Beginner / Newbie Enlarger Info? Help in getting started in B&W printing?
Hi everyone -- I am kindly asking for some hand-holding in getting started with B&W printing at home. I have done some searching online, but I found it was a bit difficult to sort through everything.
I was wondering if people could point me in the direction of some valuable 'getting started' threads / info for people like me. Or, perhaps some wise APUG members could jot down some important suggestions / hints / observations.
My background is this: I'm an enthusiastic amateur, comfortable in both digital and film. Film-wise, I shoot a lot of 35mm, and some 6x6 and 6x7 MF. I develop my own film at home, and have had lots of experience working with different emulsions and developers.
I used to do my own printing in high school, but that was when Michael J. Fox still feathered his hair and traveled through time in a DeLorean. Needless to say, it's been a while.
A graphic arts friend of mine has offered to give me (for free) a clean Beseler ... I also have a line on a very nice LPL through my local Kijiji. Now my curiosity has been piqued and I'm excited about making real prints on paper. Although I respect modern inkjets, and I've seen wonderful inkjet prints done by a photographer friend of mine, I want to return to my roots and make beautiful B&W prints at home, the 'old fashioned' way.
Questions off the top of my head:
a. Are some enlargers easier to use than others?
b. If I'm doing primarily 35mm and occasional MF negs, what are some good 'all around' enlargers to consider?
b. Are there certain models of enlargers to avoid?
c. What are good enlarger heads to look for? Which lenses?
d. When setting up an enlarger, what are the key points to consider? Focus calibration? Leveling the surface? etc.? I'm completely 'in the dark' here (pun intended).
e. What are the basic techniques of exposure and developing/wash?
f. What about drying? I have heard that paper can curl during the drying process. Is there are way to avoid or minimize curl? (BTW I live in an arid climate, the RH is typically 20-40% year round)
g. What are some decent paper types for a newbie like myself? One friend of mine loves Ilford fiber products. Another friend of mine hates Ilford fiber products and swears by Seagull. Any thoughts?
Anything else? I know that printing is an art form unto itself, but I'd appreciate any nudges in the right direction.
FWIW (or for other newbies starting out) I found the following threads useful:
More info to come. I am hoping to glean enough links in this thread that it will be a useful repository for beginners like me.
Go with the Beseler, especially if it is a 23C II. It will handle 35mm and on up to and including 6x9 Medium Format. I recently got one myself.
Regarding lenses, get a 50 mm f/2.8 if you can get one or f/4. And get an 80 mm f/4 if you can get it or f/4.5 or 5.6, for the 6x6 and 6x7 negatives.
There's a thread about levelling / aligning which I'm following. I'll try to find it and edit this post with it. [edit: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum41/9...ven-focus.html ]
Exposure: try to keep it within the 5 to 20 second range for consistency and ease of use.
Developing: Check your developer info and follow that, but whatever time you choose, be consistent. I used to use Dektol for 1.5 minutes (90 sec), but it's not available and the replacement Ilford seems faster, like 60 seconds, which I don't care for. I'll have to check my dilutions and notes, but it is good to be in the range of 90 to 120 seconds so that you don't get smudges from uneven development removing the print from the tray.
Paper and chemistry: Pick one combination that is easily available without special ordering if you can. Then master it. Then try changing one variable at a time, or pick another combination and master it. I chose Ilford because it is available.
Fibre papers are more archival, but only if they are properly treated and washed well.
I have fibre prints I made three and four decades ago that I never used hypo clearing washing aids on. I have routinely washed with six stands of water for five minutes each with complete draining and change of water between each and lazy intermittent agitation if I happen to be in the same room. They are stain free and as punchy as ever. But my next chemical purchase will be a washing aid (hypo clear) for fiber and archivality.
Drying RC papers is easy: just lay them out. Fiber based curls badly. When I get some fiber paper I will put them between two clean window screens that are about a half inch apart, so nothing presses on the paper. I'm told that works well.
