The Unit Method

Many pros use a basic unit of time when they expose their print during enlargement. They set their timer for a few seconds — for example, three seconds — and they leave it on that setting. Each time they expose a print they turn on the timer for one unit of three seconds. They make a test strip by exposing different parts of the paper to different numbers of units. Thus, a test strip may have, let us say, five regions of respectively one unit, two units, three units, four units, and five units. If each unit is 3 seconds, this corresponds to exposures of 3-, 6-, 9-, 12-, and 15-second durations.

The advantage of this unit-time method is that it enables the photographer to more easily coordinate the basic exposure, dodging, and burning-in. For example, let's say his tests indicate a basic overall exposure of four units, during which he will dodge certain areas for two units. In addition, he wants to burn in certain areas for an additional three units. He turns on the timer — typically with a foot-pedal — so that the print receives one over-all unit before the enlarger turns off. He

steps on the pedal again for a second unit till the enlarger turns off. Now, he positions his dodging tools and, when ready, steps on the pedal for a third unit. Then a fourth. Now it's time for burning-in. He positions his burning-in board, then steps on the pedal for a fifth unit . . . then a sixth . . . and finally a seventh.

Another advantage of this unit-timing method becomes apparent when you want to dodge more than one area in a print. Unless you are an octopus, you must dodge first one area, then the other. Using the continuous-exposure method, you will find it difficult to precisely control the dodging time of each including the time required to reposition your hands or dodging tool. Using the unit-time method, you can dodge one area during the first one or two units, then position yourself to dodge the other area during subsequent units.

Picture 1: Using five-second units, a basic one unit exposure is made. The facial skin tones are good. Everything else is underexposed.

The Unit Method Step By Step.

Picture 1: Using five-second units, a basic one unit exposure is made. The facial skin tones are good. Everything else is underexposed.

Picture 2: An additional unit of exposure is given, while dodging the face using a wire dodger. This produces good tone in the rest of the boy's figure and in the water, but the trees, mountains, and sky are weak.

Picture 3: An additional two units of exposure are given, while dodging everything from the shoreline down, using the straight edge of a sheet of cardboard as a dodger. It is kept in constant motion to prevent a line of demarcation. This produces good tone in the trees, but the mountains and sky are still weak.

Picture 4: An additional three units of exposure are given while using the hands to dodge everything from the tree-line down. This finally produces good tone in the mountains and sky.

Up to this point, we have covered the basic techniques of enlarging that you will use most of the time. There are certain advanced techniques that you may use at other times. We cover some of these on the next pages and in later lessons. Before getting involved in these advanced techniques, be sure you have mastered the basics first so that you will be able to produce beautiful, crisp prints every time you step into the darkroom.

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