Film Potential Film Developing Problems

jai

Regular
Apr 8, 2015
18
I started developing my own black and white film earlier this year. I’ve ran in to several issues, and it is not easy to put in to googlable words what the problem is.
Eventually I stumbled on this list and it has been incredibly helpful so far: http://www.ohio.edu/people/schneidw/darkroom/film_developing_problems.html

  • Negatives too "thin" or transparent - two possible reason for this are: a) negatives received insufficient exposure in camera, and/or b) negatives didn't receive enough development (developer time too short, developer temperature too cool, developer excessively diluted with water). These negatives will be difficult or impossible to print well.
  • Negatives too "dense" or dark - two possible reasons for this are: a) negatives received too much exposure in camera, and/or b) negatives received too much development (developing time too long, developer temperature too warm, developer not sufficiently diluted with water). However you may be able to get a good print from dense negatives.
  • Clear Film, no frame numbers - caused by non-development of the film, most often caused by accidentally using fixer before developer. Label your chemicals to reduce confusion.
  • Clear Film, frame numbers visible - no exposure in camera. Look for mistakes in loading film in camera or camera mechanical problems. Check to see if your rewind knob turns (if you have one) when advancing film.
  • Black Film Overall - film was exposed to light outside of the camera.
  • Black Streaks on Film - light leak in camera, film canister, or during developing steps.
  • Excess edge density in sprocket hole pattern - dunk and pump agitation or other non-turbulent developer agitation. With 4-reel steel tanks, load only the bottom 3 reels with film, leaving the top reel empty for larger airspace to achieve better agitation. (See George Post, "Shake it Up", p 20, Darkroom Photography magazine, March/April 1986 for an in-depth comparison of different film agitation techniques in both plastic and metal tanks.)
  • Excess edge density - rotation of tank instead of inversion during developing, stainless reels especially prone.
  • Goose-bump appearance (in miniature) on film surface, print has an odd "grainy" appearance - Pinholes (small clear spots) in negative, produces round dark spots in print - Air bubbles or "air bells" clinging to film in developer, caused by dissolved air in water supply. More prevalent in winter. Try a water pre-soak before developer and add a couple of drops of Photo Flo in developer.
  • Density variations in negative, shaped like drips - fill marks from developer pouring into the canister too slowly. Tip canister for rapid fill, and/or use a water presoak.
  • Opaque blotches on film, often an ugly brown or bluish color - adjacent wraps of film touching on reel. Fairly common occurrence with beginning darkroom workers.
  • Crescent creases on negative print as white "moons" in picture - rough film handling before developing bends film base and creates dense crescent-shaped artifacts.
  • Fairly abrupt division between dense and thin halves of a roll of film along its length - insufficient quantity of developer to keep the film submerged at all times. Don't confuse the film developing issue with flash synchronization speed errors which could give a similar appearance.
 

Mijo

Veteran
Apr 11, 2013
28
San Francisco
I returned to developing my own film about 2 years ago and I've run into both situations. All things being equal (i.e. temperature, time, chemistry, etc.) I find my problem is due to operator error, not getting the exposure right when I release the shutter. IMO, in both situations you can still get a decent print but I actually find it harder to get a decent print when the negative is too dense (aka as bulletproof). Dodging / burning and masking can help with a negative that's either too thin or bulletproof but it's hard to get consistent prints if your making more than one print of the same negative.

Having said all that, I've learned from one of my darkroom Instructors that some times it's just not worth the time and effort to try and print from a incorrectly exposed negative. There's nothing more frustrating than wasting time, paper and effort trying to pull details out of a negative that are barely even there to begin with.
 

jai

Regular
Apr 8, 2015
18
There is another processing error that isn't in that list (I must have read it somewhere else) but did happen to me a couple of times before I figured it out.

If the unexposed areas of the film (like around sprocket holes) are milky and not clear, the problem is not enough fixing time. And you can actually fix (see what I did there) the issue by putting it back in the fixer. Follow the process from there again as normal. Be careful not to over do it, or you will end up with thin negatives.
 

Mijo

Veteran
Apr 11, 2013
28
San Francisco
I've run into that issue before but it's not always due to under fixing. Most of the time when that happens to me it's b/c the film isn't loaded onto the reel correctly and negatives at the begining or end are bunched up and not getting exposed to the chemistry enough (the sprocket holes are only milky at the begining and end).
 

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