Personal Project; Modern Pictorialism; Printing Techniques For Smooth Tonality Page 2

The downside to diffusing the print exposure is that I can seriously lower contrast and will often find myself printing at contrast Grades of 4 and 5. Keep this need for added contrast in mind during the entire creative process. With the somewhat dwindling supply of black and white enlarging paper, even greater thought has to be given to creating a negative with high enough inherent contrast so as not to require paper Grades 4 and higher.

Tuscan Trees
© 2007, Brian Kosoff, All Rights Reserved

If you choose to photograph a low-contrast scene, you will have great difficulties with the lower contrast produced by the enlarging diffusion. So choose your subject matter carefully if you plan to use enlarging diffusion. Additionally, you may find that film that was exposed with high-contrast filters, such as a red, may work better with this technique than film exposed using a yellow filter. I also tend to add contrast to the film image when processing. This can be done by push processing, which can increase grain, or by the method I prefer, selenium intensification. This last method enables me to add up to an N+1 to my film without the grain increase of longer development time.

I have the added advantage of being able to monitor the contrast increase. There are some risks, though; there is a small possibility of staining or of having uneven or marbleized densities on the film, so a little reading and experimentation would be advisable before you try this on your important negatives. Selenium intensifies a negative by bonding with the silver and forming silver selenide. The more silver, that is, the denser the area of the negative, the more selenium is bonded and the denser it gets. This increases contrast in a negative by adding density to the existing areas of high density in a far greater proportion than it does to the less dense areas of the negative. On the negative the highlights get lighter while the shadows hardly change.

Prescott Trees
© 2003, Brian Kosoff, All Rights Reserved

One of the characteristics of diffusing the enlarger lens is what is known as "bloom" in the shadows. "Bloom" is a smearing of the shadows. It's basically the shadow equivalent of flare. The shadows will appear to bleed into surrounding tones. The greater the diffusion, the more the "bloom." For my own work I try to avoid the "bloom," which can be a difficult task, while other photographers embrace it and use it as an integral part of their "look." This is purely a subjective call but it is also another choice that enables me to cater this effect to my own vision.

If you plan on experimenting with this process plan to have a fair amount of paper handy, and maybe start with smaller size prints first because you'll find that there are many variables that can be adjusted and that the look can be taken in many directions. Should you then make larger prints you'll have to recalibrate many of the variables, beyond simply exposure, to achieve a matching print.

For me the use of this process is very conscious, and while I don't use it in all of my work, because it's completely the wrong direction to take sometimes, it is an excellent process to be aware of and to use when appropriate.

Kananaskis Lake
© 2004, Brian Kosoff, All Rights Reserved

For 25 years Brian Kosoff was an advertising and editorial photographer. Then at the end of 2002, he changed the direction of his work from still life to landscape photography and closed his Manhattan studio. He travels extensively seeking images that he finds compelling, particularly as the contours and content of our world rapidly change and many scenes of natural beauty disappear. His black and white silver gelatin prints are available in galleries across America. There is also a book of his work in early production, with an expected release for autumn 2009. To see more of his images, visit