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12-08-2008, 09:01 PM   #1
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How to tell if a neg is over/under developed?

What should I look for to determine if a negative is over or under developed, vs. over or under exposed.

I read a little about this after searching online, but frankly, not allot made sense.

I'm very new to developing my own film, and now that I have the technique down, I want to start looking at dialing in the development times.

Another thing...

How do you flatten your negatives? I'm shooting tri-x 400. Right now they are under a stack of books.

Thanks!

12-08-2008, 10:13 PM   #2
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If you had a densitometer, this would be easy....
But..

If you are printing on multicontrast paper (Ilford Multigrade, etc), a nomally exposed and developed negative will print nicely on a grade II or III paper. I think the smaller formats want a slightly higher contrat paper, so 35mm will likely be happier on a grade III.

Somewhere around here, I have an essay that I wrote on the subject. I'll try to find it and post it for you.

I found it. More of a couple of paragraphs than an essay, but this stuff ain't rocket science.

Here is how I balance in a film/ paper combination:
First, set the enlarger head at the height needed to make an
8x10 print with minimal cropping. It is a good idea to scribe
this height to ensure repeatability. Set the enlarging lens to a
middle aperture value. Put in a middle grade printing filter.
filter Use time to increase or decrease exposure to the paper
for the duration of the testing procedure. Be generous with your
developing time, but be consistent. At least 1-1/2 minutes for
RC, preferably 2 minutes
Step one is to find out what exposure is needed for maximum
black on the paper. This entails taking an unexposed piece of
the film you are dialling in and giving it the manufacturers
recommended processing. Put a thin scratch from corner to corner
forming an X in the middle for focusing. Using it in the
negative carrier, in focus, make test prints until you have
found the time needed to just give maximum black to the paper.
This time is now pretty much cast in stone for this paper/ film
combination.
Step two is to make the film fit the paper. For this you use the
now standard method of starting at the manufacturers recommended
iso/ development times, or others of your choosing if you have
an educated guess about which direction to take. Make all your
test prints at the enlarger settings you have fixed in place
with step one. This is very important. Do NOT vary the enlarger
settings until you are into the final tweaking stage of the
process. The idea is to make the film fit the paper, as the film
is the most flexible of the two for varying imaging
characteristics. You may find you need to increase the exposure
time by a third stop to secure acceptable blacks when shooting
real subjects.
By balancing to the midrange of the paper contrast range, you
are leaving elbow room in both directions for contrast
adjustments during printing, and you will also find that your
negatives will print well on most any VC paper with minimal
work. You will also be working in the mid range graded papers,
which are the nicest, if you choose to master the art of
printing. Graded fibre base papers still rule for image quality.
Hope this helps ( and was lucid)

Last edited by Wheatfield; 12-08-2008 at 11:00 PM.
12-08-2008, 11:00 PM   #3
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I used to have a book that explained it really well, but I cant remember which book. Something like you expose the film for shadow detail, if you underexpose, the neg will have no silver, and the print will be black without detail. Dev time doesn't change the shadow detail much, if no silver is on the neg, extra time won't increase it. But dev time greatly changes highlights, lots of silver on the neg here, so changes in dev time can change highlight detail. Therefore dev time changes contrast. When I first started black and white I shot a roll on a normal contrast day. I made five strips with -2, -1, -.5, 0, +.5 exposure on each strip, and developed the strips for different times. I found an exposure that gave the shadow detail I wanted and a dev time that gave the contrast for a grade 2 paper. That became my standard for that film/developer combo. It's shifted a little over the years, but not too much.
Ryan
12-08-2008, 11:01 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
If you had a densitometer, this would be easy....
But..

If you are printing on multicontrast paper (Ilford Multigrade, etc), a nomally exposed and developed negative will print nicely on a grade II or III paper. I think the smaller formats want a slightly higher contrat paper, so 35mm will likely be happier on a grade III.

Somewhere around here, I have an essay that I wrote on the subject. I'll try to find it and post it for you.
Sadly I don't have access to a darkroom.

What if I have no way to print the negative myself? Is there something to look for in the negative?

Is there anything I can look for after the negative has been scanned?

Thanks for the info though.

12-08-2008, 11:17 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by KungPOW Quote
Sadly I don't have access to a darkroom.

What if I have no way to print the negative myself? Is there something to look for in the negative?

Is there anything I can look for after the negative has been scanned?

Thanks for the info though.
The exposed tongue should be very dark, almost opaque, the edge writing should be nice and dense without being smeared (overdeveloped).
Also, the base density (the unexposed parts of the film between the frames, unexposed tongue, etc) should be a very pale gray, not quite clear, but very, very nearly so.
If this criteria is met, you have sufficient development, though this is a really vague method.
Pretty much, if the film scans and prints well, it is properly exposed and developed. If it needs a bunch of contrast dumped into it and has poor shadow detail, then it is probably under exposed, if it needs a bunch of contrast dumped into it and has sucky edge writing, it is likely under developed.
If it has lots of shadow detail but the highlights are blocked up, it is over exposed, if it has good, but not excessive shadow detail, and blocked highlights, it is likely over developed.

Hopefully I'm not confusing anything....
12-09-2008, 12:11 AM   #6
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Rule of thumb.... not very scientific but works fine for me
Negative is well developed if you can place a strip on top of a book or newspaper and you are able to see the letters through the darkest part of the negative
Also there will be lots of contrast

Negative is overexposed if it all looks muddy, grayish and the parts that whould be black are not.
12-09-2008, 06:21 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
The exposed tongue should be very dark, almost opaque, the edge writing should be nice and dense without being smeared (overdeveloped).
Also, the base density (the unexposed parts of the film between the frames, unexposed tongue, etc) should be a very pale gray, not quite clear, but very, very nearly so.
If this criteria is met, you have sufficient development, though this is a really vague method.
Pretty much, if the film scans and prints well, it is properly exposed and developed. If it needs a bunch of contrast dumped into it and has poor shadow detail, then it is probably under exposed, if it needs a bunch of contrast dumped into it and has sucky edge writing, it is likely under developed.
If it has lots of shadow detail but the highlights are blocked up, it is over exposed, if it has good, but not excessive shadow detail, and blocked highlights, it is likely over developed.

Hopefully I'm not confusing anything....
Nope. Not confused.

Thanks. That is pretty much what I was looking for.

This gives me a great start point to use when comparing negatives, otherwise I would have no idea as to what I should be looking for.

I'm one of those people that learns best by doing, so this weekend I think I'll go out and shoot three test rolls. Each role with some frames over and under exposed, then I'll over/under develope the rolls. The third roll will get developed to what I have been considering "correct". In a way this is what Ryno has sugested.

When you decribe the highlights as "blocked up" I am assuming that you mean they are so dense on the degative that the details are lost in a black blotch?

Titrisol,

What you describe is what the negatives look like. Thanks.

I woulden't say I'm unhappy with my results, I just want to improve where I can.
12-09-2008, 08:48 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by KungPOW Quote

When you describe the highlights as "blocked up" I am assuming that you mean they are so dense on the negative that the details are lost in a black blotch?

Correct.

10

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