Controlling Black and White Films

Controlling Black and White Films

  • The principal attraction of black-and-white film is the enormous potential for control that the medium offers. Some of the controls, such as exposure, resemble those available to the photographer working in color, but others are quite unique.

  • The first opportunity for control lies in processing the film. Prolonging development increases the density of the black-and-white negative overall, but the effect is more marked in the denser parts of the image - those areas that will form the highlights of the print. Increased development makes the highlights much brighter, but with little change to the shadows. So by changing the development, you can exert precise control over negative contrast.

  • This control over contrast continues at the printing stage. Black-and-white printing paper is available in a wide range of contrasts or grades, so that you can potentially make several different prints from the same negative, simply by changing paper. Variable contrast paper make the change even easier: you just slide a different colored filter into the enlarger.

  • As with color printing, it's possible to change the tones of any area of the black-and-white print, simply by altering the exposure given to the individual areas of the print. You can use this facility to hide portions of the landscape in deep shadow, or perhaps to darken the sky several tones.

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