density in negs (contact printing vs film scanning)

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by pellicle, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. pellicle

    pellicle Member

    May 25, 2006
    4x5 Format

    I've got a question relating to getting at detail in the dense areas of negatives when using direct optical processes compared to scanning.

    I haven't done any contact printing for a few years now (due to lack of dark room for doing that) and have mainly been scanning my film to then output in that area.

    I'm also away from "home" right now so I don't have access to my older negs to examine this myself from my own work.

    However, I don't recall finding any of my black and white negatives became problematic in printing them how I liked when setting exposure for the shadows and letting the highlights fall where they fell.

    Now, certainly last time I was contact printing I was photographing in much "softer" light ranges than I am now. So I'm wondering if I continue this way will I be having any trouble with printing some of these in the future?

    By dense, I mean stuff like I've talked about on my blog here. Certainly that's not any image I'm likely to want to print, but the principle is what I'm interested in.

    This image (for example) [​IMG]
    seems to have blown out a little around the forehead of the fox. What I'm not sure is if this is as a result of my poor attention to detail in scanning (about 5 years ago) or something else. I don't recall if there was any detail in the contact print (as I've not got any of them with me at the moment either.

    Thanks for your time

    The area I'm wanting to
  2. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

    Sep 20, 2002
    I have found that negatives that are a little flatter than ideal for contacts or enlargements are good for scanning, but my film scanner is at least 10 years behind current technology. Its resolution is adequate. It's the density range that is probably not as high as I would like.

    Another point to consider is the shape of the response curve, which may be straighter than paper. That is not as good as one might think. Film and photo paper are more likely to have complementary curve shapes than film and scanner.
  3. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

    Mar 20, 2003
    Port Hueneme
    Large Format
    Just a couple of thoughts - scanners see certain frequencies of light - photo papers see other frequencies of light. Example - developers usually leave some color in the image. Most are black but anything with p-aminophenol, catechol, gallol or hydroquinone will have a brown, yellow or greeinsh density that an enlarger will project onto paper. If the enlarger has a UV component there may be a another aspect to the image contrast. - So I have found that a negative that prints well may not necessarily scan well. Also, scanners often cannot deal with the density ranges of film. I can print through a density of 2.2 pretty well but my scanner starts to have trouble past 1.9 or so. There is also a software component; does the software automatically try to sharpen? Scanners try to do all the thinking for you so it may take an image in that has a DR of 1.0 and make it a DR of 1.8. SO if the proof is in the pudding, I guess the pudding is likely a print and a neg scan is more of a proof to see how the overall image will look and see if there is motion blur and if the image is worth spending time in the darkroom with.
  4. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Dec 14, 2005
    Basin and Range Province
    8x10 Format
    I have found my scanner to be a poor judge of the printing ability of a neg. Judging from the overall exposure, looks like the forehead fell outside the scanners ability.
  5. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

    Mar 28, 2005
    Central NC
    4x5 Format
    I hesitate to answer a scanning question on APUG for fear of getting my ass kicked about -- this is an analog forum after all. So I'll keep this answer as short as possible.

    Basically, if you can contact print it on silver gelatin paper the negative should scan well on just about any scanner. That is, the Dmax of the negative won't be that high and therefore even consumer flatbed scanners will have little trouble.

    Some of the alt. printing processes that require higher Dmax from the negative can result in negatives that are harder to scan. This is because the higher Dmax means more metallic silver in the dense areas which means more Callier Effect. The net effect is usually a decrease in local contrast in the highlights from these negatives. This can be corrected with a Photoeditor program, but it's can be a bit of a pain to fix.

    Some scanners, like enlargers, are more susceptible to Callier Effect than others of course. Drum scanners for example use highly columnated light and therefore respond better to lower Dmax from silver negatives. That is, a thinner negative scans somewhat better on a drum scanner. In Zone System terms, drum scanners tend to like negatives developed to about N-1 or so. Flatbed scanners with a more diffuse light source are less effected.

    The blown out highlights from your example are almost certainly due to the scan -- black and white points not set properly. The information is on the film, but the scanner didn't capture it. Operator error most likely -- this from a drums scanner operator who has made plenty of such errors! ;-)