How To Make Enlarged Analog Negatives

August 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

How To Make Enlarged Analog Negatives by Tim LaytonHow To Make Enlarged Analog Negatives by Tim Layton I get a lot of questions on how I make my 8x10 large format enlarged negatives for our Wild Horse silver gelatin gallery prints, so I decided to write this article to help you. 

The process is much easier than most people think.  You simply take your original smaller negative and make an interpositive.  The interpositive can be a contact print or enlargement and then use that to make the new enlarged negative.  You treat the interpositive just like you were making a print in the darkroom, only it is on film.  Since your source and target media will always be opposite, when you take your new interpositive and either contact print it or enlarge it, you get a new and bigger negative.  It really is that easy and I explain how to do all this in the sections below.   

First, I will share why I make the 8x10 large format negatives and then I will share the technical details so you can run with the process and make your own enlarged negatives. 

Tim Jr. and I specialize in making very large wild horse black and white silver gelatin gallery prints.  We use our Beseler 45V-XL with the 8x10 conversion kit along with the Heiland LED cold light and Splitgrade systems.

Join Tim Layton on YouTubeJoin Tim Layton on YouTube Darkroom Underground - Underground -

Because of the speed and mobility requirements associated with wild horses, we use 35mm cameras with big and fast telephoto glass in the field.  There is simply no way to use our 8x10 large format view camera in this scenario.  

We have found that the upper limit of print sizes from optimal 35mm negatives is about 11”x14” or 16”x20” occasionally if all the stars are in alignment.  Since we specialize in making 40”x60” silver gelatin prints, we needed a bigger size negative and this is where the idea came in to start making enlarged negatives.  We print optically using classic traditional methods, but there is the possibility of having a professional drum scan on a 35mm negative that could lead to a different workflow than I use.  I don't go down that path, so I don't have any advice or comments about a hybird approach like that.


At a high level, you need to use your original 35mm or other smaller negative and make an interpositive as the first step.  We have tried a variety of ortho films as well as Bergger print film and found that Bergger print film gives us really good results and has fewer dust problems.  

If you decide to use ortho films, you will need to find ways to cut the light down to give you more time for adjustments.  I use my Heiland LED system to help with cutting the light down because it has a feature on the controller to vary the intensity.  You can also use ND filters and similar methods as well.  When making your interpositive you want enough time to be able to dodge and burn to make some adjustments and I aim for 20 to 30 seconds for my operating time. 


Since my source negative is 35mm for my wild horse images, it makes sense to enlarge to 4x5 Bergger print film for my interpositive because I won't really have any loss of quality at that size.  

You treat the Bergger print film just like you are making a regular darkroom print.  It is just on film versus being on paper.  Use all the same methods that you do to make a regular darkroom print to find your best exposure and development times.

I also gain the advantage of cropping and adjusting the image placement on the new 4x5 format.  Going from a 2:3 aspect ratio of 35mm to 4:5 with 4x5 large format, there will naturally be some cropping, so I tend to shoot wide in the field knowing I will be converting to 4:5 aspect ratio.

To get started making your interpositive, you will just simply need to do some trial and error to help establish some reasonable boundaries for your negatives.  Your negatives are almost certainly much different than mine and I cover some tips and guidelines below. 

Next, I load my 4x5 enlarged interpositive into my enlarger and then I can make my new negative up to 20x24 with pre-cut sheets of Bergger film.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Bergger is making sheets of this film from 4x5 up to 20x24 and they have rolls of it even bigger.  

To find out the best exposure, just make a step wedge print, just like you do when making an initial print in the darkroom.  I like to make 2 second increments.  Once you get through the process a few times, you establish some common boundaries and the process becomes much more intuitive and easy.  But the key is "you" need to do the work and reading my article or spending time in forums won't really help you beyond getting started. 

To help get you started, use HC110 1:47 for 5 min to develop the Bergger print film interpositive. Alternatively, you could use Dektol at 1:9 as a starting place and you can work under red safelights making your life a lot easier. 

Do not over agitate the print film. Based on the contrast of your interpositive, you may need to use a different dilution. There is no way for me to give you a specific answer.  You need to test and find what works for your negatives.  

Select an exposure time that has shadow details desired and select a developer dilution that provides highlights that are not too dense (blown out).  

Thick and high contrast negatives are good for Platinum and Silver Chloride, but may be challenging for silver printing.  You need to create the negatives for your printing process requirements.  

Treat the interpositive like you are making a regular darkroom print and treat enlarged negative like it was a new in camera negative. 

