Processing a film

Processing black and white negatives is in many ways like cooking - you use liquids, and have to control time and temperature quite carefully. You also need some basic equipment. The ten most important items are shown in Figure 35.1.

Loading the tank

Before you try using a tank for the first time, practice loading with a scrap film, or an unwanted (and uncut) length of negatives. Do this first in the light, then with your eyes closed, then in a darkened room. It's important not to force and buckle the film during loading, or you may get results as shown in the film trouble shooting section (Part 11) later in this book. The shaped tongue must be cut off the front end of the film to give a square shape for loading. If necessary, use a retrieving tool to slip into the cassette without fogging film (Figure 35.1, step 1). Having pulled out the tip, you can then do your trimming in the light (Figure 35.1, steps 2 and 3).

The stage after this - winding a whole exposed film into the reel - only takes a few minutes but must be done in total darkness. If you don't have a darkroom use a large cupboard. It is also possible to untuck one side of

Figure 35.1 (Left) Retrieving and trimming the film end, in normal lighting. (Right) Loading into the film reel, in darkness.

Figure 35.2

Basic equipment for processing film

1 35 mm film-end retrieving tool. Used to extract the first inch or so of film if wound fully into the cassette, so it can be prepared for tank loading (see Figure 35.1 for the precise steps involved).

2 Light-tight plastic tank containing a reel. You push or wind your film into the spiral groove of the reel in the dark; the whole length is held only along its edges, with each turn slightly separated from the next so that processing solutions act evenly over its entire surface. Each solution is poured in through a light-proof hole in the tank lid. You block off the hole and invert the tank at set intervals to agitate the solutions; some tanks have a plastic rod to rotate the reel for the same purpose.

3 Bottles containing developer and fixing solutions. Start off by using the developer recommended on your film's packing slip. A standard fine-grain developer such as Ilford ID11 or Kodak D76 (made up from powder) is a good choice. You can also buy most developers in liquid concentrate form, which are quicker and easier to prepare. Made-up developer can be stored for weeks in a stoppered container. The acid hardener fixing solution is simpler and cheaper, and is also known by its main constituent 'hypo' (sodium thiosulfate). Unused fixer keeps indefinitely. Never let developer and fixer mix, because they will neutralize each other.

Figure 35.2

4 Measure. A plastic measuring graduate holding sufficient solution to fill your tank.

5 Funnel. A plastic funnel for re-bottling solutions.

6 Thermometer. A photographic thermometer clearly scaled from about 13°C (55°F) to 24°C (75°F).

7 Thin plastic gloves for handling chemicals (see the safe handling recommendations in Appendix O before using any chemicals).

8 A minute timer.

9 A flexible plastic tube for directing wash water down into your tank through the lid hole.

0 Plastic pegs to attach to the top and bottom of your processed film when it is finally hung up to dry on a nylon cord.

your bed, pushing your hands in deep under the blankets in between the sheets. Alternatively, buy a light-proof 'changing bag' (Figure 35.3), which pushes onto your arms. Feed film in direct from the cassette (as shown in Figure 35.1, step 4) or use a cassette or bottle opener to take off one end and withdraw the spool of film. The actual way the film slides into the reel grooves depends upon your particular make of tank. Some are cranked in, others just pushed. As soon as the whole film is loaded, place the reel in the empty tank and fit on the lid. After this point you can then do all your processing in ordinary lighting.

Figure 35.3 A changing bag (bottom) or just using your bed (top) saves having a darkened room.

Using the solutions

The various stages and typical times of processing are shown in Figure 35.4. Developer solution, waiting in the graduate at the recommended temperature (normally 20°C), is poured into the tank and the clock started. The time required depends upon the developer and type of black and white film you are processing. The hotter the developer, the faster it will work. Conversely, developer that is cool will take longer to process the negatives. It is critical for you to measure the temperature of the developer and then use the time/ temperature/film chart (usually supplied with the developer or film) to calculate the length of time that your specific film must be processed. In addition, you must regularly agitate the solution to avoid streaky development, typically by gently inverting the tank several times during the first 30 seconds, and then for 5 seconds every half minute. At the end of development you pour the solution out through the light-tight tank top. It is either poured away (if one-shot only) or returned to its bottle for reuse.

Film processing, stage by stage.

Although you cannot yet look, inside the tank the creamy surface of your film now carries a black image corresponding to where it received light in the camera. For the next step, which is a rinse, you fill the tank to overflowing with water and immediately empty it again. Repeat this process at least five times. This helps to remove developer from the film (alternatively use a 'stop bath' solution, which halts development faster).

Now fixer solution is poured into the tank and initially agitated. Fixer temperature is less critical than developer - room temperature is adequate. The fixer turns creamy silver halides unaffected by development into colorless compounds that can later be washed out of the film. Generally, but depending on your film and developer type, you will need to immerse your film in the fixer solution for about 10 minutes, but after 1-2 minutes most of the film's milkiness will have cleared and you can remove the tank top without having light affect your results. When the film has finished its fixing time, the solution is returned to its bottle.

Next, a 20-minute wash in cold water removes all remaining unwanted chemicals and you can remove the processed film from the reel and carefully hang it up to dry, with a peg attached to each end. A few drops of photographic 'wetting agent' in the final wash water will help the film dry evenly. Always hold film by its edges only. Once it has fully dried, cut it into convenient strips of five or six negatives and immediately protect these in sleeves made for the purpose (see Figure 35.5).

Film processing faults

Don't put the fixer in first - this will destroy all your pictures! Check temperatures before and during development, and be careful with timing, otherwise it is easy to under- or overdevelop (see Figure 35.6). Avoid putting finger-marks or splashes of any kind on your film - remember too that the film surface is easily damaged by scratches, dust and hairs when drying.

If your film is clear with no images, check to see if edge printing is present. If the information is there you have either processed an unused film or the camera was faulty - shutter not opening or film not winding on. If the edge data is not present, the fault is almost certainly processing. Perhaps the developer was totally exhausted or solutions used in the wrong order.

Film that is still creamy has not been fully fixed; further fixing time, use fresh fixer, will probably result in good negatives. Patches of uneven tone usually mean uneven development. Perhaps adjacent coils of film touched each other in the reel. Dark crescent-shaped marks (Figure 35.7) and kinks or creases in the film itself are due to rough handling. The film was most likely buckled after removal from its cassette, when you were trying to load the reel in the dark.

Most of the time, however, faults are concerned with negatives that are a bit too dark ('dense') or too pale ('thin'). At first, it is difficult to tell whether, say, a thin negative is due to underexposure or insufficient development. Of course, if every picture on your film looks thin, the fault was probably development - although it could also be the ISO rating having been incorrectly set on the camera.

Figure 35.5 Sleeved pages hold strips of processed 35 mm negatives and fit into a ring binder.

Underexposed and underdeveloped {Try priming grade 4, very hard)

Correctly exposed and underdeveloped

(Print grade 3,

Underexposed and normally developed (Print grade 2, normal)

Correctly exposed and normally developed (Print grade 2, normal)

Underexposed and overdeveloped (Print grade 0, very soft)

Corroctly exposed and overdeveloped (Print grade I, soft)

he effects of over- and underexposure, and over- and underdevelopment. The key is on the right.

As Figure 35.6 shows, though, an underexposed negative is characteristically transparent and empty of detail in subject shadow areas, such as the girl's hair. A correctly exposed but underdeveloped negative (top center) shows more detail here, but looks generally weak and gray ('flat'). A dense negative due only to overexposure records the subject's lightest parts as so solid that finer details are destroyed. Notice how shadows have ample detail, though. Overdevelopment instead gives a negative that is contrasty and 'bright' - dense in highlights but carrying little more shadow detail than a correctly developed film.

Figure 35.7 Processing faults. (Left) Dark, crescent-shaped kink marks. (Center) Undeveloped clear patch, where this part of the film remained in contact with another. (Right) All negatives throughout the film show part of the picture pale. The cause is probably insufficient developer in the tank.
Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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