Basics of developing B+W film?
Hi all, I'm sure that this has probably been asked before, but I can't find the 'specific' answers that i need in old threads, so I'm making a new one.
Firstly, about me. Back in High School, we had a few photography lessons as part of Tech classes, but the teacher only took our rolls, developed them for us, gave us the negatives, and we put them into the enlarger and printed our own paper in the baths and all (only ever B+W). So i've never processed my own film into negatives before, although I do understand the basics of the process.
Flash forward 15 years (wow, has it really been that long?), and I'm getting back into film (not that i ever really left, but my first 'slr' was a 'dslr', now i've got 3*6x6, 1*645, 3x135 cameras and still only one dslr). I'm really liking taking B+W film and i've shot a few dozen rolls over the past year already, anything from KB25 in 135 to Delta P3200 @iso4000 in 120. (I also shoot c41/e6 and process in one or the other depending on how I'm feeling, but I doubt i'll ever process them myself).
Also, I should mention that I scan everything on my Epson v750, and will print on my soon-to-arrive Epson R3000. As much as i'd like to do the full enlarger-darkroom setup, I don't have the space and probably never will.
So far I've only ever taken films to my local lab, the last one within 900km that will do B+W (afaik). They also do C41 and E6, and I'm very happy with their service in general. However, lately I've been getting back a few duds.
Firstly, a roll of ATP (or was it APX) 32, shot at 25, it looked like it was pushed to 400 or something, a true 'black and white' film, there was no grey left whatsoever. OK, i'm sure that may have been a dud film or a noob mistake, and I'm not saying I'm won't do the same one day.
And Efke they seem to have a real problem with, especially the line that i've read everywhere on the net "be careful with the wet negatives". The first roll of KB100 135 turned out fine. The second when I got it back, he said "i think it's disintegrating because it's too old, the non-emulsion side just peels off" (never mind that it was brand new). I thought at the time, maybe it was because I took them straight Freezer-Camera, and it had stuck together in the canister and ripped while winding. Either way, needless to say, it's useless. The last two rolls I gave him were 120 KB25, and this time he came back with the correct answer, "it sticks to everything when it's wet, like the rollers of the machine". I haven't scanned it yet but at least it doesn't look as bad as the last time. But if they're only going to machine process, I'm always going to have the same problem.
And lastly, I'm not getting enough shadow detail, and this is true of almost every film, i'm not sure yet whether to blame my scanner (or at least the driver, i'm running it via the epkowa driver in GIMP under Linux, I'll try with my Win7 laptop one day). Basically, no matter how I scan, the botton 50% black (at least, what I think should be the bottom 50%), is compressed into the bottom 10%. 90% of what I get on screen is what I think should be highlights. So I'd like to experiment with different developers, processing times, agitation routines, etc, to try to overcome this. (I always have to adjust the tone-curves in GIMP to boost the shadows and re-contrast the bottom 5%, but sometimes it's just too black at the bottom to be useful, even if I overexpose in-camera by 1/3-2/3 of a stop, any more and I'm clipping highlights)
So, what do i need? I'll only ever be doing this in 'full light', so I need 'closed-equipment' as it were.
I know I need a tank that can take 135 and 120 reels (as much as I'd like to shoot 4x5 or 8x10, if I ever do it'll only be Velvia). How does this one look? (just the first one I noticed at B+H, no preference really).
I'm presuming some sort of changing bag obviously, suggestions welcome (I've re-rolled films before, anything that involves taking a cartridge apart has ben done under my very thick black quilt (doona/duvee for all you foreigners), at night with lights off and curtains shut).
After processing and fixing and washing, I'm thinking I'll just hang them off the shower-rail to dry, anyone want to tell me this is not a good idea?
And developer, this is mostly where I need the suggestions. Films to be used at home are definitely going to be Efke KB25 and KB100, in 135 and 120. Other films can vary, I tend to buy one-off rolls on ebay sometimes (which I try not to do these days, I try get at least 10 at a time so I can figure out their 'style'). I've got a 100' reel of Rollei Retro 100 to cut into canisters one day (once I finish that roll of Provia 400 that expired last century).
In the freezer are various rolls of FP4 125, HP5 400, Acros 100, Delta P3200, Shanghai GP100, Tmax100 and 400, APX25 and ATP32 (or is it ATP25 and APX32?).
I used to get BW400CN pushed to 800 because I heard somewhere it was better, but I just got my first roll of TMax 400 pushed and i reckon it was better (maybe because I used an orange filter for once, or my FL55/1.2 just works better with film).
I also love Delta Pro 50 and 100 (but I have no problems with the way the lab does these, they always look amazing, if Efke's being discontinued then it's going to be Delta Pro 50 for me from now on).
