Don't give up. If you can't process your film yourself, work with the lab you're using to see if they will adjust processing for you, (or find one that will).
You control half of the process - the exposure. If you shoot a roll of Pan-F+ and expose it three different ways on each scene, say EI 25, 40, and 50, you will see a difference in the outcome of your prints.
In very rough terms you control the shadow density with exposure and the highlight density with processing, and the mid-tones 'slide along', wedged in between the shadows and highlights.
So you can lower contrast by over-exposing and then instructing your lab to reduce development. The trick is to know how much, and you do need to shoot a few rolls to get a good compromise.
You still have a lot of control, but go have some fun, shoot a few rolls in varying lighting conditions, and then work your way, with your lab, towards a good compromise. But please don't give up on b&w negative film. It is such a beautiful medium.
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
"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
I agree: b&w negative is a beautiful medium.
I don't know about darker, but slower films usually have a bit more contrast.
This is so much less daunting than what you are making it out to be! The hard truth is that developing your own B&W film is guaranteed to take less time than having it developed, even if you lived right next to a lab. If you have a small film developing tank, a couple of metal reels, and the chemicals (I used D-76 in powdered form), it will take you 30mins tops for the entire process of loading and developing two films (you can do two at once in a small - e.g. 500ml Nikor - tank, or do up to four in a bigger, flask-sized tank), not to mention save you an incredible amount of money, and give you the control that everybody is urging you to take.
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
I started two years ago as a complete B&W film newbie, and my very first roll came out perfectly developed (D76 1+1 in my case). The very first one I did myself was better than any B&W film I ever had developed by a lab.
Go on, your profile name "FilmOnly" deserves that you give this is a shot. This analogue print is from the first roll of Pan F I ever developed. This was expired (by 10 years, and poorly stored) film, which surely had lost a lot of speed by then, but even it was not too dark.
(Olympus OM-1, 135/3.5 at f/5.6, Pan F @ ISO32, 8x10in hand print)
Just to repeat, this was from my first roll of Pan F, and I had no idea what I was doing with the stuff. I just developed it according to what I have read. Future rolls came out much better.
Same thing hapened last week, when I first tried out Fomapan 100. I just "gave it a shot" (of D76 1+1) and printed some of the negatives, and they came out fine:
(Olympus OM-1, 90/2.0 at f/2.0, Fomapan 100 @ ISO64, 8x10in hand print)
I think, in this day and age, if you're going to be using B&W film, do it "all the way" yourself, as an artist, or perhaps re-think your usage of the medium as a whole.
Okay, philosomatograhpher, you (and others) have convinced me. The above shots are, indeed, better than what I have been seeing from my lab (at least with Pan F). If you do not mind, please provide a detailed list of what I will need (be as specific as possible). I will do Pan F, but also Delta 100 and 400. I gather I could buy all of what I will need from Freestyle? I have dealt with them, and they seem like a good outfit. Before I forget: I gather I will need a good film scanner, too?
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With the best film scanner in the world, you will only ever enjoy half of what B&W film is about. You really should try to make some space for a small darkroom, making analogue prints is amazing, the final step of a great process. People practically give darkroom equipment (enlargers, trays, easels) away. Still, let's talk about film development.
Originally Posted by FilmOnly
There are probably hundreds of APUG posts and web articles on film development, and many books, but this is what I can think of:
- Developer (I strongly recommend D-67, ID-11, or equivalent, easy to begin with, perfect grain/sharpness compromise). I buy in powder form an mix up a batch every 2 months or so, but also available in liquid.
- Stop Bath (stops the developing action)
- Fixer ("fixes" any undeveloped silver grains)
- Wetting agent (basically a form of pure soap, decreases the viscosity of the water during the final wash, causes even drying / prevents marks)
- Three or so 1-litre measuring jugs, the "laboratory" kind. Plastic or glass is good, plastic doesn't break easily!
- Developing tank: Many options, but I use a steel developing tank - a small 500ml Nikor tank, does two 35mm films at a time. A 1000ml tank can do up to four.
- If going with a steel tank, Metal spirals to load your film on. Condition of these are most important: if buying second-hand, make sure they are not even slightly bent! Otherwise you'll go crazy trying to load film onto them in the dark. Some people never get the feel for the process of loading metal reels, then you may want to get a twist-and-turn plastic spiral and tank, I have a Paterson "daylight" tank that works nicely.
