Home Processing?

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I took a semi-plunge two weeks ago into the digital age. That is, I bought a scanner (Canon D2400) and printer (Epson 1280). The pair cost less than $1000 at B+H. I'm pleased with the results: the prints/scans demonstrate the M6's range and depth. (If someone tells me how to post a pic in this query, I'll give an example.)

The weakness in the film/digitial system is getting the negatives processed. My nearest one hour place is -- not surprisingly -- sloppy and expensive, especially for the B+W film I favor (Ilford Delta 100/400). I'm thinking of home processing, but worry about damaging the film and keeping chemicals potent. Any thoughts?

-- Gulley Jimson (gulleyjimson@hotmail.com), December 18, 2001



Keeping chemicals potent is always a problem depending on how much film you process. I keep my chemicals in brown collapsible bottles (to keep out oxygen) and store them in a closet to keep them away from light. I have use chemicals up to 1 year old, but you suffer on contrast with older chemicals IMHO. Damaging the film is generally not a problem if you are careful with handling. Dust during drying is a bigger problem. I use a closet with the door closed. Film processing chemicals and equipment is cheap compared to what you spent on your scanner and printer.

Try it!

I started doing my own 35 years ago, and I still do it the same way, only not as much. When you process your own you can tailor the processing to each roll of film if needed (contrast and exposure). Good luck and enjoy.


-- Mark A. Johnson (logic@gci.net), December 18, 2001.

I got rid of my darkroom two years ago but kept the tanks. I use D-23 for a developer because I can mix it fresh with measuring spoons every time I need it, and then throw it out. It's cheap, easy to make, and only meant to be used once, anyway. Some people will tell you it's not an ideal developer, but it works great for me, expecially in the context of digital printing. The other chemicals stay fresh just about forever. As for damaging the film, what do you think people did before mini-labs? :-)

-- Michael Darnton (mdarnton@hotmail.com), December 18, 2001.


Does keeping cheimcal in the fridge help keep them potent?

-- Rob Schopke (schopke@attbi.com), December 18, 2001.

I havenít done B&W in years (but I do E6 at home, so Iím not out of touch.) First concern: trust me, no hands on Earth are gentler with your film than yours. Your film will never be safer. (You will screw up and gouge the emulsion and you will never do it again Ė the clods at the lab will do it again and again and again...)

Second, chemical shelf life: if you process infrequently look for a powder developer, mix as little as you can manage, use it one-shot. As I recall D-76 and Microdol last 2+ months as a working solution. I donít think refrigeration helps, but evacuating air from the storage bottles does. If you process a lot then shelf life is not important.

Get a good tank and reel. I like JOBO, but there are other good choices. Donít put photoflo in the tank or on the reels. The wetting agent will make the reels sticky and will cross contaminate your developer.

Use a thermometer. Be consistent.

Drying film dust-free can be a problem. Use photoflo in your final rinse, hang the film in a closet, see what happens. If that doesnít work (dust) you can buy a filtered dryer for $500 or build one for a lot less.

Try it Gulley, itís fun.

-- Jeff Stuart (jstuart1@tampabay.rr.com), December 18, 2001.

u have all this money in equipment and dont know how to develop??

-- grant (g4lamos@yahoo.com), December 18, 2001.

1) As someone already mentioned - no lab person will be as gentle with your film as you - if you're careful.

2) The only chemical which really has a tendency to "go bad" is the developer - they usually have organic components that oxidize, whereas most of the other chemicals (stop bath, fixer, fixer neutralizer) are relatively simple and/or inorganic acids/sulfates/sulfites. I use a "one-shot" liquid developer (Ilford DDX) which gets remixed fresh for each tank of film and then tossed away after use - similar to the post above about D-23, which is the same approach using a powder developer. I probably process about 5-7 rolls of B&W a week, and my stop/fixer/ perma-wash almost always die from use (about a month per quart) long before they die from age.

3) Refrigerating chemicals may help some with preserving the organic developer components, but if things get TOO cool can cause the dissolved chemicals to precipitate out, leaving you with just a bottle of water with crystals in the bottom. Plus it will take several hours to warm back up to the "room temperatures" needed for processing. (And fixer won't work at all below something like 60 degrees - nada) In 30+ years of photography I've never refrigerated chemistry.

You WILL need - a totally dark place to load film into the tanks - reasonably stable water temperature in the range 65-75 degrees F (18-22 C) - a place to hang film for drying that is out off traffic lanes and dust-free.

RE: how to post a picture - for instructions, look under the sub- category "ADMINISTRATION" or click the "FAQ" bug at top right in the main directory. You'll need your own place on the web (a lot of us use free space available by registering at Photo.net) to post the original, and then link to it hen you post your question/response.

-- Andy Piper (apidens@denver.infi.net), December 19, 2001.

The primary "potency" issue with B&W processing is the developer. That problem is easily solved by using one-shot developers that are mixed only in the quantity needed for the job at hand. Fixer and stop bath become exhausted, but from use, not exposure to air in the bottle.

If you like the Ilford Delta films, as I do, Ilfotec HC would be a good developer. It is a highly concentrated liquid, typically used 1+31 (one part developer plus 31 parts water. Thus, 1 ounce of HC plus 31 ounces of water makes a quart - sufficient for a 4-reel tank. If you use a 2-reel tank, a smaller amount could be mixed, but measuring a half-ounce of the developer accurately could be a challenge, and hardly worth the effort.

Doing your own developing can also assist in your photography, as it allows you to control all aspects of the process from exposure through processing. Establishing consistent developing techniques can then help you develop better exposure techniques, as well - a highly recommended process.

Additionally, there are plenty of sources of guidance on the net. Here, the Lusenet darkroom forum, or the B&W Forum.

-- Ralph Barker (rbarker@pacbell.net), December 19, 2001.

If developer oxidation is a concern, it's best to split it up into several small bottles filled all the way to the top. The soft plastic in those collapsible bottles is so permeable to oxygen, it's just as bad as having a big air space in the bottle.

I favor Kodak Xtol diluted 1:2 and used once then discarded. Works great, and it's cheap.

-- Mike Dixon (mike@mikedixonphotography.com), December 19, 2001.

Oxidation can occur through the plastic bottles. So best thing is to keep the solutions in well filled glass bottles. You can load your films in a film exchanger bag without having a darkroom and do the processing afterwards at room light. I then give my B&W negatives for contact prints and choose the prints I want to have done (at the moment I don't have a darkroom). Like that you have the control over your film development and it is fun too.


-- Johannes Fleischhauer (j.fleischhauer@vsao.ch), December 19, 2001.


Definitely use glass bottles. I use Ilford's Perceptol to make one gallon of stock solution. I break it down into four 1 quart bottles. A full bottle of stock solution of Perceptol kept in a dark place will last for six months.

With a little care you can produce great negs at your kitchen sink. There is nothing like being able to shoot, run home and check your work.

Go for it.

-- jeff (debontekou@yahoo.com), December 19, 2001.

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