Mottled (Grainy?) B&W Prints

Ideal_format

TPF Noob!
Joined
Aug 16, 2020
Messages
10
Reaction score
5
Location
Santa Cruz, CA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
I am very new to film photography, but decided to begin this as a hobby during COVID. I built a darkroom in my garage and have constantly had the same issues of black's appearing very mottled/grainy and rough - not smooth and clean like I've seen other B&W prints from prints on this site. The negatives appear to be developed properly, but when developing prints everything seems off from what I see in the looper.

I have a Beseler 23C II Enlarger with a Nikon EL Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 lens

Both test prints were used with this print setup:
Paper: Ilford Multigrade 5x7
Developer: Ilfosol Multigrade 1+9 @ 60 seconds
Stop Bath: Ilfostop 1+19 @ 15 seconds
Fixer: Ilford Rapid Fixer 1+4 @ 30 seconds

Image MelPark settings: f/16 w/Multigrade filter 2
Image PamTree settings: f/11 w/Multigrade filter 2

Aside from them being over/underexposed with the enlarger, after finishing the print process with chemicals, the colors come out very grainy and not smooth at all. Is this because of the exposure time with enlarger? Wrong filter? Too little time in developer? Even when photos are developed with proper exposure, they come out looking really rough.

Sorry if this is noob stuff, but I would really like to continue to improve on this process as I am finding it a great way to relieve stress. Thanks for any help!!
 

Attachments

  • MelPark.JPG
    MelPark.JPG
    490.2 KB · Views: 379
  • PalmTree .JPG
    PalmTree .JPG
    380.6 KB · Views: 315
Also I should note that these are both the same film - Kodak Tri-X 400 shot on a Nikon F3/T
 
Safelight fogging of your enlarging paper would be my first guess. My second guess would be that you are not developing your Prints for the full length of time. Either of these two situations can cause muddy blacks.

Related to Safelite fogging would be a slight dark room light leak... It does not take much white light contamination to make your blacks muddy.

Another possibility is that you have somehow accidentally exposed your enlarging paper supply to a very brief amount of white light.
 
Another safelight issue might be the filter isn't designed for the paper you're handling.
 
Safelight fogging of your enlarging paper would be my first guess. My second guess would be that you are not developing your Prints for the full length of time. Either of these two situations can cause muddy blacks.

Related to Safelite fogging would be a slight dark room light leak... It does not take much white light contamination to make your blacks muddy.

Another possibility is that you have somehow accidentally exposed your enlarging paper supply to a very brief amount of white light.
Thanks for the response! I think you may be right with the exposure of the paper to light at some point, especially since I have seen this with all the prints. Regarding light leak - I only use the darkroom when its dark and all my windows are blacked out with vinyl. Could other sources like a small LED from the light switch cause issues like this or is that not bright enough? I just bought some Multigrade RC paper to use something that is a little less expensive while trouble shooting.
 
Another safelight issue might be the filter isn't designed for the paper you're handling.
Thanks for the suggestion. I am using the Multigrade FB Matte paper with Ilford #2 filter in the upper housing (I do have a filter on the lower housing between the negative and the lens, but I do not use that). Contrast aside, would the filter cause muddy blacks? If so, what would you suggest to help resolve this?
 
Yes even the light from a small LED could cause some fogging on your paper.

You can test for fogging by placing some coins on top of a piece of photographic paper and letting the paper sit in the dark room for about 90 seconds, then develop/stop/fix the paper using your normal working method. If you see white outlines of the coins,then you know that the paper is being fogged,either by light pollution or by the darkroom safelight.
 
Last edited:
Could other sources like a small LED from the light switch cause issues like this or is that not bright enough?

Yes, it could definitely cause issues. Darkrooms should have NO LIGHT of any kind. Zip. Nada. Turn out the lights and wait 10 minutes. If you see ANY light, fix it.

I think you have multiple issues here and I strongly recommend using RC paper before moving to FB paper.

How was the fim exposed and processed?
 
Another safelight issue might be the filter isn't designed for the paper you're handling.
Thanks for the suggestion. I am using the Multigrade FB Matte paper with Ilford #2 filter in the upper housing (I do have a filter on the lower housing between the negative and the lens, but I do not use that). Contrast aside, would the filter cause muddy blacks? If so, what would you suggest to help resolve this?