- A good thermometer to regulate water temperature (you usually want to work as close as 20ºC as possible, otherwise you have to use non-standard developing times.
- Latex gloves, and maybe even protective glasses if you are accident-prone
- A hose on the tap makes it easier to fill things with water
- Some means for you to time, I use my wristwatch, but a stopwatch / timer might make life easier
- A totally dark place to load your film in. I am lucky to have access to my own darkroom, but otherwise, a light-sealed cupboard, or a film changing bag.
- When you start out, I would not recommend caring about saving and re-using chemicals, but when you do, get a couple of laboratory-grade chemical storage bottles (dark brown) to store and re-use things like made-up developer, fixer, etc. Either way, it'll be very economical, the chemicals are dirt cheap per-use.
- Some place free of dust to hang drying film (each roll is about 1m long), and some way to clip the film to it (e.g. clothes pegs)
At least one spare roll of film to practice loading (in complete darkness) whatever tank you get. You don't want to ruin images while you get the feel for doing this.
And lastly, patience and perseverance. It's worth it...
Good luck with sourcing your materials, and please do share your journey with us here! What camera(s) do you use?
To develop your own film, you don't really need too much. Here's a list
- A tank with reels. I like the 2 reel plastic tanks. Easy to load. Almost no learning curve. Reels are adjustable and can be used for medium format film without spending for new reels
- A thermometer. No need to go crazy here. Get one of those kitchen thingies from WalMart for about $10. Close enough.
- Clothespins to hang the film to dry.
- Some 1L soda pop bottles to store your chemistry. These work great. Don't spend a lot of money for the so called photo chemical bottles. The plastic used to make these is actually inferior to the soda bottle plastic for this application. You can get glass bottles if you like. I don't see any advantage.
- Developer - 1 gallon mix of D-76
- Stop bath - anything you like. They're all the same. I don't care for the odorless variety. They don't age out, but they do get used up faster and cost more. The smell of acetic acid doesn't bother me, and once it's mixed to working strength, it's hardly noticeable.
- Fixer - Any rapid fixer concentrate will do. Again, shop for price here, 'cause they're all more or less the same. One is just as good as the other.
- If you don't have a space you can make completely dark (and I do mean completely - not even little light leaks) get a changing bag. Larger is better than smaller.
- Wetting agent - I like Photoflo. I've used Edwal's version and I've used Kodak's version. They both work equally well. Kodak's is less expensive for me.
- A funnel.
- A big old plastic slotted spoon for mixing the developer - another Walmart kitchen gadget.
- Some small plastic spoons for stirring small amounts of chemicals.
- A couple of Pyrex measuring cups. One at 1L size and one at 1/2 liter size.
- Two cheap plastic buckets for mixing the developer.
That's about it. The tank and changing bag will last forever. The thermometer will usually crap out in 6 months to a year, but for $10, who cares? By that time, it's likely you'll have damaged an expensive thermometer and will need a replacement anyway.
Slower speed films by their nature are more contrasty than their high speed cousins. If they present more contrast than you need for your style of printing, test for proper development times, and developer dilution.
Originally Posted by VaryaV
[FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]
The basic rule of thumb is that faster films have lower contrast, and vice versa, so what you are seeing is in line with this.
Originally Posted by VaryaV
Low contrast is very often a good thing. Low contrast is what gives a film exposure (and processing) latitude, and lots of malleability. Low contrast is what allows Delta 3200 to be as versatile as it is. Low contrast means that upon underexposure, low tones are not dropped as severely, so low-contrast films are the best for holding on to detail and texture in the low tones when you have to underexpose.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
I very much appreciate all of the input. I have a small bathroom in my basement, and I gather I will use that room for developing. Overall, only the dust-free place seems to be a problem. Dust is anywhere and everywhere.
2F/2F: I have notced precisely what you are describing above. For me, low contrast has always been a blessing (usually in disguise). Recently, I have been favoring Portra 400NC over Ektar 100. While Ektar is no doubt a superb film, Portra 400NC has a very even tempter and pleasing look.