Increasing contrast via development?

Light, film, exposure..
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Increasing contrast via development?

Postby alexn » 06 Oct 2012, 22:15

I've been doing quite a bit of BW work recently and have found that my negs never give me the dramatic contrast I expect... Firstly, I am still waiting on my Red, Orange and Yellow filters to arrive, and I know without them the contrast is always a little washed out, but is there anything I can do during development to boost the contrast a bit?

My Jobo 1500 series tank that I do all my 120 development in does not have an inversion lid (I use it mostly for E6 rotary processing, and so it has a cog lid)
Due to this, rather than inverting the tank for agitation (10sec every minute) I pick the tank up, swirl it around vigourously to the left for 3sec, swirl it around vigourously to the right for 3sec, shake it forwards and backwards for 2sec, then shake it left to right for 2sec, tap it on the sink to release bubbles and set it back down for 50sec.

Should i invest in an inversion lid and flip the tank upside down and back for 10 sec to increase agitation, and hence, increase contrast?

Help would be great! :D - Alex art photography on Facebook - Alex Nicholas Fine Art Photography

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Re: Increasing contrast via development?

Postby RoganJosh » 08 Oct 2012, 11:49

Thats a good question alexn, possibly easier to answer if I had an example or something to go by. I'll try help the best I can.

Modern b&w film doesnt react to development changes as much as it used to 80 or so years ago. I use t-max exclusively and I find that you can only build up density in your highlights to about n+1, and even then your only going to see a very modest difference.

If your metering for the shadows then your negatives will almost always appear bright and somewhat washed out when reversed which is a good thing - even if filters were used for local contrast.

As long as your neg has the general information it can be brought out/accentuated in post processing and printing. Or as some other guy said it, "the negative is the score, the print is the performance".

Is there a specific type of dramatic contrast your after? Maybe you could give an example of a photograph or an artist?

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Re: Increasing contrast via development?

Postby Lachlan717 » 08 Oct 2012, 14:49

Hi, Alex.

If I read your post correctly, it seems that you're not using the processor to do B&W. If this is the case, then you should.

I use 2xxx drums to do both 120 and 7x17 on the Jobo. Getting the corrected times for modern Developers for continuous agitation is fairly easy (it's usually somewhere around 10% less). The key, though, is not to scrimp on chemicals. If the 120 holder says 270ml, I'll use 300-330ml. The additional cost is minimal, and a huge amount less than the cost to actually get the shot onto the film in the first place.

In my opinion, you really need to do some testing of film/developer to maximise your results, both in terms of contrast and repeatability. Mind you, I don't subscribe to the school of microsecond timing and micromillilitre measure with either the shot or the developing. One third of a stop here and there will not make much of a difference to me.

In addition, I think that yellow filters are a waste of time, space, weight and money. For the contrast that I want, they do bugger-all. Even Orange filters are on the cusp. Deep orange is good, light red (R25) better and deep red (R29) are my preferred range. But you do need to understand their impact on shadow range, as well as the need to compensate the range to get some depth in the shadow without blowing the highlights...

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Re: Increasing contrast via development?

Postby alexn » 09 Oct 2012, 21:39


I do all my BW by hand... I have been told varying things about jobo development of BW films, including double development, (ie - mixing 500ml of chems as I would for inversion processing, put 250ml in at a time, and split the dev in half so instead of 10 mins inversion, do 2x5min continuous agitation.)

My testing thus far tells me this...
Efke 25 - I don't like particularly - not enough latitude for me...
Pan F+ - Very nice but not quite contrasty enough.
FP4+ - as above but perhaps a touch less sharp, but a touch more contrast.
T-max 100 - Awesome, seems touchy on the highlights though...

I've only used Rodinal and Pyrocat, Preferring Rodinal for its resolution and sharpness over Pyrocat's fine grain.. - Alex art photography on Facebook - Alex Nicholas Fine Art Photography

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Re: Increasing contrast via development?

Postby Lachlan717 » 10 Oct 2012, 06:58

Why don't you use the Jobo for B&W?

IMO, forget all the technical bullshit. Just find a readily available developer (I use Tetenal Ultra one shot. Cheap, easy to use and easy to get at Vanbar here in Melbourne). Try D-76. Try an Ilford developer. Stick with Rodinal.

But do try it in the Jobo. As I mentioned, there is a heap of info out there on development times.

As for contrast, don't put too much emphasis on the negative. Just make sure that you have enough range on the neg (this comes down to exposure and development, rather than the specific time IMO). Learn to expand/contract development times. As long as you have a decent neg, you can add contrast in the printing (either wet or digital).

If you doubt this, Google Ansel's "Moonlight over Hernandez" and look for the before and after comparison where they show a straight scan of the neg.

Andrew Nichols
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Re: Increasing contrast via development?

Postby Andrew Nichols » 18 Dec 2012, 19:22

Your magenta filters will solve all on the print.

I have the old box of ilford contrast filters new about 30 bucks.

If that's the prob.
I am not an expert but I was printing (contact) with no filters and after much expense was told I needed filters
instant success

I usually start at 2.5 magenta and see how it looks



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