film white vs. digital white
Old 08-05-2017   #1
ulrich.von.lich
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film white vs. digital white

After I printed some snow pictures, I realised they were all greyish. Not exactly the white colour I used to get with a digital camera.

All pictures were all shot on TRI-X. I might have overexposed some of them by 1 to 2 stops, as in digital, it's what the photographer should do if he wants to blow out some highlight details. But in the film world, the details seem to be still there, but getting greyer.

I forgot how I measured the light. If I used the reflective metering. There should be no overexposure at all as you need add about 1.5 stops for white objects. But the negatives look quite dense, so I guess I used incident metering and added 1 to 2 stops to the reading, with the intention to give the scene a high-key look.

There might be something wrong with my printing skills, too, as I lately changed the mysterious developer provided by the school lab (possibly badly prepared Kodak Dektol) to Tetenal Eukobrom and the edges of my prints came out noticeably whiter for some reason. I like the results much better but haven't got the chance to print some snow pictures with the new developer. The school lab is now closed.

Sorry I can't post pictures, I have no scanner at the moment. But they are pictures of a snowstorm, looking all grey. I do believe the reality was much whiter.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-05-2017   #2
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Could be the developer, could be that they're not fixed long enough, could be slightly fogged paper, could need a higher contrast filter?
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Old 08-05-2017   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich View Post
... All pictures were all shot on TRI-X. I might have overexposed some of them by 1 to 2 stops, as in digital, it's what the photographer should do if he wants to blow out some highlight details. But in the film world, the details seem to be still there, but getting gruyere. ...
Digital behaves more like slide (positive) film. Over exposing them causes detail in the brighter areas of the captured scene to go toward pure white -- absence of any detail.
Overexposing Black and White (negative) film does the reverse, it allows for more detail to appear in the brighter areas of the captured scene.
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Old 08-05-2017   #4
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You overexposed the paper.
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Old 08-05-2017   #5
ulrich.von.lich
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You overexposed the paper.
That's the first thing I thought of. However, when I reduced the time, I wasn't getting anything on my test strips. There should be something in the middle, right?

I think I used an Ilford 3.5 filter. Actually I have always used it. I don't really know how much filters would do to prints. By the way, I used the Ilford matt fiber papers, if that matters.

mwooten, why would you say overexposing BW films does the opposite? for me, it works exactly the same way but BW films preserve better details than slide films. If you overexpose multiple stops, highlight details will eventually go away.
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Old 08-05-2017   #6
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One can wet print a snow picture that has exactly the same kind of white colour as that coming out of a digital camera, right?

The majority of pictures made on film I see on the internet are scanned.
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Old 08-05-2017   #7
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Take it with mobile phone and adjust brightness, contrast to be close to the problem.
Show it.

Almost any negative could be printed. Improvise, printing is jazz. It takes time to learn how to play it. And it doesn't have to sound always as USSR hymn. Snow is not the easiest thing on prints.
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Old 08-05-2017   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich View Post
...

The majority of pictures made on film I see on the internet are scanned.
You mean scanned film vs scanned print, right? Cause I think every film picture must have been scanned.
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Old 08-05-2017   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich View Post
That's the first thing I thought of. However, when I reduced the time, I wasn't getting anything on my test strips. There should be something in the middle, right?

I think I used an Ilford 3.5 filter. Actually I have always used it. I don't really know how much filters would do to prints. By the way, I used the Ilford matt fiber papers, if that matters.

mwooten, why would you say overexposing BW films does the opposite? for me, it works exactly the same way but BW films preserve better details than slide films. If you overexpose multiple stops, highlight details will eventually go away.
Are you sure? Snow is white after all. Did you fully develop the test strip? Did you you really check to see if there was no density up there in the highlights?

More importantly, is there texture in the snow? If you had dull overcast light on snow, it's not going to really be seen. It's just white.

Finally, pay more attention to your shadows in the test strip. You probably shouldn't be basing your exposure time on the highlights, at least in my experience.

