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Printing/developing old glass negatives

Kate Siddon , May 21, 2001; 05:18 p.m.

I have a number (in the hundreds) of old glass negatives that I want to develop but am at ground zero on how to do this. COuld someone give me a step by step - I have heard that contact printing them and developing is not too difficult and I wanted to try it! Thanks in advance.


chuong doan , May 22, 2001; 02:04 a.m.

you may want to find a basic photography book to tell you how to create a simple contact print and develop paper. your library should have many books covering the subject.

if you have a light source from say an enlarger and the chemicals, all you have to do is flatten the paper with the negative, expose, and develop. well, you also have to do a test print to get the correct exposure time.

if you are renting out darkroom time, someone there should be able to help you with the specific development times.

Marty Deveney , May 22, 2001; 03:35 a.m.

Are you developing the negatives or making prints? Developing old negs can be tricky and if they are glass plates the emulsion may have lost its latent image. If you just want to print negs you already have, contact printing is definitely the way to go. A paper with low highlight response is a good idea, because many of those old films have very dense highlights. Kodak Azo was a dedicated fibre-base contact-printing paper and perfect for the job. It has, of course, been discontinued (like many good and unusual Kodak products). Freestyle in California http://www.freestylesalesco.com/ may still have some (I got my last supply, which is now frozen, there). Otherwise try Forte Contactspeed http://www.forte-photo.com/e/contact.htm Contact printing papers can be printed on using a bare light bulb - you don't need an enlarger.

You can also try Cachet/Fappco expo "G" which has a similar curve shape to Azo but is an enlarging speed paper. You can also, of course contact print under an enlarger.

To get an antique sort of look in the prints you can sepia (thiocarbamide)tone them or use a polysulphide toner like Agfa Viradon. A really antique look comes from a platinum toner (expensive). There is a formula at: http://www.bjlpix.com/Formulae%20pages/Platinum%20toner.html

General printing instructions can be found at: http://www.photogs.com/bwworld/bwresources.html

Good luck.

David Goldfarb , May 22, 2001; 09:27 a.m.

You can still get Azo through Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, who are big users of the stuff, and have begun distributing it. Contact info at www.michaelandpaula.com.

Kodak is still listing it as available, but in ever fewer sizes and grades. I know Freestyle isn't stocking it, but B&H still lists it as a special order item in most sizes, and has some in stock. I've bought it off the shelf there recently.

Art Haykin , May 22, 2001; 09:41 a.m.

I had the occasion to process some 4x5 high resolution glassplates some years ago. I used a black "rubber" print traywith a ribbed bottom, and a rocking motion. It worked fine. Don't try to do more than 1 or 2 at a time for obvious reasons.

DK Thompson , May 22, 2001; 10:55 a.m.

Kate, I assume you just want to make prints of these right?? Depending on the time frame for when they were originally shot, you may have a hard time trying to match the tonal range, density, etc. of the plate to any modern photo papers. Azo is a good suggestion, but it could be that something like Centennial Printing Out Paper (POP) is what you really need. I believe you can get it in both RC and fiber. So, all you would need is a print frame, some sunlight, and a few trays to fix & wash the print, and do toning if you wanted. I am sure someone here, or on the large format forum can give you better pointers with POP than I. Also, depending on how old they are, plates can be brittle & fragile, and even have flaking emulsions, so you might want to take care when handling them, and storing them. There are alot of good books on this topic, but offhand I suggest Kodak's "Conservation of Photography". Good luck.

Larry cuffe , May 25, 2001; 10:35 a.m.

If you are developing these glass plates then its worth noting that glass plates are much more sensitive to variations in solution temperature than either sheet or roll film. Thus ensure that your pre soak, developer, stop and fix are all at the same temperature to within a degree or you may get problems with frilling where the emulsion lifts right off the glass.

Lloyd Ator , May 27, 2001; 08:52 p.m.

I had the opportunity (burden?) of printing from old glass plate negatives about a year ago. One of them was cracked and they were sandwiched with another glass plate and the alignment had shifted slightly, as the tape used to bind them had dried out. All said and done, I got pretty decent results using my Omega D enlarger and a glassless 4x5 or 6x9 negative holder. They printed well on Ilford MGIV, using about a 3 or 3.5 filter, as I recall. I used a ZoneMaster to get my initial reading of print time and contrast and didn't have to do much compensation after the initial reading.

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