Hi, I haven't given much thought to trying some contact printing, but it might be something I'll want to try in the future. To those contact printers out there, what do you find appealing about it? I haven't even seen a contact print in real life so am wondering how they compare to enlarged prints. I would imagine they are extremely sharp? Maybe so sharp they have a 3-D look to them? Do you find 8x10 contact prints satisfying enough? I think I'll have to go with something larger but couldn't fathom handling a negative larger than 8x10!
Ok, let me ask you this Sean, when you proof your 4x5 negatives, maybe putting 4 in one sheet of 8x10 paper, dont they always seem sharper and with netter tonality than when you enlarge them? This is how I became hooked on contatc printinting, I always noticed my negs had a much better quality that those enlarged. Now I could acheive the same quality after much burning and dodging, but it always seemed to me that the contact prints appeared much easier to print. Once I moved to 8x10 and 12x20..I have never looked back. Next time you do some 4x5 try this, and you will see the difference.
Many people allege that there is differences in micro contrast etc, etc. I am not that technical or interested in the reason why, it just seems to me that contact prints have a quality that is hard to acheive when enlarging.
After you have made a contact print on Azo there is no going back. Ever. No other siver print begins to compare. And it's better than Platinum, too, I believe
For me the thing that I like about contact printing is removing all the abstraction from creating a photograph. You compose your image right on the groundglass exactly as you want it to be in your print. When you develop your negative (by inspection of course), you are watching the tonal scale expand right before your eyes (no time and temperature, thank you). And finally the ease of making the final contact print lets you devote more of your time to photographing instead of perfecting enlarging techniques.
In this age of vinyl siding and digital unreality I view my camera (no pun intended) as a bulls__ cannon, a weapon used to cut through the layers of abstraction that engulf us in the modern world.
Also I enjoy it because it is fun.
art is about managing compromise
I'll agree with all the reasons stated above.
Also 8x10" was big enough for Weston. The images you see in books may be larger than the originals!
Contact printing removes the whole optical system of the enlarger with its lens and alignment issues.
It is easier to retouch a large negative, if you do that.
Many interesting classic lenses are available for 8x10" and larger, and while enlarging negatives made with them may enlarge their optical faults, they often look great when used as they were intended.
Large negatives also open up the possibility of trying alternative processes, which are only available as contact printing methods.
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I also agree with all of the previous posts, but I like
Aaron's the best.
I had an epiphany one day and since you asked I'll tell you about it. I have an A.A.S. degree in photofinishing, I worked in photolabs processing and printing B&W, E-6, and Ilfochrome. I did an internship at the photographic labs at the Smithsonian Institution(man, I saw a lot in the two months that I was there-including a large Arnold Newman exhibit!. Later I took a Classic Large format photo class at a university and had a couple of printing session with David Plowden. The Black and White image was what originally drew me to large format photography and I was always going to museums and art gallerys and any other place were I could see photographs. I had been working with a 4x5 for a number of years, but was never happy with my prints. Other people liked them and I sorta knew a little bit about it, but was never really happy with what I could do with the enlarger. Then one day I was in Columbus, OH and I was able to go to the art museum there. Its a great place! This was a few years ago and they may have changed things now, but at that time they had a display of about one hundred photos by just about every big name in photography. They had representative work from a lot of the people that I have always admired. Just to name a few; Adams, B.Weston, Cunningham, Porter, Callahan, Gilpin, Etc.Etc. There were some fantastic photographs there. The A. Adams print that they had was one of my all time favorite photos of his and this was the first time that I was able to look at a real print of this photo. But as I was looking around at all of these wonderful photos (and some uninteresting, ugly Postmodern stuff-sorry ya'll) I came to the one that was by far the most impressive. This little photo just knocked my socks off. It was a simple photo of an old wooden fence, about 8x10 in size and it was hanging right next to the Adams print. This was the most beautiful print that I had ever seen. It was rich with tonality and had a luminous quality that I had never really seen before. For the first time I saw a print glow and knew what people meant when they talked about prints like that. It took me a few minutes, but I realized how this print was made and that almost all of the other prints were not made this way.
It was a contact print by Edward Weston. I knew that for this photo he used a simple 8x10 camera and contact printing paper. At that moment I knew what my goals in photography were. I found out later that he also used ABC pyro and the simplest of darkroom equipment. It has taken a long time for me just get the equipment(Big cameras), but I am now trying to make prints in the way that Weston did, not because I'm a Weston wannabe, but because for me his methods(and others) are the only way to get the most beautiful prints possible. Over the past few years it seems that more and more people are returning to these traditional methods of printing, and for me the reasons are obvious.
I would like to thank M. Smith and P. Chamlee for their work with Kodak and Azo.
Since you have never seen a contact print I think that you should find a place where you can go and take a look. If you can't then maybe someone will send you one in exchange for one of your prints or something. If you ever do see a really good contact print you will understand! As far as 8x10 being big enough, it is. I however, now have 8x10, 11x14, and 12x20 and I find that the subject dictates which of these cameras is best to use. As for ease of handling, 8x10 and larger film is not hard. If you can handle print paper then you can handle big sheet film. The 12x20 takes a little more getting used to because of the long size, but it is not hard.
Thanks to Jorge for the brush information.
I have to agree with Michael A. Smith’s response that once you see a Azo contact print most other silver prints will pale in comparison. However, well done Pd/Pt prints are also incredibly nice for the right subject. Two different animals really ...
The nice thing is that my same Pyrocat-HD developed negatives make excellent Azo Grade 2 or Pd/Pt prints. I can choose one or both printing methods.