A Call Out to Large Format Contact Printers

March 02, 2016  •  19 Comments

8x10 large format contact prints by Tim Layton I wanted to send this call out to the large format contact printers around the world and get your thoughts. I am going through a lot of change right now.  I am building a new and smaller darkroom, and I also want to simplify my workflow by using fewer mediums, papers, etc.  There aren't many of us left and so I am thankful that we have an online community to share these types of thoughts with.   

​I have started a draft of a new article that will discuss my thoughts about the various processes that I have worked with over the years and my thought process behind narrowing down my options for the sake of simplicity.

My first question to you is: what is your favorite medium for large format contact printing?  Be specific within your choice.  For example, if you say film, list your film and developer and why you made this choice.  

Second question, what is your favorite printing method and paper choice? (e.g., silver gelatin, Pt/Pd, AZO, etc.) and why?  

Third question, what format do you use and why?  For example, 4x5, 8x10, 11x14, etc.  

I look forward to your responses and hopefully, we will all learn something new from one another.

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Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi Brian, thanks for commenting. Good to hear from you. I have been using Pyro HD in my Jobo for several years on FP4+ with exceptional results. The tweaks between Hutchings Pyro and Sandy's Pyro HD was conceived because of the nuances of drum development. I can tell you via my personal experience that it works great. I've done a lot of Pt/Pd printing over the years, probably 200+ and while I like it, I am starting to grow in new areas that have a more emotional response (at least for me) such as Bromoil printing from my 8x10 and 11x14 negatives. I have been a long-time student of Pictorialism and have collected several soft-focus lenses over the years. I plan to explore this genre more deeply with negatives ranging from paper negatives to X-Ray films and my SF lenses. Once my new darkroom is completed, I am really looking forward to exploring these new areas. Stay in touch.
Brian Wiese(non-registered)
Not directly related to contact printing... but just wanted to add what I learned recently:
At the View Camera magazine (viewcamera.com) workshop in Monterey this month, it seemed like quite a few people use "Pyro PMK" developer (note: Gordon Hutchings was in attendance and of course a great supporter of it, the author of "The Book of Pyro", though I have not tried it yet). The reason for Pyro is that is has nearly maintains nearly unlimited highlight detail - has less of a "shoulder" on the exposure highlight detail curve where most flattens out - yet instead goes on and on, and also has a long shelf life. It is a staining and hardening developer though, so use a non-hardening fixer like Ilford Rapid Fix or Photographers Formulary TF-4 or TF-5. Popular films include FP4 (at ISO 80), HP5 (at ISO 200), Tri-X (at ISO 160), and Delta 3200.

I print only silver gelatin right now - but mostly because I'm just beginning. Platinum printing sounds impressive and very archival. I'm shooting 4x5 now only to practice but plan to shoot 8x10 (or 4x10 panos) in the future. I'm shooting FP4 now just because I heard it has great detail for landscape, though will try others.
Tim Layton Fine Art
Sverre, thanks for your comment. I am very familiar with the films, developers and papers for large format contact printing. I am happy to share my experience and knowledge. Feel free to email me directly.
Sverre Aurstad(non-registered)
I'm setting up a small darkroom for 8x10 film development and contact printing this spring. I come from the traditional darkroom, but have had a hybrid work flow the last ten years. Now looking forward to make silver gelatin 8x10 contacts. It would be nice to exchange views on film, developers and papers. I now use HP-5 or Acros in Diafine and will probably start out with selenium toned Fomalux 111 paper i D-72. May be also Lodima/Amidol if I can justify the cost. Interested in trying our mulitgrade enlarging papers as well. Really hope this can develop into a forum for contact printing between photographers that have no financial bonds to specific products.
George L Smyth(non-registered)
The format for me is whatever film U happen to have on hand. It would be nice to be able to afford to purchase a hundred sheets when needed but it doesn't really work like that. However, I am fortunate to have had a number of friends give me their old film. I recently finished a box of Tri-X and am working on some HP5+. When that is done I will be using halftime film in my pinhole cameras. I generally find the best use of D76 to develop the film because it is easy to mix myself.

Silver gelatin is my preferred method as I have recently started making my own. I am getting ready to start a project that will be done with albumin. (When not contact printing I do a lot of Bromoil work.)

Sizes are usually 4x5 and 8x10,though I will probably switch to 5x7" when working with digital negatives.
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