High Contrast Black and White Portraiture

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One of the most consistent requests I get from seniors is for black and white photography. Larry Peters, among others, teaches a technique which provides what I'll call a high key, high contrast black and white in which there is very little detail in the light parts of the photo. THey almost appear highly diffused without being diffused. Does anyone have the details on exactly how this technique is done? I believe it takes a normal exposure with special developing technique, but I'd like to know details if anyone can help. Thanks Fred Molesworth Encore! Photography Salem OR

-- Anonymous, August 14, 1997


I print high-contrast portraits as described very extensively. Regardless of the film used, it is processed `normally', as per manufacturer's info. The `effect' comes in the PRINTING procedure. Using a colour-head enlarger, and multigrade RC paper. (I use Ilford MGIV).

**Now one thing people have to get over, is that we have to talk in terms of contrast grades for use with MG paper and colour (Dichroic) heads. Rather, consider the amount and type of filtration required, for a desired `look'. The process of using contrast and paper GRADES is a carryover from the days before MG.

OK, now my (proven) method. As a starting point: 1. Dial in about 75% of your Magenta filtration. I suggest the percentage method since colour heads and filtration amounts vary with enlarger brands. I use a Durst and Omega side-by-side. 2. Dial in about 25% of your Yellow filtration. Yes, that is both filters at once. (And I'm not sure why they put Cyan filters in the heads, I print Ilfochrome as well and figure you must be doing something wrong to ever need or want Cyan). 3. During about half of your printing exposure time, quickly pass a piece of Cellophane back and forh about half-way between the lens and paper. 4. Develope, fix and wash the print as normal. 5. Selenium-tone (I use Kodak, mixed 1:9) for one to three minutes.

Remember these are Starting points, and you don't need to try to print toward some Grade, but rather toward your desired effect. And always keep notes of all printing procedures.

Try this for Portraits, I think you will like the effect. I use this method for almost all my portraits, whether shot under studio lights or outdoors.

-- Anonymous, September 14, 1997

And assuming you have made the print as above...... Something else you might try is rather than finishing-off the print in Selenium, as above, would be to Bleach the finished print. I use the bleach-only solution from Kodak sepia packages. I then wash the print thoroughly, followed then by Selenium bath, and wash. Nice effect!

-- Anonymous, September 14, 1997

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