Selenium Toner for Negs. It Doesn't Work : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I put a piece of a negative with a 1.08 (Zone VII) density into selenium toner diluted 1:9. My goal was to raise the density to 1.30 (Zone VIII). I agitated it in the solution (at 70) for 10 mins. After I washed and dried the film. Then I read it with my densitometer and it still read 1.08.

I then put the negative into a 1:3 dilution of selenium toner and did the same: 10 mins. in selenium, wash, dry. The density was still unchanged.

Then, I put the negative into straight selenium toner for 10 mins with agitation. Afterward, the density was still 1.08.

My film was HP-5+ and it was not hardened. I guess HP-5+ does not tone. Any suggestions?

-- William Marderness (, April 20, 2000


From _The Life of a Photograph_, Keefe & Inch, 1990: "Toning negatives will not, of course, improve or change prints made from them, but it can help preserve the image."

Seems like Adams says the same thing somewhere, but I can't find it.

-- Erik Ryberg (, April 20, 2000.

William: Saint Ansel in his book "The Negative" gives the process for selenium toning negs and he says it will work. He even gives example prints. (It could have been in "The Print"...If so I stand corrected.) Did you go through the same procedures as for toning a print? Wash, soak in non hardening fixer, then directly into the toner? It's possible the more modern emulsions won't tone. I am gonna run some tests. According to SA, it is supposed to be possible to bump up printing density and contrast about one zone. Hope this helps.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 20, 2000.

I got the same result; no difference at all.

-- John Hicks (, April 20, 2000.

I have been considering giving this a try with a couple of thin negatives I have. Bruce Barbaum discusses this in the most recent edition of ,The Art of Photography. He dilutes Rapid Selenium Toner at 1:1 with water. He emerses the negative and agitates (doesn't give a time...just until it looks right). It sounds like,from his decription, that you can only hope for maybe a one zone increase. He also states that it will not work with any negative. Perhaps you should try this with an actual negative of something other than a specific zone, preferably one that is a little thin, and see if it works. I wouldn't worry too much about a precise zone change as much as maybe correcting a problematic negative.

-- Paul Mongillo (, April 20, 2000.

I have used this technique for 10 years and it definately works. I have not done a test with a densitometer to see if there is a density change but I am sure that there would be. One of the first negatives that I had ever used selenium on was a photo of some aspens. All of the trees were aproximately the same density and I chose to paint the selenium on just a few of the trees. Those trees now stand out much more than the others in the photo. On a light table there is an obvious density change. I will read this negative on a densitometer and see what it has to say. I have used this technique on hundreds of negatives both painting the selenium on for increases in localized areas and on the entire negative to increase contrast. It worked the first time that I did it and I haven't looked back.

-- Jeff White (, April 20, 2000.

Worked for me with Tri-X. I've found that Ilford films and papers don't tone well. Has anyone ever used Motox intensifier?

-- Ted Davis (, April 21, 2000.

All films with silver will tone in selenium. The more exposed silver the more density will be built. If you have a thin negative you won't see as much as if you have a dense negative because the selenium combines with the silver in proportion to the amount of silver present. To tone the negative first rewet or wash the neg and fix. Then emese in selenium straight. No dilution. Agotate to your hearts content. Have lunch if you want. It will only tone to a certain extent and then it runs out of silver to combine with. Wash well and voila! Density will increase. If it doesn't "you" did something wrong. Ilford tones just as well as Agfa and Kodak. Just be careful to fix with non-hardening fixer. James

-- james (, April 21, 2000.

I regularly tone T-max to pick up a little contrast. I've never had a problem with this. Toned negs typically require about a half a contrast grade less. Like with prints, the denser areas respond first and more dramatically, which is how the contrast changes. I've never had problems with Ilford emulsions either. Ilford papers are standard for me and tone beautifully.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, April 21, 2000.

Tech Pan tones in Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner diluted 1:2. After about 1 minute it adequately restored contrast to a fogged neg for printing.

In general, I've found that with Ilford paper selenium toner only operates as I wish it to at higher concentrations than Kodak's recommended ones -- 1:2 to 1:6 rather than 1:9 or so.

-- John O'Connell (, April 21, 2000.

William: I just finished running some tests with toning 4x5 HP-5 Plus and Tri-X. I used a 1-10 dilution of selenium to water. I noticed a very slight effect with the HP-5 after 10 minutes, so I left the film in the tray for about 45 minutes and the change was considerable. I used extra negs I made at the beach three weeks ago with fresh film. I cut the film in half and toned half of two sheets. I also toned one sheet of Tri-X. The half -sheet of HP-5 is quite a bit darker and more contrasty than the untoned film, expecially in the water and sky areas. I haven't made a side-by-side contact print yet, but I believe there is at least a stop difference. The negs were on the thin side before toning. Try longer in the toner. Hope this helps.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 21, 2000.

Toning negatives does work! I left a negative in 1:3 selenium toner for 1 hour and got a modest density increase. A 1.43 density increased to a 1.53 density.

-- William Marderness (, April 21, 2000.

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