Dokas Photos - Silver Images


On Making Prints - Technical Details

When making prints, I usually incorporate a number of techniques beyond the use of a single negative.

Unsharp Masking

An unsharp mask accomplishes two tasks: it has the visual effect that you have flooded the scene with light by increasing local contrast throughout the contrast range. Second there is a pronounced increase in sharpness. In comparison, even a contact print looks fuzzy!

My pin registration device A pin registration device is used to make two precision holes on the very edge of both the negative and positive unsharp mask.

This is made in complete darkness. I start by placing the negative on top of a new sheet of film; both have two precision holes punched at the edge of the sheets of film. The emulsions are facing the same direction so that the image falling on the new sheet will be slightly larger and a bit out of focus which is why it is called an unsharp mask. Now using the enlarger as a light source, I send light onto this new film. After development, I have a thin positive. Both can now be assembled into a “sandwich” by lining up the holes for perfect registration.

Dodging Mask

A dodging mask is both a precise and repeatable way to lighten areas within an image. The usual way of doing this is to jiggle an object in the light path while printing. However, that is, at best, a rather crude method.

Drawing a dodging mask

A plastic double-sided frosted drafting sheet is placed over the sandwich of negative and unsharp mask. The illumination from the light box clearly shows areas that need to be dodged. This is accomplished by adding density using pencils. A precision dodging mask is the result. Areas to be burned are outlined to indicate where cutouts are to be made allowing more light to pass and creating a burning mask.

Burning Mask

Cutting out a burning mask

A burning mask can be made by cutting holes in the same frosted plastic used to make the dodging mask. This replaces the older technique of using a card with a hole cut into it. The latter is more imprecise so that light often spills over onto adjacent areas creating unwanted effects.

Cutting the plastic double sided drafting sheet to make the precision burns. The sheet already contains the precision dodges made by adding density to the frosted plastic.


To assemble all the above to print a picture think of the printing process as painting with light. What I have done so far with the use of the different masks is to much more precisely control the light that lands on the photographic paper.

A view of negative carrier

Here we have the negative carrier with the sandwich of negative and unsharp mask over a sheet of anti-Newton glass.

The carrier with diffusion plastic added

A 1/8" frosted diffusion plastic is placed over the sandwich of negative and unsharp mask. Next, the dodging/burning mask will be taped on top. The light box will ensure correct registration before taping it in place.

The final assembly

A sheet of 1/8" frosted diffusion plastic is place over the sandwich of negative and unsharp mask, the dodging/burning mask is now taped on top.