reducing density on negative : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all I have a negative which is proving remarkably difficult to print. I guess I should have given it N-2 processing or something but I'm guessing I goofed on the exposure. The negative haunts me because it has all the information I need. The trouble is it has a really wide contrast range and even the softest contrast filter (I'm using Ilford multigrade) doesn't give me the whole range of tones without extensive dodging and burning. Even the basic exposure time is damned long. I've heard that it is possible to use Farmer's reducer to bleach a dense negative down. However, I have also heard that Farmer's reducer tends to increase the contrast by working at shadow values more. Is there any other reducer which would either reduce the highlights more or reduce density more or less evenly? Thanks DJ

-- Dhananjay (, May 29, 1999


I would try an unsharp contrast mask.

-- Jeff White (, May 30, 1999.

Before you resort to reducer, make sure you use all the other alternatives first. It's really easy to ruin a negative with reducers. First, try Selectol Soft developer diluted more than usual. Water baths between short dips in the developer can also reduce contrast a bit. Try Ilford Gallerie grade 1, it's pretty soft. If none of this works, the unsharp contrast mask will almost certainly do the job. Somewhere on this site is a description of how to make them. Good luck. ;^D>

-- Doremus Scudder (, May 30, 1999.

Although it won't help with the long exposure you might want to "flash" the paper before you expose the neg. You'll need a timer that will allow very brief exposures a tenth of a second may do it. This will reduce the overall contrast of the print.

Put the paper in the easel, expose it to white light for 1/10 of a second (play with this time, since it's a guess on my part) and then try a test print.

-- David Grandy (, May 30, 1999.

Farmer's reducer used in the conventional way (one bath of ferricyanide and hypo) does increase contrast. But used as a two-bath solution (very weak ferri, then hypo) it can reduce contrast. Another possibility is to bleach the negative in an acid solution of potassium bichromate, and re-develop.

I would certainly test these on scrap negatives first.

-- Alan Gibson (, May 30, 1999.

Alan's suggestion is something you might try but we can't see your neg so I'd try some of the other suggestions first. Unsharp masking is the first alternative I would try. I have negatives that will only print with a mask. As for the length of exposure, what light source are you using. It sounds like some of my negs of Bodie where I forgot how dense IR can get if you don't watch it. If you can see all the detail in the neg it should print ok. If you need some info on density or unsharp masks let me know at my E-dress and I will send you some very simple instructions for making masks.

-- james (, May 30, 1999.

Life is not simple. Everyone has given you good advice. I've never tried reducer and would be hesitant to use it on a neg I wanted. I would pre flash, but you will need a very low voltage bulb or what I have done is use a 110V-12V mini plug in transformer a light switch and a trailer side light (auto store) in amber. I mounted it on the ceiling after drilling a 1/4" hole in the amber cover. I then ran test strips to see how much exposure I needed to just fog the paper and reduced the exposure below this level. the wires to the bulb are 6V and the light switch controls the exposure which in my case is a reasonably controllable 6 Sec.,not a brief flash! Masking will also work but that's another whole ball of wax.

-- George Nedleman (, May 30, 1999.

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