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processing film - for black and white film
© Marvin Bartel
  • Good negs are a joy to print. Thin negs, thick negs, dirty negs, and damaged negs are a challenge to print. If negs are not top quality, be sure to find out what needs to be done differently with the camera or with processing to correct the problem for the next film.Over-exposed and/or over-developed negs are too dark (no detail shows) in the highlight areas. Under-exposed and/or under-developed negs have no visible detail or texture in the transparent (shadow) areas. Good negs have a full tonal range.
  • Good negs are sharp (examine with magnifying loop).
  • Good negs are clean (no water spotting, no emulsion crumbs, no finger prints, no dust, no scratches).

VERIFY TEMPS - Check chemical supply and feel container temps before beginning. Exact temperature of the developer is needed in order to know developer time needed.

CHECK FILM TANK LID - While still in the dark, be sure the lid won't fall off when tank is inverted. 

1. PRE-WET - about 20 seconds - fill with water, tap tank, dump. Prevent air bubbles (bells) on the film surface. Use water within 3 degrees of developer temp.

2. DEVELOPER - dilute as instructed on the container - (1:1 means 1 part stock developer and 1 part water) use exact time and temp. from chart - use enough working solution to cover film(s) in can. Tap tank on counter to dislodge air bubbles from film. Agitate 5 seconds every 30 seconds. Discard developer down the drain after designated time. Time, temperature, and standardized agitation are all critical in determining negative density. 

See the chart for your film type, developer type, and your ASA setting. 


3. STOP BATH - about 30 seconds - cover film(s), agitate about 15 seconds, set about 15 seconds, discard. Use a temp. within 3 degrees of previous liquid (Some skip stop bath and use 4 changes of water instead).

4. FIXER - agitate continuously but gently 30 seconds. Open tank and lift film slowly in and out of fixer while watching the color. Note the time elapsed when the film clears (appears black instead of gray) and continue fixing for the same amount of time as it took to turn from gray to black. SAVE ALL FIXER. NEVER POUR IT DOWN THE DRAIN (all other chemicals are discarded). Use a temp within 3 degrees of previous liquid. PLEASE WASH THE TANK LID WHEN YOU CLEAN UP.

5. WATER RINSE --fill and dump twice. Use water within 3 degrees of previous liquid.

6. HYPO ELIMINATOR or HYPO CLEAR ("hypo" is another name for fixer) - 2 minutes or longer---lift film in and out of this cleaning solution briskly to create foam, discard. Use temp within 3 degrees of previous liquid. Wash tank thoroughly to remove specks of emulsion before using it for Photo Flo. You may skip hypo-eliminator and wash film 10 minutes.

7. WASH - at least 5 minutes of flowing water or fill and dump for 5 minutes, or 3 minutes in high pressure washer. Begin with temp within 3 degrees of previous liquid and gradually change to coldest possible faucet water (this results in a harder surface for wiping). 

While washing use high pressure COLD water spray (produced with thumb on faucet) to remove loose emulsion crumbs from film or they will dry on and ruin it. Direct the spray all around both sides of the spiral at the end of washing to bits of emulsion from films surface.

8. PHOTO FLO - about 30 seconds---one drop of Photo Flo in cold clean water in pre-washed tank, mix, lift film spiral in and out several times, discard. Helps prevent water spots.

9. INSPECT - with clean fingers wipe off water and hold up to light. Inspect VERY carefully to be sure no tiny emulsion specks remain on film. Use a stiff stream of cold water and your fingers to remove them. Inspect again by holding film up to good light. Dip again in photo flo and wipe until clean and speck-free. If film is absolutely clean, wet squeegee ONE time to remove water drops. Repeated squeegee may scratch if it is drying.

12. DRY - hang in dust free place or film dryer.

13. PUT AWAY washed TANK PARTS - wash fixer from tank lid and put all parts in the closet on correct shelf inverted to drip dry.

14. CLEAN UP - rinse and wipe all chemical spills and be sure all equipment is in its proper place before you leave.

15. FILE - when dry, cut in 5 neg strips, put in a file sheet or use an envelop. Handle negs by edges only. Never lay them on a dusty place. Fingerprints may cause a chemical reaction impossible to remove. Enter neg numbers on your exposure records. Identify with your name and date.

© Marvin Bartel, all rights reserved - For permission or copy or publish e-mail:
Goshen College students may make a copy for their own use.

Syllabus page    Evaulate Photos    Marvin Bartel     Bulk load  film   Photo Commication page

updated 9-1999