sec, a bit more than 30%)
+11 (49 sec, a tiny bit less than 30%)
Also, easily remembered and a wide range of times. (Some might find the 30% increments better to start with since the separation is easier to see.)
If my first strip doesn't contain enough usable information, I make a second, adjusting f-stop or light intensity, or moving from 20% to 30%, if needed to get the time range correct and adequate separation between stripes.
I should add that I judge proper exposure by looking for the desired values and separation in the lighter areas of the print (high-value placement) following the good old "expose for the highlights, change contrast for the blacks" rule.
I then make a straight print on a full sheet at the time I have chosen, dry it down and start the refining processes. If I feel I need a different contrast grade, I make a new test strip. This ends up saving paper and time in the long run.
I just use the strips to get somewhere in the ballpark. The real work comes in refining the print (exposure changes, developer tweaks, dodging, burning, flashing, bleaching, etc., etc.), but that's another story.
Last edited by Doremus Scudder; 01-28-2011 at 06:58 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Thats a great idea Matt. I have a Saunders print and repeat easel that allows eight prints on an 8x10 sheet with the appropriate mask, and using the X-Y axis movement on the easel.
“What is a master but a master student? And if that's true, then there's a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.”ť
I usally use a full sheet. Time is about 5 seconds each.
Test strips are a waste of time
Full sheet, watch the whole image emerge in the developer
make your contrast and density judgment there, flick on lights for 5 seconds to verify your safelight call
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I made mine out of cardboard, glue, and duct tape. It's not pretty, but it works very well. I second the f-stop method as well.
Originally Posted by toro_mike
Also- for those less handy with tools, hobby stores (Hobby Lobby in the midwest) have a section with small pieces of thin birch plywood for very little money. I'm not sure what the hobby application is, but it would be perfect for this test strip printer.
I use a strip 3 - 4 inches wide, the length of the diagonal of the print size. I hold it in place with easel blades, and keep a small herd of shower curtain magnets (the little round flat ones that hold the curtain to the side of the tub) around the edges of the easel, and use them to hold down loose edges. I make sure that the strip passes through both an important shadow area and an important highlight area, or sky area, if relevant. I use a card to progress across the strip as others have mentioned, resting my hand on one side to keep the edge sharp. The bottom surface of the card is black to prevent reflective exposure from the paper. I just have a simple Zone VI timer, so I just choose a number (usually between 3 and 5) and make the exposures. If experience tells me what a minimum will be, then I start with that and add small amounts, as Doremus says above. If split filter printing, I do both filters and develop at the same time (the high filter is almost always a stop less). From there I go to full sheet, unless I feel like I need to test a split filter balance. The contact print tells me most of what I need to know about overall issues like burning and dodging.
I am paper waster. Usually I print sqare format and I cut piece about 1/3 of from paper to get base time for highlight. I rarely use test strips smaller than that.
If I am doing 30x30 cm print on 30x40 paper, I use strips of 10-15cm x 30 cm.
I relly need to get important parts of picture on the strip.
First that highlight strip wihth softest grade by using f-stop timing.
I put the strip on the easel, then use two pieces of ordinary cardboard to expose always one part of strip. Then I move the cardboards so that exposed part is covered and space next to it will give 1/3 stop more light.
I have really old and cheapish philips timer with 3 dials, one for 10 seconds, one for seconds and one for tenths of second.
Perhaps it sounds complicated, but after a while the time sequence for f-stop timing is easy to remember.
After i have found time for highlights, i use that time and do another strip with changing grade only.
Although with same two strips i could get basic times for split printing, i only use it occasionally. The old grade oriented approach seems to suit better for me.
Then some fine tuning strips... And first work print, more analysis and so on.
I've done it all at one time or another. Whole sheets, small strips. Kodak's print projection scale, piece of cardboard moved between exposures, etc.
When I got the RHDesigns timer a few years ago, test strips not only got easier, but became a revelation. F stops (IMHO) is the way to go regardless of how you do it.
From a mechanical standpoint, I solved the problem of the strip moving by tacking it down with a couple of small pieces of drafting tape. (Be sure to remove before sticking in the developer!) I also made some narrow clear strips with lines and times printed on them to use as a guide for the cardboard used to cover portions of the test strip, and as a readout of the exposure times (a la the Kodak scale). Old test strips have all been thrown away, or I could post one to show - 1 picture = 1000 words.
Depending on what the image size will be I give three seconds for each strip. Example for a large image printed on 11x14 paper will have six strips of exposure; 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, and 3. I use a large black matte board, 14x18 inch, and doubled in thickness. I set the timer for 18 seconds and moved the board every three seconds to my left exposing another strip until the whole paper have been exposed. It should be noted I use a Zone VI compensating time which allows me lower the intensity of the light so I can have better control of the test.