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processing a paper negative

  1. jnanian
    any tips or secrets that you use to get a contrast-not off the charts

    i tend to use exhausted paper developer in one bath, water in another
    and go between the two of them. sometimes i have a third bath
    with new developer at normal dilution ( ansco 130 1:2 ) and if
    the contrast is lacking i use that too ...

    i tent to like paper negatives that don't have crazy contrast,
    what's your trick.

  2. cowanw
    My 20 year old paper that is just slightly grey has found new life as a paper negative.
  3. jnanian
    hi bill

    a friend gave me a whole bunch of old agfa paper13 years ago. i just started using it for paper negatives.
    it is just foggy enough to dampen the contrast and slow enough that i get nervous making portraits
    with it

  4. manfromh
    I may be alone in this, but I actualy like the high contrast of paper negatives. It looks kind of natural, unlike "normal" film shot with bumped up contrast, or the most horrible of all, a digital shot with bumped up contrast.
  5. Jerevan
    I've got no tips, so I'll just get on to asking a question instead: say I want to make a paper neg from a graded paper, grade 2, would it then make sense to use a harder grade (like grade 3) to make a more normal positive, or should I do it print on the same grade?
  6. Joe VanCleave
    Joe VanCleave
    First, I wanted to say hello to the group. I've been on APUG for a few years now, never knew we had a paper negative group until I came across it during a Google search on "paper negative".

    Anyway, about the posted subject, my tricks for controlling contrast are:

    --Use graded paper. I like grade 2 RC, Freestyle's Arista brand. Graded paper won't have the problem of contrast sensitivity to the color of light, like VC paper has.

    --Diluted paper developer with longer development time. I was using Agfa Neutol WA for a long time; then my local camera store quit stocking it so I'm now using Ilford's liquid concentrate universal paper developer, seems to work okay. I use a more dilute solution than what would be used for prints, and develop for 2-3 minutes.

    --Water bath. I sometimes do this. It does work, along with dilute developer, to control the speed of the development, enabling one to pull the negative at just the right time, so you have good shadow detail but the highlights haven't blocked up.

    --Preflashing the paper, in the darkroom, prior to exposure. This seems to have the biggest effect for me in controlling contrast, other than using graded paper. I use a type S-11 bulb (a miniature round globe 120vac, 7.5 watt standard base lamp) in a metal housing with ~1/8" aperture, suspended about 30 inches above my work surface. Typical preflash times are around 10 seconds. I preflash to give the otherwise unexposed paper a slightly faint gray tone. I used to preflash so that the effect was virtually unseen on the otherwise unexposed paper, but have found that a bit more is better. It's hard to blow the highlights by preflashing, since a zone I preflash is 8 stops less than zone IX, and thus only has 2^8 = 512 less exposure than a zone IX highlight; you'd hardly notice 1/512 more exposure on zone IX.

    Regarding printing a paper negative, I prefer to print using MG paper, principally because the success of controlling contrast is often iffy or variable, and it's therefore nice to be able to choose between a grade 1 or grade 2 filter for the print.

    I must say that I've shot many more paper negatives in large format over the last 15 years than sheet film; I believe paper negatives are a bona fide medium unto themselves, not just a cheapskate's way of avoiding the cost of film.


    PS: Some additional ideas that I haven't tried yet for contolling contrast:

    --Soemarko's developer, which has been used successfully for getting normal contrast negatives on APHS ortho litho film. EarlJ on F295 has had good success with this; perhaps it would work also on paper to good effect.

    --Coffee developer, homebrewed using instant coffee crystals, sodium carbonate (washing soda, NOT baking soda) and optionally some ascorbic acid (vitamin C). This developer is known to give lower contrast results to film emulsions, perhaps it would also do so on paper.

    I must also add that I've toned paper prints (RC paper) using a strong instant coffee solution; it doesn't tone the back of the paper (since the paper is plastic coated) but it does turn the light portions of the gelatin emulsion on the front side a light beige or yellow/brownish color. So I'm not sure if a coffee developer would do the same; probably would.
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