Developer for Night Photography : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


Sometimes i like to make night shots, of buildings and other subjects.

The main problem with this kind of photography is the ultra hight contrast derived from the diference between iluminated (ligths) areas and shadow areas.

I usually use Tri-X and develop 20 minutes in technidol to achieve near N-10 . Now Im looking for an alternative developer.

What do you people use for night shots ? do you get details on the highlights?

thanks in advance...

-- Enrique Vila (, January 04, 2002


As a matter of course staining developers utilizing catechol or pyro tend to hold highlight detail more readily. (See Ed Bufaloe's recent post on this topic.)

If you are achieving N-10, I'm not sure what you are looking for, except for probably increased EI. As I recall, the Technidol developer uses phenidone without an accompanying reducing agent. This makes for a very softworking developer, but sacrifices speed. I believe the POTA formulas are pretty similar in content and function.

I use a catechol based developer of my own design for all my serious work, and I achieve N - compensation by halving or quartering the reducing agent concentration and reducing agitation from 10sec/1 minute to 10sec/3 minutes. Using this method I'm easily able to achieve N-4. If I need to extend that, I would reduce the activator (alkaline) concentration as well.

To be honest, however, I shoot quite often at night and I have never encountered a scene that could not be contained by N-4 development. I'm wondering, too, how you get midrange separation with such severe contraction? And if there are no midrange values, why can't you just expose for the highlights?

Anyway, back to a developer recommendation, I would start with a catechol based developer like Pyrocat-HD. But I would recommend you substitute a 5-10% solution of sodium hydroxide in place of a carbonate. This will enable you finer contrast control because NaOH runs out of steam faster and lessens the chance of overdevelopment; it has a rapid boost, followed by steady decline in activity; carbonates start slower but continue at a more constant rate.

I have to get back to work, but if you need further advice, please feel free to write me.

-- Ted Kaufman (, January 04, 2002.

Use large negative sizes. Develop in Rodinol 1:200 using no agitation for about two hours. Contact print on a long tonal range paper like Azo or print on platinum/palladium.

-- Dan Smith (, January 04, 2002.

From the tests I have done in the past, your problem may stem from your choice of film even more than the developer. When we ran a large scale test of Times Sq in NY for a B&W arial night shot we tested every film we could find. Tri-X was the worst offender. As it turned out, some very old fashioned films have a anti hailiation backing built in. Tri-X has 2 problems. It naturally blocks up in highlights and the emulsion has a tendancy to disburse bright objects in its medium. Try or ask about some of the older style films. From the Kodak line I would look first at KODAK VERICHROME Pan, as being the one closest to the one we found to be the best, Kodak Super Pancro Press type B, which is no longer made. We got ours from a helpful Kodak Tech. I would think you will find what you need from the older European makers such as Berrger, Forte, Orwo or someone manufacturing from the Perutz or Adox formulas. Ilford or Agfa may still have something in their catalogue. Fuji Neopan is definately one to try.

Technidol may also be a prime suspect. Try a Glycin based developer such as Edwal 20, 12 or Harvey's 777. We found 777 to be the best with the Edwal's running a close second. 777 is still being sold through Bluegrass Packaging (502-425-6442). A Pyro developer may also do the trick. Pyro works but is not as predictable as Glycin or Paraphenylene Diamine. D-23 was the best Metol based developer.

The developer will make a big differance, but in general, if you want details in very bright highlights, do not use Tri-X.


-- Fred De Van (, January 04, 2002.

Hi Enrique,

I have mostly had good success with night shots using a very simple method of exposure and development, which give me highlights which are where they should be, and very rich shadow and mid-tones. I increase exposure by 1.5 or 2 stops with whatever film I am using, decrease development (I use D-76 undiluted, or something similar, nothing fancy) 2 minutes per stop, usually giving me a development time of 2 -3 minutes. I agitate the film for 10 seconds every 20 seconds to eliminate spotty development due to the short time. Even with 400 speed film, the grain is practically eliminated, the negative has a beautiful soft quality, and the middle range grays are superb.

The surprising thing I have found with night exposures is that they are almost always the same - the objects lit from street lamps usually always have a similar meter reading, and the lit objects are always coming in at zone I or II. The increased exposure brings the objects to a zone III or IV, which is right where they should be for good definition of detail on the negative., and the decreased development brings the highlights back down to where they should be, which is around zone VII or VIII. I could go out tonight without my meter and shoot everything adequately - using a 400 speed film with an average lens with a yellow filter, stopped down to f22, the exposure will be between 25 and 45 seconds. Give 3 minutes development, and voila - a properly exposed night negative.

Good luck with your night photography!

James Webb

-- James Webb (, January 05, 2002.

I dunno about "details in bright highlights", but this shot was taken on Hp-5, very similar to tri-x, and processed probably to N- 1 at the most, in d76 1:, and prints easily. It's on 35mm.

click here

-- Pete Su (, January 05, 2002.

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