Jdef,

I can see that portrait photographers such as yourself, Michael, and others certainly are operating within differing criteria then those of us who do landscape type images. The tonal range that you seek to operate within is different, you have controls over lighting, and in fact an image having the local contrast that I seek would not be flattering to your clients. While it would appear that this is similar to split grade printing, the method and the result is inherently different. The reason is that in split grade printing one is not able to have two or more differing contrast grades within the same image.

Alex,

Yes there is no denying that making masks does take a little more time then simply enlarging a negative. However the time requirements are not nearly as involved as it would at first appear. Once a set of masks is made they are reused for subsequent printings of the same image.

Obviously for Azo images the matter of masking is not necessary or feasible (it would require an extensive registration system).

The use of pyro developers (pyrocat and ABC) also helps a great deal in highlight tonal separation. I have found however that even with pyro developers that the masking that I described takes my prints to another level.