Using color print paper as film? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Anyone out there with experience in using color print paper instead for film? A negative color picture without the orange mask should be easy to scan and the end product could be a lambda or lightjet print. Searching the right filtration shouldn't be any hard to do. I think shooting a white cardboard and using the dark slide to form an eg. fourstepped greyscale would reveal any crossovers. I suppose there could be a problem with too little contrast. Am I right?

-- Jan Eerala (, March 23, 2001


there was a recent thread about this. most thought it was a bad idea if i remember correctly. color paper is slow and made for exposure with tungsten light. filtration might be hard to determine. unlike color film, color paper is not balanced box to box, so you would have to redetermine filtration with every new box, not just new emulsion. all in all it sounds like a lot of work.

-- adam friedberg (, March 23, 2001.

Jan... The big problem I see with this strategy is the very poor resolving powers of paper. If you shot 8x10 paper and scanned it, the biggest print you could make on LJ or any printer is 8x10 without severely compromising image quality. Paper can resolve about 5 lpmm max, while color film is around 50 lpmm, to allow for a 10x enlargement factor. If your goal is reproducing the same image size you are shooting this should work but it still would not work as well as film in my opinion. As the previous poster mentioned, be prepared for some long exposure times... I hope these are not landscapes you are considering, its hard to keep the leaves still for 2 minutes!

-- Bill Glickman (, March 24, 2001.

I remember that polyester based glossy print material like Fujiflex and Ilfoflex should have a resolving power about 60 lpmm. I can't confirm it, but I have 8x10 contact prints from Portra 160 film on Ilfoflex, and with an 8X loupe it is possible to see the film grain. Just thought that paper could be a substitute for film, specially in ULF where color film availabity and costs are often hard to overcome. The filtration should be no bigger problem if you buy several boxes from the same batch. The speed is slow of course, but could be used in landscape and some still life works. Just thinking....

-- Jan Eerala (, March 24, 2001.

i would think that even if you had the same batch you would be lucky to match filtration well enough to not notice the difference. in my color printing experience i have been lucky to maintain constant filtration box to box even within batches. it's been my understanding the manufacturers do not make paper to the same tolerances as film. also, i would doubt any paper could acheive anything close to 60 lp/mm. paper negs seem to always look like paper negs, that is, nowhere near as sharp as film. i have never seen results from what you want to try, but i have heard the question many times. as always i could be very wrong. why not try it if you already have the materials? i'd like to hear what happens.

-- adam friedberg (, March 24, 2001.

I've played around with this a bit and it does work, but you can't expect the results to be the same as from a neg film. paper is much slower, start with an iso of about 3. filter as if shooting a tungsten film in daylight to start. i think using a polyester base material is a good idea. if you are scanning these then some color correction can be handled in photoshop. Pinhole folks do this all the time and get some very interesting results. If you have access to an RA machine you can see whats happening pretty quickly. give it a shot and see what happens!

-- Erik Gould (, March 25, 2001.

Gee, maybe I'm just dumb, but wouldn't it be easier to just shoot film and ENLARGE it??? Oh, no, I'm sorry, I forgot, we all have to go through twisted contortions to make sure we inject something digital in the process, whether it's higher quality or not. . .. :))))

-- Josh Slocum (, March 25, 2001.

Jan - As usual, most replies are from people who haven't done it but want to warn you off because "in theory, it won't work." There was a similar post recently about using Ilfochrome in-camera and a similar bunch of non-empirical theorists chattered on about why it won't work. Turns out some people are (and have been for a while) doing exactly this with Ilfochrome, and getting some pretty nice results in the process. I queried Ilford about it recently and they sent me copies of some articles showing how it was done. When I have time I'm going to cut some 16x20 sheets to fit my holders and try it (and I won't ask anyone's opinion as to whether or not it "should" work before I do it). Anybody who's actually DONE it, I'll listen to very attentively. But ignore the armchair naysayers and see for yourself.

Fred Picker had to reply to so many similar letters (asking if this or that would "work") that he had a stamp made up. Whenever anyone wrote him regarding the possible results of some new process, all they received back was their original letter with big stamped letters across the bottom reading: TRY IT!

Good luck!

-- Mark Parsons (, March 25, 2001.

