Film Development

This is a basic overview of my film processing techniques. After the film has been exposed I return to my darkroom and process the film by hand using dish development. This procedure requires precise technique in order to yield a consistent result. The advantage of using dish development is that the film can be processed individually; this allows total control over the contrast and density of each negative.

My darkroom is organized for developing sheet film in dishes as follows:

Firstly, six individual 8×10 inch development dishes are prepared and arranged in a specific order. Bear in mind that the film has to be processed in total darkness for over 20 minutes. Preparation and organisation are key factors to a consistent hand line for film processing.

The sequence is always the same:

  1. Pre soak
  2. Developer
  3. Stop bath
  4. Fixative bath 1
  5. Fixative bath 2
  6. Washing dish

When all chemicals are mixed to temperature and poured into the dishes then the lights are turned off and the processing begins.

The film is removed from its dark slide and placed in the pre-soak dish for 2 minutes. The pre-soak is water with wetting agent added. This allows the silver gelatin emulsion to swell slightly and reduces surface tension of the water.

The film is then carefully transferred into the developing dish. The film emulsion is very delicate and will scratch easily so a good handling method is essential. The development is timed to produce the required contrast. During the development I carefully turn or flip the film over every 30 seconds. This helps to keep chemical agitation totally even without any over development in any part of the film area. Between flipping the film, the dish is also gently rocked from side to side.

When development is complete the film is transferred to the stop bath, which is a dilute solution of acitic acid that immediately halts the development of silver salts.

After one minute in the stop, the film is moved to fixing dish 1. This fixative works hard to prevent the silver from reacting to light thus fixing the image forever. After three minutes the negative is transferred to a fresh fix bath for a further three minutes. This fresh fix will ensure that the silver halide crystals are totally fixed.

Finally the wash bath. The film is placed in running water for 20 minutes with regular agitation. Before the film is hung to air dry, the wash bath has a few drops of wetting agent added to aid drying without dry marks.


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