Common Problems In Development

If you follow the step-by-step procedures we have outlined, your finished negatives should be problem-free. But mistakes are easy to make, and they can ruin your negatives. In this section we will examine some common imperfections, identify their causes, and tell you how to avoid them.

1. Fog From Exhausted Developer Or Overage Film.

Cause: If your negative has a gray cast that dulls the image and extends out into the sprocket or edge areas—a problem called/o<7—the culprit is "tired" developer or over-age film or exposure to light during development.

Prevention: Use fresh film. Do not use the developer for more rolls of film than the manufacturer recommends. If you store your developer for any length of time, follow our recommendations on storage of chemicals. If the date you wrote on the label exceeds the recommended shelf-life, throw the developer out and mix a fresh batch. If you have any doubt about a bottle of developer, throw it out. Don't try to save money by stretching your chemicals: This ruins pictures, and costs more in the end.

2. Small Clear Spots On Negative.

Cause: If you see small rounded spots on the negative, which cause small dark spots in the print, the cause is usually air bubbles—called "air bells'—that adhered to the surface of the film during development. Such bubbles prevent the developer from acting for the full time on these areas of the film, leaving the undeveloped or underdeveloped spots in their place

Prevention: Air bubbles can be dislodged by rapping the tank sharply on the sink or table as soon as you have poured in the developer. Also, tilt the tank when pouring chemicals, especially the developer, and pour steadily.

And be sure to agitate the film during fixing according to our previous instructions, to assure even and complete removal of unexposed silver-halide crystals from your precious negatives.

Cause: If there are clear amoeba-shaped areas on the negative, producing comparable black areas in the print, your film stuck together in these areas during the developing bath. The developer couldn't reach these areas.

If the blotch on the negative is cream colored or gray, the film was still sticking together during the fixing bath.

Prevention: Load the film on the reel more carefully so that the entire length of the film is in its groove, and no two surfaces touch. Practice, practice, practice until you master this step. This is probably the most common problem in the entire developing process, and the easiest to avoid if you practice loading the film till it's second-nature to do it correctly with your eyes closed.

Developing Film Problems

3. Blank Spaces,

4. Fingerprints.

4. Fingerprints.

Cause: Sometimes, either while loading the film or when drying it, you put your paws on the film's surface.

Result: A fingerprint that would be better in the FBI files.

Prevention: Always handle film by the edges, never by the surface.

Correction: If the fingerprint was made while loading the film, the oil from your skin put a layer on the film through which the developer could not operate. Once done, you can't correct this.

If the fingerprint was made after development, you may be able to clean the film. Special film cleaner solutions are available at your camera store. Follow directions, and be gentle. You are more likely to be successful in removing the fingerprint if it is on the shiny base side of the film than if it is on the dull emulsion side.

5. Water Spots.

5. Water Spots.

Cause: If water droplets or streaks remain on the negative while it dries, ugly marks can result.

Prevention: Use a wetting agent as we recommended, and use a "sponge-sandwich" to remove all surface water.

Correction: Wash the film again, this time using a wetting agent and sponging all water drops off the film. Sometimes, but not always, the spots will come out.

6. Tiny White Spots On The Print.

6. Tiny White Spots On The Print.

Cause: Tiny white spots on the positive print are usually caused by dust on the negative.

Prevention: Dry your film in a dust-free place.

Correction: Before printing, brush or blow the dust off the negative. If it is firmly stuck to the surface, use a film cleaner solution.

7. Agitation Streaks.

7. Agitation Streaks.

Cause: Agitation streaks are seen here as vertical patterns of light and dark that appear to flow up into the sky from the buildings. The cause is overly violent agitation. Especially when you use a developing reel that you rotate on a center handle, excessive speed of agitation can cause these marks, called agitation streaks.

Prevention: Be gentle when you agitate. You're not shaking a cocktail or spinning a roulette wheel.

Note that insufficient agitation can also cause streaking. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to be certain that you provide the right amount of agitation.

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