Inspection development and Zone System : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Since learning to develop film by inspection, I have been doing a lot of it. I have also heard and noticed both that in past years, Fred Archer and AA started working on the Zone System about the time a lot of the inspection development was going by the way. Does anyone have any historical references, articles or whatever on this change in development methods. If one develops by inspection all you really need is solid shadow exposure and possibly an indication of where highlights might need to fall as a help in initial planning of the development...a rough guide as to maybe giving a bit more or less development, the final decision being made as you view the negs under the green safelight. If you do this, the constant zoning, testing and obsession with minute changes seem to go out the door. Time is approxiate til turning on the safelight & seeing your negatives density. Temperature really doesn't matter, other than being in the ballpark. Developer aging isn't much of a factor either. Develop, look & see, and put the negs in the stop & then finish up. So, anyone out there know of information sources on inspection and Zone system development?

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.netq), June 24, 2000


I cannot specifically answer your question, but the March/April issue of View Camera magazine carried an article titled: "Joel Leivick, Quarrying Images of Carrara". The end of the article contains a section discussing Leivicks technique which includes developing under a safelight. I have not checked, but perhaps he has a site where you could inquire about his technique in more depth. Regards, Jim Chinn

-- Jim Chinn (, June 24, 2000.

Dan, as you probably know, AA developed the Zone System as a teaching tool. It actually started out as a pretty simple method of exposing and developing to get the kind of negative that would allow one to record the scene as visualized and allow control of lighting conditions. It has, over the years, been beat to death by nit-pickers and those who would rather test than take pictures. One of the factors which brought about the change from inspection development to time and temperature was the shift from ortho film to pancromatic film. The ortho used to be easy to handle under a safelight. Another factor is that too many of us just can't really judge a negative under a safelight, especially with the accuracy needed. After many years of film developing, I cannot tell with accuracy the difference in a zone V and zone VI negative density even in the light and with a dry negative. I know that I have not directly answered the question you asked about methods.

-- Doug Paramore (, June 25, 2000.

Go to and click on Writings. There's a lot of information there under Michael Smith's article on developing by inspection.

-- Sal Santamaura (, June 25, 2000.

Maybe development of negatives by inspection could be dragged into the 21st century by the application of modern technology. Illumination by infra-red, and inspection by CCD camera or image intensifier could make it as easy as print development, maybe easier. 0.1 lux sensitive surveillance camera modules, complete with IR LED illuminators, cost about #50 ($75 US) these days. Cheaper than a high-end safelight. Just a thought.

-- Pete Andrews (, June 28, 2000.

Hey Danno, I just remembered, Aaron Siskind used to D.B.I. his 120 rollfilm.

-- Sean yates (, June 30, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