Preparing to develop film for first time

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by David Goldstein, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. Hi all,

    I have spent the last month reading threads throughout this forum while acquiring the bits and pieces to develop B&W film. It's funny, I have shot film since 1969, but never developed any. Better late than never I suppose.

    Anyway, I don't want to engage everyone in a long discussion on things that have perhaps been talked to death if there is a readily available link, but I am wanting to get clear in my mind about mixing my developer, (I bought Ifosol 3). I have read the Ilford datasheet and am wondering about a few things. Below is a cut and paste from the sheet...

    Developer dilution pH SG at 20°C/68°F
    ILFOSOL 3 1 + 9 9.75 – 9.85 1.005
    ILFOSOL 3 1 + 14 9.75 – 9.85 1.002

    My biggest initial question - How critical is precision of the pH reading to the posted development times for the two dilution ratios?

    Also,, I bought a Hanna pHep4 meter to take readings (along with the buffer solutions for calibrating the meter). I was wondering if there was any good sort of step by step for using the meter to check pH.
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Most of us don't even bother with pH.

    Mix the stock solution per instructions using a reasonably accurate measuring device. Mix the working solution using a reasonably accurate measuring device.

    I don't use Ilfosol but when I dilute my stock solution, I just use a kitchen measuring cup. It may not be all that accurate but it really doesn't need to be. What's important is you do it the same way every time. I would imagine my measurements are off as much as 5 to 10%.

    Difference in dilution will affect your development time slightly which will affect contrast and density. Would you know say your film is a tad too dark or too light and just a tad too contrasty or not enough? Side by side comparison may tell it if you do that but in normal shooting, shooting variation is far greater than that.

    I'd say don't worry about it and just do it. You'd be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get a reasonably good result - provided there were no major screw ups, like using fixer first and developer second. :smile:
     
  3. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The wild card that can mess things up for a fresh solution is your water. If your have normal city water you may be just fine. Well water has more variation.

    I take that worry away by using distilled water for all my chemicals. I use tap water for rinsing.
     
  4. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Distilled water. No worries.

    I can easily remember the first film I developed. What a feeling of accomplishment! Developing your own will give you the power to determine your own photographic destiny, with little commercial intervention. Next (for you): the Zone System!!
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    David:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of film developing.

    I don't think I've ever encountered someone who bought a pH meter for use with their first development - that is impressive!

    As has been posted earlier, unless your water source is really challenging, you shouldn't have to worry about using the pH meter when you use commercially prepared photo chemistry. Most commercial chemistry is designed (with buffers?) to deal with the usual pH and other variations encountered by most users.

    With respect to your question about using the pH meter, I would suggest starting another thread for that purpose - if you use a title that is fairly specific, you are much more likely to receive replies from APUG members who have a lot of experience using pH meters in labs (of which there are a few).

    Who knows, your pH meter thread may end up on a number of "subscription" lists.
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Regardless of any other advice you get her or some other place, the most important thing to do is to go develop that film.

    We can tell you everything you need to know and a whole lot of stuff you probably don't even want to know but, until you put some film in the can and shake it up, you won't get the practical experience you need.

    You WILL screw something up at least once. That's the breaks. Everybody does it. I have screwed up and I will screw up again.
    The important thing is to learn from those mistakes.

    In a funny way, if you aren't making at least a few mistakes you aren't learning anything. :wink:

    Best advice: Just do it! :smile:

    Then come back, afterward, and show us what you did. :cool:
     
  7. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Always developer, stop, then fix! In that order only! :smile: good luck!
     
  8. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    There is absolutely no reason why you need to measure the pH of this developer. I really don't know why Ilford bothers people by listing it. Processing your own BW is easy -- don't over think it. Enjoy.
     
  9. All,

    Thanks for the various replies so far. I do intend to start developing several rolls I shot just for the purpose of going through the process of development. I bought Hewes reels for 35mm and 120 film along with a stainless Adorama tank and lots of other bits.

    This forum has been really helpful so far from a pure reference perspective. I have read a lot of old threads that were really useful.

    I agree with the sentiment that it is time to start developing my test rolls. I will post my results and some scanned negatives for anyone to critique.
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi David Goldstein,

    It's fair to say few people use pH meters. I don't use one either, but I won't say it is irrelevant. It is relevant. pH is a variable you can easily measure. And by keeping notes you can keep a variable "in control". That's great. If you have a problem, and everyone has problems, you can check your notes to see if your pH was "wrong" that day. Not too many of us can verify that.

    For a specific example, I occasionally get pinholes in my negatives. When I do, the first thing I do is check the bellows and Grafmatics for dust.

