Adjusting contrast on graded papers?


TPF Noob!
Jan 18, 2013
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Is it possible to reduce or increase contrast on graded paper? If I have only #3 paper available and want to print a negative softer, is there a way to do that (aside from possibly using a texture screen or diffuser)? Also the opposite; is there a way to print a harder image using, say, #2 paper?
You would have to manipulate the developer stage, but it would not be the same as changing paper grades.
It's very difficult to get graded paper to reduce contrast and still produce acceptable results. As Dennis noted one way is to concentrate on the developer stage. An option is to pull the paper from the developer just a tad early but you risk compromising your black. Another option is to apply a light general fog to the paper. I used to do this with a negative glassine sleeve. I would leave the negative in the enlarger with the lens stopped down to my printing f/stop and my general print time already determined. Then holding the glassine under the lens I'd turn on the timer for between 1/2 to the full determined print time to apply the fog. If you're persnickety you can run some tests to determine how much fog you can get away with without compromising paper white.

Going the other way you can add potassium bromide or benzotriazole (restrainers) to the developer and extend (double or more) the developing time. This can get you nearly an entire paper grade of additional contrast.

I used to use 'chemical dodging' to control contrast with graded FB paper. It's not the same as using a softer grade, it's more like what is now called tone mapping. I have described it a few times on the web. I won't rehash it all, so here are some links to get you started. Feel free to ask questions and I'll answer if I have time (it's a busy Christmastime here in the studio...):

"Chemical dodging"?
You could overexpose the paper and then shorten the development time. The overexposure decreases the problem Joe mentions of compromising the black. This is sort of the equivalent of shooting film at a lower ISO than its rating and then underdeveloping - has the overall effect of decreasing contrast, just as the opposite (pushing film by shooting at higher ISO and overdeveloping) increases contrast.

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