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help! too much grayness :(


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Hi everyone, i'm a high school student taking photo and i have a few questions...

We were given 400tx film and when i took pictures and developed and enlarged,

everything was fine, my pics came out great. I went on vacation and ran out of

400tx so i bought some Bw400CN from cvs, i came back and tried to enlarge my

pics, everything was horrible, my pics had this overall greyness and even using

3 or 4 filter didnt do much, does anyone have some advice on how to enlarge

these negatives? maybe what filters to use? thanks :)

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Okay, CVS didn't develop the film. A lab recommended by your teacher, a lab known for

developing, "Great Negatives."


Did your teacher look at the negatives? Does your teacher think they were developed

correctly? BW400CN in C-41 not B&W Chemicals?


If developing was done correctly and you didn't use any contrast filters, Yellow - Orange -

Red, I can only attribute it to photographer error.


Or, since I've never printed C-41 B&W Negatives in a dark room before, I don't know if you

can use the same paper as one would say printing with Tri-X. You'll have to ask your


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I haven't used Kodak's C-41 process monochrome film for years (I prefer Ilford's) but when I did it was never gray and dull. Assuming the lab did a halfway decent job at worst the prints sometimes had an off-neutral cast, usually slightly reddish or greenish.


Kodak's chromogenic monochrome film isn't the best choice if you like to make your own prints because the orange mask typical of those films (which Kodak may have change, I don't know) hindered getting satisfactory contrast. You could try cranking the magenta filtration up to maximum or using an additional filter.


It's possible that another paper may help improve contrast. Of all the RC papers I've used I like Ilford's glossy RC for contrast and deep blacks. Drying it with careful application of heat also helps improve the gloss and contrast. Use a hair dryer if you don't have a photo print dryer. I've used a simple Arkay single sheet dryer - don't place the emulsion side against the platen for more than a few seconds at a time, tho'. And it helps to slip a sheet of lint/dust free paper between the emulsion side and cloth apron. I flip the prints like hamburgers, a few seconds on each side, to prevent melting the emlusion. However, Ilford's RC paper is tough stuff and I've never been able to damage it. I have prints prepared this way that have lasted for years, even when displayed in a sheltered outdoor area exposed to year-round changes in temperature and humidity.


And while it won't help with this batch of negatives, next time try Ilford XP2 Plus. It prints just about as easily as any conventional b&w film.

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All I can answer to this, is when I was in college for Photo, they recommended us to use Ilford or Xp2 and such, and develop ourselves, but we had severeal classmates that went to walmart and bought the cheap pack of BW400CN in the 4 pack packs, and had it developed C41 at walmart or CVS, then they came to print it in the darkroom and got exactly what you got, terrrible results, using Ilford Multigrade Fiber or RC, anything they tried, thier prints were muddy and sucked. We were encouraged to stay away from the cheap BW film at walmart and such. I had a 4 roll pack, shot one roll, saw the pics and threw it away, I donated the other 3 rolls to the school for burning to allow the students to practice rolling and such. I won't use that stuff ever!

I always use good film, I love Ilford, Fp4+, Panf+, I use a lot of the ISO 50, 125, sometimes 400, and have used the 3200 before, but in 120. Way to much grain for my taste. I stick with good films, they are more expensive, but worth it and god I have shot over 1000 rolls of Ilford film and love it. I don't know why, but I didn't like XP2 for some reason, I think it was just a personal thing, but its not bad. Had a friend get some good results with it in our class.

Bottem line you pay for what you get. I don't use C41 anymore at all, haven't in a LONG time. As far as color, I use digital or Portra 160 NC or VC, or Fugi 160 PRO S. or Velvia. Thats about it. Now those I only trust to a single lac I use where I live for development. But I haven't shot much color film anymore since Kodachrome, I am a Black and White guy, and I love processing my own film.


Just my 2cents for whatever its worth.


Oh, P.S. The BW400CN scanned and worked with can be not to bad, as the pic above, but yeah in the darkroom for prints, I haven't seen ppl have much success.

