Full frame bw print

The full negative area showing the later crop. Shot on a Hassleblad 80mm with studio flash on Plus-X at f11

Print A

Sometimes a change of mind after a shoot can later result in a lot of extra work in the darkroom. In this instance my initial idea was for a full length image of both models to convey a particular theme: the dynamics of a relationship. Once printed, it became obvious that the feet, legs and extraneous background were superfluous to the concept ...and they had to go.

Pretty straightforward job then - just a quick snip and it's done, but there's so much more a printer can add. I wanted to give the print an organic feel. The models clothes had been chosen with care so that they would not date and so by blurring edges and adding the chocolate tones, the final image is lifted from being a simple record into an image with depth and translucence. It could almost be a frame from an old silent movie.

cropped fine art print

In the cropped version, printed on grade 1: the area of background to the right clearly needs to be burnt-in.

Print B

You can see in the result of the crop that some adjustment needs to be made to the tones, because the eye tends to wander up his arm to the knife blade on the right. Overall the print is a little too contrasty and the background too fussy. All the prints were made on Agfa Multicontrast FB paper developed in Agfa Neutol and this one was grade 1.

To blur the fine detail of the girls hair and equally flatten the bright tone of his top, I resorted to my faithful sheet of polythene. The overall exposure was 9 seconds, still at grade 1, and I held the polythene about 3 inches above the surface of the paper for about 80% of the time. This gives quite a marked effect and can make a print quite muddy looking, which is exactly the effect I wanted: the other 20% allows some sharp definition to be retained. Details of the required burning in are shown in print C. To burn-in a border area like this, I simply use a sheet of card held about an inch above the paper, kept on the move throughout to give a gentle graduation of tone.

hand printing bw diagram

The final details for burning in with the whole of the perimeter darkened to frame the print.

Still printed on grade 1 but softened with a sheet of polythene.

Print C

Although at this stage the tones balanced well, the sinister mood of the image could be further enhanced with a black border. One of those fiendishly complicated 4-blade easels could have been used but that would give a hard edge, which would be at odds with the rest of the print. I wanted a border that blended into the image, rather than one that looked like an after thought, so a little experimentation was called for. I began by cutting a sheet of thick card a little smaller than the print area and supported it above the paper by sitting it on an empty paper box about an inch thick. This thickness meant the edges of the card were slightly off focus, but this did not prove enough to sufficiently blend the border into the image, so I added the diffusing effect of my old sheet of polythene. This black border required 300% extra exposure to produce a good black.


I prefer to use a bleach formula that subsequently produces warm tone, which I make up from raw chemicals supplied by Silverprint. The components are 10gm Potassium Ferricyanide + 10gm Potassium Bromide dissolved in 1 litre water to make a stock solution. The stock solution keeps well in a brown glass bottle and is diluted 1+9 for use at 30c. It is not a vigorous bleach and does not seem to completely reduce the image. In any case, if the darkest tones are allowed to disappear in the bleach they will not produce black when toned: this may suit some prints but not this one. The thiocarbamide toner can also be made up from raw chemicals and, to give the chocolate colours, extra sodium hydroxide was added. If you are using any chemicals, kit form or otherwise, you should make yourself aware of relevant safety precautions and follow them!

The final rich colours were now apparent but the knives did not sparkle: they had been fogged by the diffusing of the image during exposure and needed to be selectively bleached. I used a cotton bud to apply a solution of ferricyanide and Ilford Hypam fixer diluted in water. It is useful to use the two chemicals combined, as the results are immediately apparent and permanent. The solution mixture is straw yellow to start with but it has a short life and once the colour changes to blue it should be discarded. It is also very temperature sensitive and I find that below 25c its action slows to a snails pace.

I bleached the knives back the base white of the paper and because it is the only true white on the print they really jump out of the paper. The final image has produced some interesting comment and is intended to make people feel uncomfortable: it certainly asks more questions than it answers.

sepia hand print thiocarbamide

The finished print on Agfa Multicontrast FB Glossy, complete with added black border and thiocarbamide toning.

The knives were selectively bleached.