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Making your Black and White prints look more silvery

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Post time: 2013-6-7 06:55:55 |Show all posts
Hello there!  You know the amazing documentary photographer - James Natchwey and you know how he makes his Black and White really dramatic with high contrast and this kind of amazing silvery sheen? How does he do that silvery sheen? It looks especially brilliant on dark skin tones. At what stage is this done - is it just the lighting or is it some dark-room enhancement? I'd love to know, so if there is anyone out there who can help I'd love the feed back!  Many thanks, Chloe            

Post time: 2013-6-8 03:02:43 |Show all posts
Hi Martin,  I hope it's ok to ask this here and I think it is, since we're discussing making a print have that nice, silvery look. I visited your site.  In the "steellife" section, there is a picture of some kind of machinery (the 2nd image), and there is that very silvery look described in the original question.  At least it appears that way.  Is that a film image?  Can you elaborate on that one?  How you metered, exposed, paper it's printed on, and anything else you think may be helpful?  Thanks.

Post time: 2013-6-8 01:22:23 |Show all posts
Actually talking about downrating film should be considered different to pull-processing.The first (often) refers to the fact, that many manufacturers define their sensitivity on ISO standards or Zone I on bf+,10. A lot of Zone System Printers prefer to see Zone I on bf+,15, hence need more exposure to gain well defined shadows. gradation and lights are controlled by callibrating the complete process with according development. Also this includes developer characteristics and individual influences like water quality.Therefore the callibrated process of many zone system printers leads to lower sensitivities then stated by the manufacturers. A parallel effect seems to be, that non-zone-system printers find it easier, to go for an overexposure and flatten the curve by underdevelopment to compensate for their measurement method (typically 35mm photogs with average metering) to get defined shadows with controlled highlights. Whereas this approach often is based on personal experience and reflects to the individual method it's consistent and ok even if (academically speaking) originating from bad measurment. This approach can be regarded as a standard use of Pull-Processing, hence reducing the options with high-contrast subjects.The both methods above are commonly referred to as downrating a film. Using Pull Processing for it's real intent, that is to compress the high dynamic range of a hard contrast motive is methodically identical to the last described, but as a deviation from standard contrast procedure. Anyway, all that theory only teaches that one should callibrate his process according to individual details.Regards,Martin

Post time: 2013-6-8 00:05:41 |Show all posts
Yes, overexposing does increase grain with conventional films (but decreases it with chromogenics). It also reduces sharpness.  Both are inevitable if you think about it. More exposure = more silver = bigger grain and lower acutance. Reducing development also reduces grain for much the same reasons: reduced development = less silver, etc. 'Pulling' film MAY result in the two canceling out, or it can go either way: depends on the film, developer, degree of overexposure and degree of underdevelopment. Whatever you do, reducing development will reduce contrast.  None of this is a matter of opinion: you can check the grain with a microdensitometer (difficult) and the sharpness with a test chart (easy).  Cheers, Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)

Post time: 2013-6-7 22:53:40 |Show all posts
PS: Mark, I meant to say that I like the images in your portfolio. The sort of stuff that makes me want to hit the streets. Roger

Post time: 2013-6-7 21:29:11 |Show all posts
The answer has to be no. The structure of the grain is inherant in the film. However, a broad 'zoning' of the film (it's not possible to vary 'zone' frame by frame with 35mm) will help. I find most films zone out to be about half of their nominal rating. ie TMax 400 is closer to 200, TMax 100 is closer to 50. This will vary from user to user, camera to camera etc. However,  down-rating the film and cutting back the dev time will result in a broader range of tones and grain which is less apparent (it's still there but not so obvious,). A lot depends on develolpers etc. One important consideration is to ensure dev, fix and wash temperatures are consistant Roger

Post time: 2013-6-7 20:00:56 |Show all posts
This may not be the best way to treat a print but I use it on some exhibition prints. I simply polish them with Kitten no. 1 car polish. It really adds depth to the blacks and gives a beautifull finish to the 'eggshell' lustre of unglazed glossy FB papers. I have no idea what the archival properties would be and therefore don't call these prints archival. Kitten is a non abrasive polish, there is sure to be a simialr product in other countries (I'm in Australia) Regards Roger

joe Hunter and family

Post time: 2013-6-7 18:07:04 |Show all posts
Downrating is over-exposing the film (e.g. 400 ASA film exposed at 160 ASA) and then reducing development. In the case of HP5, I rate it at 160 ASA and reduce the dev time by 45 percent.

Post time: 2013-6-7 16:17:29 |Show all posts
By "down-rating", do you mean overexposing?  As in, rating 400 speed film 200?  I really am waiting for the right answer, but thinking it through.  :o) (Then process normally, right?  Or else...uh...let me think - decrease developing time?  Is that right?)

Post time: 2013-6-7 14:28:56 |Show all posts
I'd be interested to learn more about "down rating" film also. I've heard the term, but have never had it explained. If someone would be so kind to, or point me to an article. Regards,Martin

Post time: 2013-6-7 12:57:44 |Show all posts
Chloe, I'm so glad I saw this thread.  I googled Natchwey's name and found his site.  Amazing work! Ronald, would you elaborate on "down-rated" ?  By how much do you?  Could you give examples of conditions and times?  Thank you. Janet

Post time: 2013-6-7 11:34:49 |Show all posts
There is no single answer.  It is probably a combination of many things.   All the previous answers have some degree of correctness.  The longer I work monochrome, the more I appreciate "down rated" film. Pushed film lacking shadow detail destroys a quality print.

Post time: 2013-6-7 09:44:24 |Show all posts
First, choice of film, and Tri-X may be a good starting point. Secondly, choice of developer. Finally, I would think he downrates the film, exposes quite generously and then prints at a higher than normal contrast.

HP5 at 160 ASA, Rodinal 1:50

Post time: 2013-6-7 08:33:42 |Show all posts
There are a couple of things I know of: 1) Use a paper with very high silver content. I really like Oriental because of the deepness of tone, and I also can get a silvery look in mid-tones and highlights. 2) Tone the print. There are a lot of different toners, and you might want to buy a book on the subject. Selenium toner can give you more of this look.
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