The negative and printing glass must be cleaned
before you place the negative on the printer. Place the
negative emulsion-side up on the printing glass and
arrange them under the mask until the desired
composition is obtained. When you must make more
than one print from the same negative, tape the negative
(at the corners only) to the printing glass. If the negative
is completely taped down, air can be trapped between it
and the glass. When the platen or pressure cover is
moved into the printing position, the air does not escape.
This results in an unsharp print. When you use a
hand-cut mask, tape the mask to the glass along one edge
before positioning the negative.
Printing Filter Selection
The first requirement for you to make a good print
is a clean negative. The negative must then be examined
to determine the contrast (flat, normal, or contrasty) and
the approximate exposure time required to produce a
quality print. As a beginning darkroom worker, you may
not be able to make these determinations accurately;
however, in a short time and with a little experience, you
should overcome any trouble.
In analyzing a negative to determine the most
suitable printing filter, be careful not to confuse contrast
with density. When in doubt, make test prints. If the test
print is contrasty, you should make another test print
with a lower numbered filter to lower the contrast. If the
original test print lacks contrast, change to a filter with
a higher number to increase the contrast. This is a good
time to review the information on printing filters and
printing papers in chapters 2 and 3.
Test Print
The printing exposure is the operation most likely
to cause trouble for an inexperienced darkroom
technician. Unlike most films that can tolerate some
overexposure and underexposure and still yield usable
photographs, printing papers must be exposed correctly
to produce good prints.
Experience and familiarity with printing equipment
does help; but for a beginner, the correct exposure for
prints from most negatives is best determined by making
test prints.
The factors that affect exposure are as follows:
The intensity of the printing lights
The distance between the printing lights
and the printing glass
The sensitivity of the printing paper
The density of the negative
The first three factors are standardized and,
therefore, eliminated as variables by using the contact
printer and by printing with the same type of paper. The
only remaining variable is negative density. You can
determine negative density by making a few test
exposures. The exposure time for a negative of average
density may be about 1 to 3 seconds. When the negative
is large, avoid the expensive and wasteful temptation of
using a whole sheet of paper; instead, use a strip about
2 inches wide and as long as the negative for the test
exposure. For example, an 8x10 sheet of paper can be
cut into three or four small strips.
After you have determined the filter and the
test-exposure time, set the timer accordingly. Place the
paper test strip over the negative in the printing position.
Place the test strip on the negative so the test exposure
includes some highlights, midtones, and shadow areas.
Hold the paper in position with one hand and lower the
platen. As soon as the platen grips the edge of the paper,
move your hand away. When the platen is fully lowered,
turn on the printing lights for the test-exposure time.
When the test strip has been exposed, develop it for
the recommended time. If the image is too dark, the
exposure was too long. If the image is too light, the
exposure was too short.
It is difficult for even an experienced photographer
to judge the contrast of an under- or overexposed print
that has been under or overexposed. Before attempting
to judge the contrast of a print, you must change the
exposure until the proper density is reached. A normally
exposed print develops gradually, but steadily-shadows
first, then midtones, and finally highlights. The image
should appear in about 30 seconds, providing the
developer is at the proper strength and temperature. If
the image develops very quickly with a general mottling,
it is overexposed and the next test should be given less
exposure. An overexposed print develops in a very short
time, and the common temptation is to "pull" (remove)
it from the developer. This prevents the image from
getting too dark, but results in a flat, muddy, uneven,
tone image. On the other hand, when the recommended
development does not produce a print of the proper
density after 2 minutes, the print is underexposed. After
you have successfully exposed and processed a few
prints, you will rapidly gain enough experience to
estimate, closely, the density of negatives for contact
printing exposures.

Basic Photography Course

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