Controlling Contrast

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McErland

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Hello!

I've been reading, reading and reading over again about how to control contrast in the darkroom.
If I have developed my negatives a tad to much, resulting in a good but relatively high contrast, and I want to bump it down in the darkroom I would choose a 0-1.5 grad filter.
However, how can I change the developer dilution/temperature to control it?
If I lower the temperature, from what I've read it will result more in no real blacks? And if I dilute it more, I may just take longer times to develop? Is this correct?
 
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Dear McErland,

Whilst contrast can obviously be affected by the developer, far better ( IMHO ) to mix the dev as directed by the manufacturer and control the contrast by filters, easier, and repeatable.

Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
 
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Developing paper is not like developing film.

With film, contrast is manipulated by changing development time. The denser areas of the negative are usually not developed anywhere close to the maximum density, rather just enough to "fit" the paper being printed on.

With paper, the development must be fairly complete so that the density in the print approaches the maximum possible in order to get a decent black in the print. Reducing contrast with paper by shortening development time just results in weak blacks, which is largely unacceptable.

To adjust paper contrast, you need a different contrast grade of paper or a completely different print developer that delivers more or less contrast.

In your case, I would simply use the filters needed to get the contrast you desire and develop the print normally to ensure good blacks.

Often, "too contrasty" prints just need a little judicious dodging and burning to get the highlights and shadows in the right place. This yields more separation in the mid-tones and is often a more satisfying solution than choosing a lower overall contrast.

If you get to the point where you have used the lowest contrast paper grade/filter available to you and still need less contrast, you can change to a softer-working print developer (Selectol Soft, Ansco 120, etc.) to get even more paper scale.

There are lots of threads here on reducing contrast with means other than filters (one active one here: (there was a url link here which no longer exists) that I and many others have responded to).

Best,

Doremus
 

Gerald C Koch

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You can use a low contrast print developer. Kodak offers Selectol which uses only Metol as the developing agent rather then adding a high contrast agent (hydroquinone) as in Dektol. I'm sure you can find recipes on the web if you wish to mix your own.
 
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jovo

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One other solution is to use contrast masks. There are a number of ways to make them, and they can be very effective and highly repeatable. There's a guy who makes and markets them whose name I can't remember at the moment, but perhaps someone else reading this will, and let you know. Also, Alan Ross makes them digitally to sandwich with a film negative. He probably has some information on his site.
 
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McErland

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Thanks guys! I will try both Dodge & Burn, and if I find it some low contrast developer!
 

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To all those who recommended low contrast paper developers: are you 100% sure that these work as expected with modern multigrade papers? Years ago I did an experiment with Ilford MGIV and two different print developers that were sold to me as "low contrast" and "high contrast". A comparison showed no visible difference between the two test prints. I made a similar observation with Ilfochrome paper and different first developers.
 

Rafal Lukawiecki

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If you use a variable contrast paper, I wouldn't recommend changing developers to get the contrast you want. Stick with Simon's good advice of controlling contrast using the filters, as that is what those paper have been designed for, and it will give you more predictability, and less frustration, in your process. If you use graded (not variable contrast) papers, then the other suggestions, including changing developers, masks, etc., would be helpful.
 
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