5x4 Contact Printing

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Ian-Barber, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    Have you had any experience doing a 5x4 contact print of a negative to produce a final print.
     
  2. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Yep...both silver and pt/pd.
     
  3. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    Do you think its to small for a final print
     
  4. Graham Patterson

    Graham Patterson Member

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    Depends what you want to do with it. Postcards, desk display, handmade books, on the wall in small spaces (corridors and stairs), work well. Anywhere you can be inside an arm's length from it.

    I have seen small prints displayed in museums effectively, but usually as part of a bigger exhibit. In that case the change of size helps break the next...next rhythm identical works can induce.
     
  5. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    For me, it depends on the subject. As I type this reply, I'm looking at an exquisite 5x4 pt/pd print of a stone bench in a beautiful garden area that exhibits quite extraordinary enveloping light. Not mine! ;) I bought it a few years ago. I can't imagine this subject being any other size; it just fits the frame perfectly!

    In my own personal work, many years ago I did a small project of various water/rock subjects during the summer and winter months; all were 5x4 silver contact prints. My thinking at the time was that I wanted a more intimate connection between the print and the viewer. And, again, the subject matter just seemed to fit this size.

    Personally, over the years I've made quite a few contact prints in both 5x4 and 10x8, and have never really understood why most folks want to print BIG. Making the print bigger doesn't make it better. :) Heck, even Ansel Adams rarely printed larger than 20x16 for his most grand landscapes. John Sexton, photographer extraordinaire IMO, generally prints about 13x10; I have a couple of his fine prints hanging in my home, too.

    Anyway, I'm sure all this is a very personal decision and YMMV.
     
  6. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    I intended making contacts from 4x5 because I didn't have a suitable enlarger, and it seemed I was unlikely to acquire one at a reasonable price. I found it quite difficult to master the technique. I agree that the subject has to be right. You need something strong and simple that isn't cluttered with unnecessary detail. I was trying to do traditional landscape views which didn't work very well. Images of individual objects, such as flowers could work well.
    The other problems I encountered were finding a suitable frame to keep negative and paper in register, and producing negatives that printed well. I got some good advice online. I'm told that the best method of exposure is a bare bulb of around 2-300watts. I could only find 100watt bulbs, but that works. I actually fit it in place of the opal bulb in a Durst enlarger. You can pull the holder out and hang it from the wall. This allows timer control. You also need a more dense than normal negative. 40% more development, or a staining developer was suggested. I have calculated times for two films I use, and intend producing two negatives of each scene, one to be developed normally and the other at plus 40% for contact printing. Proper contact paper like Fomalux is best, but normal paper also works.
    I am still working on the frame problem, but will use what I have until I find a better solution. I've also acquired a 4x5 enlarger which has distracted me somewhat. I do like the idea of small prints, however, and will try to improve my technique for contacts.
    Alex.


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  7. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    This was going to be my next question. I have read a few articles online about the process but not actually had any hands on experience.

    Is it as case of hanging a bulb above the negative ?.
     
  8. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    That works. I made contact prints of my 35mm films (with a Paterson frame) using the light from my enlarger; the lens could be stopped down to adjust the exposure. Edward Weston, if I recall correctly, used a bare bulb.
     
  9. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    I've used all sorts of light sources but I found a controllable focused overhead light source (enlarger) the best as it allows some D&B.
     
  10. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    I didn't have much success using the enlarger. I'm hoping the bare bulb and 'thick negative' produces a better print.
    Alex


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  11. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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    Why would a thick, over developed negative work better, cannot see why as i always did contact prints that were fine when I had a darkroom
     
  12. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    I admit I haven't done contact printing for some 25+ years now but it was bog standard practice then for most people doing their own D&P so I am at a loss as to why it seems to be such a problem nowdays. As Stephen noted, 35mm CP frames were the norm, as were 6x6cm. For 5x4 and above we simply sandwiched the neg and paper together under a glass on the enlarger baseboard (with a steady hand this can be uses for the smaller formats too). I've not tried it but I'm told one of the modern angle-poise lamps makes a good substitute. I've never tried the bare bulb routine either and I'm wondering if it would give a lower contrast print. Just my thoughts.
     
