How would I test for this? (split grade printing, hype or real)

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markbau

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I've been spending way too much time on YouTube lately and have noticed there are many tutorials on split grade printing. The usual claims are being made that giving a portion of exposure with a high contrast filter and the remaining portion with a low contrast filter results in a print that has magical properties that is not possible when using just a single filter. I have Kodak and Stouffer step wedges and a densitometer and was wondering how I could test to confirm or not that this type of split grading printing results in a print not possible with just a single filter. Please note, I am only talking about straight prints, no burning or dodging.
 

Pieter12

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For straight prints, the differences can be quite subtle, split grade printing allows an infinite number of intermediate grades which may or may not be necessary or even detectable in some cases. And usually, split grade printing is done with the low-contrast (00 or 0) filter first, followed by a high-contrast exposure at grade 5. Once you start adding in the advantages of selective dodging and burning with the filters, the results can be most pleasing even with difficult negatives.
 

MattKing

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wondering how I could test to confirm or not that this type of split grading printing results in a print not possible with just a single filter. Please note, I am only talking about straight prints, no burning or dodging

With the exception of being able to achieve more intermediate contrast results - e.g. the equivalent of grade 2.6 or 3.35 - no such test is likely to reveal such a result.
 

Sirius Glass

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For straight prints, the differences can be quite subtle, split grade printing allows an infinite number of intermediate grades which may or may not be necessary or even detectable in some cases. And usually, split grade printing is done with the low-contrast (00 or 0) filter first, followed by a high-contrast exposure at grade 5. Once you start adding in the advantages of selective dodging and burning with the filters, the results can be most pleasing even with difficult negatives.

I happen to use the high contrast Magenta first and then the low contrast Yellow second, followed with dodging and burning for each filter if and as needed. The order of the color filters does not matter. I get more POP sooner and with less time spend than I ever did with using a single grade especially with difficult negatives.
 

RalphLambrecht

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I've been spending way too much time on YouTube lately and have noticed there are many tutorials on split-grade printing. The usual claims are being made that giving a portion of exposure with a high contrast filter and the remaining portion with a low contrast filter results in a print that has magical properties that is not possible when using just a single filter. I have Kodak and Stouffer step wedges and a densitometer and was wondering how I could test to confirm or not that this type of split grading printing results in a print not possible with just a single filter. Please note, I am only talking about straight prints, no burning or dodging.

for straight prints, there is nothing split-grade can do that you couldn't do with a single filtration! Especially color heads can be very finely calibrated to achieve any filtration from grade 0-5. Split-grade, however, shines unbeatably when max detail in highlights or shadows is required because You can dodge or burn highlight or shadow exposure individually;something you can't do with a single grade exposure.
 
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markbau

markbau

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For straight prints, the differences can be quite subtle, split grade printing allows an infinite number of intermediate grades which may or may not be necessary or even detectable in some cases. And usually, split grade printing is done with the low-contrast (00 or 0) filter first, followed by a high-contrast exposure at grade 5. Once you start adding in the advantages of selective dodging and burning with the filters, the results can be most pleasing even with difficult negatives.

When you say "the differences can be quite subtle" are you referring to the fact that you can get in between filters or are you saying that the Hi + Lo filter procedures a "subtle" difference to just printing with a single filter? A "subtle" difference should be able to be revealed with a step wedge and a densitometer.
 
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I've been spending way too much time on YouTube lately and have noticed there are many tutorials on split grade printing. The usual claims are being made that giving a portion of exposure with a high contrast filter and the remaining portion with a low contrast filter results in a print that has magical properties that is not possible when using just a single filter. I have Kodak and Stouffer step wedges and a densitometer and was wondering how I could test to confirm or not that this type of split grading printing results in a print not possible with just a single filter. Please note, I am only talking about straight prints, no burning or dodging.

I doubt seriously that split grade is any better than straight printing.
 
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markbau

markbau

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I happen to use the high contrast Magenta first and then the low contrast Yellow second, followed with dodging and burning for each filter if and as needed. The order of the color filters does not matter. I get more POP sooner and with less time spend than I ever did with using a single grade especially with difficult negatives.
Disregarding dodging/burning with different filters which is a valuable contrast control tool, do you believe that in a straight print situation, your method produces a result unobtainable with a single filter? (BTW, what is POP? Printing Out Paper?)
 

