Native contrast of VC paper as negative?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by john_robison|3, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. Just started to shoot 4X5 and am using B&W VC paper as a negative. What is the contrast of VC paper without any contrast filter in the light path? Is it the softest grade #00, or the the hardest #5, or somewhere in the middle?
    Using Ultrafine Elite VC Glossy paper in sunlight has resulted in very high contrast paper negatives. Attempting to contact print them on #2 FB paper has given initial poor results with almost no tonal range. Yes, I have heard of preflashing paper to extend tonal range but was still wondering if a #00 contrast filter in front of the lens might tame the contrast, at least a bit.
    Exposure tests indicate this paper has an ISO of 5~6, at least that is as close as I can calculate it.
    Before I have to spend a $1 a shot on real B&W negative film I thought I'd give paper negs a try since they can be handled under safelight from loading to developing and contact printing.
    Thanks for any advice.
  2. I hate to show my ignorance, but since your negative is now a piece of opaque paper, not transparent like a real negative, exactly how do you "contact print" it?
    Tom M
  3. Tom, you place it, emulsion to emulsion with printing paper and place a heavy, clean glass on top to hold contact. Expose to white light and the image will print right through the paper base onto the unexposed paper. A 60W bulb at 4 feet took 6 seconds for best exposure. The thing to beat, with paper negatives is excessive contrast. I had already read this in various forums but WOW! These negatives came out really hard and contrasty.
  4. Thank you, John. That makes sense - a bit more intensity overcomes the scattering as the light is going through the paper base. I never thought about doing it that way.
    Tom M
  5. lwg


    Paper without a filter is about grade 2, with incandescent lighting. As the light gets bluer the paper gets harder. So outdoor shots will be more contrasty because of the VC nature of the paper, as well as probably a more contrasty scene as well. Best to use a low contrast fixed grade paper for paper negatives. Using a 00 filter in front of the lens will help tame the contrast.
  6. You have to remember that printing paper is not a panchromatic "film", so it is going to respond to colors differently than will film. VC paper will respond to the color of light, so shade or bluish light will be higher contrast than yellow light. I think the idea of using a grade 2 graded paper is something that will make more sense, but remember, it still isn't going to record yellow to red light, depending on the safe light color recommended for its use.
    My preference for paper negs was to use RC papers due to the fact that they had less paper texture to print through. I would wet both the neg and the receptor/print paper and then squeegee them together before putting them under the enlarger. That generally made a nice contact between the two and I got good results that way.
  7. It depends on the paper, but 2 is normal for most paper... under an enlarger lamp. I don't know how daylight would effect it though.
  8. You could tame the contrast some by developing with D-76 instead of Dektol. Or maybe even D-23, which works softer, and loses a stop of speed over D-76.
  9. It happens that I have some printing paper negatives in my desk... as mentioned, better to use RC paper, not only for the texture but for the inherent flatness, easier to load.
    All made in VC Multigrade without filter. I used halogen lamps (I think they are 2800K). Under this conditions I think the result is fine -only- for a low contrast scene... no deeper shadows, without white, directly illuminated surfaces. Skin tones looks right.
    Whites areas and deep shadows appear washed, with no detail.
  10. It is true that most VC paper is generally equivalent to a normal contrast (grade 2 paper) under the enlarger, but that light is very yellow--it's tungsten in most cases. If you shoot under daylight, which is dramatically more blue, contrast is going to rise. How much is going to vary on whether it is open sun or shade, and the time of day may affect it as well--and remember, again, that not all colors will record, so a sunset might not record a lot of the tones as they would be equivalent, or close, to your safelight color.
    Because you can develop by inspection, I think John Shriver might be onto something if you want to use VC under varying conditions. It would be like making darkroom prints using a soft developer and then a hard developer to control contrast. You could start with your soft developer and then as the image comes up and is pretty "done", you could judge the contrast and then place the paper in a dilute bath of dektol--maybe something like 6 to 1 from stock--if you want to bring up the contrast, for a relatively short time and then into a water bath to reanalyze where you are. Repeat as needed.
  11. Thanks for the many ideas.
    When I shot the first test it was a very sunny day. Today it is quite dull and overcast so I will try some test shots today and see what happens. My rig has a Cokin A filter holder and I have extra printing filters so I will try a '00' in the holder and see what happens. The lens is a series 5 close-up lens of +5 diopter ie. 200mm, with a 1/4 in. hole in thin brass aperture stop, about f32. I also have a 130mm f7.7 Kodak Anastigmat in shutter from an old Kodak 2.5X4.25 inch 1A. The corners are not quite covered at full aperture but if you stop down to f16 or smaller it does a pretty good job. It hadn't dawned on me that paper is more like orthochromatic film, no wonder a blue sky comes out blank white. I might be able to partially control that with a graduated ND.
    John R.
  12. Yea, the paper is much like using early film emulsions that were orthochromatic and very blue sensitive. I often would use TriX orthochromatic film as an alternative for some shots--but they don't make it any more. VC paper just has some added issues, where something that is textured and yellow might come out very soft while if the same texture is also purple it will render as very contrasty--all in the same shot even if the true "tone" was the same.
  13. I use Ilford grade #1 rc paper for paper negatives with pretty good results. I develop the paper negatives in dektol 1:2 at 68 degrees for one minute.
  14. Bill, where dig you obtain grade #1 Ilford RC paper? Neither Freestyle or B&H has it listed. The only grades I see at B&H is #2 and #3 for Ilford graded RC paper.
  15. hi john
    vc paper is sensitive to blue light ... if you put a blue filter over your lightmeter you might get
    a better light meter reading for your paper. you might consider using enlarger filters to tame
    your contrast. use a a lower contrast developer like caffenol c, or spent developer/used
    developer to process your paper negatives in.
    be careful, paper negatives can be addictive
  16. John, I was fortunate. The owner of a local camera store gave me a 250-sheet box of ilfospeed grade 1 rc paper, which I just
    discovered is discontinued. Without knowing, I wonder if Ilfospeed grade 2 paper offers any advantage over multigrade paper. I would
    also experiment with dektol 1:3 and development times. For negative film, I give full exposure, which is not to say overexposure, and i
    try not to overdevelopment the film. If I get close with exposure and development, I have a second chance in the darkroom to make a
    decent print. Good luck. Bill
  17. In essence printing paper is like the original materials used in photography up to the invention of ortho and panchro emulsions at the end of the 19th century/early 20th century. Only blue-sensitive. The negatives made by early processes are also very contrasty, but the papers used to print them were essentially self-masking so they balanced out.
    I have experimented with VC and graded paper for negatives on 5x4. Keeping paper flat is not easy. Glossy VC is best. The key is to expose around ISO 4 or less and to develop in dilute paper developer until you get a useable negative. Although it is in theory possible to print such negs by projection (enlargement) which would reduce contrast, I have never tried this so far! However I find that printing under an enlarger using 00 and 0 VC filters is helpful in getting more "film-like' contrast - but if you are making paper negatives you probably don't want this!

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