We'll start at the end of the process.  First, we'll determine the paper processing, then the paper exposure, then the film processing and finally the film exposure.  

There is no universal paper processing time.  It varies according to the type of paper you use, the type of chemicals that you use, your processing method and equipment, the temperature, dissolved chemicals in the water supply, and many other factors.  If you use the processing times that someone else recommends, you are probably not getting the best results that you can since their situation is not exactly the same as yours. Little differences in these factors can lead to big differences in your results.

There are no special tools needed to complete this set of tests.  However, some test solutions are needed.  These can be purchased commercially or mixed yourself.  In addition, it is strongly suggested that you use tubes for processing instead of trays.  Not only are tubes easier on your health (less fumes), but they are easier on your wallet (you mix a lot less chemicals when you use tubes).  Most importantly, for the best, consistent results, tubes can't be beat.  With trays, the only paper that gets fresh chemicals is the first piece of paper.  All subsequent pieces of paper get a diminished development to an unknown extent.  With tubes, every piece of paper gets nothing but fresh chemicals.  Tubes also make these tests easier and more accurate.

1. Select any type of B&W or color enlarging paper. The tests must be re-run for each type of paper that you plan to use, or if you use toning or other special techniques.

2. First, you need to determine the correct fixation time for the paper.  Test for proper fixation (the removal of all unexposed silver by the fixer), as follows

3. Test for proper washing of the paper (the removal of all the fixer from the paper during the wash step), as follows:

4. Light from OUTSIDE the darkroom is sometimes responsible for fogged photographic paper. Test for darkroom light leaks as follows:

5. Light that is bright enough to fog the paper can escape from even the best-designed enlarger. Test for enlarger light leaks as follows:

6. Test for mottling from too short a paper development time.

7. Test for fog from too long a development time.

8. Select a development time which does not create mottling nor fog. Let's say you have no mottling at 2 minutes, and no fog at 5 minutes.  Longer development times will give shorter exposures under the enlarger, while shorter development times will require longer exposures. Normally, shorter development times -- with their requisite longer exposure times -- is the best way to go. This will generate the greatest total amount of saved time because the most time-consuming part of the process is developing. It will also give more time for dodging and burning due to the longer exposures. This should also make the use of wider apertures -- less diffraction -- easier to achieve. The shorter development time forces the lens to be "opened-up" as more light is needed to compensate for the shorter development.

Although some authors suggest that changes in development and exposure of photographic paper lead to changes in the contrast of the print, this is just another myth of photography. Henry's experiments (Controls in Black and White Photography) refute this; but don't take my (or his) word for it -- test it out yourself or check out his book at the library.

9. Too powerful or too close a safelight can ruin an otherwise great print.  Test for safelight fogging of the paper.

10. The reciprocity rule can mess up paper exposures just as it can ruin film exposures.  Test for reciprocity rule failure in the paper.

Now that you know how to correctly process the paper, you're ready to move on to DETERMINATION OF OPTIMUM PAPER EXPOSURE.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments about these pages, please contact the Sub Club at the FRONT DESK.

To return to the main index for the Sub Club click here.

COPYRIGHT @ 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Joe McGloin. All Rights Reserved.