Sunday, November 01, 2009

Working with paper negatives

If you click on here it will take you back to a paper negative made print I made earlier his year. I thought I might write a few wordettes about about a way to do them. Its not THE way to do them, it my way.

Select you camera and find some un-exposed B&W printing paper to use. [There is a chap here who uses colour paper but that's for the future :-) ]. You can use graded or multi-contrast - it really doesn't seem to matter - I usually use RC as its cheaper, usually thinner and doesn't show too much texture when contact printed. Neither does it matter if the paper is old and little fogged. It fact it may well help since you next step would be to pre-flash the paper. I do this under an enlarger with a 00 filter in place, the lens stopped down and the head cranked right up. I usually flash for about 1-2 secs - but you may need to experiment. the idea is to lower the contrast of the neg a little.

To aid keeping a lower contrast, I find it is much better to shoot in soft light - but then, up here we get a lot of that anyway. Most of my paper negs are shot indoors with either a 5x7 held together with gaffer tape and elastic bands or a fine Agfa 8x10 I currently have on loan and covet terribly. I also shoot using lens' without shutters just using the dark-cloth to cover and then expose the lens to the subject and since the light is lowish, the asa of the paper low too, this works just fine. Mostly.

Now comes development. Mix a very dilute developer and put in developing tray. Have another tray with water and yet another with fix. As long as the liquid is not frozen solid the temp of the stuff will not matter a jot! Although, having said that, if its too hot the development will be a bit fast.

1. Put neg into dilute developer and slowly develop the image till you get a soft image. I don't let much if any of the proper blacks develop as I don't really like white in my prints.

2. If the print has areas that need more developing, pop the print firstly into the water to stop overall development or at least slow it, then dip the portion of the neg you need more development into the dev and wait til something comes up. You'll need to move the thing about a bit as otherwise you might get a line appearing. You could also rub the developer onto the neg with some rag or whatever.

3. Re-wash in water then fix.

Now, you can either stick the dried print on the scanner and invert the image or, do the job properly and contact print the neg.

To contact print the paper neg, I dry the neg properly. Some people say contact print wet neg to wet print but its messy and seems to have no benefit whatsoever.
Put the paper neg face to face with your paper for the final print making sure the neg is on the top! Place some plate glass over it and do some test exposures as you would do for a normal print. This can be done under a light bulb but an enlarger or similar is easier to use filters.

I often split-contrast print the paper negs but you can do them with a single filter if you prefer. Develop as per a normal print and tone as required.

It is possible to pencil on the back of the paper neg to change to change the tones and shading but I have not got the skill. If you want to see a Master of this technique see Andrew Sanderson's work here and here . Brilliant work! Great workshops too.

Anyway, have fun. The Paper neg, contact printed snap here was not a total success but I like it!


Species: Cheekius_Geekus said...

Thank you for this post. I plan on using paper (instead of film) inside an oatmeal box pinhole camera and this will come in handy.

Anonymous said...

thanx for the post, i chanced upon it quite by accident. enabled me to understand, pulled out my Kodak Master View and shot some negatives that day...great start,
thanx again, rodneyAB

Anonymous said...

Nice short intro to paper negatives. The editing of the text might help. Good luck getting the 8x10!

Ronn Aldaman