Regarding your filters, I would suggest trying a higher filter. The lower the filter number, the more it exposes the highlights, and the higher the filter, the more it exposes the shadows. I was just printing a difficult negative last week of sand, which is similar, and was using a #5 filter plus overdeveloping a lot to increase contrast. That's another option - the more you leave the print in the developer the more the shadow density increases.

BTW, you should buy and read Ansel Adams' "The Negative" and "The Print."
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Old 08-05-2017   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich
That's the first thing I thought of. However, when I reduced the time, I wasn't getting anything on my test strips. There should be something in the middle, right?

I think I used an Ilford 3.5 filter. Actually I have always used it. I don't really know how much filters would do to prints. By the way, I used the Ilford matt fiber papers, if that matters.

mwooten, why would you say overexposing BW films does the opposite? for me, it works exactly the same way but BW films preserve better details than slide films. If you overexpose multiple stops, highlight details will eventually go away.
Are you sure? Snow is white after all. Did you fully develop the test strip? Did you you really check to see if there was no density up there in the highlights?

More importantly, is there texture in the snow? If you had dull overcast light on snow, it's not going to really be seen. It's just white.

Finally, pay more attention to your shadows in the test strip. You probably shouldn't be basing your exposure time on the highlights, at least in my experience.

Regarding your filters, I would suggest trying a higher filter. The lower the filter number, the more it exposes the highlights, and the higher the filter, the more it exposes the shadows. I was just printing a difficult negative last week of sand, which is similar, and was using a #5 filter plus overdeveloping a lot to increase contrast. That's another option - the more you leave the print in the developer the more the shadow density increases.

BTW, you should buy and read Ansel Adams' "The Negative" and "The Print."
Two of the best books on the subject, ever.

These days, with multigraded paper and all, a lot of us that print, rely on the print stage to ultimately control the placement of values in a picture. Personally, I give film development control over the contrast to +/- 2 stops or so, and rely on the printing process for finer control.
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Old 08-05-2017   #11
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Print it lighter so the snow is white.
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Old 08-05-2017   #12
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Taking a break from the darkroom. I'm printing some negatives from a trip to DC a few months ago. There was an unexpected snow while I was there and I made some photographs at the Washington Monument with snow and dark trees in front.

The print as I envisioned it required a #5 filter, less exposure, and careful development to not make the whites turn grey. So I feel your pain!

Let us know how it turns out.
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Old 08-05-2017   #13
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Did you test the paper for white?
Run an unexposed strip through your development process.
This gives you something to compare to your disappointing snow result.
See how far off it is from your expectation.
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Old 08-06-2017   #14
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In the lab snow is white. It reflects all wavelengths similarly.

Elsewhere snow can be tricky. To the eye, in some lighting conditions snow (particulrly densely packed snow) takes on a natural blue cast. Snow in shadows can also have a faint blue cast. Occasionally, in late spring surviving snow will have unxepected red to pink tints due to algae.

If you can see details in the snow, those regions are not over exposed. They just happen to be white.
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Old 08-06-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mwooten View Post
Overexposing Black and White (negative) film does the reverse, it allows for more detail to appear in the brighter areas of the captured scene.
This is incorrect. If you look at the sensitometry curves of B&W film it's an S curve. The lower portion is shadows and the upper highlights. You'll notice the upper part rolls off to a nearly flat line as does the shadow. Once you reach that point in the shoulder of the curve no additional exposure will allow more detail to appear. The straight line between the shoulder and the toe are where detail is.

Many years ago I was shooting an assignment for one of the ad agencies I did work for. I had to show detail/ texture in white bathroom tissue on a white background. I had to keep it as white as possible and keep it looking soft and delicate without harsh lighting but again keep it white and retain texture. This was in the film days.

I think I shot it on 8x10 to retain as smooth a tone as possible while keeping as much sharpness as possible. I used directional soft light with a faint dimming low intensity fresnel spot. Through experimenting I found I retained better texture by shooting more in the upper mid segment of the curve staying away from the shoulder. By doing this I retained max detail and used a higher contrast paper to print plus some creative darkroom magic.

The correct tone and texture in whites is difficult especially to keep that balance of white with a hint of tone and max texture.