    It would be cool to rule out whether my stop bath was too acid.
     
  11. Again, thanks to everyone for their thoughts. The next question is about temperatures during development. Ilford is pretty specific about development times based on temperature and dilution of the developer.

    I watched J Brunner's videos and I took away that temperature and time is pretty important - he did not get very specific about his developer other than it being a one shot. BTW, that was a great video series. :smile:
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Just about THE most important thing!
    Assuming you got the film into the can correctly and without exposing it to stray light, the only thing that is as or more important is using the correct chemicals, at the right dilutions and in the right order. (Develop / Stop / Fix / Rinse)

    Probably the best investment you can make for film developing is a good thermometer and a good timer.
    When developing black and white try to hold your temperatures to ±1º C. of the target temperature. That will give you a 2º swing to work inside of. (Yes, 2º is enough to make a noticeable difference.)
    If you look on the datasheets supplied by film manufacturers, their times are often listed in increments of 15 seconds. That means you can assume you have a 15 second window to work inside of when it comes to timing accuracy. (Remember, you have to account for the time it takes to pour the solutions into and out of the canister.)

    So... In my estimation, if you can hold your temperatures to ±1º and keep your times accurate to less than 15 seconds, you should be fine.

    Yes, time and temperature are important but, if you work efficiently in an organized manner and use quality tools you should have no problem keeping your process inside spec.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    David,

    While Randy (Worker) is correct about small changes making a difference, in practice, the process taken as a whole, is incredibly forgiving. You could miss the time by 10-20% or temp by several degrees and still get very usable negatives. That amount of time or temp adjustment is used regularly to refine how a negative prints.

    If the negative ends up a bit under or overdeveloped, the paper grade (contrast) is simply adjusted to "fix" the problem. Adjusting contrast at the paper is normal and very often used even with "properly" developed negatives.

    This is not to suggest that you should be sloppy about your processes, just that it isn't worth worrying much about in the very beginning.
     
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  15. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I should probably clarify...

    A 2 deg. swing in temperature or a 15 sec. variance in time can cause a noticeable difference but not necessarily a detrimental difference. Sometimes, a desireable difference, even.

    Yes, photographers often vary their developing times and/or temperatures to achieve a desired result.

    My point was that, for your first couple-few rolls of film, do what the instructions say. When you get a feel for the process, then you can experiment with time, temperature or pH.

    You have to learn to walk before you can run a marathon. :wink:
     
  16. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    I'm right where you are. I developed film when I was a teenager with a plastic spool, and when I was in college with steel spools. The last time was about 30 years ago. So I'm basically a total novice.

    I also got the 35 and 120 Hewes spools and the adorama tanks. When I took an old roll of practice film to try spooling, it went on easily and perfectly the first time (eyes open ), the 2nd time ( eyes closed) and the 3rd time ( in my changing bag. ). Just like riding a bicycle I thought... my hands seemed to know what to do from 30 years ago. I also practiced one last time just before I did it for real.

    So, the day before yesterday, I went to develop my first roll. Three things happened that I wasn't prepared for:

    1. I was using HP5+ and it "reverse curled" on me.... I got too much distance between the spool and my fingers holding the film, and it popped the curl the wrong way. I ended up messing up the spooling and the film was touching for some of the frames in the middle of the roll. This film was much harder to spool than the film I'd been practicing with... I think it would have been no problem if I'd been more careful, but I wasn't ready for how the film wanted to curl the wrong way. I think it will go OK next time now that I know what to be careful about.

    2. I was expecting my cold water to be too cold, and to add small amounts of warm water to bring it up to 20C. Well... my cold water was about 2 degrees too warm! I had to let my cold water run for a long time to get it below 20C. So getting all my chems to 20c took a longer than I was expecting. ( We're on a well and I use reverse osmosis filtered water to mix all the chems... the well water from the tap was for the tub to get all the temps right )

    3. My syringe for measuring the HC-110 syrup didn't fit through the small neck of the bottle I'm using to store it. I had to pour some out into a little paper cup in order to measure it. A rubber stopper with the right size hole for my syringe would be handy, but the paper cup method will work-- but now I know.

    Some things went better than I expected... I remember always having a few spills, but the adorama tanks pour really nicely and I don't think I spilled even one drop of anything during the whole process.

    I decided to use "Ilford agitation" and I started the timer as I poured the developer in, and started pouring it out 10 seconds before the end point. That all seemed fine... I think the point is to pick some approach and stick with it. I wrote down the times/temps/dilutions for future reference.

    The 25 or so negatives that weren't ruined look beautiful. I made a couple of proof prints yesterday and am looking forward to learning how to print them better with my enlarger setup.