To test the safelight, just pull out a sheet of paper under the light of it, lay it on the counter, place a common item (car keys, scissors, cell phone) on the paper and just let it sit there for a couple minutes. Develop it like normal. If you can see an outline of the object outlined on the developed paper, then the safelight is an issue.
 
Could other sources like a small LED from the light switch cause issues like this or is that not bright enough?

Yes, it could definitely cause issues. Darkrooms should have NO LIGHT of any kind. Zip. Nada. Turn out the lights and wait 10 minutes. If you see ANY light, fix it.

I think you have multiple issues here and I strongly recommend using RC paper before moving to FB paper.

How was the fim exposed and processed?
Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look for any issues tonight before I move on to develop more prints.

Negatives are developed in the same room with safelight off. I have not yet seen issues with negatives, aside from my own mistakes. I have the Paterson 2 Reel tank and use 600ml liquid (all with distilled water) using the following process:
Ilfosol-3 Developer 1+9 - 4 inversions each minute for 6 minutes
Ilfosol Stop Bath 1+19 - 8 inversions around 20 seconds
Ilfosol Rapid Fixer 1+4 - 4 inversions each minute for 4 minutes
Rinse - 5 seconds, dump, 10 seconds, dump, 20 seconds, dump, final rinse is 580ml water + 20ml wetting agent for 5 seconds, dump.

I read around the site for other methods and it really seems like most people find what works for them. My method is based off the Ilford video on Youtube and the recommendations on the film box / chemicals. Any guidance much appreciated!
 
Negatives are developed in the same room with safelight off.

If your darkroom has light leaks (such as the LED you mentioned) then you may have some base fog on the negs which looks possible (though you haven't posted your negs). Film is even more sensitive to light than paper. Newbies often underestimate how light-sensitive modern materials are.

I suggest diligently fixing any darkroom light leaks and running another test.
 
In looking at the images you've shown here, to me it appears to be issues with your negatives and not your printing, although there are issues there as well. So, lets talk about this for a moment.

Grain comes from the negative and not the paper. You are using a processor to run your film, and part of the issue with this is that the more agitation you have, the more pronounced the grain will be. I never, ever processed black and white in any kind of processor, only stainless steel tanks and reels. My agitation was one inversion per second and I would rotate the canister at the same time. Gentle.

Next, you never mentioned what temperature you are developing the film at. 68 degrees is the standard, and it seems to me that if you're developing the film in 60 seconds, you're either too hot, chemical-wise or your "pushing the ISO of the film as well. Tri-X shouldn't be nearly so grainy. My typical development time with D-76 was about 6-8 minutes. It is HIGHLY important to keep all of your chemistry at a consistent temperature, as well as your prewash, stopbath (I used water) and post processing wash and photo-flo. ALL need to be at the same temperature. If I could see your negatives, we could tell a lot more about what's specifically going on. If the temperature is fluctuating, you can get a thing called "Reticulation", which looks very similar to grain, but is caused by changes in temperature. When I shot high school football, I pushed Tri-X to 3200 ISO and developed in Acufine (1.5 minutes @95 degrees) and all other chemistry was the same temperature and I STILL didn't have the grain you have. So, I would bet money it is your film and the processing. Try hand-processing.

The other thing that I suspect is that the exposure is off on the negatives themself. If you can post a photo of the negative as a negative, showing the sprockets as well, we can really get into trouble shooting, but outside of being able to see that, much of this is speculation from the experience of developing film for 35 years. If you post an image of a negative, we will be able to give you a more precise answer. It is the film though, not the enlargement.

The other thing you may want to check is defusing the light within the enlarged. It is a condenser enlarger and is meant to show very exact detail. Defusing the light before it gets to the negative may help a bit, but will not eliminate the issue completely. I would also recommend you go up at least a grade in your contrast (also a hint that you're under exposing or under developing your film...) you have some pretty muddy prints and you should have more contrast. Looking at these, I am guessing a grade 4 paper. The negatives, once again, will tell the story here. Post them and I will take another look.

