First Experience with Negative Reduction
Negative reduction can be necessary under the condition of over development of film, or over exposure of film. Recently I found myself faced with the latter problem, I shot some photos at a friends wedding and found many shots terribly overexposed and with high contrast. Normally I would just write it off as a bad day, but this bothered me, I thought, can I save these shots? I hit the books, specifically Anchell's Darkroom Cookbook and found some formulas for negative reduction, specifically a super proportional reducer. The Photographers formulary also had kits for reduction so I bought one. From Anchell's text I learned the difference in your final results rests with the proportion of the A B mixture. Equal measures (1:1) will act as a proportional reducer which acts on high and low density areas the same amount. A greater measure (1:3) will act as a super proportional reducer which will act faster on the densest areas of the negative, thereby reducing the overall contrast of the negative. My negatives clearly needed contrast reduction.. The kit that arrived was a Formulary Reducer III containing Potassium Permanganate, Ammonia Persulfate, a 29% Sulfuric Acid solution and a Sodium Metabisulfite after bath.
I first tested an unusable negative from the same roll. I first soaked the negative in distilled water for at least 5 minutes as per instructions then placed it in a 1:3 solution and agitated gently watching the negative and the clock. After about 7 minutes I noticed a change in the overall density, not much of a change so I let it sit for two more minutes. The negative went blank, I reduced it to nothing between 7 and 10 minutes.
I measured out another 1:3 concentration and placed an actual image in the solution, agitated, watched, periodically holding the negative to the light to check for early signs of reduction. The first noticeable change I pulled it out. The scan of the image revealed too much reduction, the white wedding dress was about a Zone V, see below.
I also thought that the reduction was too proportional. I soaked the remaining negatives in distilled water to prepare them for reduction, mixed up a 1:4 solution and placed them in one strip at a time. This time I pulled the negative out when I first noticed some texture forming in the density of the wedding dress. This took about 3.5 minutes which is 1.5 minutes over the recommended time. The subsequent scans revealed the reduction was just about where I wanted them, although there was more proportional reduction then I would have liked.
Overall I was impressed with the quality of the reduction. I expected not to see any texture in the white wedding dress, only flat grey. The film actually recorded nice detail in that density and the reduction revealed it rather well I thought. The original developer I used was HC-110 Dilution B and the film was Ilford FP4 Plus.
If I were to do this again I would up the ratio to about 1:8 to further decrease the proportional reduction, or use a cutting reducer (Kodak R 4a Farmers Reducer) which is specifically for overexposed negatives.