Split Grade Printing vs. Photoshop Shadows/Hilights Control
Not a question about digital, per se, but a question on how to relate the digital thing which I know fairly well to the analog thing I want to learn.
I've been studying split grade printing and have experimented with it a couple-few times. Now, I want to wrap my brain around it and start using it for real.
There's always some relationship between the way Photoshop works and the way real photography works. Since I know the digital, it make sense to me to work backwards and put what I understand into context in the darkroom. So, it seems to me that split grade printing in the darkroom has some similarities in Photoshop.
Let's say I have scanned a black and white negative into my computer and I am editing it digitally. One of the first things I do is go to the IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > SHADOW/HIGHLIGHT control then expand/contract my shadows and my highlights to make the overall contrast of the picture the way I want.
In the darkroom, using split grade, I would print either the shadows or the highlights the way I want them to look then make a second exposure to burn in the highlights or the shadows the way I want. (Either start with the shadows first or the highlights first then work up the other.)
One of the problems that you can encounter with single grade contrast printing is that you can end up on a merry-go-round where you fix the exposure the way you want then, when you go to tweak the contrast and you have to reset your exposure. Around and around you go.
I got off that merry-go-round in the digital world by using the Shadow/Highlight control. It seems to me that split grade printing would get me out of that same vicious cycle in the darkroom as well.
Am I on the right track or am I just spinning in the sand?
Split grade printing offers a lot of possibility beyond what you describe as your method in evil-shop.
You can dodge or burn in at all of the contrast grades you use to make your final print, for example. This offers a level of control that is similar to dodging and burning shadows, mid-tones, or highlights in the unspeakable software
If I were you, I would just dive into it and learn how to develop negatives so that they suit your chosen paper and paper developer combination. That will prevent you from needing to use split grade printing for the most part. (Most of my negatives print well at about Grade 2.5 without much need for adjustments; no vicious cycles here). It will also save you a lot of paper and frustration. It takes a while to learn, but to make that correlation between the paper and paper developer you use and how the negative needs to be is so vital and important. Once you have learned that you will likely be thinking about photography in terms different from digital photography.
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As I understand split grade printing, if you do aren't dodging and burning during the hard and soft exposures, it is 100% equivalent to printing at with a single exposure at some specific grade. I'm not saying that split grade printing like that isn't a useful tool; it is. It can be very useful to find a grade you want to print the picture at. But if you want to access additional control over it, you'll need to dodge/burn during the hard and/or soft exposures.
Originally Posted by Worker 11811
As I understand the Photoshop tool that you refer to, it is NOT like the simple version of split grade printing. It's more like altering the contrast/exposure of just the shadows or highlights individually, which sounds like dodging or burning in during one of the exposures while split grade printing.
Like Thomas and Tim said, it's not quite the same thing. I started to really understand split grade printing and multigrade paper overall once I read and reread the Ilford paper on contrast filters and their paper. It's worth doing. I can't find it right now on their site, but I think a copy comes in the box with their paper.
I work to get the negatives right for a scene, then I don't have to make compromises in highlights/shadow or mess with split grade printing. I still like multigrade paper though for fine tuning contrast.
Some people use zone system to get the negatives right. I use different developers for different types of scenes. Pyrocat-HD makes negatives with awesome shadow detail and for general purposes. PMK (and caffenol-C) makes negatives with awesome highlight detail and for general high contrast scenes. I like Xtol for artifically lit and normal contrast (shady) uses. MF and LF make it easier to match a developer to a scene since it's easy to use a roll of 12 photos at a location or a couple sheets of LF. Not so practical with a 36exp 35mm.
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is a great place to start ...
its all about the film .. if you get your film to look and print the way you want
there is no worrying ...
PS is a good tool if you have nothing better, but an enlarger, film and photo chems can be better ...
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I am working on my film development. Some days are better than others but consistency is hard to achieve when you work in isolation like I do.
I'll get there. It'll just take longer. Sometimes that can pay off. One often learns more from mistakes than success.
I'm not using the computer instead of the enlarger. I'm just saying that I have been having success with Photoshop and I'm trying to parallel what I know from one into the other.
The way I learn things often seems to be different than others learn. When I think of this parallel, I don't think it holds true in all cases but it seems that the shadow/highlight control has a similar effect to split grade printing which can be used as a guide in learning. Maybe the parallel isn't exactly true but it might be close enough to learn from.
I'm still reading, thinking and experimenting with split grades. I like what I've seen so far but I'm still learning. This will just take time, as always.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Not when you for example;
Want the sky to have maximum tonal range on paper from full black to white in just the sky section, and the foreground also using maximum tonal range. Rather than just a bright low contrast sky and a dark low contrast foreground! etc etc etc.
I have a completely different take on split grade printing than other writers here, in that I use split grading for every negative that I print (except lith prints, which establish highlights and shadows in a different way.) The reason that I learned to split grade is what you described: I would get the exposure right, then change filters to improve the contrast, which changed the exposure, etc. etc. I felt that I was chasing my tail around the darkroom. I know that paper/filter manufacturers say that most filters block the same amount of light, but that was not my experience.
I am someone who works better by following routines for the craft part of photography. So it made sense for me to develop and refine my split grade routine, and use it every time, regardless of negative quality. I pin down my highlight exposure with a green filter, and then stretch the contrast out like a rubber band with the blue filter to get the shadows I need. Far from "messing about" or "needing" to split grade to salvage a poorly exposed and/or developed negative as others have described, I can get to a properly exposed straight print with the contrast that I want quickly and with minimum waste of paper, more efficiently than I could with single filter printing. Then I figure out the burns I need through the highlight filter, and the dodges with the shadow filter.
I am not advocating split grade printing for everyone. People produce wonderful prints with single filters. Mine are best when split graded, and you'd have a fight on your hands if you tried to take my green and blue filters away from me.
I'm going to offer something out of left field here. Pick up some grade 2 and grade 3 paper and try printing on that, with dodge and burn where needed. I printed with VC paper for a couple of years before I tried graded papers, and when I started using graded papers all my prints with VC looked a little flat in comparison. It was obvious where my problems were with VC paper when I looked at my graded paper prints. I also did a workshop with Per Volquartz, which I highly recommend, and saw how rubbing in the shadows in the developer with finger tips, and doing the same with the highlights in the fixer brought out more details. I don't know any function in photoshop that duplicates two bath development or rubbing in areas. There isn't any function in photoshop to duplicate selective bleaching either. Bottom line for me anyway is printing with either VC or graded paper can be a lifetime of learning since there are so many variables. Get your hands in it, with latex gloves of course, and try out some of the suggestions from people with lots more experience than yours or mine, and have fun with it.