A Conversation for The Black and White Photography Process

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Post 1


I like this entry. smiley - smiley It's very well written and obviously comes from experience. There are, however, a few things that I would add to it, just to make it clearer and/or more specific.

First, I think it's worth noting that these chemicals last for a long time. In cool, dark environments, the developers (I'll assume D76 for film and Dektol for prints, as they're the only ones I've used) last for something like six weeks. And you don't need to dispose of the D76 you use to develop your film once it's been used. You can just pour it back with the rest and it's still good. In fact, this is the case with all of the chemicals. Dektol, when it goes bad, turns a very dark yellow and THEN should be disposed of.
Fixer, stored correctly, keeps indefinately. Stop bath is just a tiny capful of acid in a gallon of water, so you use very little of it. When your gallon of stop goes bad, dump it out, and put another cap of the acid in a fresh gallon of water.
Second, D76 and Dektol are also available in powder form. If you mix them from the powder, however, you should NOT use them until they've had a chance to cool off. If you use the warm mixture, your film will be very thin and each print will take a long exposure time to get anything worthwhile. I know a guy who used warm D76 on his film and he was cranking out good prints with about a 2 minute exposure time.
Next, aside from the tip "ALWAYS use cool chemicals", I would also add that when developping film, about 8 minutes in the developper, 5 in the stop bath, 8 in the fixer, and you can get away with 10-15 in the water. After the initial agitation, agitating every 30 seconds is a little too frequently. Once every minute is what I use, personally. You don't want any air bubbles to stick to your film, so we would always tap the bottom of the cylinder on the table when finishing an iteration of agitating just to pop loose any air bubbles.
When developping prints, I don't know that you should necessarily start with fresh developer every two hours. First, you're likely to be very tired if you're developping prints for 2 hours. Second, agitating the developper tray keeps the chemicals in motion. Maybe refresh it every couple hours, but you needn't waste perfectly good developper.
With the fixer, the longer you leave it in, the more fixed the image. Images fixed for less will likely become cloudy or yellowed over time.
I think saying "turn your negative upside down" is misleading. You want the smooth side of the film facing up and the top of the image to face towards you, or the image will appear upside down on the tablet. It doesn't change how the image is printed, it's just hard to adjust when the image is upside down.
I would also mention dodging and burning. There are just some times when a 6 second total exposure time is going to make a section too dark or leave a section too light. And remember that when dodging you should keep whatever you're using to dodge in motion, or it will leave object lines on your print.

There are lots of cool print developping tricks that you can do with what you have to hand in the darkroom, but the one that anyone can do that you don't have to think about too much is solarization. Solarization is very much a random process that sometimes turns positive to negative or vice versa. OR, it may do nothing at all to certain parts of the picture. What I used to do was, if I screwed up printing a picture, I would solarize it in the developper to see if I could make anything cool out of it. It actually worked once for me.
First, make sure that you have no unexposed paper laying about. Then flip the lights on and right back off again. It's important that they not be on for more than a few (1-3) seconds or else the print in the developper will turn black. Leave the print in the developper for a few more seconds (anywhere from appx. 5-30 seconds, or until it starts to change) and immediately put it in the stop bath. After that, continue with the normal procedure. There's no way to control the effects of solarization that I know of, so beware: it will not always create a masterpiece, but it may breathe new life into a screw up. This probably won't work for prints that are too dark in the first place, but it will definately darken a picture that is too light.
Another cool one is how to print negative images, but I've gone on too long as it is. smiley - smiley

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Post 2


Hi Shimoda. Thanks for your comments.smiley - smiley

As you obviously have an interest in the subject of photography, perhaps you would be interested in contributing to the h2g2 Unicersity of Life's forthcoming project? You can find out more about it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/A544367

smiley - ufo

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Post 3


Hi, Pegasus.

Thanks for the offer. I don't know how much I can contribute to the project as a whole. I exhausted most of my knowledge there in my last post. smiley - tongueout I do know a few more print developping tricks, some history, and I have some definate views on good photography/technique. Basically, if you ask, I'll tell you what I know about it.
If you like, you may use my previous missive in any way you like with proper credit given. Nothing would make me happier. smiley - smiley

Let me know what I can do, and I'll try to do it.

smiley - cool

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Post 4


Thanks Shimoda. I'm not really onto the photography project yet, but there are one or two active pages linked from it (I think), so you might want wander along and add salient comments.smiley - smiley

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Post 5

Researcher 190863

Hi there, thanks for all that photography information ... you were saying about developing tricks which is what I'm always trying to do and you mentioned about reversing a positive image into negative ... could you explain how this is done? that would be great, and any other developing ideas would also be very useful - cheers!

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Post 6


The simplest way to create a negative image from a positive one is to place your developped positive image, upside down, on top of a piece of unexposed photo paper. Open your enlarger's aperture all the way, then expose the paper for about two or three seconds. Develop the print as usual. You may have to tamper with the exposure time a bit to get the print just the way you want it, but two seconds has been perfect for me on a few occaisions. This can make a really great effect on certain photographs.
As for devlelopping tricks, most of the ones I've employed have been to save my rear when I didn't do it quite right at first. smiley - winkeye
One interesting one was this: I had a photograph of a guy walking and also a rather tight shot of someone's dresser. I exposed the paper to the picture of the dresser, leaving a dodged area where I'd put the man. Then I took out the negative of the dresser, put in the one of the man, and exposed the area I had dodged (conveniently, where the man would appear). I wish I could say I had great success with this particular experiment, but it wasn't to be that day. But there you can do superimpositions.
Another neat effect can be created by layering your negatives in the enlarger. Takes a bit more exposure time, but it can be nice if, say, you want to change your model's skin to stone or bark.
I really don't have too many more tricks up my sleeve, but one I have never experimented with is to load some developper into a spray bottle and just lightly mist your paper before you expose it. I have, by the way, been able to take a light print out of the develloper, re-expose it, and have it turn out the way I wanted before. I would play with different combinations of applying developper to the paper before and possibly after exposure. You might find something neat.

Best of luck!

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Post 7

The Snockerty Friddle

Simpler still, try using a slide film. Instead of mounting and projecting the slides, print them as you would a normal film and you end up with a negative print.

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Post 8


I have recently been given all I need to set up a dark room at home (enlarger, tanks etc). I learnt basic methods of black and white many years ago and I fancy giving it another go but I'm really rusty!. Does anybody have any good tips and any suggestions about the best place to get the materials ?

If you can help it would be great.


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Post 9


If you are going to be serious about really getting into it I would suggest "The Photographers Formulary" . They have all the pre-mixed chemicals as well as all the bulk chemical that you, with a little research could mix yourself, with the aid of a scale. They also hve the papers for your standard B&W processes and alternate processes also. I have used them for many years, and I am well satisfied with their service. You can find them on the web.

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