This weekend I finally got all the things I needed together to make my first contact prints. I’ve been thinking about this idea for several years now, quietly. Ever since I first thought of getting a pinhole camera in 2011 I’ve thought about making contact prints. an image featuring the first 4 prints are attached to this entry. I figure I’d share how I did it in case others might want to do this as well.
The things I used:
Safe light – 25watt red party bulb
White light – 7.5 watt night light bulb
2 clip on reflector lamps (red light was placed about an inch from the wall about 10 feet away from print and development area)
8.5″x11″ glass from a document frame (edges taped to prevent cuts and scrapes)
Film Changing bag
3 5″x7″ developing trays
Ilford Multigrade Paper Developer
Tap water used as stop bath
Ilford Rapid Fixer
Ilford Multigrade IV RC Paper (pearl finish)
Here’s the setup:
My bathroom has no windows and can be made dark even in the middle of the day. So it was an excellent choice to be turned into a temporary darkroom. I clipped the red light on to the top of a shelf high enough that the reflector could be about an inch away from the wall and the red light would be diffused and somewhat darker in the areas where I would do the printing and developing. Under the bathroom door I wedged a dark towel to block any light coming in from under the door. On the counter top I placed the foam block with a piece of glass and the negative I planned on printing. Next to that was my white light ready to be picked up and used but not turned on. In the tub I had the 3 developing trays with appropriate amounts of developer, stop bath, and fixer. On the floor was my film changing bag with box of paper inside.
I first used the film changing bag as a paper safe because I wasn’t sure if the red light would fog the paper. and I didn’t want to ruin a whole box of paper to figure that out. An extra precaution but not a bad idea when you’ve got a box of 100 sheets of paper.
Once I extracted a single sheet of paper from the box, the next step was to close the box of paper and open the bag to remove the paper and place it on the foam block, then lay down my negative, emulsion side down. Taking care to line it up and center the negative on the paper. Lowering the glass slowly to make sure not to disturb the careful alignment of the negative and paper.
I picked up my 7.5 watt white light and held it at about a distance of 18-20 inches above the paper and negative. and turned it on and off for half a second. Next I lifted the glass and pulled the paper out and placed the paper in developer following the instructions for my developer and paper combination. For me that was 1 minute of developer followed by 10 seconds of stop bath and 30 seconds in rapid fixer. Once that was done I ran tap water from the tub on the paper to rinse off any chemicals and then a second rinse in the bathroom sink before hanging to dry. The total time spent was about 3 minutes per print.
I was fairly shocked at how quickly I became accustomed to the process and how simple it was to see the problems and correct them on a print by print basis. I ended up using 10 sheets of paper and got 6 good prints out of the session.
How I arrived at my half second exposure time for the paper was that I first started with 5 seconds on, which yielded a completely black print. Next try was 3 seconds, followed by 1 second and then a half second. All of this was at a distance of about 18-20 inches above the paper. I’m going to try another run at a larger distance to see if I can increase the on time which would make it easier to control contrast and exposure value for the prints. If you’re trying this for the first time expect to spend a little time and paper to get the timing right. If you’re having trouble what I found was that the closer the light the less the light needs to be on. Farther away, the light needs to be on for longer. If anything measure things and once you start getting prints that you like, stay consistent in your distance and times.
All in all it was a very successful first run and I look forward to making many more prints.