"1940s look" on B/W enlargement

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Adam, Mar 9, 2007.

  1. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Hi everybody! Would someone be able to help me with a darkroom
    question? I've been "shooting pictures" for several decades but this
    semester marks my first actual darkroom experience. I have one nice
    shot (35mm Tri-X) of an old (restored) vending machine in an old
    (restored) train station, and nothing in the image gives any clue that
    it was taken recently. What I'd like to do is make an enlargement that
    somehow looks as if it was shot (and even printed?) in the 1930s or
    1940s... at least something that would fool a casual viewer at first.
    Does anyone here have any suggestions on how to (inexpensively) simulate
    that '30s/'40s "look"? As I said, I'm a beginner in the darkroom, and
    my paper on hand is Ilford Multigrade IV RC De Luxe Pearl. Thanks in
    advance for any suggestions!

    Adam, Mar 9, 2007
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  2. 1) Sepia toner and a dip in weak tea to stain the
    whites to a beige color.

    2) Matting spray: Paper was often a dull matte finish,
    RC Pearl looks distinctly modern.

    3) Don't over enlarge: large negatives were the norm
    and so old pictures are often grainless - unless
    they were 35mm, of course, when they had enormous
    grain, but 35mm wasn't the norm for still life pics.

    4) Mount to thin cardboard, sand the edges smooth, a
    little bit of a crease in one corner. Maybe a small
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Mar 9, 2007
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  3. A good site with lots of examples of what people
    expect an old photograph to look like:

    Nicholas O. Lindan, Mar 9, 2007
  4. Adam

    John Guest

    Print slightly dark on a good fiber-based paper (preferably Galerie),
    bleach back to normal density with Farmers and lightly tone with a
    brown toner.

    John S. Douglas
    Photographer & Webmaster
    Legacy-photo.com - Xs750.net
    John, Mar 9, 2007
  5. I'd save yourself a lot of trouble. Print it on normaly and then matt it
    with a slightly off white matt and put it in a beat up frame with
    lightly scratched glass you get at a yard sale or thrift store.

    While people associtate sepia tone with age, it's the turn of the 20th
    century they are thinking about. The yellowing of paper which also is
    associated with age came with high acid paper which was not produced
    until after the second world war. The off white matt will suggest
    it anyway.

    IMHO people will see the scratched frame and glass and assume it's old.

    You will get comments like, "nice picture, why don't you reframe it". :)

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Mar 9, 2007
    Keith Tapscott., Mar 9, 2007
  7. Adam

    John Guest

    Very similar ?

    John S. Douglas
    Photographer & Webmaster
    Legacy-photo.com - Xs750.net
    John, Mar 9, 2007
  8. Adam

    Adam Guest

    I'll have to see if the college photo lab has sepia toner (haven't used
    any toner yet) and matting spray. If not, maybe one of the art studios
    in the same building will have matting spray. The weak tea I can
    provide myself! Maybe I can get a sheet or two of warm-tone paper from
    someone... that might be a step in the right direction.
    Thanks, Nicholas! That's a good reference. Someone in r.p.e.35mm just
    posted a link to http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5010
    which has photos (mostly exteriors) of NYC from 1900 through 1970 or so.
    Also, you finally got me thinking: two miles from where I live is the
    FDR home/library/museum (Franklin Delano Roosevelt was U.S. President
    from 1933 to 1945), which of course will have a LOT of photos from that
    time. Thanks again for your advice!

    Adam, Mar 10, 2007
  9. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks, John! That's a little beyond what we've been taught so far, but
    if I can get those supplies I'll give it a try.

    Adam, Mar 10, 2007
  10. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks, Geoff! I might do just that once the course is over. Right now
    the instructor just wants 8x10 enlargements. That's a great idea, though!

    Adam, Mar 10, 2007
  11. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks, Keith! Unfortunately, at this point in the course, I know
    absolutely nothing about fiber-based paper... but if I can get a few
    sheets and learn how to work with it, I'll give it a try!

    Adam, Mar 10, 2007
  12. While it's a little late for this particular shot (and others
    have given excellent sggestions), my favourite way to
    take period-looking shots is with a period camera and
    old-tech film.

