Photographic Papers

There are many good papers on the market manufactured by Agfa, Argenta, Kodak, Ilford, Tura and others. Unlike film, papers are manufactured with different contrast ranges, called the grade of a paper. Paper grades range from 0 to 5, with grade 0 being a paper of low contrast or 'soft' paper and grade 5 a high contrast or 'hard' paper. A grade 2 paper is called normal.
There are also several 'multi-grade' papers on the market. These papers are coated with two emulsions, a 'soft' emulsion sensitive to light of one colour and a 'hard' emulsion, sensitive to light of a different colour. By changing the colour of the light that exposes the paper the grade is changed.
Photographic papers are also available with different surfaces, from matt to glossy. Some surface textures are mechanically impressed into the paper and can be disconcerting.


Paper Types
Papers are divided into two main groups:
a. Conventional or Fibre-based Papers
The photographic emulsion is coated onto the paper base after a thin baryta layer and then covered with a gelatine overcoat. During processing the solutions penetrate the paper base and therefore these papers have to be washed very long after processing. They dry slowly and have a tendency to curl up during drying. Fibre-based papers are available in different thicknesses, called the 'paper weight'.
b. Resin-coated Papers
The paper base of these papers is coated on both sides with a thin plastic layer. These papers are normally only available in one thickness, but with different surfaces. The biggest advantage of RC-papers is their short processing and drying time and the fact that they dry flat.
A cross-section of a RC-paper is shown in the figure below.


2. Paper Processing
Make up paper developer, stop-bath and paper fixer according to the manufacturers' instructions. A 2% acetic acid (glacial) solution can be used as stop bath. Bring the temperature of the solutions to 20C or higher and pour the solutions into trays that are slightly bigger than the biggest print you intend making. Place a printing tong into each tray. Tongs should not be moved from one tray to the next and the developing tong should never come into contact with the stop-bath. If it does, rinse the tong before replacing it in the developing tray. Always keep your hands and fingers out of the solutions.

1. Place the exposed print into the developer so that all areas are wetted immediately. Gently agitate the developer during the whole development time. A few seconds before the time is up, lift the print gently by one corner and allow excess solution to drain off.
Development time: 1 minute for RC-papers
3-5 minutes for fibre-based papers
2. Immerse print in stop-bath and agitate for the recommended time. Again lift it out gently, drain and put into fixer.
Time in stop-bath: 10 seconds for RC-papers
30 seconds for fibre-based papers
3. Fix print for recommended time, agitating the fixer gently. Lift print out, drain and place into a holding tray filled with water.
Fixing time: 30-60 seconds for RC-papers (consult fixer instructions)
2-3 minutes for fibre-based papers
4. When a few prints have accumulated in the holding tray, wash them in running water.
Washing time: 5-10 minutes for RC-papers
30 - 60 minutes for fibre-based papers
5. Wipe washed prints with a squeegee and place on a clean rack to dry or hang from a line with pegs.

3. Exposing a Test Print
Place a sheet or strip of photographic paper on the base board. Select your time interval, for example from 5 to 20 seconds. Set the timer on 5 seconds and expose the strip for that time. With a black piece of cardboard cover part of the paper without touching it and expose the rest for another 5 seconds. Then cover the next part of the paper and expose the rest again for 5 seconds. Repeat the last step. Process the paper as described above. Decide on the best exposure and expose a sheet of paper for that time. If the whole test strip is too light or too dark, open or close the enlarging lens. Try to expose paper between 6 and 20 seconds.

The Contact Sheet

A contact sheet is a positive copy of a roll of film on one piece of paper. It helps in selecting negatives for enlarging, deciding on composition of final prints and giving valuable information on the exposure of the print. It also minimizes the handling of  negatives.

Making a contact sheet (proof sheet)
Cut your developed and dried film into strips of 4 to 6 negatives per strip. A 36 exp. film, cut into 6 strips of 6 negatives each, fits conveniently onto a piece of 20 x 25 cm photographic paper.
With an empty negative carrier, raise the enlarger head until the area exposed on the baseboard is slightly bigger than the paper for the proof sheet. Switch off the room light and make a test strip of a 'good' negative. Process as described above. Select the best time. Place the photographic paper on the baseboard with the emulsion side up. Then put the film strips onto the paper emulsion (dull) side down and place a clean piece of glass on top. Expose for the previously determined time and process.
A 'proper proof' is a contact sheet made with the shortest time for maximum black on the photographic paper through a piece of unexposed, developed and fixed film. To select the time for a 'proper proof'; take a piece of unexposed, developed and fixed film and make a test strip with time intervals of 1 second. Wash and dry strip. In good light decide where it becomes impossible to distinguish between two adjoining black areas. The shorter time will be the time for the maximum black. A 'proper proof' gives a good indication if a film has been correctly exposed and developed.

5. Making enlargements
Place the negative of your choice in the negative carrier, emulsion (dull) side down. Make sure that the negative is dust free. Switch the enlarger light on and adjust the height of the head until the portion of the negative to be printed is the right size. With the lens wide open, focus the image on the easel. Stop down the lens and switch off the enlarger light. Expose and process a test strip, select the correct exposure and contrast and then make the final enlargement. If certain areas of your print are too dark for your liking, redo the print and use your hands or a piece of carton to hold back the light for some of the time. Keep your hand in motion so that no hard lines form on your print. If some areas are too light, they have to be exposed longer while the other areas are protected from the light.
6. Spotting and retouching prints
Unfortunately few prints are without tiny white spots caused by dust, hairs or scratches. But fortunately these can be spotted. You will need good working light, a fine brush (no. 00 or no. 000), a retouching ink or a retouching watercolour and a lots of patience.
Retouching dyes are absorbed by the emulsion and if used correctly are not noticeable. Water colours dry on the surface and are always noticeable. The best known retouching dye is 'Spotone'. It is available in different colours and can be mixed to match the tone of your print. Use a almost dry brush, start with a tone lighter than that of the surrounding area and slowly built up to the correct tone.
Black spots can be removed or lightened by bleaching with 'Spot off' or 'Farmer's reducer'. It is however very difficult to control the reduction and dense spots need more then one application. When the required tone has been achieved, the print has to be fixed and washed again.


  Index Previous Chapter - The Darkroom References