some people hate paper negatives.
they have trouble with them because they don’t realize how they need to be exposed and treat them like film. they develop them like regular prints, and think that a “beefy” paper negative will print great like a “beefy negative”. photo paper is not film, it isn’t sensitive to the same light as film and its sensitivity changed.
what does this mean ?
in a simple way of putting it is film is panchromatic, so it is sensitive to red, green blue light. think of it as being sensitive to all light …and unless you are using color film, light is light. photo paper is sensitive to blue light, and sometimes to green light. different times of the day, different light conditions (shade, open shade, bright sunlight, cloudy day &c) different amounts of blue light are around, so even though it might seem “bright” it might not be … this might not make much sense. but you can do a little experiment. if you have a “hot light” the old fashioned ones that use tungsten bulbs make an exposure with that bulb as your light source, and then use a different light source, maybe a CF bulb that has mostly red in it … and make the same exposure with your paper… you might notice one negative “better” than the other. its also the reason at least with multi contrast papers why you can use filters to adjust the contrast of the image … anyways, photo paper might be fast in one light condition and slow in another, AND different manufacturers use different light sensitive emulsions on their paper so they will have different “speeds” too. you might see speeds listed on the box of paper, they are not the same as film speeds, but only relative to the paper. as a point of reference, regular photo paper typically has a iso ( asa ) relative to film about 6, sometimes as high as 25 if you plan on shooting paper negatives, its best to do exposure tests . bracket exposures, like you would for film, and take notes if that is your sort of thing. years ago there were oodles of papers on the market, and i did paper exposures for maybe 15 different ones these days there aren’t as many so it might be a little easier.
you should develop your paper negatives the same way you develop your prints ” to completion” … don’t pull the print out of the developer when “it looks right” because you won’t get a good print, just like you won’t get a good negative. contrast comes out first then the mid tones afterwards. a beefy negative or a thin one … i guess it all depends on what the negative will be used for. will you make a contact print with it ? will you scan and invert it ? will you make a sun print with it? if you plan on contact printing your paper negatives thin ones sometimes work best, too dense it is hard for the light to pass through and you will get a thin positive print. if you plan on scanning and inverting, a dense negative might suite your needs .. i guess it depends on how good your photoshop skills are.
sun prints are a bit different. it takes a long time for the sun’s light to pass through the photo paper. i have waxed the negative with paraffin and made it somewhat translucent and light passed through a bit easier. i can’t help you there, you have to experiment to see what works best for your situation.
why do i like paper negatives ?
photo paper is cheap compared to film, and it is instant compared to film. i find exposing paper negatives whether they are negatives i coated by hand with liquid or home made emulsion or in a box to be more fun … there is a sense of the unknown sometimes … with film, you pretty much know what you are going to get … also, i would rather make a long exposure than an instant one … while instantaneous fraction of a second exposures have their place portraits of fidgety kids, maybe pet photography, large groups where everyone seems to be moving, sports, science / nature photography there is a thing about long exposures that almost makes a scene or person come to life … but that is another entry for another time.