    There are lots of 1940s folders and such on EBay,
    and several companies still make what is essentially
    fossilized 1950s film. Anything that doesn't say
    "TMax" or "Delta" on it is worth a try.

    I can take perfect 1950s newspaper photographer
    pictures with my Crown Graphic and happy family
    vacation pictures with any of my old Kodak folders.
    Kodak were inordinately fond of 620 film, but it's easy
    to respool modern 120 film on to 620 spools.

    Laura Halliday VE7LDH "Que les nuages soient notre
    Grid: CN89lg pied a terre..."
    ICBM: 49 16.57 N 123 0.24 W - Hospital/Shafte
    laura halliday, Mar 10, 2007
  13. Adam spake thus:
    While the replies so far have concentrated on such aspects of the print
    as color (suggesting sepia or similar toning, which may be a good idea)
    and things like "antiquing" the print to make it look old, I think
    there's more to it than that.

    Specifically, it's the *tonality* of a print that, to me, says it was
    made back in the 30s or 40s. I'm not sure exactly *what* that tonality
    is, but I can recognize it, and I think we all can recognize it when we
    see it.

    My guess would be a little lighter overall, with no murky shadows, and a
    lot of clear tones in the midrange. Think the opposite of, say, a 60s
    print, with its heavy blackness.

    And of course it would be tack-sharp.

    I wonder if Richard K. has any ideas on this, having seen and worked
    with a lot of these images.

    Just as McDonald's is where you go when you're hungry but don't really
    care about the quality of your food, Wikipedia is where you go when
    you're curious but don't really care about the quality of your knowledge.

    - Matthew White's WikiWatch (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/wikiwoo.htm)
    David Nebenzahl, Mar 11, 2007
  14. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks, Laura! In this case, I used a Canon TX (1976; it was the bottom
    of the line of which the F-1 was the top) and good old Tri-X. I'm
    planning on shooting one roll of Tri-X with my uncle's Argus C3
    ("brick"), which seems appropriate for 1950s-type snapshots.

    Adam, Mar 12, 2007
  15. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks, David! I spent a while this afternoon looking through a binder
    of new prints made from 1930s-40s negatives (for sale at the FDR Visitor
    Center), trying to figure out what they had in common. Most were low
    contrast, a few were high contrast. In general the whites were a very
    light grey and the blacks were a dark grey. There wasn't much shadow
    detail. Most were sharp, but a few weren't. I think one difference is
    the range of greys -- modern images have all shades, but these had maybe
    only five or six distinct shades of grey between the lightest and
    darkest. Does this sound plausible? If so, is there an easy way to
    simulate this?

    Adam, Mar 12, 2007
  16. Adam

    pico Guest

    pico, Mar 12, 2007
  17. Adam

    Adam Guest

    Thanks! I'd say it does -- only maybe six or ten gradations between the
    lightest and darkest greys, and not much shadow detail. Is that an
    actual photo from the 1940s or 1950s? If it isn't, how'd you get it to
    look like one?

    Adam, Mar 12, 2007
  18. Adam

    John Guest

    I've found that (depending on the paper) images that are given a
    slight treatment in ferricyanide (Potassium Ferricyanide) first tone
    much better. And it really is extremely simple.

    Pot. Ferricyanide 50g
    Pot. Bromide 50g
    Water 1.0L

    Now that's a stock formula that works quite well. If you bleach the
    image back with this solution and then "redevelop" it with something
    like a sulfide toner, you'll have an incredibly stable warm-toned
    image. For a good toner take a look at :


    John S. Douglas
    Photographer & Webmaster
    Legacy-photo.com - Xs750.net
    John, Mar 12, 2007
  19. Adam

    John Guest

    That's a very good point. Nothing looks quite like an image created
    with an old 127 Ektar lens !

    John S. Douglas
    Photographer & Webmaster
    Legacy-photo.com - Xs750.net
    John, Mar 12, 2007
  20. Adam

    John Guest

    It's called "soot and chalk". No good clean whites but also no good
    highlight details. Same for the shadows. You can get a similar look by
    shooting that TX400 at EI64 and shortening development by about 50%.

    John S. Douglas
    Photographer & Webmaster
    Legacy-photo.com - Xs750.net
    John, Mar 12, 2007
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