Prints are sometimes mushy, does not snap, pop out....

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by darkosaric, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    It is hard to put this in words, but sometimes I get some prints that are somehow "mushy", they look kind of "dirty"... it looks like print does not snap, there is no pop out. I am not sure why, is it the light, wrong contrast grade while printing...
    It is something like example below - upper print has all details, but does not pop out, lower has pop effect, but with too high contrast, so the details are lost - and therefore not satisfactory. Should I use higher contrast while printing, but with dodging and burning get all the details in the highlights, so that I have increased local contrast - but overall uniform contrast with no blow up highlights, and no loss in the shadows?

    It happens to me sometimes, not often - and on the same negative some frames are perfect with for example grade 3, and some are suffering with this. I doubt it is the negative developing, could be bad lightning in the scene? Some frames are good only with dual (split) grade printing and with excessive burning and dodging?

    Thanks,
     

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  2. A mushy photograph is one of the hardest to print with contrast or "pop". Sometimes they can be saved with increasing the contrast, split grades, burning or dodging, bleach, ... , but generally a lot of work does not pan out to something worth the effort. I have avoided mushy photographs by using an incident meter [especially in snow scenes] or picking out the part that I want and making the exposure put it in the desired zone. HOWEVER when a mushy photograph does get printed will it is well worth the work.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  3. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    backlit scene and camera on auto?
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi darko

    if you were to make a print JUST of the mushy part would you be able to do that ?
    if you can get that part the way you want it, dodge the upper part when you print the lower part ,,,
    and burn in the upper part as if you were printing it on its own.
    it takes a little practice but it comes naturally after a while.
    sometimes it is just dodging it a little but and burning in with a slightly higher contrast grade.
    good luck !
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    What is the enlarger type you are using? What film? What paper/grade or multigrade filtration?
     
  6. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Sorry thats garbage looking again.

    First one is too soft second one is too hard so cant you just find a grade inbetween ?
     
  7. OP
    OP
    darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I am using Focomat V35 with standard Focotar 40mm, Foma FB variable grade paper, Ilford PQ developer.
    First one is without grade filter (so grade 3 I suppose), second one 4, or 4 1/2. Film was Ilford Pan 400 in Rodinal 1+50, but they are non mushy frames on that film...
     
  8. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Try putting in a grade 2 filter and reprinting it. I suspect no filtration is actually printing at grade 0 or 00 and that if you use a 2 or 3 filter you will see a substantially more contrasty print than using no filtration.
     
  9. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Are you using fresh developer? Your paper doesn't look fogged.You look like you made the same prints twice. If you made the good one first, and have difficulty after subsequent prints, taking darkroom notes will greatly help with printing the same neg in the future.
     
  10. Jens Hallfeldt

    Jens Hallfeldt Member

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    Hi,

    no, like with most VC papers the foma is grade 2 without filter.
    I would try 2.5 and 3 next...

    Grüße
    Jens
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Using a #2 filter rather than printing with no filter makes it much easier to adjust contrast by changing filters - the exposures are much easier to match.
    Use the #2 filter and arrive at a print that gives you a pleasant near highlight rendition - say on the woman's coat.
    If the shadowed and dark areas don't appear dark and contrasty enough, adjust the filter up a half or full "grade" and print to match the tone on that coat, to see how those shadows and dark areas now appear.
    When those shadowed and dark areas and the coat appear the way you want them to, you may need to burn in highlights that are still too light and lacking detail, and dodge any dark areas that are too dark. Sometimes the burn may need to be at a softer contrast setting, but try it first at the same setting as the rest of the print.
     
  12. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    my enlarger prints around grade 0 without filtration no matter what Ilford say and it looks like OP has something similar to me - as that looks a lot more than 2 grades of contrast difference on my computer screen at least.
     
  13. bernard_L

    bernard_L Member

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    [some points already made in posts above, some not]
    • big difference between the two "prints", maybe the goldilocks print is in-between
    • no details in dark parts (coat) in either of the prints: could the negative be underexposed?
    • on some days the light is just... shitty; what can you do with poor light?
    • could you show us a digiphone pic of the negative, e.g. against a white computer screen? A comment that applies to every similar post about "problem" prints.
    • could you the device that shall remain nameless here, and show us a histogram of the negative? I bet it is poorly populated; just (a) sky areas; (b) underexposed, compressed dark tones, with little in-between.
     