Another requirement on the developer is that it should be long lasting. I tend to work in spurts, shoot a few rolls at once and then nothing for a while. If it's a liquid, it has to last maybe 2 years at room temperature or come in smaller bottles (I've read about decanting into smaller bottles once opened, I'm fine with doing that). Powder is very much appreciated, as long as an open-bag of powder also lasts. Powder would also be good for shipping, keep the weight down and less restrictions.
So, anything that particularly springs to mind?
Fixer I'll also need, anything in particular good or bad? (as long as it's fixed properly before I take it out of the dark-tank, it'll be drying in the light).
Also, where I live has fairly hard tap water, but i'm also going to plumb-in the rain water tank in a few months (I can get it manually from the tank for now). Or should i just be using distilled all the way?
Anyway, so that's my very longwinded way of asking for help, any suggestions much appreciated.
Hi Dr. Croubie, what I strongly suggest is to first read some basic how-to stuff from Ilford and Kodak. I posted a thread (see link below) with links to some really good information everyone should probably start with. It is a good idea to get some straight talk from Ilford and Kodak first before asking for opinions - because you will get a lot of responses here with everyone's personal preferences and it can get overwhelming, especially for a beginner who might not be able to separate good information from bad information. Some good basics will help keep things simple and help you get good results.
Regarding tank I suggest this one if you do not have experience. Reels are easier to load in my opinion and it is quicker to put the lid on.
Water - do yourself a favour and use distilled to mix chemicals and for the final wash with wetting agent like http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Agent_for.html.
Drying - shower is ok but run hot water for a few minutes before (it will help with dust in the air) and keep window and door closed.
Last edited by wiedzmin; 03-27-2013 at 09:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.
My advice based on my experience.
Buy ilford film. Use Ilfords chems. Follow their worksheets/factsheets to the letter. Works perfectly.
Bit like following a Delia Smith recipe - you know it's going to work.
Then go and try other things using Ilford experience as a benchmark.
Read the howto in my FAQ; link in my signature. There's also a video posted by the MOD54 guy.
If you're not getting enough shadow detail then you need more exposure. Some developers (eg XTOL) give a bit more shadow detail, others (Rodinal) tend to give less.
If you want a lasts-forever developer, Rodinal and HC-110 are the best options and both will last a decade or more as concentrate even after opening. Both tend to give poorer film-speed and sharp grain so they work best on slow and/or very fine films. D76 or Xtol will last maybe a year once mixed up, or forever in their sealed sachets.
Get a rapid (ammonium thiosulfate) fixer. Brand is irrelevant; the best option is the one in your local store that you don't have to pay freight on.
Last edited by polyglot; 03-28-2013 at 04:57 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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I just started doing my own B&W developing. While it by no means makes me an expert, I would like to suggest that you pick a film and use their chemicals to start. Get familiar with it then experiment with mixing and matching til you find developer, stop bath and fixers you find work best for you. I started with Kodak Tri-X and D-76 with the associated chemicals. Then just do it!
Welcome to film development! It is easy and straightforward, unless you don't want it to be.
If you are new to film, then you should not use technical pan type films such as ATP until you have mastered the basic skill set first. These are ultra-high contrast films that need very special development to produce a full tonal scale. I have a lot more experience, relatively speaking of course, and I still avoid those films. To be brutally honest, I haven't identified a need to use such slow films yet, as the grain on Acros is so small that I do not notice it on a 12"x16" print from a 35 mm negative. If a film is difficult to handle, such as KB25, well just avoid it. Why torture yourself? It may be possible to cause less softening with low pH developers - the more alkaline a developer, the more the gelatine softens. My overall advice based on what you give above is to vastly reduce the variety of materials that you work with. If I were you, I'd pick Acros or FP4+, maybe one slow film (PanF+) and maybe a fast film that can be pushed in a pinch, say HP5+. Then use one developer and work through the variety of usage conditions and processing methods until you understand those two or three films well enough. For a developer, start with something like D76(=ID11) or Xtol, and stick with it. Rodinal, HC-110, TMax developer, Ilford DD-X and Perceptol etc are all good developers, and used correctly will produce great negatives, but you cannot learn and use them all at once, as you will be forever experimenting and your results will be up and down, not to speak of the clutter in your chemicals cupboard. The films suggested here are tolerant of all commonly available developers. I am not aware of bad film-developer matches in the Ilford line-up, and Acros is beautiful in any developer. The European films (Adox, Efke, Rollei, Foma) require much more circumspection, and some film-developer combinations are really to be avoided. If I need to start looking for special developers because my films don't like Rodinal or D76, well then it just becomes a schlep that kills the joy of photography.
Keep it simple.
Keep it simple.
Keep it simple. Did I mention that before?
It might not be a good idea to to mix a part of a powdered chemical. Powders can separate in the bag according to size, weight, shape, surface friction, surface charge, and whatnot, so you have no guarantee that the half you pour into your mixing bottle has the same concentrations of stuff as the part you leave in the powder bag. It's usually advised on this forum to mix all of the powder at once.
