Paper Negatives, some questions..?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by daniel_h_gberg, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. Hi! :)
    I just found some 8x10 paper-negative images on flickr and was blown away!
    So, I really hope there is someone here who can help me with some answers about paper negatives..
    What paper should be used to get at low, medium and high contrast paper-negative? Fiber or Is RC Multigrade any good?
    Can I control the contrast of the positive with the colored filters in the enlargement-machine when contact-printing or is the contrast "locked" in the paper used for the paper negative?
    If I use RC multigrade paper, can I control the contrast with different colored filters infront of the lens when exposing?
    How about exposure? How do I know wich "iso" the paper is, or how can I find out?
    Are there "faster" papers that require less exposure, and/or is this something that works in combination with the inbuilt contrast of the paper? Is a "faster" paper also high contrast?
    And last, are there any great photographers out there shooting paper negatives that shares them online so I can get even more inspired? :)
    These are some really defined questions, and I hope there is a kind soul out there who can share some knowledge in the fine art of paper negatives.
  2. Hi Daniel!
    I recommend using fiber multigrade, archivally processed, for the negatives. The colored filters will work in front of the camera lens and if you are using multigrade paper for the positive, colored filters will work fairly well (because of the light transmitted through the paper going a bit yellow) in the enlarger head. High contrast = high contrast whether neg or pos image is being made. Meter through each filter to determine the additional exposure time needed.
    ISO will vary from paper to paper. The way I tested it was to set up a black, white, and 18% gray card on a wall and lighting it with metered light (strobe or sun works well). Make a note from exposure to exposure on the white card itself as to which ISO you are exposing at. Select the one that has the best representation, and use that ISO with that type of paper. Retest for other papers. The paper I use is around ISO 4. Using such a low ISO means you can stop down to f/64 and expose for 4 seconds in daylight without a filter...
    I am planning on posting a few negs in the future; I tend to avoid posting many images because of the pesky unauthorized distribution facilitated by the Interwebz.
    Hope this helps, Daniel! Good luck!
  3. Wow, thankyou for your precise answer!
    But I have one more question, is your recommendation with fiber-paper just about the long term archival ability or about image quality.. what would the difference be in a positive made from an RC paper negative?
  4. Back some many years ago, I did paper negatives with a 4x5 camera. My best results were to use single weight paper in camera. Process as one would a print. Rinse and while still wet, use double weight paper as the final print, wet and "sqeegee" them together, face to face. Flash with the enlarger lamp, process as usual. My final prints were quite interesting.
  5. I don't know that I would recommend that you use multigrade for the negs. Of course, it can be used, but in the darkroom, you are adjusting the color of the light to change contrast. In the real world, there is already color, which means that you will get different contrasts in different areas, depending on whether the area is more blur or more yellow. You also will get nothing in areas that are the color of your safelight (same with other b/w paper though!) In any case, probably better to create the neg with graded paper--number 2--and adjust contrast in the printing.
    I have used both RC and fiber for negs, but I think the reason fiber does work better is that it will squeegy and adhere a bit better than the plastic paper when you print. Less air bubbles and such, but it is more durable--wet single weight paper can crease will quick with a bad draw on the squeegy. Double weight paper is harder to print through and it also increases the imprinting of paper fiber in the final print.
  6. I just typed "paper negative" into the search function here on and came up with 10 pages of posts. I suppose we can describe how to reinvent the wheel, or you could actually read the posts that have been made already.
  7. Is single-weight paper still available?
  8. It strikes me that stabilization paper would be good for this kind of project, but does that paper still exist? (Quick and easy: expose paper, run through stabilization processor, scan paper negative, then Photoshop for the final print.)
    Does anyone know of a source for stabilization paper and chemicals? I have a Kodak processor somewhere in storage here in CA, plus some very old chemicals for it ... and ... I just searched ... a roll of Versa Chem 5" wide paper [which says develop before April 1992!!!] BTW, this was used for phototypesetting in my book publishing business, not photography--now all typesetting is on the computer.
    If someone can find me some 8X10" stabilization paper (a standard product some twenty years ago) I'd try a few shots with my 8X10 camera and report the results here.
    If stabilization paper isn't available, then the alternative would be standard paper and Dektol processing in a tray--rather inconvenient since my darkroom is 3,000 miles away in NH.
  9. daniel

    flash your paper to tame the contrast,
    using exhausted print developer helps as well.
    i use ansco 130 with a water bath, and it works great.

    good luck!
  10. hi, I shoot paper negs often with my 8x10, i use arista edu ultra grade 2, very reasonable price and very good results, meter at iso 6 and process in dektol. remember that with paper negs your latitude is very thin maybe 2 or 3 stops. when i shoot with paper i try not to include too much sky, very easy to blow out. good luck
  11. oh and yes you can control the contrast w/ the enlarger using different grade filters. the above print was contact printed with no filter at all, later i printed it at grade 3 and there was definetly a contrast change.
  12. Hi Daniel,
    I have made paper negatives with my pinhole camera with good success. I agree with pre-flashing the paper; it's well worth the extra sensitivity. With pre-flashing, you get less contrasty negs and more shades of gray. It's just more sensitive to the scene. I have used both fiber and RC paper but both were variable contrast and not graded.
    As for the ISO, I think you have to figure that out per paper with your particular set up. Based on tests from what you metered & exposed, and the exposure that turns out, you can guess the ISO. Write that on the paper box and go from there. There's probably a better way for a regular camera, but for a pinhole, that's all I had to work with (my aperture was unknown, after all).
    To make a positive, I don't squeeze the neg + pos together; I wait for neg to fully dry and then sandwich it with glass against a piece of paper, emulsions together, neg on top. Then I expose with the enlarger. You can flash the second sheet of paper (the positive) as well. I got crisp positive results from the RC paper, but the fiber paper "bled" a little. That is, because it was made of fiber, the light's path through to the positive wasn't completely sharp. The edges of anything in my image were just a little blurred, making for a dreamy effect. For me, RC=sharp positives, Fiber=blurry edges. But I may try that squeegee technique while wet to see what happens - that looks pretty good.
  13. mmm allen friday it seems to me that its good to hear how a variety of people have experimented and their conclusions. this was very helpful to me as well thanks!

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