Bill: If colour paper only has a resolving power of 5 lppm, then how come the grain is clearly resolved in all the colour prints I've done? The dye clouds in the film are about 2 or 3 microns in size, and they're easily revealed in a 10x enlargement. This is at least 25 lppm by my calculation.

-- Pete Andrews (, March 26, 2001.

I've only exposed enough Ilfochrome in my 12x15" camera to know that it leaks light badly, but I have talked to several people who once had a friend who knew someone who had a dog which once peed against the tripod of a bloke who had tried it once with ok-ish results.

Papers expect a tungsten light source, so in daylight it is best to use an 85B filter, which has a small filter factor so it's not a big deal.

Negative papers expect an orange mask, but you can use a scrap bit of unexposed but developed film as a filter, or take a reading through such a scrap with a colour meter if you want to use filters with better optical characteristics. People quite often treat the in-camera paper as a negative, making contact prints onto another sheet so as to avoid mirror imaged text and faces in the final print. That way you can adjust for small colour casts and only need to get into the ballpark with the in-camera exposure. With negative printing papers you then have the orange mask problem all over again, but it's in the darkroom where it's easier to tame.

The biggest problem seems to be controlling contrast. Negative papers expect a low-contrast original, and a daylit scene will blow out highlights long before you've got anything in the shadows. Positive papers are better since they expect a higher contrast original, but the problem is still there to some extent and can't be worked around. Contact printing onto another sheet doubles the problems.

The end result has a definite look, which may or may not agree with what you want to convey, but I disagree with those who say that prints are inevitably soft. If you have a darkroom and a sheet film camera this is easy enough to try, so I'd say give it a go (and report back).

-- Struan Gray (, March 26, 2001.


could you give me an example of an empirical theorist? if nothing else the warnings of how it may not work should alert him to the potential pitfalls and problems that can be expected. i don't need to have empirical knowledge of his specific usage to extrapolate more general concerns. i don't know what will happen but i'd like to. the dearth of experienced respondents also may be telling.

in the end our advice is the same.

-- adam friedberg (, March 26, 2001.

Hi, Adam - I suppose an empirical theorist would be one who develops a hypothesis, then does some actual testing or at least gathers some real data before pontificating about the answer. "Warnings of how it may not work" can be valuable only if they are based on something more than armchair conjecture. Otherwise they can do more harm than good, by confusing and obfuscating with opinion and psuedo-facts.

Look at your replies: "Most people thought it was a bad idea if I remember correctly".(???) Filtration "might" be hard to determine. Paper negs always look like paper negs. You've "never seen results from what you want to try...", but "all in all it sounds like a lot of work."

Tell me - are these sorts of comments supposed to provide useful info (or encouragement) to someone attempting a new process? Let's look at the issues a little "empirically": With an ISO of 3, color paper would give you a daylight exposure of approx. 8 sec. at f/64, not 2 min. as someone suggested. (Besides, what's wrong with long exposures where landscapes or architecture are concerned? Many great photos - slot canyons, etc. - have been made with multi-minute (or hour!) exposure times. Is that a valid reason to scare someone away?) Using Photoshop (as the original poster indicated) would negate the problem of any slight color variations between batches. Besides, the whole idea of using color paper in-camera is sort of "alternative" to begin with, so is anyone really expecting the results to look just like it was shot with standard color film? I would think the different look with this process would be part of its attraction. And paper negs look like they do largely because the resulting prints are contact printed through the paper substrate (which diffuses the image greatly) and not because of the admittedly lower resolution of paper. (See also Pete's reasoning regarding the resolution of paper. Makes sense to me.)

Even a small amount of research would reveal that photographers are currently doing what you "recall" most people "thinking" was a bad idea. (And getting some cool results doing it, too!) Look, Adam, I don't have a beef with you personally. I'm sure you're trying to help the poster. It's just that whenever someone has a question about something a bit arcane it seems like many of the replies are of the "never done it, but it shouldn't work..." variety. I remember recently when someone wanted to know if certain lenses would cover certain mammoth formats. I saw very superior-sounding replies like "Your type-X lens will obviously never cover because they were of such-and-such a design and don't have the proper number of degrees of angle of view. Don't waste your money." Here's the funny part - I HAVE a "type-x" lens of the focal length in question and regularly use it on the format in question and it covers just fine! So much for armchair theory...