Anything else? Aim for consistency in all operations so that if you have to fix anything you can make it better by changing one variable at a time.
Last edited by Monito; 07-16-2011 at 06:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
You don't say which Beseler, or LPL. The Beseler 23c are well respected and work well. So do some of the LPL's especially their 4x5's which are nicer than any Beseler though opinions will vary.
Unless you have access to a Ilford Multigrade head or a cold light head there aren't too many choices other than what the manufacturer made. Color heads are nice for printing with VC papers. VC heads are even better, and are available on some LPL's.
I would recommend starting with resin coated papers. They are slightly less expensive, and much easier to deal with in processing/washing/drying.
Fiber paper does curl on drying, some do better than others, but all will need to be flattened after drying under some books or other weights.
If you are looking to save some money, buy Freestyle's Arista papers, otherwise Ilford makes fine products as do several other makers.
As to which is best, it depends on your taste and what lights your fire. There are too many variables to say that this paper, or that, or some other one is "best".
As Monito says, the most important thing is to pick some combination of film, developer, paper, developer, be consistant and wring all you can out of that stuff before doing much "branching out". If you get familiar with a set of materials first, you'll have better idea of what you're looking for when you start trying other combinations.
And remember, there are no "magic bullets". The differences between any properly exposed film in any developer and printed on any paper and developed in any paper developer are subtle. The biggest difference is warm vs cold tone papers everything else is nuance.
bdial & monito: thanks for the input, I sincerely appreciate it.
I was talking to a fellow amateur a couple days ago and he told me horror stories about fiber-based papers and curling. I think that's why I was concerned about that particular issue.
My friend who recommended the Seagull papers said they're very heavy weight and high-gloss, thereby producing very rich tones if used properly. Unfortunately I would only be able to order Seagull products online ... I've never seen them in any stores. My local photo supplier carries Ilford papers -- a good place to start.
Re: which kinds of enlargers?
I can't remember the type of LPL enlarger that I saw, I'll have to look it up. I think it was the version that handles 35mm up to 6x7 MF. The Beseler was a 23, I think.
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Do you mean it isn't available where you are? I just bought a 1 liter packet of Dektol at B and H.
Originally Posted by Monito
I have a Beseler 23CII and have been happy with the results. I agree with the previous posts regarding finding the paper/developer combo that gives you the results you like.
When it comes to printing, I've found that no matter which developer and paper you choose, develope for two full minutes. This allows for proper D max, you then adjust exposure times to account for this. Develpoing any paper for less than one full minute can result in mottled or streaky prints, no matter if you use RC or fiber. Pick a non-hardening fixer to keep washing times to a minimum, and fixing times short. Always use an acid stop, this will help your fixer last longer. You can use water for stop, but unless it isconstantly changed(running) you will get developer build up and contaminate the fix.
Enlarger choice is personal, find one and get used to it. Some machines are easier to switch between formats than others, Beseler 23C units being one of them. No mater what machine you get, spend money on a quality lens, this is the single most important item needed in printing.
Buy, borrow, or steal books on darkroom techniques, attend seminars, and look for how-to's on line to help with printing, and most important, stick around here and ask lots of questions, thats what we are here for.
Ilford has some nice pdf's on their website with great tips.
With regard to types of chemistry and papers, you are going to get a wide variety of answers as we all have our favorites. Usually decided in over time.
I only use fiber graded papers for my personal work, but have my beginning students use RC glossy , as it is faster and easier to use in a gang darkroom.
I would suggest you pick one film, one developer and one paper and work with it for at least one year, before jumping around from this suggestion or that suggestion from everyone and their neighbor.
Thanks to everyone for their input on this -- I am finding that the more I learn about this, the less I know.
I am currently on holidays and do not have the chance to check on this particular model of Beseler I have been offered ... in the meantime I will do a significant amount of reading in order to understand the basics.
Another contribution to the accumulating pile of wisdom here on this thread ... this is a post from RFF from a beginner asking how to optimize contrast, and how filters affect developing time: