In the wet darkroom , it is important to identify the best negative to print.Once a true black has been established, everything else fell into place.It is much easier to print a correctly exposed negative than one either under or overexposed.

The same principle still applies in the digital darkroom when scanning and making Inkjet prints. Although its easier to adjust less than perfect negatives in Photoshop than the wet darkroom, if one starts with the best negative, its will produce a superior print.

This is how I do my contact prints – others might do it another way.Not much equipment is needed – a $20 lightbox , an older enlarger base and column and a digital camera.The results don’t have to be perfect , just good enough to give you a snapshot of the roll of film or sheet film.I have been testing Kodak TMax400 developed in Kodak D-23 1:1 and did some bracketing on 120 film, so it was the ideal opportunity to demonstrate the digital contact print method.

The negatives are left in the print file sleeves and placed them on top of the light box and the camera mounted and leveled. After positioning the camera, it is focused, exposed and  photos taken in JPEG monochrome mode.12314522_930480687028254_3373924348820213543_oFiles are then taken in Photoshop and as they will be in negative format, they will need to be inverted.

4 by 5 neg
Image in negative form

After the image is inverted , a curves adjustment layer is selected and the black point sampling tool placed on an area of clear film that should be pure black -this completes the editing of the contact print.

4 by 5pos1
image inverted and BP established- from this point it is easy to produce a workflow

The same process is used for both 120 and 4 by 5 film and gives an accurate snapshot of the contrast ,density and exposure of each negative which is exactly what contact prints are supposed to do in the wet darkroom.These negatives are a little flat which is common when developing in Kodak D-23.

4 b5 contact
Kodak D-23 produces a fairly flat negative 

The first 3 images on the 120 roll ( below) were bracketed using Kodak T Max 400 rated at 200 asa .The first image, exposed as per incident meter reading , looks the easiest to work with.Contact print test

A quick “contact” print was made of this particular image which provides a lot of information going forward with the edit.

car test

Although not essential, its also a good idea to actually make a actual print of the “contact print” as one does in the wet darkroom .I was given some paper unsuitable for my style of printing ( Sihl Masterclass Satin Baryta ) which I use for the prints . It is then filed with the appropriate negative sleeve.


The entire process can be done in minutes once an efficient workflow is established and for me is much better than an ad hoc approach of scanning every negative or trying to pick the correct one to print.