Cordially,

Mark
 
Also I should note that these are both the same film - Kodak Tri-X 400 shot on a Nikon F3/T

Aside from any light leak issues in the dark room, you are using one of the grainiest films you can get. If you want smooth, fine details then try a less grainy film. I shot a ton of Tri-x back in the day and knew they would be grainy. I embraced it and used the grain as part of the effect I was looking for in low light, high contrast shots. If you think it's grainy now, shoot it push processed it 2 or 3 or even 4 full stops. lol

If I wanted smooth tones and details I'd use Plus-x Pan instead. But with an ASA of 25 it was slow and needed lots of light.
 
Also I should note that these are both the same film - Kodak Tri-X 400 shot on a Nikon F3/T

Aside from any light leak issues in the dark room, you are using one of the grainiest films you can get. If you want smooth, fine details then try a less grainy film. I shot a ton of Tri-x back in the day and knew they would be grainy. I embraced it and used the grain as part of the effect I was looking for in low light, high contrast shots. If you think it's grainy now, shoot it push processed it 2 or 3 or even 4 full stops. lol

If I wanted smooth tones and details I'd use Plus-x Pan instead. But with an ASA of 25 it was slow and needed lots of light.

I have an image in the current challenge for "Triangles" that was shot on Tri-X at 1600 ISO, and I invite you to take a look at it, it is not nearly as grainy. Good processing will minimize the grain.
 
In looking at the images you've shown here, to me it appears to be issues with your negatives and not your printing, although there are issues there as well. So, lets talk about this for a moment.

Grain comes from the negative and not the paper. You are using a processor to run your film, and part of the issue with this is that the more agitation you have, the more pronounced the grain will be. I never, ever processed black and white in any kind of processor, only stainless steel tanks and reels. My agitation was one inversion per second and I would rotate the canister at the same time. Gentle.

Next, you never mentioned what temperature you are developing the film at. 68 degrees is the standard, and it seems to me that if you're developing the film in 60 seconds, you're either too hot, chemical-wise or your "pushing the ISO of the film as well. Tri-X shouldn't be nearly so grainy. My typical development time with D-76 was about 6-8 minutes. It is HIGHLY important to keep all of your chemistry at a consistent temperature, as well as your prewash, stopbath (I used water) and post processing wash and photo-flo. ALL need to be at the same temperature. If I could see your negatives, we could tell a lot more about what's specifically going on. If the temperature is fluctuating, you can get a thing called "Reticulation", which looks very similar to grain, but is caused by changes in temperature. When I shot high school football, I pushed Tri-X to 3200 ISO and developed in Acufine (1.5 minutes @95 degrees) and all other chemistry was the same temperature and I STILL didn't have the grain you have. So, I would bet money it is your film and the processing. Try hand-processing.

The other thing that I suspect is that the exposure is off on the negatives themself. If you can post a photo of the negative as a negative, showing the sprockets as well, we can really get into trouble shooting, but outside of being able to see that, much of this is speculation from the experience of developing film for 35 years. If you post an image of a negative, we will be able to give you a more precise answer. It is the film though, not the enlargement.

The other thing you may want to check is defusing the light within the enlarged. It is a condenser enlarger and is meant to show very exact detail. Defusing the light before it gets to the negative may help a bit, but will not eliminate the issue completely. I would also recommend you go up at least a grade in your contrast (also a hint that you're under exposing or under developing your film...) you have some pretty muddy prints and you should have more contrast. Looking at these, I am guessing a grade 4 paper. The negatives, once again, will tell the story here. Post them and I will take another look.

Cordially,

Mark
Wow! Thanks for all the information Mark. I really appreciate it.

I am hand processing using a Paterson 2 reel tank. I used water at 68ºF but do not have a temperature controlled environment, however, where I live it rarely gets above 70º at night. The print developer is 60 seconds, film developer at 6 minutes.

I have a B&W enlarger, no color, and this is multigrade paper with a #2 filter. I could try and use a #3 to bring up contrast (i think a lot of the prints are too dark so that will be my next attempt). I will post negatives and a couple other prints from this same batch in a separate post.
 

Most reactions

New Topics

Back
Top