Choosing a Photographic Paper

Although paper grade or variable contrast filter 2 is standard for Normal contrast negatives, experienced photographers know that every brand and grade of paper has unique characteristics. One of the objects of Zone System testing is to match the contrast of your negatives to your favorite type and grade of printing paper. Having standardized your normal printing, you can use the higher and lower paper grades when extreme Expansions or Contractions are required to compensate for very low or high contrast subjects.

For those who have not decided what paper to use for this test, I recommend that you begin researching the range of different paper surfaces and tones that are available by comparing the paper sample books available at most photographic supply stores.

No one brand or type of paper is ideal for all uses, but in general, the more expensive graded or variable contrast fiber-based papers are preferred for exhibition-quality printing. Resin-coated papers are ideal for volume production printing because they process much more quickly and require much less washing and drying.

Note: In a previous edition of this book I wrote, "...in general, resin-coated papers aren't recommended for exhibition-quality work because they haven't been proven to be archival."

But then my favorite Kodak representative pointed out to me that the same resins are used for both RC papers and the bases of Kodak films. Color printing papers are also all resin-coated.

An important factor to consider when choosing a personal Normal grade of paper is the light source of your enlarger. Condenser enlarging light is inherently more contrasty than light from cold-light or diffusion enlargers. This means that you will generally use lower paper grades when printing with condenser enlargers. For more information on this factor see Appendix M.

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