Experiments: paper negatives

Written by Nasir Hamid on January 20th, 2012

Recently I’ve been having lots of fun experimenting with using black & white paper in my large format cameras instead of film and so far I love the results. Photographing with paper is one of the earliest photographic processes dating back to the 1800’s (Google: Calotype photography) and a huge advantage over using film is being able to see what you’re doing whilst in the darkoom because you can handle the paper under a red or amber safe light. It’s also fun to develop the negatives and watch the image slowly appear in the developer which is not possible when processing film.

I’m still experimenting with this but I hope to use it for portraits soon. One slight problem is the effective speed of the paper is very slow (ISO 6) which means requiring lots of light (i.e. a sunny day) or slow exposures which requires staying very still during the exposure.

My very first paper negative shot made with a 10x8 large format camera. The detail in the original is amazing.

The 4 seconds exposure for this has resulted in the water looking very smooth.

These two models are always happy to stand in for me when I'm testing lighting. I love the quality of this image which I made in my studio with one studio flash.

group shot

Some neighbours walked past as I was photographing the weir (off to the right) so I asked them to stand still for a quick shot with my 10x8 camera. The exposure was1/2 sec.

This is a test shot made with my 5x4 Speed Graphic camera in Radcliffe square. I wanted to see how the paper reacted to contrasty sunlight.


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Hi Nasir,

    What an interesting website you have! It’s difficult to imagine there being so many interesting characters in one town. it’s like a mini New York! You’re doing a great job of capturing them, too. I found your site whilst doing a search on the SL66 and Fomapan – the combination I use. I have mine just about welded to a tripod and can’t imagine doing handheld street portraits with it.

    I was hoping to ask you a question about 10×8 paper negs if that’s OK. Can you say how a well-exposed paper neg compares quality wise with a contact printed film neg. Is there much difference when it comes to sharpness and tonality?


  2. Brian says:

    Love these images! I’ve been wanting to try paper in my 4×5 camera but I hear that excessive contrast is hard to overcome. I see you have it well under control. Would you mind sharing your paper choice and filters if you use any?

    Thank you!

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