Pieter12

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When you say "the differences can be quite subtle" are you referring to the fact that you can get in between filters or are you saying that the Hi + Lo filter procedures a "subtle" difference to just printing with a single filter? A "subtle" difference should be able to be revealed with a step wedge and a densitometer.
Same thing. I have no idea how you would use a step wedge in such a situation. I have no use for step wedges, densitometers, enlarging meters and such. I print by eye.
 

Sirius Glass

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Disregarding dodging/burning with different filters which is a valuable contrast control tool, do you believe that in a straight print situation, your method produces a result unobtainable with a single filter? (BTW, what is POP? Printing Out Paper?)

POP ==> the photograph as more pop!, the contrast is higher.
Often the split grade printing is enough. I could not get that with single grade printing. It allows me to work on the contrast for the high contrast parts separate from the sky contrast.
 
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markbau

markbau

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With the exception of being able to achieve more intermediate contrast results - e.g. the equivalent of grade 2.6 or 3.35 - no such test is likely to reveal such a result.

I agree 100% but would like to test it so I can say with certainty that with a straight print the results will be identical. Yes, the getting in between grades is real but that can easily be achieved with a dichroic head. In all of my B&W printing I can honestly say I've yet to see a print that looked too soft on grade 2 but too hard on grade 2 1/2.
 
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markbau

markbau

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Same thing. I have no idea how you would use a step wedge in such a situation. I have no use for step wedges, densitometers, enlarging meters and such. I print by eye.

I print by eye too but step wedges and densitometers can be quite useful is testing materials, testing that would take way more time and materials using the trial and error way.
Back to split printing. Just to clarify your position, is is true to say that you believe that apart from getting in between grades using a Hi & Lo filter will produce the same result as a single filter?
 

Pieter12

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I print by eye too but step wedges and densitometers can be quite useful is testing materials, testing that would take way more time and materials using the trial and error way.
Back to split printing. Just to clarify your position, is is true to say that you believe that apart from getting in between grades using a Hi & Lo filter will produce the same result as a single filter?

Yes. You know, it's not that difficult to try out. Reading what others have to say is time that could be used learning to split-grade print and see for yourself.
 

MattKing

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I agree 100% but would like to test it so I can say with certainty that with a straight print the results will be identical. Yes, the getting in between grades is real but that can easily be achieved with a dichroic head. In all of my B&W printing I can honestly say I've yet to see a print that looked too soft on grade 2 but too hard on grade 2 1/2.
I don't think you will find a testing procedure that will prove things one way or the other.
I would point out one additional value though that flows from a split grade approach - the difference in mental approaches. When a printer separates out into at least two compartments the analysis of contrast in a print, for many people the process of analysis and adjustment is enhanced.
Even if the only benefits flow from getting to the same result more easily - for some - that still means there is an appreciable difference in the two approaches.
I think I've seen prints where a half grade adjustment step is too much, but that was only because I was able to make a 1/4 grade step as well to compare it with.
 

MattKing

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And for clarity - split grade permits different contrast in different parts of the print, which is an invaluable tool. So even if straight prints aren't any better, having those skills is important.
 
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markbau

markbau

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Yes. You know, it's not that difficult to try out. Reading what others have to say is time that could be used learning to split-grade print and see for yourself.

I tried split grading printing when it was first mentioned in the old Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques magazine, over 25 years ago. I have tried it a few times since and have never been able to discern a difference from a print made using one filter. I'm only bringing this up now as YouTube is flooded with people saying that this process results in prints unobtainable with a single filter. I want to emphasise that I am talking about straight prints, burning/dodging with different filters is a valuable technique.
 
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markbau

markbau

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And for clarity - split grade permits different contrast in different parts of the print, which is an invaluable tool. So even if straight prints aren't any better, having those skills is important.
The term "split grade" seems to be used to describe two procedures. People use it to describe using Hi - Lo filter straight prints and they also use it to describe burning and dodging with different filters. I believe the original use of the term was to describe getting in between filters, hence the term "split grade". Dodging and burning with different filters should be called something else.
 

