Honest Talk About the Various B&W Developer Choices
I love this site because of the passion people have for traditional film processes. I imagine there are many people who have shot 10's to 100's times more film than myself.
Nevertheless, I get the feeling based on reading many threads here and on photo.net over the years, and based on modest experience with various developers myself - that convienence is the number one factor that people use when selecting their developer for B&W film.
I feel the pyro developers (Wimberly, Pyrocat, PMK, etc) are superior in what they do (with traditional silver emulsions, not with T Grain films) in normal to high contrast situations.
But the liquid/syrup developers are very convienent (HC 100, Rodinal, Diafine) and that's why we use them instaed.
agree or disagree?
Not for me. It's how the developer makes my negs look is why I use a specific developer.
Not for me personally... I have used D76, Pryocat HD and Rodinal over the past 15 years. I settled on Rodinal because of the "look" and because of the success I had in using it to control contrast. I'm glad it's convenient but that's a bonus for me not a reason to use it.
Originally Posted by Mainecoonmaniac
Years ago I discovered that it matters much more HOW we use our materials than WHAT we use.
Sure, there are differences between developers, but in my experience technique is infinitely more important.
Here's something to think about: John Sexton, for example, uses standard materials in his process. His prints are known for their exceptional and meticulous quality. Looking through his galleries you will find all sorts of lighting conditions, and the only thing that's varied is his technique. That's worth considering.
My best mentor uses three different developers, all based on lighting conditions, and creating negatives that fit the scale of the paper, every time and with little to no darkroom gymnastics.
I'm no superstar, but have found my way with a run of the mill developer, and seldom feel any inspiration to switch to something else.
So, what is your motivation? I say your question will yield many answers, and all of them will be correct, based on those individuals' experiences and needs. And simultaneously it may be that none of them are correct for you.
What it boils down to is what your needs are. Some people love pyro developers for VC paper printing, and I find that my darkroom waste come printing time is much higher. Some love pyro for graded paper printing, and I do too. This is a good example that it depends on what your output is, and how easily you can get the negs you want based on that. What prints best in the darkroom, for your tastes, and what scans best - similarly for your tastes.
From what I've seen, in my own experience, printing on mainly Ilford and Foma papers, but also Varycon, Emaks, Kentmere, Kodak, and Agfa varieties, I usually end up getting what I want by adjusting technique as opposed to changing developer. Opinions are easy to come by, but you will not truly know what's right for you until you've spent a great deal of time with specific materials.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
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The differences in results due to differences in developers are real, but they are also quite small.
Same goes with differences in technique.
Convenience may be a fair word to use, but it may also mislead. The liquid developers I use (HC-110 and Polymax T) are more convenient, but that convenience is important because of the limited, non-dedicated space I have available for use.
So it is necessary that I understand the materials I use, and the techniques available to me in the circumstances I work in, in order to obtain the results I want.
If my circumstances were different, the pyro developers might be an easier way to obtain the results I want, but I doubt that the results possible would be fundamentally better than the ones I can obtain with what I use.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
No, people on APUG are interested in making quality photographs not convenience. This is why we are interesting in traditional methods and not digital. But I have to admit that there are a few that appear too lazy to invert a developing tank.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
My developer selection is made prior to shooting a particular film, solely for the look, never for convenience. I choose the film/dev combo to match the subject and how I want to portray it. The only thing convenient is the stock I keep on hand. My favorite trio of developers, D-76, Pyrocat-HD, and Rodinal, in that order.
It's mostly quality over convenience for me. If I wanted convenience over quality, I would shoot that other medium.
I choose combinations of materials based entirely on the results they give.
Having said that, the results from film developers depend so much on how you use them that in general I think many of us place too much importance on that particular choice. I have at times been as guilty as anyone of this sort of obsession. There are of course meaningful differences, but sometimes even those differences can become blurred as relative working characteristics are altered by film exposure, dilution and development procedures.
So in a way, convenience can play a role. With practice and adjustments, if someone gets their HC-110 negatives to look and print the same as the way they looked and printed with PMK, I'd say go with HC-110 and avoid the hassles of staining developers. If one can get the same image sharpness, graininess and tonality with D76 1+3 as they can with FX-2, go with D76 instead of having to scratch-mix FX-2. Etc etc.
In the end printing skill is where it's at. Pyro developers are great, but they do not change what is possible in the print as some would have you believe, they just alter the procedures used to get there (or not as the case may be).
Last edited by Michael R 1974; 08-03-2012 at 12:07 PM. Click to view previous post history.