Developer with poor sharpness wanted : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Any suggestions on a developer with poor sharpness. When I use 8x10 for portraits, the sharpness is too high. It is like looking at my subject's face with a magnifying glass. Will an old fashioned developer like DK-20 work? Any interesting formulas? I don't mind mixing my own.

-- William Marderness (, April 21, 2000


William, Some of the older developers were a little softer, but not much. You can knock a little sharpness off with one of the so-called "fine grain" developers made for 35mm. However, the best bet will be to use a little diffusion on the taking lens. Try a piece of black panty hose stretched tightly over the front of the lens or do as we used to do and stretch a piece of hose over a hoop used for needlework. You might also try a light film of vaseline on a skylight filter or a piece of clear plastic. Also, you can just buy a diffusion filter. Try a light diffusion at first. It can be overdone. The black panty hose trick knocks the edge off without being too much filtration. The Harrison and Harrison diffusion filters made for the motion picture industry are probably the best, but they are expensive. Slight diffusion gives a nice glow to the skin. Hope this helps.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 21, 2000.

I just developed HP-5+ in DK-20 for the first time. The negatives look okay, but the clear film base has a pinkish cast. Is there any relationship between fine grain developers and a pink cast. I heard the DK-20 can cause fogging. The negatives are not fogged, though, just pink.

-- William Marderness (, April 21, 2000.

I have read that many use nylon over the lens for a softer look.

-- Wayne Crider (, April 21, 2000.

Try D-25 or Microdol-X straight.

Although these won't make particularly soft images, they won't have that blazing sharpness of many other developers.

But I think diffusion when shooting is what's going to be needed, perhaps a Softar I or Tiffen Soft F/X #1.

-- John Hicks (, April 21, 2000.

...What would be the filter factor for pantyhose???

I don't recall ever seeing that chart in the books by Steve Simmons or Ansel Adams!


-- Dave Richhart (, April 21, 2000.

You could use as Harrison & Harrison Blackdot filter or a Tiffen Blacknet 2 or 3 over the lens or the old "black nylon stocking stretch on an embroidery frame diffuser under the enlarging lens" trick.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 21, 2000.

Dave: The filter factor is about one stop. Divide the ISO by the number of times the hose has been worn, add the number of times washed, subtract number of times bleached and add .25 for any runs in the nylon. Actually it is about one stop, give or take a half. Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 21, 2000.

Just out of curiosity, what lens are you using for portraits? A modern lens (unless it is designed to be soft) will most likely produce undesirable results like revealing pock marks, pores, wrinkles, cracks or meal worms protruding from the skin.

-- Chad Jarvis (, April 21, 2000.


Look on this board under Portraits, David Clark, earlier in April 2000. The responses there may assist you also.

-- Bob Moulton (, April 22, 2000.

Also, try a film like TMax 400 that has a creamier, less distinct rendition of things IMHO. The film will have decent sharpness but also consider Ilford XP2, this chromogenic film does a beautiful job with skin and broad, more uniform areas won't be as grainy because the image consists of overlapped dye clouds. As for permanence, I have 10-year negs that look fine but don't worry-let our life and world and art ad

-- David Stein (, April 22, 2000.

It may also be worth trying some development contraction, maybe N-2, in order to compress the highlights a little, and give them that kind of "glow" which is slightly fuzzy, and quite effective in portraits. Works best with something like Tri-X or even Plus-X.

-- fw (, April 23, 2000.

Take an old cheap uv or skylite filter an smear it with vasoline very lightly for a slightly soft image or a little more for a softer image. You can do this in different portions of the filter for a sharp area around the eyes and progressively softer as you move away from them or just smear it around the whole filter. You don't need much vasoline. Just a tiny little bit will do the trick. In fact you can wipe most of it off. It works just like a Hassy Softar filter. Another way is to use a piece of cellophane under the lens or a filter in the drawer with a smear of vasoline on it to help soften the image. Same effect as the filter on the camera lens. You can find UV or skylite filters really cheap because they are worthless for photography anyway(wink). Give it a try. I use it sometimes on my 8x10 contact prints when I want a slight softening in a selected area. Or it will work overall. The nice thing about this technique is that the area to be softened can be selected by shape as well as just the area. Say you want the whole torso or the face just around the eyes or in a half body shot just the face and arm sharp but the rest soft. This can be done easily with this method. I have even taken clear acetate and contact printed with this over the top of the glass and printed. Try it. Let us know how it came out. And it is much cheaper than Softars or other diffusion filters. James

-- james (, April 23, 2000.

What is the advantage in using an 8x10 if you are not interested in absolute sharpness. Are you gaining subtle information even with diffusion that you would otherwise lose in medium format.

-- charlie eustace (, April 24, 2000.

Charlie ; it's not all about sharpness ; it's about tonal scale and perceived acutance. Regards

-- fw (, April 24, 2000.

It's also about unsharpness--controlling the plane of focus while positioning the subject at different angles and, for some, the particular qualities of classic portrait lenses designed for large format.

-- David Goldfarb (, April 24, 2000.

I smear old filters with KY jelly instead of Vasoline: it is water soluble, and much easier/faster to remove.

-- Bruce Gavin (, June 02, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