Contact Prints


I have a long standing desire to make photographic contact prints. This is where you take a photo onto a piece of film, and then sandwich the film and the photographic paper together and make a print directly from the film onto the paper. You get the full sharpness of the original negative.

Internet people say there is a real magical quality to a well done contact print. I've never experienced it, but I have seen some contact printed medium format negatives that I have liked very very much, so I would like to try some of this for myself.

The only contact printing I have done is I did a contact sheet of a roll of 35mm once. But it was printed out onto some very old RC paper from the 1980s, so it's all crinkly and faded and really weird as far as paper thickness goes. However, I absolutely saw the potential there and I'm interested in doing more of it.

As such, I have created this page to document this project and keep track of what I'm in the middle of, because I've got so many thoughts about what is going on I want to try to get the thoughts down in written form so I don't get swamped.

I have a section of things to do, followed by a roughly chronological diary-ish thing detailing what I've done and what decisions I've made so far.

Todos (broken down into sections):

First things first:

  • Step zero is to continue to unpack after the recent move. :-/
  • Finish cleaning the darkroom space in the new house
  • Patch the holes in the walls that are letting in light
  • Come up with a door solution for the darkroom space
  • Find and mount the safelight
  • Develop and hook up a humidity monitoring solution (I have doubts about the general mustyness of this basement over time so I want to make sure that I have something in place that will alert me if the relative humidity gets too high in this space)

Film / developer considerations:

  • Decide on a film / developer combination by taking enough photos with it on 35mm
    • Options: AristaEDU 400, FP-4, HP-5. Definitely don't like Delta400 with caffenol.
    • Developer: Caffenol (I'm using the basic Caffenol C-M recipe)
  • Modify the developer composition / developer time for continuous agitation (which is how I do the 4x5 development: I have an agitation solution)
  • (Nice to have: a scanner that can scan 4x5 film)
  • Investigate some of the DIY two bath color neg C-41 processing solutions, again, starting with picking a film and going from there. It's a side quest, but 5x7 full color negatives sound amazing.

Process Improvements:

  • Why not actually make some contact sheets and just get in the habit of doing those?
  • Figure out paper developer / dev times
  • Do some contact print tests with the 4x5 camera I have

Equipment to make or buy:

  • Make or buy a contact printing frame
  • Finish making the 5x7 point and shoot camera I am in the middle of making
  • Decide on a design for holding the lens in place and send it off to get laser cut
  • Take a few 5x7 paper negatives as a test
  • Get a box of 5x7 film and take some images and...
  • ... make some contact prints!

The really BIG vision:

  • Jump straight to 11x14 contact prints because fuck it why not :)


Thoughts on film

I'm almost certainly going to go with Arista EDU 400 because of the price, honestly. I don't really want to... I've been leaning toward FP-4, because I can get it locally. But FP-4 is expensive, and I want something with a higher ISO. I want to like HP-5 but I've never connected with it in 35mm.

At any rate, with Arista EDU 400 I've seen scans from folks online and it looks pretty nice. I'll need to try it out to see how well it plays with Caffenol first.

I do have a whole mess of random rolls of random films I'm playing with at the moment as well, I'm just going to shoot through those and whatever happens with those, happens!