Don't use a 3-1/2 filter routinely. If your negs require a 3-1/2 then you're seriously under developing your negs. Adjust your film process time to print routinely on a #2. Unfortunately once you've gotten used to looking at contrasts prints it's hard to look at a normal print wothout it appearing flat. The best procedure is to start with a flatter grade than you think is required for your first test strip. Work your way up until you get a contrast that you like. Don't start contrast and work to a flatter grade. Always give your test strips and prints full development. Don't pull them early if they appear to be getting too dark. Use a consistent time like 3 minutes in the developer. I use FB paper and LPD developer 2:1 and routinely use 3 minutes. This allows for complete development.

You've developed a few bad habits without knowing what you're doing and if you're doing something wrong. Do as others have said, buy and read the Ansel Adams series. It's money well spent.

Good luck!
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Old 08-06-2017   #16
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Look into the topic of paper dry-down. Essentially what happens to a wet darkroom b/w print once it is dried is that it appears slightly darker than it looked when fully processed, but still wet. Different papers dry-down in different amounts and I remember it took some getting used to when printing to know exactly how "bright" a print should look in the fixer in order to compensate for what was to happen to it once dried. I'm talking small, small increments of compensation but for a snow scene it'll make a big difference in rendering the texture and feel of the depicted snow.
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Old 08-06-2017   #17
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Quote:
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Look into the topic of paper dry-down. Essentially what happens to a wet darkroom b/w print once it is dried is that it appears slightly darker than it looked when fully processed, but still wet. Different papers dry-down in different amounts and I remember it took some getting used to when printing to know exactly how "bright" a print should look in the fixer in order to compensate for what was to happen to it once dried. I'm talking small, small increments of compensation but for a snow scene it'll make a big difference in rendering the texture and feel of the depicted snow.
Very true and very good advice. I use a microwave to dry test prints quickly. Adams did the same. Many fiber papers dry down about a 1/3 of a stop but some of the old papers like Ektalure dried down about 3/4 of a stop.

Toning can also chance density. Sometimes I use Veridon or Brown toner for a very light tone which lightens a print. I most often give a light archival selenium tone which can slightly darken the shadows.
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Old 08-06-2017   #18
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Thanks everyone for the input.

Ko.Fe, I can't shoot the picture with my phone camera and post it because I couldn't find it last night.

F16sunshine, I will test the paper for white. The main suspect is still the developer, as I remember the edges of my pictures were also as dull as the white snow.

I will try to read The Print of Ansel Adams. A few years ago I read some of The Negative at a friend's house and I remember he talked about the zone system and the density of negatives etc. With all due respect, I find his book is somewhat too technical and takes all the fun out of photography. But I guess I can get more technical on printing, as the photographic part is already done and can't be modified.

Saul, I have never noticed the print would get darker after being dried but thanks for letting me know. I know where to look next time. Perhaps I should reduce a bit the developing time, provide I still obtain details on snow.

As to the filters, I don't really think they are all that important. Of course they exist for a reason and can help the professionals to get all the subtleties they want. But when it comes to me, the only 3-1/2 filter I used has been already giving me good results. Before, I used a Tetenal paper (Perlé is what it's called I think), and it was not even a multigrade paper (I suppose it means it doesn't react to multigrade filters). Perhaps that's where my bad manner of ignoring the filters came from.

I may have another bad manner: when I do test strips, I don't use an entire paper, mainly for economical reasons. I cut small squares, put them on to the subject, saying a face, and try the development several times until I find the exposure value. Then I print the whole picture using the value. I seem to remember Ansel Adams uses a whole paper on which he divides different zones. His test allows him to better see the problem, I think. As it was said above, if I put the test strip on a wrong place, such as on a zone of highlights, I might get an incorrect exposure time. But my method works perfectly for faces though, and it's really economical.

Corran, you said in a previous post "The print as I envisioned it required a #5 filter, less exposure, and careful development to not make the whites turn grey." Sorry for the silly question, but in case your whites turn grey, are the edges of your picture white or grey? They are not exposed to the enlarger at all, thus I think they should always be white, unless there is something wrong with the chemicals. However, I don't understand your question on whether the snow itself has details. At times, when the snow is white, you can have an impression the snow is over exposed while it is not, it just doesn't have any detail. However, if the snow is grey instead of being white, there must be something wrong, regardless if there is any texture in the snow.