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What I was basically saying (and I know you are new to all this, so sorry for maybe talking to technical or off subject), basically what I was saying was, that film is not a very good film, it has an orange look to it when held in your hand, and when enlarged through a enlarger onto photo paper it is very muddy, meaning flat grays, no contrast, you can try filters up to 5, and it probably won't help. The reason the photo above of that mountain taken with that film looks nice, is because it has been scanned in, and the contrast and levels (Brightness and Midtones and Highlights) have been adjusted, something you really can't achieve in the darkroom with the ease of photoshop.

Basically I just was saying, don't shoot that cheap film, shoot the good stuff and you will get what you want. Pick a good film, 1 film, say a Ilford B&W film, maybe the XP2, and shoot it until you are good with that one film. then move to another film. The film you bought is a cheap C41 film. And as the above poster said, the processor you gave it to probably didn't process it in the normal C41 tank with the rest of the C41 Film, they probably sent it off for Black and White C41 processing and thats where you lost all of your nice shadows and highlights and midtones and it turned mudddy gray.

Thats all I meant, don't shoot that cheap CVS film, you will love your resluts with better films. Go to B@H website, or Freestyle and order your film there. I reccommend Ilford, or Kodak xp2 to start. When we started we had a selection in our bookstore of Ilford PanF+50 ISO, FP4 125 ISO, or Kodak XP2, all great films! BW400CN is cheap and doesn't provide good darkroom printing results cause it is really marketed to the average joe in walmart to shoot it, have it developed by thier C41 process and prints made by CVS or Walmart, not wet prints like you are doing. But prints you would get from walmart and such, ink prints.

Does this help? I am not being sarcastic in anyway shape or form ok, I really am trying to help you cause I was in your shoes 21 yrs ago and I really want to help with some of the knowledge I have.




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If you plan to print onto standard B&W paper, the Kodak material is not the best choice. The film is designed for scanning and/or printing onto RA4 (color) papers. That's why the orange mask is there. The film scans beautifully and prints very well when used as intended. Ilford has taken a contrary view with their C41 monochrome film and designed it from the start without the orange mask. It is a very suitable material for printing onto conventional B&W papers.


Here's a hint. Compare the base color of Kodak's BW400CN to the color of a standard OC amber safelight. Look similar? I thought so.

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One of my students used a chromogenic film and printed the results on a diffuser head enlarger. The prints were very flat. The shots had been taken in dull light and in these conditions chromogenic films, in my experience, produce very low contrast negs. We had to crank up the contrast to grade 4 to get a print with a good range of tones.
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Here is what I see: a young guy who seems to have a fair bit of knowledge about B&W darkroom work with traditional films (kudos to him for that - good to see someone learning) shot some C41 B&W. I also see a whole bunch of "you should have done this" posts which are not exactly helping, unless one of you guys has a time machine.

It is my understanding that the wet prints are flat, even at high contrast. I would suggest that along with high contrast filtration, try to locate a condenser head enlarger - your school may have one, then again, it may not. It should crank the contrast up another little bit.

And also, I would tend to agree with Ronald on one issue (as much as his dismissive manner annoys me, along with the fact that you clearly stated CVS did NOT develop these negs) is that the lab "sent them out" - any lab does C41 in house, generally only chromes and traditional B&W gets sent out. This seems like a very plausible theory as to the super flat negs. Sure, the orange mask will make it harder, may make the results less pleasing, but should not result in total mud of grey, like you describe - so the traditional B&W development theory sounds very likely.

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Allow me to oversimplify. C-41 process films are designed for the convenience and profit of mini-labs. The emulsion is super thick and god-awful ugly. Newer commercial printers have made it easy to achieve consistent tones but it's still not even close to what you can achieve with a real black and white film. The base fog is part of the problem. I'm sure your labs development is close or close enough to correct. So if possible I would continue to use the tx. And why you're at it, you could do something really crazy and NOT PUT IT ON A SCANNER FOR PRINTING. Black and white films,chemistry and paper have been designed and perfected to work well together to achieve superior prints. I'm not knocking working in digital, I'm just saying there's nothing wrong with doing things the right way.
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