When enlarging b&w 35mm film in the darkroom, I cannot get a decent print unless I use a 0 or 1 grade filter. If I use no filter, the print turns out nearly completely black (even at exposure times of less than 1 sec).

Also, even with the 0 or 1 grade filter, my exposure times have to be extremely short (2-3 seconds), which doesn't allow time for dodging. My aperture is already on the smallest possible setting (F16). However with these settings (lowest aperature, short exposure (2-3 sec) and a 0 filter, most of the prints look pretty decent - nice contrast, good range of grays.

The problem of the short exposure time is exacerbated with the size of the print is small (4x6 in) - however, in all cases I seem to need to use the 0 or 1 filter.

Any suggestions on what I could be doing wrong? I have tried several different brands and types of VC paper, and the results are more or less the same.

Photo of a sample negative attached. I am adding four pictures below showing a negative and a print of two different photographs. They both required a 0 grade filter and exposure time of 2-3 seconds at the smallest aperture for a 4x6in print.

Negative for photo#1 print of photo#1 negative for photo#2 test print and print of photo#2

  • 2
    Ca you post a shot of the negative?
    – OnBreak.
    Jan 18 '20 at 17:20
  • 2
    Also, what size print are you attempting?
    – OnBreak.
    Jan 18 '20 at 17:21
  • 1
    How "dark" is your darkroom? Are you using a "safety light?" With what particular type of paper?
    – Michael C
    Jan 19 '20 at 21:00
  • Hello, sorry for the delay in responding to your question - thank you for flagging the lack of clarity. I hope these answers help: I am attempting a size that's similar to a 4 in x 6 in. The dark room is very dark and there is a safety light. I have wrapped the enlarger in cardboard to prevent any light leak from the sides of the enlarger itself. I will try now to post a photo of the negative. Jan 21 '20 at 13:58
  • 1
    Voted to re-open. Thank you for adding in the edits!
    – OnBreak.
    Jan 23 '20 at 4:54

Assuming you are using a variable contrast paper and a paper developer properly diluted (usually 2:1), likely the bulb in the enlarger is wrong, too high wattage. 1. Install a lower wattage bulb. 2. Install a dimer switch. 3. Procure a ND filter and place over the enlarger lens. 4. Procure a large ND filter or make one using gray glass and install in the filter drawer of the enlarger or piggyback under the diffuser/condenser lens. 5. Dilute the developer with water, your objective is a 90 second developing time.

  • Thank you so much for these tips. I will try the developer dilution first, and then move to the lightbulb/ND filter suggestions if neccessary (the bulb issue would be slightly hard to solve since I am checking out the lab from my university). Jan 21 '20 at 13:53

You should be able to stop down the enlarger enough to get a convenient working time.

Focus the enlarger at full aperature.

Stop down.

Test expose stripes by blocking all but a narrow strip with a piece of cardboard or something.

For a 60 second exposure do 6 stripes of 10 seconds each exposing the next stripe by moving the cardboard over. The first stripe accumulates 60 seconds of exposure, the second stripe 50 seconds ... the last stripe is 10 seconds.

Develop the test sheet, determine your time or adjust the stops and repeat.

If the aperature is already minimum, check what bulb you are using in the enlarger, it may be too bright.

  • Thanks a lot! I had my aperature at the minimum already, but I did not first focus with the aperture at the largest setting and then stop down - does doing so make a difference with regard to exposure time? Jan 21 '20 at 13:51
  • 1
    @Kari Otteburn - Focusing at full aperature just helps to optimize the focus. Jan 21 '20 at 16:52

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