The humble contact print is a very powerful tool when creating an enlarged photograph. It passes on a wealth of information in it's imperfect way. It is not just a positive record (proof) of all the images on the film but a starting point for the perfect print.
Not everyone agrees that a contact print of your processed film is needed. Instead they like to work straight from the negative. I do not have a problem with this approach except on a practical level you need a light source to view them. I use the contact print not only as a reference for all my negatives but as an indicator as to which images are going to be more of a challenge to print. It is not always possible to see this when looking at the negative.
|Making a contact print using a sheet of|
glass to keep the negative flat and in
contact with the paper.
It is not a case of one, (the negative) or the other, (the contact print) but both together. By using them in conjunction you have all the information you need about the image you are going to print leading to a more judicious use of your time in the darkroom and a greater likely hood of the first proof print being closer to what you had in mind as the final print. A couple of tweaks to the next print may fulfil your vision.
Contact printing does not require an enlarger or any special equipment. A darkened room, a frosted light bulb suspended from the ceiling and a sheet
of glass to keep the negative[s] in contact with the paper and
flat. Edward Weston used this simple method for his prints. During
the timed exposure he would dodge the image where necessary. Once
this time had elapsed he would burn in where he thought it was
needed. This method can be a bit uncertain, as you can not always
see where you need to make the adjustments unlike that of the image
projected by the enlarger. A number of large format photographers
still use contact printing as a way of making their final print from
contact printing I use my enlarger set to white light, with the lens
fully open. The projected light is greater in size than the 8x10
paper I'm contact printing with. For 35mm film I use a contact frame
and for 120 format and above a pane of glass with a ground edge so I
do not cut my fingers.
|35mm contact printer|
|120 format contact sheet.|
This indicates that the negatives on
left sides are under exposed.
There are varying opinions on whether you should set white light, use grade one or your preferred printing grade. I have always used white light with multigrade and varitone papers and yes it works very well. You get a full range of tones.
Remember a contact print in it's simplest
form is a work in progress not the finish article. I have found that
some of my negatives print better with white light than they do
graded. At one time I used to produce all my enlargements with white
light and was very happy with the out come. With experience came
sophistication and now I use graded and split graded printing methods
to get the best out of the negative.
|The enlarged image shows that this negative |
would enlarge without adjustment.
You should do what you feel is best creatively for your negatives and not let others dissuade you from that path.