Contact Printing 8x10, How Should I Begin : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I want to contact print my 8x10 negatives for the first time. Previously, I have sent out my contact print orders with disappointing results. Should I use a light bulb and a contact printing easel or should I buy a used contact printer, such as one made by Burke & James? Are there any advantages to either method? If I use a light bulb, what wattage is best for use with Azo paper? For enlarging paper? At what height? Is there any special type of light bulb that works best?

-- William Marderness (, February 20, 2000


You didn't specify if you presently own an enlarger (any size) that you can use as a light source. If not, I would go for a light above the printing table. It works well if you have the bulb in a reflector which can move up and down. Usually a 25 watt white bulb will work, but you may need a 15 or 40 watt, depending on how things are arranged. I would start with the smaller bulbs. The contact printers are not as easy to use if you intend to use any dodging and burning in on the prints. I use my 4/5 enlarger for exposure. I went to a glass company and got a 14" square piece of 1/4" thick glass to lay on top of the negative. I talked to the owner and explained what the glass was for and that the glass must be in pristine condition with no scratches of any kind. They also ground off the sharp edge for me. Total cost was $5.00, but that can vary with the company. I taped one edge with metallic tape and try to handle it by the taped edge to avoid fingerprints. It is an easy system to use. Good shooting, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (, February 20, 2000.

Hi William,

I use a 15 watt bulb about 8 feet or so from my old printing frame, and times with Agfa MCC Fiber paper for my habitually one-stop overexposed negatives are 15 seconds. On Fortezo graded paper which I use when I need more contrast times are 40-80 seconds, and I'm thinking of trying a 25 watt bulb to cut this time down a little. But anyway, if you have a slightly dark closet (that's what I use) you can make contact prints with no trouble at all just using the overhead bulb and a little print frame (always on ebay) or a piece of glass.

-- Erik Ryberg (, February 20, 2000.

I don't have an enlarger. It sounds like I should go with the light bulb, not a contact printer, because of dodging and burning. Thanks.

-- William Marderness (, February 20, 2000.

Stick with the AZO paper and get to know it well -- you'll love it. 25 -- 60 watt bulb about 4 feet above your contact frame, which can be as simple as the sheet of plate glass that was mentioned. That way you can dodge easily with your hands. If you have a contact printer box, they are fun to play with too, especially if you are going to do a number of prints from one neg. You can also have litho negs made of seasonal greeting type designs with a window to place one of your favorite negatives behind and make nice custom greetings to send out. The box works great for that kind of job.

I like the quality of Zone VI contact frame -- it ought to last several lifetimes.

If you are going to use enlarging paper you will need a lot weaker light -- maybe 15 watts or so, because the paper is much faster. I never found one that did as well as AZO however. But experiment and see what works best for you.

-- Tony Brent (, February 21, 2000.

Hi William, don't forget to ask these guys about Newton Rings. Ask them how to identify and deal with Newton Rings. In my experience Newton Rings can make or break a contact print. Don't forget to inquire about Newton Rings. I'm of the species who favors the printing frame over the slab of glass method. Good luck. David

-- david clark (, February 21, 2000.

Newtons rings can be avoided by using coated glass or by using glass of adequate thickness - the above mentioned 1/4 inch thick sheet would do nicely.

Additionally some papers seem to exaggerate or exacerbate or emphasis the effect. I have no problems with Newtons rings with Azo glossy, but pulled out what little hair I had left when using glossy Ilford. Don't ask me why this was the case.

I favor the hinged contact print frames which are of more recent manufacture, made by folks like Patterson, et. al. rather than the traditional spilt back frame. They show up on Ebay alla time and don't have the hefty price tag of the "handcrafted by Swiss elves working under the light of the full moon during the equinox with the finest select oak and mahogony" price tag that the traditional split back ones seem to carry.

Although to be fair, at one point Calumet offered a budjet priced split back frame in two sizes.

With a split back frame you get white borders, while with the hinged piece o'glass approach, you get the full frame. The hinged ones are also easier to load and unload and clean everytime you switch paper or negative.

The real purists use vacuum frames!

-- Sean yates (, February 21, 2000.

Also, I've heard it said you can use see through acetate or mylar to eliminate the Newtons rings, but then that's just another dust magnet to clean........

-- Sean yates (, February 21, 2000.

You can obtain information about Azo paper by going to and clicking on the professional section, which will lead you into papers and to Azo. FWIW, Kodak says not to use an enlarger light because it is supposedly too weak. Kind of a strange statement, since enlarger lights vary so much, but that's what they say. Michael Smith wrote an excellent article on using Azo paper (and Amidol developer) in a recent issue of "View Camera" magazine. The article is also posted on his web site, the URL for which I don't have handy but if anyone is interested send me an e mail and I'll find it.

-- Brian Ellis (, February 23, 2000.


-- Sean yates (, February 23, 2000.

GACK! That should read html, not htnl

-- Sean yates (, February 23, 2000.

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