HELPFUL GUIDELINES: exposure time determines shadows and developer dilution controls contrast for your interpositive.  Commit that to memory because this is counterintuitive to photographers that have a lot of experience developing black and white negative film.

Judge each step (interpositive and final negative) on light table.   Look for enough density for good highlights and enough transparency for good detail in shadows. I tend to make a test strip at 2 sec. increments, and then select best time paired with a developer dilution that gives me the desired contrast. Since each step in the process builds contrast, you need time and experience to make judgement calls along the way.  There is not way for me or anyone to give you answers to making enlarged negatives from your film.  

Now it is time to make your full working interpositive at the best exposure time and developer dilution. I tend to make a couple different ones and then if it is a common scene or subject, I take good notes and then I have a solid starting place in the future. 

Use the guidelines and tips above to help you determine when you have a good interpositive and new enlarged negative. For my enlarged negative I like to use FP4 and other people like to use many different films ranging from T-Max 100 to even ortho films.  If you use an ortho film, just know that you won't be able to use contrast filters with your printing process.  I typically rate my FP4 at EI 50 to help slow down the exposure time and then adjust my HC110-B development time accordingly to give me the contrast and density desired for my target printing process.  I mostly make enlarged negatives for making big silver gelatin enlargements, but I also make them for contact printing processes like AZO silver chloride and platinum too.    

The Bergger printfilm is coated on a 175 micron PET base and has a special red colored anti-static layer on the back of the film which is part of the reason for its very high resolution. 

The film is mainly sensitive to blue light and it is safe to use under regular darkroom safelights too. The new print film also has an anti-static layer which should help with all those little annoying dust particles that drive us nuts.

I hope this article helps get you started making analog enlarged negatives and making the types of analog prints that you enjoy creating.

You can also refer to the third edition of the Darkroom Cookbook for some additional information on making enlarged negatives that may help you as well. 

The best thing you can do is take the guidelines that I shared with you above and get started with the process.  Only time and experience will lead you to your desired state.  

-Tim Layton

Join Tim Layton on YouTubeJoin Tim Layton on YouTube Darkroom Underground - Underground -

What Are Art Buyers & Collectors Saying About Tim Layton Fine Art?

Darkroom Underground - Underground - "I just received my handmade silver gelatin fine art print from Tim Layton and it is absolutely stunning!  

I want other people to know the attention to detail that Tim puts into the making of his fine art.  

As a fellow large format photographer and printer of my own B&W darkroom prints, I can tell you that Tim’s work is exceptional.  

Now having this print in my hands, I can tell you that this selenium-toned print looks three-dimensional.  That is high praise considering we work in a two dimensional medium.  If you have not already joined Tim’s Fine Art Print Club, I strongly recommend that you join now! You will not regret your decision. -John D'Angelo, NY

Ice Princess 30x40 Silver Gelatin Fine Art Wild Horse Print by Tim LaytonIce Princess 30x40 Silver Gelatin Fine Art Wild Horse Print by Tim Layton "The size of your prints are amazing, but it’s the minute detail and tonal range you capture that give your images their aesthetic qualities. Every one of your handmade fine art prints that I have seen, has blown me away to the point I pause the video to look at them more closely.  It never ceases to amaze me how you create images that look so simple, and yet many of us watching that doesn’t mean easy. I can only dream of capturing anything 1/10th as beautiful as you do." -Mark Harris

"I have been following Tim's journey for some time now; I shoot mostly 4x5 and some 8x10, and have a small business, Zee Zee LightBenders, that specialises in alternative printing in cyanotype, Salt, Kallitype and of course traditional black and white silver gelatine. I have been following Tim's quest on the Wild Horses of Missouri and was lucky enough to purchase "The Nomads" print. I live in Africa, so nothing moves with speed. 60 days later I received the package from Tim, no fault of his, that's how we roll in Africa.
Well, was the wait worth it? - ABSOLUTELY!!!! A beautiful print on textured paper. I went on a Namibia trip to see the wild horses there in January this year so I can absolutely relate to this experience. 

Keep up the good work Tim, love your work and contribution to conservation" -Rodney Rudman, Cape Town, South Africa

Join Tim Layton on YouTubeJoin Tim Layton on YouTube "The artwork by Tim Layton is very unique, all handmade, from the negative to the final print on Ilford MGIV fiber paper and gently toned in selenium.  The tones are subtle, and distinct, and placed in just the right grey scale zones so the overall contrast of the print feels complete - from pitch black to delicate highlights. Holding one of his prints in your hands and viewing it carefully in daylight will reveal the beauty of his handmade darkroom prints.  In addition, Tim's prints are simply beautiful and artistic." -Anders Blomqvist, Sweden

If you want to help support our film and darkroom work, click on the Amazon or B&H Photo logos below and we earn a small commission when you use our links at no additional cost to you. Every little bit helps and we appreciate your support.  

