Under Developed Negatives

Ian-Barber

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When looking at a sheet negative, how does one assertion whether it is under-developed. What are we looking for?
 

David M

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Experience. Although tales are told of reading newsprint through a neg, negs are not all the same. Black cat in coal cellar and white cat in snowdrift will necessarily look different. Different photographers seem to prefer different kinds of neg anyway, so there is no general cast-iron standard. I'm quite sure that there's somebody out there, crouched over their steaming densitometer, who will prove that I'm wrong.
When you have a neg that has printed easily in your darkroom, keep it handy as a reference. If you have two or three, all the better.
I suggest that looking at them against a standard background will help a lot.
 

Ian-Barber

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I have read about the newsprint test but thought this was more overexposure but there again, I could have gotten this wrong
 

David M

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Yes, if you can't see through a neg at all, and consequently can't read the text, it's almost certainly too dense, but this doesn't tell you if it's overexposed or overdeveloped. It's a rule of thumb from those good old days, I'm afraid. Just how easily should you be able to read? Does it mean simply discerning that text is present, or should you able to read the words?
No doubt the gnarled old printer, with his fixer-rotted apron, would take the eager young apprentice and show him what he meant exactly, but without that I think it's moderately useless.
Simply by having made a lot of prints, some printers can glance at a neg and "know" how to print it. I wish I was one of them. Others on the forum may be able to give a better account.
 

Alan9940

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Don't look at it...print it! If you consistently have to use higher filter numbers to obtain a normal looking print, then your negs are underdeveloped. Waxing back to a prior discussion we've had on these boards, if you were using the Proper Proof concept, then you'd know immediately. ;)
 

Ian-Barber

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Don't look at it...print it! If you consistently have to use higher filter numbers to obtain a normal looking print, then your negs are underdeveloped. Waxing back to a prior discussion we've had on these boards, if you were using the Proper Proof concept, then you'd know immediately. ;)
I was just about to chime in and say that unfortunately, I cannot print 5x4 but thinking about it, I could still make a proof sheet which would still tell me ;)
 

David M

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Alan, I agree, but the examples on Bruce Robbin's website are certainly helpful.
 
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