B&W Negatives - Judging Good or Bad?
Coming back to developing my own b&w film after a gap of over twenty years, I am in a bit of a quandary when it comes to judging whether or not I am getting the development right or not. I am aware there are lots of guides and 'how to's' on the web and yes I do have Ansel Adam's 'The Negative'! If I dare mention the word 'scanning', this is where part of my problem lies I think, in that using VueScan on my Epson Perfection 3200, the results all look very light but the histograms seem OK.
Therefore I am trying to eliminate the negative as being at fault and if the negs are OK, I can then dig further. At the moment I seem to be going around in circles! In the image below, the left side is HP5+ developed in Ilfosol 3 @ 1+9 for 6mins 30secs. The right side is a neg from 1988, FP4 developed in Unitol. There is a difference in the film-base colour in that the FP4 has a pinkish tinge whereas the HP5 has a more blue/grey tone - presumably a change in base material in the intervening years?
I would appreciate opinions on the HP5 neg as to whether it looks to be correctly developed - thanks!
They look too contrasty, but they also look like they were shot on a very harsh sunny day. That itself will give too much negative contrast, even if you are developing correctly. Reducing the developing time by 25% and giving one stop more exposure (the reduced developing time lowers contrast but also reduces the film's effective speed by a stop) will give negs in those lighting conditions that are easier to scan (and easier to print in the traditional way if you ever go for a darkroom).
As far as the scans looking too light, keep in mind that films scans usually look too flat and sometimes too light. That's just how scanners work. You have to edit the scans to bring out the normal tonality. Use Photoshop or Elements or whatever you like to work on photos with in the computer. See my tech info webpage for examples of that.
That should scan beautifully. Looks perhaps 1/2 stop underexposed compared to the fp4, but still perfectly usable, and maybe that's the look you were going for? you can see the building is denser looking on the fp4 negative. Probably a metering issue because the building looks fine, but the lawn is a little thin, but it's that way on both. I don't there is any problem with developing.
The best way to tell about development is to see how it prints (ie how it matches your paper).
I'd say #10 is underexposed. #20 can be a challenge to print even when processed to a contrast index that matches a paper exactly (depending on how much shadow detail you want in the print).
Impossible to judge from a scan (if I'm forced, I'd say underexposed and overdeveloped). To be sure, you need to print them and tell us what grade it took to get detail in all areas of the print, or if you exclude the sky, how much burning-in did it require. Can you show the scans of the print?
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Concur. There is plenty of information in the shadows but getting it all to look right...
Get to printin'.
"Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti
Read 'The Zone VI Workshop' by Fred Picker. A 'proper proof' will help you to easily evaluate negatives.
All I know is that a good neg is a joy to print. It's even better if the whole roll is the same. The highlights are rich with detail and the shadows too. I hate blocked up highlights and empty shadows. I know this is a very general question but, does anybody know if the response if BW paper is different than CCD and CMOS sensors of scanners? If so, in what way?
The image on HP5 was taken in overcast conditions whereas the image on FP4 was taken in bright, directional, sunlight. You can tell by the way there is little contrast difference between the elevations of the church in the image on HP5, whereas, in the image on FP4, there is a clear contrast difference between the two visible elevations of the church tower (the grass in the middle foreground is in deep shade).
The slight colour variations are insignificant. The HP5 neg looks a little underexposed (that grass in the foreground would be closer to a a mid tone, if the exposure was correct) whereas the FP4 image might prove more difficult to print because of the greater contrast range caused by the lighting conditions. One solution to this might be overexposure/underdevelopment as mentioned above. Another solution might be trying to print it with a diffusion head enlarger, especially if you've tried before with a condensor head.
The difficulty is learning to spot those differences in contrast in the field and being able to accommodate overexposure/underdevelopment using a 35mm camera, when it's not always possible to separate exposure/development for individual images on a long 35mm film...
Yes, slight underexposure and minimal irrelevant overdevelopment of HP5+.
You could change that or just dial in iso 320 or 200 on your camera and forget about it.
As a surplus you could also underdevelop: pulling ! But rather go back another day.
To me neither development nor scanning are an issue here.
Your 1988 photos just are better: lighting etc.
The situation in 1988 was more preferable, and allthough I am not sure, you might have used a yellow or orange filter in '88 ?
Last edited by AmsterdamMartin; 02-21-2011 at 12:55 PM. Click to view previous post history.