Go to this site - many tutorials on this very topic: www.twelvesmallsquares.blogspot.co.uk
Originally Posted by Dr Croubie
As others have stated you need to simplify. I would stay away from the Advanced Technical Pan stuff for right now. Delta 100, Acros 100, and Tmax 100 are all great films. Pick one as you medium speed film and stick to it. All of those films can be developed in Rodinal. Rodinal keeps forever even when opened. It is a liquid concentrate that you dilute in water when you need it. You can use a simple kitchen measuring cup to measure out the water and use a medicine dropper or syringe to add a few milliliters of Rodinal (Adox Adonal). Rodinal is not a fine grain developer. That really isn't a problem with 120 100 ISO film. It makes for sharp negatives. Rodinal grain is a bit aggressive for 400 ISO 35mm film. Frankly I don't even use it for MF 400 ISO film.
There are recipes for Rodinal and Acros/Tmax 100/Ilford Delta 100 all over the internet. I say pick ONE film and develop multiple rolls. Tweak as you go along.
Evaluating negatives... You need to make sure you are exposing your negatives correctly. You need to get a good modern hand held light meter like the Sekonic L-308S. It is a good incident meter. I don't think it does spot metering though. Learn how to use the meter. You may want to get some scans from whoever processes your film. Depending on what kind of outfit it is the scans may be anything from terrible to somewhat acceptable. What you want to see is if they get significantly better tonality compared to your scanning efforts. If they do then the problem may lay in your scanning workflow. Also have you calibrated your monitor? A lot of people have big cheap TN panel monitors that are uncalibrated. Get an IPS monitor and calibrate it. If you don't have a good calibrated monitor you won't be able to evaluate anything using it. The other thing is in order to make a definitive statement about a negative you have to print it. I scanned my negatives for a long time and only late in the game started actually making prints in my own dark room. Well the scanner was able to get a decent scan out of a lot of negatives that were low quality. If you tweak your negatives for scanning that doesn't mean they will be ideal for dark room printing. A well exposed easy to print negative will scan just fine. Shoot for a nice darkroom negative and it will be scannable. Scanners allegedly prefer thinner negatives but I shoot for darkroom results and scanning hasn't been a problem. I make my negatives as dense as they need to be for darkroom printing... no more, no less.
I didn't catch what country you live in. If you are in the US Rodinal (Adox Adonal) can be purchased at Freestyle Photographic in California. I actually recommend starting with some 100 ISO film and Rodinal. You need a minimal amount of equipment to mix it up and it lasts forever. Every other developer I've ever used costs more and requires much more equipment to mix up and store. The beauty of Rodinal is you mix up just what you need each time and all you need is a measuring cup and a medicine dropper.
The paterson system you pointed out is what I use to develop my film. People will get into plastic vs steel reel debates, but you should just use what works for you. When loading 120 film on the plastic reel I suggest starting at the end that has the tape on it. So in the darkbag unroll the roll of film entirely while removing the paper backing and then load it onto the real from the end that has/had the tape on it. Be patient. Loading the reels is the hardest part of developing film. It will take you awhile to get proficient.
Running around the internet collecting different films and trying them out is fun. Unfortunately as a neophyte you aren't going to be able to learn anything and improve your process if you keep doing that. I like 100 ISO film so I picked ONE kind and shot box after box of it. I tried different developers at different concentrations with varying agitations. But for the most part I kept shooting just one kind of film. You have so many variables it is hard to trouble shoot. You have a light meter, film, developer, scanner, monitor, etc. You need to examine the steps in your workflow and make sure they are all being operated in stringent and consistent manner before evaluating results and making changes. I personally would go out with a good hand held meter, your best camera/lens and take a picture of a scene with the sun directly behind you. I would do it on a sunny day and on an overcast day. I would do something similar with a portrait. A nice head shot so you can evaluate skin tones in bright sunshine and on an overcast day. I would then send the roll to North Coast Photographic Services. Have them develop it and do an enhanced scan of the entire roll. This process is not the cheapest but it is very good. When you get your roll back assuming you used 100 ISO film from Ilford/Kodak/Fuji and correct metering technique you will have a reasonably developed roll and some good scans. You can use them as a baseline to check your scanner, monitor, and home developing efforts. Although like I said home developing efforts should be tweaked for darkroom prints. But at least you will be able to address really gross errors using a scanner.
On a side note places like Costco do excellent large prints pretty cheaply. The prints need to be large at places like that so they use the Inkjet vs the light jet which often has color casts. You can even get FREE printer profiles for Costco stores across America from Drycreek Photo. It beats buying ink and paper, cleaning, and profiling your own printer. If your activities are sporadic I would recommend this route. At least try it out before committing a bunch of money to a printer. Ink jet printers need to be used regularly or their ink nozzles get clogged up.
Last edited by Noble; 03-28-2013 at 02:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.