Category Archives: Paper negative

Comparing darkroom papers.

Ever since digital became popular, I have had friends and colleagues shut down their darkrooms and some have donated to me part used boxes of paper. Many of these I have not tested, or maybe tried once and didn’t really appreciate.
The quality of old paper can vary quite a lot, some of them are rather dull and foggy, so I avoided a lot of these papers when I was busy in case they turned out to be a waste of time. The other day I found I was getting low on my chosen paper, so I looked around at the other boxes, wondering which would be best. I couldn’t remember which ones I had tried, so I decided to spend the next full day in the darkroom doing a comparison test.

Testing and comparing papers is pretty easy with a Kodak step wedge called the ‘Kodak Projection Print Scale’. These are meant to be placed on the paper when you have a negative to print. You give one minute of exposure, process the paper then read off what your actual print time is from the numbers around the edge. It is a really neat device, though I don’t use it much. For this test I would simply do a shorter exposure in a contact printing frame with no negative and this would give me a range of greys which I could use to compare exposure.

I found the correct exposure for my favourite paper, which turned out to be ten seconds and then gave each paper exactly the same exposure and development. This meant that I could immediately compare differences in density and work out a comparative speed. This would be useful when making a print and then changing to another paper type, it would shorten test exposures and get me very close. It would also come in useful when choosing a paper for paper negatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 papers were tested, though some were the same type, but with different manufacturing dates. The more dark triangles on a test, the faster the paper. Number one, top left is my normal paper, Ilford Warmtone FB Gloss. The first ones to come close to the same speed were numbers 8 (Ilford MG III RC Deluxe) and 9 (Ilfospeed G3 RC). The slowest was number 4 (Forte Polywarmtone Plus), and the fastest was number 14 (Agfa MCC 118 FB Semi Matt).

 

 

 

 

 

This side by side comparison shows the huge difference (about 4 stops) in speed between Forte Polywarmtone RC on the left, and Agfa MCC FB on the right. Numbers 6 and 16 on the list.

I still have to spend some more time going through the results and notating features and faults, but I’m excited about how useful this test will be. It would be great to do it all again with Lith development, but that would take about four days!

The papers tested were; Ilford Warmtone, Kentmere Kentona, Forte Fortezo Museum, Forte Polywarmtone, Adox Fine Print Vario Classic, Agfa MCC, Ilford Ilfospeed RC, Ilford Ilfobrom FB, Agfa Rapitone RC, Ilford MGIII RC, Ilford MGIV FB, Kentmere Document Art, Kentmere Art Classic.

I still have many other boxes of paper in all sorts of sizes, but I mainly print 10×8 now, so I think I’ll just leave the test at this.

 

Making use of old paper

Over many years I have bought, swopped and had given a wide range of darkroom papers. Some are rather old and not really much good for making quality prints, but they still have their uses. I don’t throw out old papers, I’ve found that they can be used for Photograms, Paper Negatives, or just for creative experimentation. I have one box of very old Ilford single weight paper which has a base colour like it has been soaked in tea. If you choose the right kind of negative for it, the paper is gorgeous, but it is no good for certain other types of shot. If you want a punchy image with clean whites, -forget it, but for a still life or a portrait I think it brings a nice quality.

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Some of my favourite papers are lacking in contrast, that is to say, they have a lower grade now than the number on the box would suggest, this is because papers lose contrast with age. Not all though, -some last a long time, and I have examples from the sixties which are still ok. But some other papers are losing contrast at a much quicker rate, for instance, after only seven years. I have up to date papers which I use if I want a full range of tones, but the older ones are used if I want something different.  The flat, low contrast can impart a mood to the image, especially if the print is toned, in fact, I would say that this is essential. An untoned print of low contrast can look to be just a lot of greys, but a slightly sepia toned, or Selenium toned print is a different matter.

Recently I have been using some Ilfobrom Grade 4  for paper negatives in the 10×8 camera. I think it dates from the early seventies and has a contrast now of about grade 1, which is perfect for paper negatives. Here are three from yesterday morning in the mist.

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And here is Winnie, patiently waiting for me while I set up and shoot.

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So don’t throw those old papers away, try them as photograms or paper negatives. Try overprinting them and bleaching the highlights back (perhaps I’ll do this for the next post). Whatever you do, don’t just waste paper, if you really don’t think you can use it, send it to me -I’ll find a use for it.

7 Comments

  1. Thomas

Posted 14/03/2014 at 9:44 am

I am happy that I have got some Kentona yet. Unfortunately it is only 10×12.
But I do not have very old papers like you because I never did buy in bulk. Nor do I buy old papers on ebay. Should I try this? And what sort of papers?
I would like to have greater format of Kentona but all stock is emptied.
Thomas

2. Andrew Sanderson

Posted 14/03/2014 at 1:02 pm

Kentona is a lovely paper for prints, even now, but it is also excellent for paper negatives! So you will have to decide which is the best way to use it.

3. Andrew

Posted 14/03/2014 at 5:32 pm

Your point about low-contrast paper being good for paper negatives is brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought of that…

Andrew

4. Cahit

Posted 04/05/2014 at 6:35 pm

I have a bunch of expired papers. Is there a way to overcome printing whites as grays? Or more clear classification of alternative/creative uses of expired papers. (For example: type of scenes or negatives to print for better results)
Thanks

5. Mark Peeters

Posted 03/11/2014 at 1:22 am

I have a whole bunch of graded paper that came with a bunch of dark room equipment. but I only have multigrade developer from Ilford, can you develop graded paper with the multigrade developer?

Thanks

6. Andrew Sanderson

Posted 08/01/2015 at 10:17 pm

Dear Mark, please excuse my very late reply to your question on Thewebdarkroom. You can use Multigrade developer for graded paper without any problem.
Regards, Andrew Sanderson.

7.Andrew Sanderson

Posted 08/01/2015 at 10:24 pm

Dear Cahit, If you are using old papers to make prints, you may have problems with greyed whites. This could be a problem if you are expecting whites, but if you window matt the image and frame it, you could find that it looks really interesting as a new way to print.
If you are making paper negatives from the paper the greyed whites are not too much of a problem. You just print them using a higher contrast grade.
Regards, Andrew.

Ilford/Harman print sales

Ilford (Harman Technology) have recently launched a new venture called The House Of Ilford. This is a service aimed at the public, enabling them to buy photographs by established photographers for display in their home. Prints are made on real photographic paper and can be ordered in a range of sizes. Ilford are also offering a framing service.

I was invited to be a part of this exciting new venture last year when the idea was first discussed. The site has now gone live and they have done a really good job with it. Take a look here: http://www.houseofilfordphoto.com/home.php

I have twenty three images offered on the site, with more planned. The other photographers include my friend Mark Voce, Leon Taylor and Dave Butcher alongside a number of others.

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View Camera Magazine

I was recently contacted by a writer / photographer in the USA asking if I would like to be included in an article in View Camera Magazine. The article is on photographers using unusual film types, such as duplicating film and X-Ray. I have been shooting on X-Ray film since 1988 and have written a number of articles on the subject, but was surprised and flattered to be asked.

The article is called Alternative Films, Extraordinary results. and is in the July/August 2013 issue.

It is also mentioned on the esc4p.org blog, -resources page

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Paper negatives in Kent

Last month I visited an artist friend in Deal, Kent and took along the Kodak Specialist 5×7, shooting paper negatives on some of my remaining stock of Kentona paper. I had a really nice time. We went to see a painter called Jo Aylward and stayed in the house of another artist called Ruby.

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