B&H Photo VideoB&H Photo Video

Darkroom Underground - Underground -

What Are Members Saying About The Darkroom Underground?

Join Tim Layton on YouTubeJoin Tim Layton on YouTube There is no shortage of people providing information on photography on YouTube and the internet.   Some  are even aimed at the analog photographer, but what Tim has done with the Darkroom Underground (DU) is nothing short of pure brilliance.  DU is not only for the analog photographer it is also for the Large Format &  Ultra Large Format Photographer.  I don’t know of anyone else who is covering ULF.

He has simplified learning with wonderful videos that are supplemented with show notes so you have all the information for you to do this on your own. But unlike anything else out there you have Tim as a resource, too. He has always been easily available for questions or clarification and he welcomes suggestions for future shows.

If you are serious about learning all aspects of analog and LF/ULF this is the place to be. -Michael Wellman

Darkroom Underground - Underground - "Tim Layton is providing very useful information for all those who are interested in analog photography and large format cameras. He covers in a very detailed and entertaining way the different aspects of this field. He always takes the time to explain the details and share all his know-how. Nothing is hidden or secret. Everything is on the table. 

The videos and blogs are shot and edited in a very professional way. Tim is always ready to receive and share the suggestions and ideas coming from other people. He is a very good community manager. 

I would like also to underline the growing role of his son, Tim Junior who contributes also greatly to the quality of the videos, text and explanation. Last but not least, Tim is always welcoming suggestions and questions and ready to interact. I recommend warmly the work of Tim Layton. -Stéfane France


Darkroom Underground Academy by Tim LaytonDarkroom Underground Academy by Tim Layton

Tim Layton Fine Art All Access Pass B&W Darkroom Photography Video WorkshopB&W Darkroom Photography Video Workshop Large Format Photography Video Workshop SeriesLarge Format Photography Video Workshop Series B&W Large Format Floral Still Life Video WorkshopB&W Large Format Floral Still Life Video Workshop Large Format B&W Film Testing Video WorkshopLarge Format B&W Film Testing Video Workshop Large Format Paper Negative Video WorkshopLarge Format Paper Negative Video Workshop DIY UV Printer Design & Build Video WorkshopDIY UV Printer Design & Build Video Workshop Platinum & Palladium Printmaking with Vellum Video WorkshopPlatinum & Palladium Printmaking with Vellum Video Workshop

Read Testimonials from photographers and collectors from around the world.

Buy Your Photography, Video, & Technology Gear at No Additional Cost To You From B&H Photo


Fujichrome Provia 100F - Fujichrome Velvia 100 - Fujichrome Velvia 50 - Kodak Portra 160 - Kodak Portra 400  - Kodak Ektar 100 - Fujicolor Pro 400H - Fujicolor Crystal Archive Silver Gelatin RA4 Paper - RA-4 Color Print Processing Developer & Processing Chemicals - Color Darkroom Enlargers 


Ilford HP5 PlusIlford FP4 Plus - Ilford Delta 100 - Ilford Delta 400 - Ilford Delta 3200 - Ilford Pan F Plus - Ilford XP2 Super - Ilford SFX - Ilford ID-11 - Ilford DD-X - Ilford Microphen


Kodak Tri-X - Kodak T-Max 100 - Kodak T-Max 400 - Kodak Portra 160 - Kodak Portra 400 - Kodak Ektar 100 - Kodak P-3200 - Kodak Ektachrome - Kodak D-76 - Kodak XTOL - Kodak HC-110

Jobo CPP-3 processer - Ilford RC Pearl Paper - Ilford RC Glossy Paper - Ilford Multigrade Fiber Paper - Ilford Stop Bath - Ilford Rapid Fixer - Neutral FixerKodak Photo-Flo - Hypo Clearing Agent - Darkroom Trays - Chemical Storage Jugs - Nitrile Gloves - Film Archival Storage Sleeves - Archival Storage Binder - Archival Print Storage Boxes

Note: I participate in affiliate programs where I earn a small commission on some select products that I provide links for on my website at When you use these links, I earn a small commission and there is no additional charge to you.



No comments posted.