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Friday, 26 November 2010


With your particular methodology why would you leave brightness at +50 and contrast at +25? I have zeroed out these items in my camera raw defaults to better identify files with the best capture quality and to eliminate false indications by added brightness and contrast.

Dear James,

'Cause with the three digital cameras I've used so far, zeroing those settings out produced a result that looked substantially darker and dingier than the photograph should and also didn't look visually consistent with the histogram information.

If it were just one camera, I'd attribute it a systematic exposure error in making the photos. Not with three.

So why does +50/+25 work better and more realistic? Idunno. Decided I didn't really care enough to investigate. But if someone here has the straight dope, I'd not mind being educated.

A null value is not inherently better in any of the ACR settings, vis "Recovery." But, use whatever works best for you.

pax / Ctein

I did my proof sheets completely differently. All you had to do was find the exposure point where the film base effectively disappeared from the picture, giving you the darkest black you will be able to achieve (I even had a list of film base anti-fogging levels and would adjust the f-stop on the enlarger lens to adjust the exposure: time was constant (and, if I remember correctly, 30s for my favorite paper, Agfa Brovira). Development was also held constant. That gave me the best feel for the ability of the negative to be scaled up to a full-size print. Obviously for B&W only: I am slightly color blind, something that I discovered only after going through several boxes of Cibachrome and wondering why everyone was saying my color balance was off when I couldn't see it...

Exploring the right adjustment to get the blackest black that still retains detail is an ongoing digital project.

“Ctein's regular weekly column, which was delayed for one day this week, will appear once more on Thursday (next week), and then will be switching to a new time slot—Wednesdays on TOP.”

What? Are you trying to increase your audience share for sweeps week? As long as you don’t trot out sensational stories about the dreaded Chupacabra, demon of the border land, I can live with that.

I do enjoy the articles by Ctein regardless of the day they appear.

Happy holidays

As I understand it, a value of 50 and 25 for Brightness and Contrast respectively, ARE the calibrated "zero" / "normal" values (so far as there is such a thing), going into a Raw conversion. We start out by assigning a "boring middle" value, from scratch. Using the lowest possible value, zero, would be an extreme choice (not a neutral one); because these settings are absolute.

When applying ACR adjustments to a JPG or TIFF, however, the "zero" point on these sliders now DOES logically mean "no change". It's a quite different context: one where adjustments accumulate, and settings are relative.

Dear John,

Doesn't sound "completely different" to me, just slightly different.

As I said to James, whatever works for you-- there's no one right path (if there were, I'd have titled this "The Only Good Way to Make a Proof Sheet").

pax / Ctein

I use photo mechanic for contacts, print a wack of them at a time automatically, titles and photographers info on the sheets. Can't live without it.

This is the best writing I have ever read on making proof sheets. It was only after doing photography for 25 years or so that I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized I needed to be making my proof sheets softer instead of making them look good. That information, plus the tip on how to use the proof sheet to estimate the starting time for printing 8x10s - great stuff to know!

The Photoshop contact sheet utility is great.
A couple years ago I used it to print 6954 images ganged together into an 8 x 124 foot print
24x96 sections actually, it's not so hard to find an 8foot wide printer but hanging a 8x30 foot print can be a drag. That's about a fifth of it in the picture.

Dear Hugh,


pax / Ctein

I think your description of a darkroom b&w proof sheet requiring a lower grade of paper presumes one uses a condensor light source for enlargements. For those of us who (properly!) used cold light or other diffuse source, such is not the case, at least in my experience.

And, especially for sheet film, my standard for proofs was that they be "better" than 90% of others' finished prints. With correct exposure and development, this could be achieved, leaving me with minimal manipulation during enlarging.

I realize this perspective raises a lot of old "discussions", but after nearly 40 years of photography, I know I'm right. :D

Dear Wee,

Nope-- I was never a fan of condensor enlargers. Always used diffuse light for my printing.

While diffuse light requires an overall higher paper contrast with silver B&W films to match the overall contrast of a condensor print, the principle is the same. I want my proof sheets to show me as much of what's in the negative as possible (without excessive tonal distortion, of course). That means no d-max in the proof sheet wherever there's film.

Best way to get that without blowing out the highlights or excessively lightening the midtones? A grade less paper contrast.

If you want your proof sheets to be works of art, be my guest. As I said to James and John, whatever you like. But it's got nothing to do with the enlarger light source.

pax / Ctein

Ctein: Thanks for the explanation, which makes sense.

In the case of LF (4x5 in my case; I physically can't handle anything larger), I can pretty easily inspect the negative by eye. So I would tend to follow your formula for 35mm.

My reason for making a "fine" proof print is to have a quick check on exposure/dmax to my standard paper grade. If I owned a densitometer, I might do otherwise.

Well, I do love a fine proof. :D

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