  13. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    You can easily make contacts of 35mm, 120 and sheet negatives in the normal way under glass on the enlarger baseboard. I found, however, that 4x5 done this way didn't produce a very effective finished print. Maybe it's just me, but when I asked around for advice, I was told to produce a more dense negative, and use a bare bulb. I know that you can line up paper and negative under glass, but I'm seldom satisfied with the end result. Perhaps a larger piece of paper which can be trimmed would be better. The problem with 4x5 contact frames is that they are designed for plates which are 4x5", whereas sheet film is slightly smaller. I'm thinking about making something with the dimensions of sheet film. There's no reason, however, not to try making some prints using a bare bulb and sheet of glass. The only materials required are some paper and print processing chemicals. The darkroom can be anywhere you can exclude light.
    Alex


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  14. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    Do the pundits say how is this 'thick' negative is to be produced Alex - over exposed, over developed, or both, or pre-fogged? For the life of me I can't see how such a negative can produce a better print than a correctly exposed and developed one on normal paper but I am prepared to be amazed. :confused:
     
  15. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    Over-develop by 40%+, Keith, or use a Pyro type developer. I'm not sure why that is better than normal processing. I intend trying it, and will report back. I should manage at the weekend.
    Alex


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  16. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    The only reason I can think of for a thick negative is to compensate for a too bright light source. I never had problems when I first started making prints (by contact, as I didn't have an enlarger).

    I have a sheet of glass in my darkroom which is used for contact printing 6x7 negatives onto 10x12 (I think) paper so as to get the film film on one sheet. I will admit that since my contacts are only for filing and judging which to enlarge, I'm not bothered about technical perfection so much as just getting a recognisable image and am prepared to pull the paper if I overexpose; but the negatives per se aren't a problem.
     
  17. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Wow, to my mind there is much confusing information in this thread.

    First, contact printing is not hard! On the contrary, if you've tested your materials and locked down your technique the negatives practically print themselves. Second, any enlarger or bare bulb can be used to make successful contact prints; I use both. The same contact frame used for 10x8 printing can be used for 5x4...nothing special needed. For fact, the frame I use for both sizes is about 15x12 because I print pt/pd from 10x8 negs and that's the size paper I typically use.

    All this talk about needing a "thick" negative. Hogwash! What you need is a negative with the proper density range for the type of paper you intend to print on. If printing on enlarging paper, then the negative should contain the same DR as any negative of any format that you might typically enlarge. If printing on a silver chloride emulsion or some alternative process, you need a negative with higher DR. You can, and I've done it, print the higher DR neg onto normal enlarging paper using very low contrast filtration or split-grade printing but, IMO the result is never as good as tailoring the whole process.

    Btw, use of a 300 watt bulb, in my experience, is only necessary for a paper like Azo. Nowadays, I use an LED bulb because the light extinguishes much faster than incandescent. Personally, I found incandescent bulbs hard to control.

    Hope this clarifies some things.
     
  18. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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  19. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    When I searched for advice on this, I was talking about using silver chloride papers designed for contact printing, so I assume the advice was geared to that sort of material. I have Fomalux RC, FB and Foma Chamois to try. All are pretty slow and need quite long exposure times. I assume a higher density range means more contrast(?), which I expect you will achieve with an extended development time. Contact prints, as finished articles, are probably best made on contact papers, rather than enlarging papers. At the moment, all I can say from experience, is that contacts on enlarging papers aren't particularly impressive, and those done on contact papers using normally developed negatives, perhaps don't reveal the full potential of the material.
    Alex
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
  20. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Well...it depends. For example, I use both Adox Lupex and Lodima Fine Art silver chloride papers. The Lupex, in my experience, prints best with a near normal developed negative; that is, one that would print easily on an enlarging paper. I've always assumed that this is due to the inherent contrast of the paper emulsion. Lodima, on the other hand, requires a denser negative; one which typically would print well on pt/pd. I often print a 10x8 neg on both Lodima and pt/pd, depending on the subject matter.

    Well...yes. I like to think of it as a negative revealing a higher density range.

    Well, sir, then I'd say you haven't seen a fine contact print done on enlarging paper. I have a portfolio of them from the 1980's when 10x8 was my primary camera. And, yes, normally developed negatives--that is, those tailored to enlarging papers--will print rather flat on contact printing papers. As I said before, the entire process from image capture through to the final print needs to be tailored to how you work.
     

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