Street portraits: paper negatives

Written by Nasir Hamid on January 26th, 2012

Yesterday I took my Speed Graphic 5×4 camera out to do some paper negative tests. There was no light for photography because the sky was heavily overcast and there was a threat of rain in the air. I was determined to make some exposures to see how the paper negatives would cope in such horrible conditions. The Speed Graphic always seems to attract attention and this occasion was no exception. I’m not surprised because it’s not every day you see someone out and about using a camera from the 1940’s.

It didn’t take too long before I found willing subjects to stand still for me. The exposure times for these was 3 seconds. The stone on the walls and the floor was a lot lighter than the dark clothing so I had to sacrifice it in the exposure. I was excited to scan these and did so in a hurry so perhaps with more time I might be able to get some more detail from these shots because there is more detail in the original paper negatives.

[Tech info]: Speed Graphic 5×4 with 203mm Ektar lens. Ilford multigrade glossy rc paper with a grade 2 filter on the camera lens.

This gentleman was very calm. When I asked him to stand very still he asked if I meant motionless. I like that word.

This guy was a cool character. He was only in Oxford for the day and was looking for interesting places to visit.


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. Bitanphoto says:

    Fantastic work, Nasir. I’m not familiar with paper negatives, but you’ve gotten very interesting results, and you found some good characters as subjects. Speaking of which, I’m behind in finding subjects for the Project 52 assignment on The Flickr… Using the opposite end of the size extreme for that one, an Olympus XA.

    • Nasir Hamid says:

      Thanks for your kind comment. You’ve got some nice work on your blog. Using paper negatives is so much fun. If you’ve got a large format camera you should give it a try. I don’t have an Olympus XA but I do have a couple of Trip 35’s. They don’t get much use because I’m not very good with the distance focusing thing and my shots end up being out of focus. I prefer viewfinder focusing.

  2. David says:

    Hi Nasir. These pics are great. I have just been given a 1880s Lancaster Instantograph plate camera as well as a Kodak Premo 9. It has been suggested to me that I could use paper negs in these cameras as I am keen to give this process a go. Is it difficult?

    • Nasir Hamid says:

      Hey David, using paper negatives is not much different to using film. The main difference is you can work in the darkroom with the safelight on instead of in complete darkness with film. You will find it easier if you get graded paper instead of using multigrade and having to use a filter on the lens. Start with grade 2 paper and an ISO of 6 for your light readings.

  3. David says:

    Thanks Nasir. I need to dust off all of my darkroom gear before I give this a go but I will definitely try it out. (At the moment I am running a roll of 120 FP4 through my Ross Ensign Selfix 820 as a test roll…I just love old cameras!) Thanks once again.

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