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How to Control Contrast using the Print Developer rather than changing it through changing the filtration or paper grade.

CONTRAST CONTROLS – There are other methods that can be applied to increase or

decrease the actual contrast of the paper beyond the contrast selected for the paper being used,

either graded or by the use of a filter for multi grade. Most of these take place in the developer. for

example increasing the amount of specific chemicals in the developer solution can have an effect

on the overall contrast of the print. But the most effective way of controlling the contrast of a print is

through your method of agitation in the developer.

AGITATION – Let?s first begin by saying that you should have a standard method ofagitation for your prints. Just as you have a standard method for your film. This means a specific set

development time you use ( be it 2 or 3 mins) and a set way in which you move the print in the

solution. If you ask most people how they agitate their prints they usually respond with “..ah…I rock

the tray…”. Well how many times do you rock the tray in 1 minutes time? Do you lift the print out of

the developer during your 2-3 mins? If so, when and how often? If you know, and if you use the

exact same method each time you make a test strip and print, then your agitation can become a

control. One example of a standard method would be to use a 3 minute developing time and flip

the print twice every 30 seconds in and out of the solution, while gently rocking the tray 4 or 5 times

in between these flips. By having a set standard method of agitation, every print you run during a

session is given to the exact same amount of developer activity.

You need to agitate to insure that you are replacing the used developer that is in contact

with the surface of the print with fresh developer. The only developer in the tray that is at work on

the print is the developer that is in contact with the print. And in the most heavily exposed areas of

the print ( the shadow areas), this developer wears out rather quickly. The rest of the solution in the

tray is just waiting to be used.

The only developer that is at work is the developer that is in

direct contact with the emulsion. If you gently rock the tray, then you are slowly mixing fresh

developer with worn-out developer. If you aggressively rock the tray, then there is a good chance

that you will gradually get a complete change of developer across the print. If you remove the print

completely from the solution and then resubmerge the print, you insure a complete and quick

change of solution. All of these methods have their advantages and combining them can give you

a wide variation incontrast control over the same print.

First, think about what is happening when you place the print into the developer tray. What

do you notice? What you will see is that the areas that have received the most exposure

(shadows or blacks) are the first to appear. If you were to not agitate at all, you would then see that

the mid-range is the next to appear, but proportionally, as the time increased, you would notice

that the development in the shadow areas would slow down and then stop. This is because the

developer in contact with these areas has ceased working. It?s worn out. If at this point you were to

rock the tray or flip the print in and out of the solution, you would see an immediate increase in

density in these darker areas, as well as an increase in the mid range densities.

The more vigorous the agitation during development, the greater the contrast. The less the

agitation, the lower the contrast. Two prints made from the same negative, at the same exposure

and contrast could have the look of twodifferent contrasts.

Try this – make two prints at the same exposure and contrast. Take one, and during development,

continuously flip it in and out of the developer for the full development time. Take the other and once in

the tray, do not agitate at all for the complete development time. The results will be that the first print will

have stronger blacks than the second. But the second will have much more open shadow areas than the


How to put this information to use: To really use this information it is most important that

you have a standard method of agitation. Then you can makesubtle changes in the contrast of the

paper you are using during development.


– you have made a print at a 2 grade using your standard agitation method, but the blacks feel a bit weak.

You try a print on a 2 1/ 2 grade, but now the blacks are too strong and the shadow detail has closed up. You

now have two options; remake the print on the 2 grade and increase the agitation or remake it on the 2 1/ 2

grade using less agitation. Both will seemingly move the print to a grade in between grades 2 and 2 1/ 2. The

difference being that the 2 grade will have greater value separation in the midrange than the 2 1/ 2 grade.


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