Controlling Contrast on Graded Papers : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Because of their convenience, I've always printed on variable-contrast papers. However, I was in our local ProPhoto Supply, and looked at some samples of Bergger paper. The warm glossy fiber based paper especially attracted my attention. The sample photograph looked absolutely terrific, and I want to give it a try.

However, in addition to being less convenient, graded papers also don't permit the kind of contrast control achievable with variable-contrast papers. Reading in Ansel Adams book, The Print, he describes how one can vary between Dektol (hydroquinone-metol) developer and Solectrol-Soft (primarily a metol developer) to achieve varying levels of contrast on graded paper. He stated that at, he can achieve about a one-half grade of control. (Probably Gallerie developed at 68 degrees.) He implies by what he says that, at higher tempertures like 75 degrees, one can achieve a somewhat more than a half-grade control with these two developers. He states that one can achieve greater control using the DeBeer's formulae (at 68 deg), but this necessitates that one mix their own paper developer. In using variable-contrast paper, I sometimes find that a half-grade change in contrast is too much.

I'm sure that Ansel Adam's advise is an excellent starting point. But, what is the experience of other photographers in controlling contrast with graded papers? For example, I've heard of people using the DeBeer's approach, but with additional Sodium Carbonate or Sodium Sulfite (I forget which).

Those familiar with the Bregger papers, how wide a difference is there between different contrast

-- neil poulsen (, January 06, 2002


For years I have used the two developer method, selectol soft and dektol and really don't think about paper grades much. I find the range between graded papers almost continous. I use a tray of selectol mixed 1:1 followed by a tray of dektol mixed 3:1. However I use seagull paper and love it. I have successfully used the developers with azo, zone vi and some warm toned imported paper. They all performed predicatably. The trick is to balance the time in each developer. The process is time consuming but very rewarding, any tones desirable seem achievable. With some practice and experience it is possible to develope a rhythm. I usually start with two strips of the same grade paper. One gets about 15 to thirty seconds in the ss and 21/2 minutes in the dek. At the same time i try another strip with 21/2 minutes in the ss followed with just 30 seconds in the dektol. Then depending on the results I work toward the middle. Kind of like naval gunnery: one over, one under and the next right on target. Careful notes on the back of each strip are important. But this is just a typical session. Some times a print will be int eh ss for 6 minutes and just 15 seconds in the dek. I have learned to love selectol soft. While I have no experience with Berger paper my experience would lead me to be surprised if it doesn't respond well to two developers. These two developers flat work for fine contrast control. Very subtle tonal differences are possible and this greatly diminishes burning and dodging. I wish you luck.

-- jim ryder (, January 06, 2002.

Just a post script. This works well for enlargements. But I usually contact print and it is stunning. Complete control resulting in beautiful prints. The trick with selectol soft is preserving it because it oxidizes very quickly. When selectol soft smells badly it usually means it has oxidized. I mix up 1 gallon and pour it into 8 oz beer bottles stoppered with a cork. 8 oz is usually enough for one printing session. occasionally a bottle will go bad but they will usually last a couple of months. Starting with Adam's sketch I have figured out these other things myself and I hope others chip in with their own techniques and experiences.

-- jim (, January 06, 2002.

No answer but a question for Jim. Is the Dektol ratio correct in your first answer, i.e., 3:1? Thanks.

-- David Flockhart (, January 06, 2002.

Yes, I ususally do 3water:1 dektol. used to use it 2:1 now I have standardized on the lower dilution. I think I did that because it is less quick, I seem to have more time range to control.

-- vernon (, January 06, 2002.

Neil there might not be as much wide control but a half grade either up or down is possible, plus you will get ALWAYS the same exact print everytime you print the same negative. So, as you read in the AA book, lenght of time in the developer is one way to control contrast, Jim's method of two developers is also good, but I do not like Dektol, it is too harsh, OTH at 1:4 dilution it is a very good developer. Anothe technique is to use SLIMT (selective latent image manipulation) where you bleach the latent image before you develop. You do this with Potassium Ferricianide at very dilute solutions usually at about 0.01 to 0.05 %. This is a one shot deal. This way you can use a grade 5 paper and bring it down to grade 1 since it bleaches the shadows and dark values. Check the book by Ruddman and you will see this technique, also there is masking etc, but those are more involved techniques.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 06, 2002.

To increase contrast about one zone, another option is to selenium tone the negative. I use Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner 2:1 for 8 minutes with TMX.

-- David Goldfarb (, January 06, 2002.

I think the Bergger warm tone paper is one of the finest papers on the market today. I find that it is overall less contrasty than similar grades of Portriga. For larger prints, I really like the grade 3 developed in Dassonville D-3 (1:7--beautiful gradation, but long developing times) or Peckham Amidol (1:1).

I have an article, Tips on Printing, on my site at, that gives information on using two developers, various additives such as carbonate, bromide, or benzotriazole, reduced agitation, and selective bleaching. I also have an article on latent image bleaching (SLIMT), but it is a technique I only use in extreme cases.

I have long felt that warm papers give a superior tonal scale, but I only recently discovered that if you use an iodine bleach, you can selectively bleach them without changing the image color. This has opened up a whole new level of control for me with papers such as Bergger warm and Agfa Portriga.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, January 07, 2002.

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