Pieter12

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I tried split grading printing when it was first mentioned in the old Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques magazine, over 25 years ago. I have tried it a few times since and have never been able to discern a difference from a print made using one filter. I'm only bringing this up now as YouTube is flooded with people saying that this process results in prints unobtainable with a single filter. I want to emphasise that I am talking about straight prints, burning/dodging with different filters is a valuable technique.
Just ignore the fools on YouTube. Do what makes you happy and gives you prints you're happy with. Different people in different darkrooms with different techniques will usually get different prints from the same negative. Make prints that please you.
 

MattKing

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The term "split grade" seems to be used to describe two procedures. People use it to describe using Hi - Lo filter straight prints and they also use it to describe burning and dodging with different filters. I believe the original use of the term was to describe getting in between filters, hence the term "split grade". Dodging and burning with different filters should be called something else.

As I understand and use the term, split grade just refers to the technique itself - dividing ("splitting") the printing into multiple, different filtration exposures in order to adjust contrast. One can choose to make straight prints using just two exposures, but that is only the simplest version of split grade - one I rarely if ever employ.
There are some practical advantages to doing straight prints with just two exposures - only needing two filters or two settings on a filtration dial being examples - but those are minor advantages when compared with the major advantage of being able to use different contrast settings - vary the splits - for different parts of the image.
I've always considered the Les McLean article to be one of the best: https://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/articles.php?page=full&article=21
 
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markbau

markbau

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I just re-read that article, thanks for the ancient link. Although he doesn't come out a say it, he seems to infer that print was only possible because he printed it with two filters.
"After due consideration I chose the 8 second grade 5 exposure, for it gave me a maximum black in the dark areas immediately adjacent to the chrome handle, had little effect on the highlight tonality, but did greatly increase the local contrast that is an important factor in any fine black and white print"
I've seen other people claim that it increases local contrast. Maybe I'm interpreting his words incorrectly.
 

DREW WILEY

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Split grade printing is just another useful tool in the toolbox; and even then, there are various potential modifications of it. For my big 12X12 blue-green cold light I keep on hand a deep 47 blue filter and deep green 61. Or I can use the blue and green channels on my additive colorheads. There's no reason for me going into my own particular technique, because I adopt all kind of tweaks if really needed. Normally, however, my negs are developed well enough that they seem to almost print themselves with a minimum of fuss. I rarely need to resort to the extremes of split printing. I can't recall even doing it in the past several years.
 
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Sirius Glass

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TEST:
  1. Do your best straight grade print
  2. Take the same negative and do your best split grade print
  3. Which do you like the best
  4. Repeat step 1 with a different negative
 

MattKing

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I just re-read that article, thanks for the ancient link. Although he doesn't come out a say it, he seems to infer that print was only possible because he printed it with two filters.
"After due consideration I chose the 8 second grade 5 exposure, for it gave me a maximum black in the dark areas immediately adjacent to the chrome handle, had little effect on the highlight tonality, but did greatly increase the local contrast that is an important factor in any fine black and white print"
I've seen other people claim that it increases local contrast. Maybe I'm interpreting his words incorrectly.

Yes and no.
I think he is implying that having the really fine control that the procedure gives you the ability to get to that point with great precision and relative ease.
At least that is what I infer. 😉
(Apologies for the pedantry🙃).
It helps to read both that article and this one - also on his site: https://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/articles.php?page=full&article=26
Note the complexity of the Print Plan in the latter article, and how much it reveals about the potential of split grade approaches.
 

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I agree 100% but would like to test it so I can say with certainty that with a straight print the results will be identical.

Here's a way to test this hypothesis.
Get a green LED and a blue LED, and connect them to two switches. Tape them to the lens of your enlarger, or some other support, pointing down. Put photographic paper on the easel and place a negative on it to be contact printed. Now perform two tests:
  1. Straight exposure: Expose the paper with both LEDS on concurrently. Process the paper.
  2. Split exposure: Expose the paper for the same number of seconds with the LEDs on sequentially. Process the paper.
The results will be identical because the paper received the same number of green and blue photons, and the paper doesn't care when they arrived.

Mark
 

DREW WILEY

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The kinds of filters likely to be actually used are not going to be equal in density. Nor are the respective layers of the paper equally sensitive. Therefore some hypothetical LED test is going to be quite misleading.
 
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