I should probably have started the thread in October when I can use the lab again.
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Old 08-06-2017   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich View Post
but in case your whites turn grey, are the edges of your picture white or grey? They are not exposed to the enlarger at all, thus I think they should always be white, unless there is something wrong with the chemicals. However, I don't understand your question on whether the snow itself has details. At times, when the snow is white, you can have an impression the snow is over exposed while it is not, it just doesn't have any detail. However, if the snow is grey instead of being white, there must be something wrong, regardless if there is any texture in the snow.
No, the edges under the easel are never grey. If your edges are going grey your paper is fogged. I can't see how the chemicals would cause that unless there is a fogging agent in the chemicals, like the re-exposure step in reversal film development, but that seems far-fetched.

As for my snow question - if you are using little squares of paper for exposure tests and only putting them in the snow area, it makes sense that the paper shows no or almost no exposure when you develop it, depending on the texture of the snow. If it's flat white and you want it white, there would be no way to tell if your exposure was correct or not. When printing something to white it's important to compare that to "paper white," by looking at the edge of the paper, unexposed. Sometimes what you think is "white" is not as "white" as it could be.

BTW, Adams' "The Print" is much less technical than "The Negative." In fact, I was at first frustrated by the lack of exacting techniques in that book compared to The Negative. I was learning by myself and did not have the luxury of a school darkroom, and only really improved my printing by contacting the photography professor at the university I worked with and asking him lots of questions. He eventually became a very close friend. One of the things he taught me that is invaluable for printing is split-filter printing. Something for you to look into later once you have a handle on things.
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Old 08-06-2017   #20
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No, the edges under the easel are never grey. If your edges are going grey your paper is fogged. I can't see how the chemicals would cause that unless there is a fogging agent in the chemicals, like the re-exposure step in reversal film development, but that seems far-fetched.

As for my snow question - if you are using little squares of paper for exposure tests and only putting them in the snow area, it makes sense that the paper shows no or almost no exposure when you develop it, depending on the texture of the snow. If it's flat white and you want it white, there would be no way to tell if your exposure was correct or not. When printing something to white it's important to compare that to "paper white," by looking at the edge of the paper, unexposed. Sometimes what you think is "white" is not as "white" as it could be.
This.

Do some test strips without any exposure (to test if your paper is fogged), at least one in the highlights and one in the darkest shadow that should have texture. If you can't get them all/both to look the way you want them at any exposure (same exposure at both obviously), you will have to use other contrast filters.
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Old 08-07-2017   #21
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Light edges of your picture can be caused by the condenser in the enlarger being miss adjusted. I like to set my enlarger's condenser to give slightly more exposure to the edges. This adjustment is made with a bellows like mechanism just above the enlargers lens.

I would also suggest for you to develop the print to completion, using a standard development time and adjust the print exposure in the larger instead.
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Old 08-07-2017   #22
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Info. to help:

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Old 08-07-2017   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
You overexposed the paper.
+1

Greyish means your negatives retains the highlight detail. So it's all up to the printing:

1. Reduce the exposure time when you print, or
2. Increase the paper overall contrast, or
3. Selectively dodging your highlights.
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Old 08-08-2017   #24
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Try split grade printing:

http://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/...ull&article=21

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Old 08-08-2017   #25
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Thanks for that post ...that chap was the reason I joined my local photographic society in 2009.

Sorry back on subject .....
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Old 08-08-2017   #26
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Are we talking about correcting what has been done or getting it right next time?

Thinking about getting it right next time I am wondering how each camera (film and digital) was metering. One could be averaging and the other c/w or else spot and so on.

And, to add to the fun, hand held meters don't all have the same FoV...

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Old 08-08-2017   #27
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I switched to following this method last year and find it much easier. You will still end up with a print that could have been created with a single grade of filter, but it's definitely a faster way to get there for me.
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