View Full Version : Developing Large Format

31-Jul-2004, 19:46

I am interested in buying a Large Format camera. Do I need to have my own darkroom and develop my own 4x5 or 8x10 sheets? Or could I send them to be developed at a photofinishing company? Are there any companies that will develop large format film? Would wal-mart or costco develop large format film?

thanks, Barret.

Erik Sherman
31-Jul-2004, 20:08
Professional labs will generally work with 4x5 and even 8x10. You won't have any luck with the Costcos, Wal-Marts, and other places that have minilabs, because they're set up for 35mm...

Ron Bose
31-Jul-2004, 20:45
Part of the reason to get into LF is precisly to do your own developing. It's getting hard enough to find someone who'll do B&W developing in whatever format. DIY developing isn't as scary as it first seems ...

Some pro labs still develop sheet film, I only use their E6 services though.

Gem Singer
31-Jul-2004, 20:57
Hi Barret,

If you plan on doing large format black and white photography, you probably won't find many labs that handle B&W sheet film to your satisfaction. There are still a few good B&W labs out there, but they are very rare. However, it is possible to develope your own film in a small make-shift darkroom. Then, you can scan the negatives and print them digitally, or contact print 8X10 negatives in a small darkroom, with a minimum of equipment.

If you are planning on doing mostly color work, you should probably use 4X5 film for greater economy. There are many professional labs that process 4X5 color film. Again, you can have the film scanned, or scan it yourself, and print it digitally without the need for a darkroom. Traditional wet color prints are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

John Kasaian
31-Jul-2004, 21:02

Unless you use readyloads or polaroid, you'll need someplace dark to load your film. You could use a changing bag or tent, or simply darken a bathroom as I do, with a piece of cardboard jammed against the window and (if needed) a towel blocking the light at the door threshold and your dark cloth hanging across the door from two push pins to keep the light from leaking around the door jambs. I also work at night and keep the adjoining hall light turned off. While I used to tray develop I now use a Unicolor print drum and motor base almost exclusively. For about twenty bucks for a used unit, its not much more than a set of trays, uses less chemicals and does a cracker job on B+W. That way I don't have to stand around in the dark, but load the drum in the dark room and let the motor base do it's stuff on the kitchen drainboard where its closer to the beer in the fridge;-) So while you could send your film out, keep in mind there are other IMHO more satisfying options(especially if you have to load your holders anyway!) Another benefit of souping my own sheet film---I have no one to blame but myself if things go to the worms.

1-Aug-2004, 07:18
Unless you are planning to do your own darkroom and/or make huge, gigantic size, or alternate process contact prints, I can't imagine any good reason for photographing in Large Format. It is really a PITA to shoot!

1-Aug-2004, 07:30
I shoot only 8x10 (I do not own any other camera) and it is heavy to lug around but I do it almost 5 times a week. It is fun to set up and the results are worth occasional back and neck pains (cured in the evening with my good friend Mr. Macallan). I do not have a dedicated darkroom at home. I develop my own negatives, using a changing tent to transfer film into homemade BTZS type tubes. Once the film are in tubes you can pretty much work under subdued lighting practically anywhere in your house or flat where there is a sink nearby. I only contact print on AZO paper. You cannot fog AZO paper even if you tried which is why I can work with it without worrying about lighttighness - in fact, I contact print with the doors and windows open for ventilation. Good luck in your decision making.

Francesco (www.cicoli.com)

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
1-Aug-2004, 08:40
I have been shooting LF since 1985 and have not had a dedicated darkroom for almost 10 years. Most of my work is either an alternative process, for which I don't need a real darkroom (only studio with a fume hood and dark-box), or color transparencies in 4x5 or 5x7. I scan the transparencies, and then send them out for a Fuji Crystal digital print. They are not as nice as the Cibachromes I used to slave over, but certainly much easier and cheaper.

However, if you want to shoot B&W you really should have a darkroom. In the past few months I have processed B&W in my home bathroom in a Jobo machine over the bathtub, contact printed using POP and Azo paper, which don't really require a darkroom. I have occasionally enlarged at a rental darkroom. It is not the most convenient, but the chance of me finding a two bathroom apartment in New York that I can afford is nil.

1-Aug-2004, 08:43
Barret, I live in an apartment now and shoot 8x10 and do alternative printing using only sunlight. I use a Harrison large changing tent to load or unload and develop in a unicolor bi-directional drum using Pyro. All you need is a sink to wash in. I hang my negatives on a makeshift clothes line in the shower using clothes pins. It is all contact printing and satisfies my creative desires. I moved from a house where I had a darkroom set up and was doing 35mm, 4x5 and 8x10 as a paid b&w artist. The point is you can get by without a darkroom and have creative control of your developing without too much hassle. Good luck and keep us informed of your progress. You will love a 8x10 contact print.

1-Aug-2004, 18:22
John K. Gave you good advice (as did everyone else) about having someplace dark to change your film. Either a darkroom, a temporary darkroom, or a changing bag/tent.

Barret, I'm not sure where you are located. I'm in Northern New Jersey, where I have my choice of 3 or 4 good pro labs, and am only 30 minutes from the wonders of New York City.

In my area, I can get E-6 and C-41 processing of 11x14 and smaller. I regularly shoot 8x10" E-6, and can drop my film off at a lab that knows me by name, and pick it up in 2 hours if I want to.

As to B&W, do it yourself. You'll beh ard pressed to find a lab that will do it, it'll probably be pretty expensive (having a lab setup for walk-ins with B&W is crazy, and expensive). As to printing, I've never seen a B&W lab print that I liked. At least a "normal" lab, not a custom printer.