What’s a paper Negative

I keep getting this question when I am out shooting or when I post a scan . . . What’s a paper negative?

paper negative

As you can see in this example image the Negative is to the left and the positive is to the right, this is a paper negative

Basically I am using photographic printing paper in place of film of the same size.  You can cut down the photographic print paper to fit any camera format or pin hole camera the same as film and when it (the paper) is exposed in camera it captures the same image as a piece of film might capture where shadows are white and highlights are black . . . with shades of grey between them.  The only difference is that instead of a clear support base like film it has a paper support base.  Unlike film it is much slower and does not have the sensitivity to all wavelengths of light, it behaves much the same as early films like Tintype, or collodion or other early photo processes being sensitive to mostly blue and green light which is why one can process it under a red safe light.

The following images are positives of the scans, they where reversed in software after scanning, these are rough scans.

paper negative

Last day of winter (positive), Shot No1, Kodak 2D 8×10 , fuji 240A f/45, 10 seconds ISO=6 + yellow filter on ilford MGIV-RC paper


paper negative

Last day of winter(positive), Shot No.2 8×10, Fuji 250A f/45, 6 seconds ISO=6 + yellow filter on MGIV-RC paper

As you can see by the two previous examples the exposures are rather slow, I shoot with a yellow filter in place to tame the contrast a bit and not loose to much in the shadows or the highlights.  When I process I follow the times as listed on the FAQ sheet and and develop to completions using a dilution of 1 +19 (again highly diluted but it allows the mids to build as well as not let the highlights blow out), but this doesn’t mean I do not keep an eye on the midtones and highlight details and will pull early if I can.  One caveat is the Ilford MGIV-RC paper has some developer incorporated into the paper and will need to be factored in for any alternate developer used, such as Caffenol.

SO what are it’s benefits if its (A) slow, (B) not sensitive to all wavelengths of light, (C) has a paper backing unlike film.  Well let’s answer those questions (A) Slow, is not a drawback unless your subject is moving, flash can compensate for some movement but not all, (B) can be loaded under a safelight, can be developed by inspection under a safelight, (C) the Ilford MGIV RC paper has no manufactures marks on it and is fairly clean, if you do not want to much of the fiber backing it can be removed but it to me is part of the charm of using paper (it’s unique) and lastly . . . it is fairly inexpensive compared to film so I can experiment.  You can use fiberbase as well, although it has it’s own qwerks with drying.  Also I use 8×10 and can contact print them with no need for an enlarger.

The paper negatives scan well and print well.

8x10 camera

Out Shooting in Kings Canyon NP . . an area devastated by the Rough Fire last year


paper negative

A bleak burnt vista . . . Kings Canyon NP, after the Rough Fire Shot (positive) No.3, Kodak 2D 8×10, 240A f/64, 15 seconds, ISO=6, + Yellow filter on Ilford MGIV-RC paper

I would like to add one last thing, you cannot learn everything from books or videos or chat rooms or blogs . . . what I present here is hopefully ideas that may spark a creative chord in someone reading this and they may in turn try something I am showing or discussing.  There are as many ways to do something as there are people doing things.  With this technique and others like developing with Caffenol or using paper instead of film it is all in fun and learning which is the challenge.  I combine analog and digital techniques to reach an end goal, that goal is simple, it pleases me, if someone else likes what I have done . . . well that makes it that much nicer . . . Enjoy, create and be yourself . . .

Now . . . get off your duff and go make a picture.


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