It's almost like people are trying to scare beginners away from trying something new, and I don't see the value in it. If I don't know I either don't reply at all or I encourage the poster to experiment a little (and hopefully post his results here). I'll do the same when I get to my in-camera Ilfochrome experiments.

Best wishes,

-- Mark Parsons (, March 27, 2001.

I have already ordered Ilfocolor glossy material and a RA-4 kit. I will first make a test without any filtration just to see what the resolution is about. But I don't promise any fast answer because I'm gonna do this outdoor when it's a little warmer, not -12C like today.(I live in Finland) I will report here under this topic.

It's a well known fact that Ilfochrome works fine in the camera. I got this thought of negative paper because it has faster speed, though, as Mark points out, often long exposure times are more of an advantage for a LF photographer. If you try Ilfochrome, go first with the more contrasty CPS1k material, the CF1k will give a very flat result. (And shouldn't be processed in P-30) The resolution of Ilfo is 63 lpmm. And thanks to all for taking care. Jan.

-- Jan Eerala (, March 27, 2001.

Jan - Thanks for the Ilfo-info (try saying that three times fast!). And good luck with your tests.


-- Mark Parsons (, March 27, 2001.

ok mark,

i understand what you are saying. my replies were too negative and i realized it. that is why i ended up encouraging jan to try it. as for armchair conjecture, i have experience with color paper. i know ilfocolor. it isn't cheap. balancing a box will use several sheets of paper. figuring reciprocity will use more. making a daylight exposure of f64 @ 8 secs will result in a very blue picture. going back out and correcting daylight to tungsten will give a base exposure of (approx.)f64 @ 30 secs and use more paper. but will reciprocity have an effect @ 30 secs? i can theorize it will. will there be a variation in color correction @ 30 secs? i would test for it. what will happen under other light conditions? on an overcast day or on a particularly clear, high ct day? luckily, ilfocolor has great latitude with small cc variations. if photoshop can correct any small, or large, variations is there a limitation on the size of the original (can you scan an 16x20 flat art original)?

it will be a lot of work. the question is, is it worth it. to jan it is. that is great. i want him to try it. i want him not to have the problems i am conjecturing. i even want him to have excellent results. you advocate empiricism (as opposed to rationalism). i recommend empiricism, but worry rationally (or irrationally, as the case may be). i understand what you are saying and, in many ways, i agree with your attitude. encouragement can be much more productive than dissuasion. that said, considering very possible problems is realistic. i don't see how alerting someone to these problems is worse than telling them to go ahead and not worry about it (you admit you haven't done it either).

as for the example of the "will this lens cover.." question, this type of question brings many subjective answers and opposing answers can both be correct. coverage for one person is not coverage for another. for an ulf user soft corners may not rule out a lens as suitable. they may not even notice the corners are soft. there is a difference between circle of illumination and circle of good definition, though. if your lens works for you it doesn't mean it will work acceptably for all. i certainly wouldn't agree with the many posters who claim their 300m nikkor covers 8x10 (it's got a much bigger circle than advertised), but my purposes are obviously different.

this isn't personal. i have no problem with you. as i see it we're opposite sides of the same coin. as i said before, in the end our advice is the same.

-- adam friedberg (, March 27, 2001.

Adam - Agreed. And I have nothing against rational conjecture as long as it is based on valid reasoning and experience (as yours obviously was, from your comments re your experience with Ilfocolor). And I agree that different people have different standards of what is acceptable regarding things like lens coverage. My gripe with the earlier lens coverage comments was that the other poster had NO practical experience with the lens in question - he was basing it only on the original design basis of the lens design which he pulled out of a book somewhere, while the lens in question is universally acknowledged to cover the format in question... by those who have experience with it in this application. THIS is the sort of reply I feel is all too common to those with real-world questions in need of real-world (i.e. empirical) answers.

Best wishes,

-- Mark Parsons (, March 28, 2001.


i'm glad we understand each other. i see now what you mean about book specs, theory and real world application. there is, in many instances, a big difference between what item x is "supposed" to do and what it can actually deliver. this shall we say flexible performance limit or specification allows me to solve unexpected problems creatively and meet (a.d.'s) often (photographically) unreasonable requests.

experience is the best teacher. one can still learn a lot more out there than in here.



-- adam friedberg (, March 28, 2001.

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