    I'm sure I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but it sure is fun. There is something about holding that print in your hand knowing that you did it all from beginning to end and it never went into a computer. I also think there is a neat symmetry with the light going through the camera lens onto the film, and then through the negative onto the paper -- not sure how to explain it, but there is a "balance" there that appeals to me.

    Have fun!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2012
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    We've all been there Ned.One test I use to see if the film is threading properly in the stainless reel is as it is being reeled on every few rotations give the film a little push pull, the film should slide a little in the groove. If it doesn't slide the film is in a bind and the result is exactly what you describe, film touching and frames ruined. Another test only works for 36 frame rolls, you should run out of room on the reel very close to when you run out of film. If you have extra room on the reel or a lot of film tail left, you have a problem.
     
  18. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    Yep... I know what you mean about the "loose feel" when it's in right. Sort of a slight backward pressure and you can feel it sliding easily in the tracks. I knew my HP5 was messed up somewhere in there, but I'd been fumbling with it for a while and I was afraid I'd mess it up even worse if I pulled it all out and started over. I'm not too worried... I just wasn't ready to be more careful with this film.. my old roll of "kodak gold" fooled me into thinking it would be easier. I'll be ready next time if the film wants to curl the "wrong way". Thanks!
     
  19. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Just follow the measurement ratios as specified and the specified times and you'll be fine. Don't forget to agitate as recommended (I do first 30 sec and 10 sec every 30 sec after.) Finally, if you're concerned about your water buy a bottle or two of distilled. Good luck!
     
  20. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Control what you can as practically as you can. Holding water to +/- 1-degree C and holding times within 15 seconds... This isn't really hard.

    I agree with Mark Barendt, and I often say that you can be off by 15% and still have a perfectly printable negative.

    Controlling the variables tends to keep you within 5%, and when something goes awry... You still have a good chance of a successful shot. This means you approach 100% usable negatives in terms of technical qualities...

    The real problem to control is making the exposure occur at the right time in front of the right subject...
     
  21. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Like most are saying, it really isn't as hard or as overwhelming as it seems at first.

    Sure it's possible to screw it up, but if you're reasonably careful it's extremely unlikely.

    You're far more likely to screw up after about 40 rolls of film when you feel like you have it all licked and you don't label your containers well so you pour in the fixer first. (Three guesses how I know that!)

    Relax, and keep it in perspective that this isn't a job interview. Everybody here, and I mean literally everybody, is willing to help.

    Sacrifice a roll of film to figure out how to load the reel in the light. Try pouring water in and out of your tank so you know how the pouring is "really" going to go. Then measure the chemicals and go.

    if your negatives are a little hard print a little soft. If they are a little soft print a little hard.

    While it is true that superlative work can require exacting procedures, when you're just starting out this is a lot more forgiving than many activities. Blowing up a race car engine is real expensive.
     
  22. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    There is nothing like that feeling I know. In my case I was about to move 6 sheets of film to the fixer, but there wasn't a tray there. I'd spent 13 minutes in stop bath.
     
  23. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Didn't we have a long thread some years ago about horrendous mistakes we'd all made in the darkroom.

    Seems to me the masterpieces were all made by those of us who "knew better" instead of the new guys.

    Did that move over to the new server?
     
  24. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    David, temperature is indeed important and should be monitored as carefully as you can - and that includes the other chemicals and wash water, which ideally should all be at or pretty close to the developer temperature. Try to do the best you can - and as I think Bill pointed out earlier keeping the process to within a few degrees sounds harder than it actually is. Also, today's materials from Ilford, Kodak and Fuji are pretty forgiving, and even if you're off a little you'll probably get a pretty good negative. Printing controls give you a lot of lattitude. The notion you need a perfectly exposed and developed negative to make a fine print is false, and dangerous. Do the best you can, but realize many of the great prints you've ever seen by the finest photographers were made from imperfect negatives. This is why I highly recommend inexperienced darkroom practitioners begin with a good basic book, and/or the how-to publications from Ilford and Kodak. Web forums etc can be great for discussion and problem solving, but information overload (both good and bad information unfortunately) on any given topic can become confusing and make the entire process seem almost impossible to do well.

    Michael
     
  25. Thanks again for every thoughtful reply. I feel more prepared now and to me, this is what this thread is about. I hope to post my results to improve my understanding in the next week or so.

    Regards,
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    David: I find the best approach to be using room temperature for everything, unless room temperature is less than about 66F or more than about 74F. If you have your chemistry at room temperature, and that temperature falls within that range, the manufacturer's information will include a recommendation for how long you should develop the film. The times for the other chemicals generally need not be changed.