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  15. Huub

    Huub Member

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    A lot has been written already, but still a few things to add:
    * When you plan to develop in rodinal or one of it's clones it might be wise to overexpose by about 2/3 of a stop, as those developers have the habit of not achieving full film speed. This will give you better shadow detail, and make negatives easier to print.
    * When there is snow in the scene or when there is back lighting overexposure won't harm either. Metering the light with an external incident meter in general gives a better idea of the exposure in those situations, as Sirius already remarked. Also remember that when using negative film over exposure is hardly ever a problem, but underexposure might lead to loss in shadow detail. So when in doubt: overexpose.
    * Always use a filter in your enlarger, as it makes moving up and down half a grade way more easy, as MattKing also remarked.
    * Start with making a print where the general contrast and tone is about right. When you think grade 4 to contrasty, go to grade 3.5 or grade 3 and try again. When the overal grade and tone is good, use burning and dodging techniques to improve the print further.
    * In the example you show in the first post, i would make a new print based on the second, hard print, about half a grade softer and perhaps a bit darker and then check overal grade and tone again.
    * Next step would be to burn in the all corners about a third stop, so the image becomes a bit more focussed. Third step would be to fill in the right upper corner with part of the building using a grade 5 filter, so the building is about the same tone everywhere.You will also have to decide how grey the sky needs to be: noticably grey or just off white.
    * One of my favourite dodging tools is an old grade 5 filter, cut up to a circle of about 2cm. I would use that to hold back te dark coat of the man, about half a stop as a first try. What a grade 5 as a dodging tool does, is to increase contrast locally, improving tonal seperation. When done right it will add just that bit of shadow detail in the dark coat, without making it look grey and muddy.
    Making good prints is a lot of work and difficult negatives take a lot of try and error and use a lot of paper, but that is the way it is.
     
  16. OP
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    darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Thank you all for detailed help :smile:.
    I am always using fresh developer and fixer.
    I see that in this example I used trix, not pan400, not underexposed npr underdeveloped. But the question was more in general, not only for this photo.
     

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  17. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Most printing problems of this type are from under-exposed negatives as you have demonstrated.

    There is no detail in the man's jacket, so your print will either show his jacket as gray (top) or all black with no detail (bottom).

    You can't print what is not on the negative.

    Try giving an extra stop of negative exposure on your next roll. I usually tell students that if the ISO is 400, set the meter to 200.
     
  18. oldtimermetoo

    oldtimermetoo Subscriber

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    The way I work with 35mm is make the first "test" print using a No.3 filter or No. 3 contrast paper. It is my understanding that, using MC papers, no filter is somewhere near a No. 2 paper. Try printing the negative again with a 3 filter. The photograph also has a "bald" sky which experience has taught me to almost always "burn-in" the sky. Snow is very unusual where I live but white sand is not and an overcast sky can make both look "grey" in a B&W and must be compensated for........Regards!
     
  19. cornflower2

    cornflower2 Member

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    Hi! If I were you I'd download a copy of enLARGE from the Apple AppStore (for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad), and use it to make a bunch of small, but-each-slightly-different whole-frame small prints, each about the size of a credit card, and keep making these tiny whole-frame prints until you find one that you like the basic look of - regard it as simply a visual artistic thing, a 'look' - this way you will quickly see what the best possible print is that you can make from your negative. Then use the enLARGE app to compute your equivalent exposure time needed to make a larger print such as the 8x10"(?) that you are showing here. Include your dodging and burning plan in the bigger print by using the settings in app. This way you get to see your print in lots of different versions first, in a tiny whole-print size - before you commit to making a larger (eg 8x810") print.
     
  20. btaylor

    btaylor Subscriber

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    I'm going to throw something in that gave me trouble for some time. I was getting mushy prints that didn't pop-- a gray flatness. I had a safelight problem. I finally got around to doing a test and found the doors on my Thomas were open too far, a minor adjustment solved it.
     
  21. mnemosyne

    mnemosyne Subscriber

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    Certainly that should be considered. Have you done a proper safelight test with the Foma paper? When I started using Fomaspeed and Fomabrom I was lazy and postponed a safelight test thinking the earlier tests I had done with Ilford and Adox were sufficient. I was wrong. When I finally came around to doing the safelight test I was shocked how quickly and easily I could fog Foma papers with my setup. To be safe, I had to move the safelight (red LEDs) a good bit away from the trays and keep exposure time to below 4 minutes. Ouch.
     
  22. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    "It happens to me sometimes, not often - and on the same negative some frames are perfect with for example grade 3, and some are suffering with this. I doubt it is the negative developing, could be bad lightning in the scene? Some frames are good only with dual (split) grade printing and with excessive burning and dodging?"

    The bottom print is certainly a good starting point that you could improve with some dodging and burning. However, the core problem is what you wrote yourself - that the scene has very flat lighting. With such lighting you are never going to achieve more than an OK looking print.

    Bests,

    David.
    www.dsallen.de
     
  23. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Excellent prints have been made of subjects with limited scene brightness range. In fact, negatives with very large density range can be the most difficult to print.
     
  24. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    That negative looks fogged to me. Are you sure no light reached the film in between camera exposure and film fixation?
     
  25. OP
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    darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    safelight is ok, other prints (on same paper with same negative) are not "problematic".
    Negative is not fogged, ot is just crappy photo from mobile phone.
     
  26. OP
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    darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Here is another example from same negative on same paper - where result is satisfactory to my eyes - even with high contrast, no shadows in dark areas - I see pop effect, it is not mushy..
     

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