Enlarging paper is a type of paper that has been coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and is used to develop photographs. Enlarging paper is a crucial step in film photography because it converts film to prints. Enlarging paper is also known as photo paper or developing paper, referring to the various stages of the developing process. Enlarging papers are available from a variety of photography supply stores.
The base of enlarging paper is, of course, paper, which is covered in a photo-reactive metal emulsion suspended in gelatin, such as silver or palladium. Additional layers may be present on specialty papers, which serve a variety of functions during the developing and archival processes. The photo-sensitive emulsion reacts when exposed to light, and the image can be developed using developing chemicals.
Enlarging paper’s emulsion is designed to be sensitive to a specific wavelength of light, usually blue/green, allowing photographers to use “safelighting” in a color like red or orange. Photographers can see what they’re doing in the darkroom because of the low light level. Different wavelengths can be treated on specialty enlarging paper.
For different types of photography, different types of enlarging paper are used. For example, black and white photography necessitates one type of enlarging paper, whereas color photography necessitates a different type. The majority of enlarging paper is designed to work with a negative to positive process, which means that the film is a reversed negative of the final image, and when exposed, the enlarging paper will yield a positive.
Some enlarging papers have a resin layer that can make a photograph matte or glossy. Because resin takes less time to process than fiber paper, another type of enlarging paper, it is also easier to work with. Because fiber paper absorbs photographic chemicals, it must be handled with care and thoroughly washed before being dried. This type of enlarging paper is more long-lasting and is commonly used for professional prints.
There are several methods for exposing enlarging paper. The paper is most commonly used in a darkroom, which is a controlled light environment. Photographers can make a contact print pressing a negative or object directly against the enlarging paper and then exposing it, or they can use an enlarger to project an image onto enlarging paper. The enlarging paper is developed, stopped, fixed, and washed after exposure to produce a long-lasting photographic print.