Quote Originally Posted by pdeeh View Post
I had a negative I was struggling to print the other week, and couldn't make it "pop" in the way I envisaged it needed to. So just to try something new and refresh myself, I tried split-grade a la Les McLean.

The very first test print was almost perfect. It's not a "master print" by any stretch of the imagination but it is enough to have a couple of copies around to remind me that I can produce something worth looking at.
Good for you for being able to work with a difficult negative.

You can turn this argument around and claim that you should instead work on making better negatives that require less darkroom gymnastics.

A very good friend of mine has showed me how to make good negatives that print with ease, and while it was a painful lesson in processing film, the waste reduction at the printing stage is significant.
Believe it or not, it actually made the difference between me being able to afford printing in the darkroom and not. Instead of being frustrated with the results with very minute adjustments at the printing stage I now pop a negative into the enlarger, knowing I need roughly 22 to 25 seconds at f/8 and Grade 2.5 to 3.5 on the enlarger lens for my usual 6x8" print I make very few test strips anymore. Just one whole sheet that's a test print, no split grade needed. Adjust from there, and the second sheet is 80% of the time exactly what I was looking for, and 20% of the time I have to make a third one. That's for a finished print that require no more adjustments.

Some will say to just shoot film and process according to the manufacturers' instructions. If they can do that - great! But then you use a lot of the built-in range in the printing process to make up for that 'slop' or hysteresis in the negative making stage.
If you learn how to make great negatives, you have the entire built-in range of the variable contrast system to basically be creative with. That's worth a lot when you're pushing the envelope and trying to improve what your prints look like and take them from average or mediocre to something really stunning.