View Full Version : Simple tray developing questions

2-Aug-2012, 14:03
I'm trying to teach myself/get the hang of tray development to increase my versatility in the darkroom and to be an overall better person. However, I'd like a couple of clarifications:

1) I'm used to either intermittent agitation of a tank or rotary agitation in a drum. But with a stack of sheets in a tray, you have a stack that you shuffle. If you have a stack of, say, 8 negatives in the developer, and you want to stick to the old "10 seconds per minute" agitation guideline, should you complete a shuffle of all eight negatives in each minute, or simply shift one sheet every minute?

2) My first bumbling effort in the tray (with some T-max 400) actually yielded some decent results, but I noticed some small scratches on virtually every frame after further inspecting them. I'm thinking that perhaps my method of either grabbing the sheets or moving them during shuffling might have contributed to this. Does anyone have tips as to grab the bottom sheet with a minimal risk of scratches? Of course, any other anti-scratch tips are welcome

2-Aug-2012, 14:43
I’m trying to teach myself/get the hang of tray development to increase my versatility in the darkroom...

Hi Dan, I’d say the forum’s open tray developers are evenly split between “emulsion-up” and “emulsion-down” groups, w/ pros and cons to each method. After trying both, I’m an “emulsion-up” man. Simply because that way leaves fewer scratches for me. It’s the opposite way for others!

(BTW, slosher trays – below is the 4x5 version – are worth investigating. Many people here swear by them, not at them!)

As for shuffling time, a general guideline is to move each sheet twice per minute. For example, if you develop 3 sheets, move each sheet every 10 seconds. Or if you develop 6 sheets, move each sheet every 5 seconds. But again, this is just a general guideline. Your method should, in the long run, be based on results that satisfy you the most.

Me, I like the unhurried “feel” of 10-second shuffles. I can get nervous in the darkroom, and slowing things down makes me a better worker. That’s why I usually develop no more than 3-4 sheets per session. Ever. Others feel more comfortable w/ more sheets and quicker cycles. Again, just depends on your comfort zone and development goals...

Jay DeFehr
2-Aug-2012, 14:51
For 5x7 and smaller, I use Jobo drums, but for 8x10 I develop one at a time in an 8x10 tray with brush development. Recently, in a moment of impatience, I developed two 8x10 sheets in an 8x10 tray, with 500ml of developer, shuffling and brushing. I brushed the top sheet for a while (not timed, guessing about a minute, or so), then shuffle the bottom sheet to the top and brush, repeat. Here's one of the two sheets:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7108/7673556872_f1e3a87de7_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jay_defehr/7673556872/) Juliet 810 TXP 2 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jay_defehr/7673556872/) by Jay DeFehr (http://www.flickr.com/people/jay_defehr/), on Flickr

The other sheet is posted in the July Portraits thread.

Drew Wiley
2-Aug-2012, 16:07
I develop in oversize dimple-bottomed stainless trays in a water jacket, always emulsion up. Six to eight at a time for 4x5, 3 or 4 for 8x10. Two full rotations per minute; but I
rotate the stack 90 degrees each time, which helps greatly with eveness. Also, so the top
sheet in the stack doesn't get overdev or surge marks from this procedure, I actually shuffle one more time per rotation than actuall sheets of film; for instance, if there are
four sheets, I will shuffle five times. This way a different sheet always ends up at the top
of the stack. One sheet will have the code notch opposite all the others, so if I need to do
very fussy timing, I can detect which sheet went in the dev first.

Jerry Bodine
2-Aug-2012, 16:10
Here's one of the best threads on this subject that I've saved for myself:


Bill Burk
2-Aug-2012, 19:04
Hi Dan,

I just got through a round of tests of agitation by tray. I tried to find how bad agitation is in a stack of 6 compared to developing one sheet at a time. At first I was really shocked that single sheets develop much faster (then I realized I switched Dektol for D-76). Single sheets do develop faster, at least for the first few minutes. After that, there isn't much difference between stacks versus single sheet (time/CI curves begin to converge).

I'd say for N-1 or less developing, it would help to develop a sheet individually. For N and longer development times, stacks of 6 do not take that much longer to develop.

My standard is a stack of 6 sheets, emulsion up. I wear gloves and don't presoak. Right into the developer one by one. The first cycle or two I move as quickly as possible to keep sheets from sticking. From the bottom, I separate the last sheet from the rest of the stack using all my fingers. Then I create a wave that sloshes lots of developer so it's impossible for a sheet edge to touch as I pull the bottom sheet out and lay it on top.

I try to restrain myself for about five seconds, then I pull the next sheet.

Bill Burk
2-Aug-2012, 20:23
I do get scratches. Scratches diminish in severity and frequency when I give undivided attention to the processing every step of the way.