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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