Basic Darkroom Techniques: Preparing Chemicals and Developing Negatives
|January 2, 2011||Posted by admin under Photography|
There are two steps to producing completed prints in the darkroom: developing the film to obtain negatives, and printing pictures on the enlarger from those negatives. I will concentrate on the first step: developing negatives.
You will need to get the following things together:
- Film processing tank
- measuring cup or graduate
- your clips or hanger with clothes pins to hang film to dry
- bottle opener
After you have assembled these items, you are ready to mix your chemicals. As I suggested last week, you should use Kodak black and white films and chemistry for simplicity’s sake. If you are using other types, then you will need to carefully check the manufacturer’s instructions.
I suggest that you first mix your chemicals. Developer, stop bath, and fixer should be mixed according to the instructions that come with the packaging. Kodak’s T-Max developer, and other products must be mixed properly, or
General steps for developing negatives:
1. Take your film, scissors, processing tank, and bottle opener into your darkroom.
Before turning off the light, lay all these items out so that you will know where they are in the dark. (Remember; there should be no light at all in this room.) You should have practiced loading the film onto the tank spool before you try it in the dark. Once the lights are off, pop the top off the film canister using the bottle opener. Carefully remove the film from the canister, and cut the attached spool off.
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Proceed to load the film onto the processing tank reel. Take your time, it’s easy to panic in the dark especially at first. It sometimes takes a couple of tries to get it on correctly. Going slow will also assure that the film doesn’t get out of line on the reel. If it does, it won’t develop correctly. Once the film is on the reel, put it in the tank and make sure the lid is replaced securely on the tank. You are now finished working in the dark. The remaining steps can be carried out in light.
TIP: if you have difficulty loading the film properly, don’t get crazy and turn on the lights!! Load the film into the tank without the reel, cover tightly, and cover it to protect it from light. If I have to do this at home, I bury the tank in the back of the linen closet and close the door before turning on the lights. It gives me a minute to check my reel and clear my head. Turn the lights back off before retrieving the tank and try again. Even pros have trouble loading a reel occasionally. Also, a wet reel is especially hard to load.
2. Your chemicals should be mixed, and at the right temperature.
You can set your tank aside and prepare enough developer to fill the tank. I use tap water, and adjust it till it’s the right temperature, and then mix my developer. Time, temperature and agitation are crucial for proper development, so take the time to get the temperature right. Generally you will be mixing a small amount of your prepared developer with water.
This will go into the tank. Be sure to measure how much liquid your tank will hold, and adjust accordingly. For example; if your tank holds ten ounces of liquid, then you will need to mix enough solution to make ten ounces so that there will be enough to cover the film in the tank.
3. You can now pour in the developer.
Be sure you know how much time and agitation is required beforehand. The time that the developer will need to stay in the tank will vary according to the temperature. You also have to agitate every 30 seconds or so, but check the manufactures instructions to make sure. When you pour the developer in make sure to allow for the time that you pour the chemicals in and out of the tank.
Start your timer, pour the developer in quickly, tap the tank lightly on a counter top, and start the recommended agitation process. Be sure to strictly adhere to the agitation and time recommendations. Over agitating or too much time in the developer can ruin your negatives.
4. After pouring out the developer, pour in the indicator stop bath, agitate for 30 seconds, and drain.
I like to run a little water in the tank and rinse the film for a minute or two before fixing. (DO NOT OPEN THE TANK.) Ideally the water should be the same temperature as the developer. You are now ready to fix the film.
5. Pour in the fixer, and again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding time.
You usually have to agitate the film during the entire fixing process. After the recommended time, you can inspect and rinse the film.
TIP: if the film looks cloudy when you take it out of the fixer, put it back in, and agitate for another 30-40 seconds. That will clear it up. Wash the film for at least 10 minutes after fixing.
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6. Hang the film up to allow it to dry.
Use a sponge or squeegee to remove excess water. Blow drying is not recommended. Dry your film in a dust free area.
Allow ample time for negatives to dry. The emulsion will be sticky, and easy to damage while damp. After thorough drying the negatives are ready to use. For extra protection, cut the negatives into strips to fit in plastic negative sleeves available at a photography supplier.
Photo developing chemicals are hazardous. Always use care, and avoid spending prolonged periods of time in unventilated areas. If you plan to develop film frequently, you may consider a special ventilation system to reduce exposure.
You can dispose of used chemicals by collecting them in containers, and taking them to a local photo lab, university, or other waste center that will take them. Call around in your area for locations that will allow you to dispose of used photographic chemicals.
Pynant, Nr Trefor, Nth Wales, Ian Grant